Give your customers a voice – you’re building for them, after all

As app developers, we’re fundamentally trying to build applications that customers will enjoy, love and pay for in some way. Like the chef at a new restaurant, we’re experimenting with our recipes, testing and tweaking until we think we’ve got something worth serving to people for their time and money.

clip_image002For most of us, the difference between the chef at our restaurant and what we do is that our customers don’t get a voice with which to tell us what they really think. We produce an app we’re proud of, we get the word out to some consumers, a few of them download the app, install it and then…. silence.

At best, we leave them to the marketplace feedback devices: the iTunes app store ratings and reviews, the Google Android Market ratings, etc. But these really aren’t places where we’ve given the customer a voice. Instead, we’ve let the app market dictate:

  • What kind of voice the customer can have
  • The manner of feedback solicited
  • When that voice is encouraged

Let’s dig into that a bit more, to further examine what kind of control most of us cede to the app stores in the customer communications process.

The kind of voice: public and with an eye to a potential “audience”

When we rely just upon the ratings and reviews mechanisms of the app stores we’ve released our apps through, aren’t we implicitly agreeing with their viewpoint on how customers want to talk about our apps? These existing mechanisms assume that the voice is a public one – to be read by anyone perusing apps. Now, this method leads to some humorous results, as evidenced by the recent discovery by Mike Cohen of this hilarious app store review of the Color app. However, it’s probably not the best method of soliciting detailed and constructive feedback. The difference between writing for an audience and talking one-on-one with your friends is very large and the existing channels don’t respect this in a meaningful way.

The manner of feedback requested:

2 Stars and a short pithy/bitchy comment. Sound familiar? The manner in which the app stores ask for consumer feedback is consistent, but is it good? What kind of detail do you get from a star rating and comments like, “Needs more levels”, “Stoooooo-pid” and “LOLZ… awesome!”. Sure, stars are quantifiable, but do you understand why your customers are rating you the way that they are? Do you understand how you could get their ratings to improve? Do your customers understand what impact they have on your positioning in the store when they click 1 star because they just had a bad experience with you? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “No” and very often, the fault is due to the manner of the feedback that’s been enabled, not your app’s failings or your lack of interest.

When the voice is utilized:

It’s been talked about a lot, but it’s worth re-stating that the default rating time for most of these app stores is AFTER a customer has decided to delete or uninstall your app. This timing really seems to favor reviews of people who are unhappy with your application. At Apptentive, we believe this is an excellent place to solicit constructive criticism and hopefully to gain a measure of understanding about what you could do better and who your app isn’t for. However, it’s not the place to decipher the average customer’s viewpoint on your app and again, leaving customer communication up to the app stores really skews when your customer is given a voice – when they’re least happy with you. A balanced communication approach gives customers a voice throughout their experiences, giving you and the customer a more natural and complete sense of what’s going on.

We really liked what Beth Harte had to say on this topic when she wrote about the difference between listening to customers and giving them a voice. While you can accomplish some measure of listening in the existing feedback mechanisms, you really haven’t worked to give YOUR customers a voice. With so much time and attention focused on developing the best apps for your customers, isn’t it a bit incongruous on your part that you’ve done so little to give your customers simple mechanisms to talk with you and share their experiences?

We know that this is a daunting task. For most of you, it’s not part of your core focus to develop feedback and communication tools for applications, which is why we’ve built out the Apptentive framework. Designed from the ground up to assist you in giving your customers a voice, our goal is to enable what Beth Harte and Ernan Roman call, “Voice-of-the-Customer” tools. These tools enable your customers to speak up and to tell you what they think. We make it easier for you to listen and ultimately, for you to understand what your customers want, need and are willing to pay for.

Robi Ganguly
Updated: November 12th, 2012 11:56 am