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How to Prepare for the Holiday App Stores Rush

As in the past few years, the newest tablets and smartphones are going to be the big gift for many this holiday season. Between Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas Day, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday (after everyone ‘gifts themselves’ new tech treats a little early to take advantage of early price reductions), people all over the world will boot up, charge up, and start loading new apps on to their new tablets and phones.

As a result, app stores across the board receive huge spikes in traffic and app download requests. According to a recent Flurry report, Christmas day sees a 91 percent increase in app downloads, as compared to an average day in the first half of December.

Seasonality of the app marketplace: Mobile commerce peaks in the Q4 holiday season.

Seasonality of the US mobile market: Mobile commerce peaks in the Q4 holiday season.

In recent years, the combination of the holiday break at Apple and the increased demand for new apps has created a notable point of concern for app developers, marketers, and mobile product managers… the ‘App Store Freeze.’

In anticipation of the surge of new submissions, updates, and App Ratings and Reviews flowing in to iTunes, Apple would ‘freeze’ its app ratings and version update listings for a period of time in order to work through the backlog of new data.

The Ratings and Reviews component of the ‘freeze’ came as a blessing and a curse to app marketers. Mobile marketers ahead of their game could take advantage of the ‘freeze’ by attempting to boost their Ratings right before they were temporarily ‘locked in’ through advertising blitzes and holiday sales. Consequently, app publishers with more organic app store ratings and reviews optimization strategies were bumped down right before the ‘freeze’ – and stuck in that unfavorable position for anywhere between eight hours to one week.

For better or worse, the App Store Ratings Freeze is largely a thing of the past. In 2013 Ratings updates were locked for approximate eight hours, while any Ratings freeze this year is predicted to be negligible.

Dwindling duration of the infamous 'App Store Freeze'

Dwindling duration of the infamous ‘App Store Freeze’

However, there are a still a variety of key considerations for mobile developers and marketers around the end-of-year holiday time period. Notable among these is the continued presence of the Apple iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown – during which new app versions will not be processed through the App Store until after the Apple Holiday break.(See next paragraph.) We have assembled a few new tips to ensure that you ride smoothly through these exciting – but choppy – waters ahead for the next six weeks. As you seek to leverage the opportunity to delight customers who will be searching for new apps and trying out your app for the first time on their new mobile devices, we hope you find the following advice useful.

Plan early – especially regarding your app version and pricing updates.

While the App Ratings ‘freeze’ is no longer a main concern, app publishers should still be aware of – and plan around – the iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown. This is the time Apple iTunes and App Store developers are typically away on vacation, preventing manual changes to app version updates in the App Store. The 2014 shutdown dates will be announced shortly, though publishers can anticipate something along the lines of Dec 20 – Dec 26/27 this year (in accordance with the duration and span of the 2013 dates).

During the expected iTunes Connect Shutdown, no new apps or updates will be added to the App Store and prices and descriptions for existing apps cannot be changed. Front-end functionalities of the App Store, including updates to app rankings, will be unaffected however. In preparation for the App Store Shutdown, we recommend submitting holiday updates and pricing changes by the first week of December to give ample buffer time for review and approval.

App Store Holiday Shutdown Dates

2013 dates for the App Store Holiday Shutdown Dates, when no new submissions will be approved by Apple – Not to be confused with the App Store Ratings Freeze, when app ratings were historically locked in place

The Google Play Store does not have a scheduled holiday shutdown (of which we are aware – if you know about one coming this year, please update everyone in the Comments). Android update submissions are typically made live within 24 hours. However, we would still recommend planning any app new submissions or version updates well in advance of the 3rd week of December to ensure that neither you nor your new Android device customers miss the ‘unboxing’ windows this year.

Similarly, if your new year resolution contains anything about SDK integrations or setting up mobile customer engagement programs, consider getting an early start while things are still relatively quiet in the time leading up to the holidays. This way, you can start to capture customer data during the busiest time of the year and use the start of the new year to focus on providing an incredible customer experience rather than working through a backlog of integrations.

Dress for the occasion.

There’s a reason retail stores play holiday music through all of December and most of November. Research has shown that holiday music and themes can increase the amount of time consumers spend in a store, their intention to revisit, and their intention to make a purchase.

The same goes for apps.

In addition to providing another opportunity to delight your mobile customers, holiday themes are an effective way to increase engagement and click-through rates. Capturing the holiday spirit may also provide opportunities for increased exposure if your app lands on an app store’s list of top holiday picks or in a festive industry round-up of ‘best in show’ holiday apps.

Consider holiday specials, but don’t sacrifice value for rank.

Everyone loves a deal, but make sure your holiday pricing aligns with your business goals. In the days of the App Store freeze, publishers would greatly discount their app’s price to boost its perceived value – and consequently, its ratings – right before Apple would freeze its listing of top-rated apps. With the much shorter duration of the freeze, tricks like this are much less effective and publishers should be careful of pricing below their cost of acquisition.

Before heading into the holidays, know your metrics inside and out – what it costs you to acquire a customer, and how much revenue you generate for each engaged user. Once you know these metrics, you can plan better plan your holiday strategy around maximizing either new user volume or your average revenue per user (ARPU).

Want help setting goals and driving revenue? Check out our free guide, The Math of the App Business.

Make that first impression a good one.

Customer Service departments are notoriously overworked during the holiday season. In the app world, customer service can be put on the back burner entirely as staff depart for their own holiday vacations or are simply spread too thin to accommodate the sudden spike in traffic. However, publishers that set themselves apart by delivering an exceptional customer experience to the onslaught of new users will be rewarded in spades in the form of customer loyalty and retention.

Don’t let the first impression your customer has be a buggy one – empower them with the tools to openly communicate any issues or suggestions before they make their way to the ratings page. The cost of acquiring a new customer is significantly greater than the cost of retention, so creating an engaging customer experience from the get-go this holiday season will make the year ahead that much easier.

Continue your campaign well into the new year.

The holiday opportunities last long beyond the initial holidays. It’s important to remember that user acquisition is just the first step in your journey.

New gadget holders are swamped with an endless list of new app recommendations from the moment they unwrap their shiny new toys. As a result, it may be hard to shine past the clutter as a must-download. In order to stay top of mind, consider investing in a longer-term retention or re-targeting campaign to nurture users into engaged and profitable customers long after the initial excitement of the holidays has waned.


Have any other tips? Share them with @Apptentive and we’ll pass them along! Until then, happy holiday planning!

Welcome to Message Center - Apptentive's In-App Feedback & Conversation Inbox for iOS and Android

5 Reasons Your Mobile App Needs In-App Surveys

Apptentive Mobile App SurveySurveys have proven to be incredibly powerful tools for market analysis and driving customer insight. Restaurants and auto shops have surveys asking “How did we do today?” and retail stores often have their cashiers ask “Did you find everything you were looking for?” These may seem like simple questions to the consumer, but to a business these questions are crucial for understanding how to improve.

For online businesses, surveys have quickly become the best way to get insight into a customer base to determine who their customers are, how their customer feel, and what their customers truly want. All of which is very useful information! Originally conducted with paper and pencil, surveys are now commonly found all over the internet, but rarely inside mobile apps. Mobile apps are like any other business and stand to benefit from surveying customer and potential customer bases.

5 Reasons Why Your Mobile App Needs to Use Surveys

1. Save Money

Mobile app development is expensive. Every new feature and functionality costs additional money. Playing guessing games about what to create next can be incredibly costly and end up sinking your app. Never assume you know what your customers want because you will often be surprised what they will write when given the chance. Using an in-app survey can cut costs and much of the guess work from mobile app development.

From the beginning, incorporate a survey in your minimum viable product to capture responses about what your developing and what your customers would like to see. It is never too late or too early to use surveys as a channel to better understand how your customers feel and think about your app.  Having these answers can help you save money as you create what your customers want instead of what you think they want.

2. Prioritize Features

Creating a mobile app can be extremely exciting, especially when you get caught up in the fervor of  “we can build this, and that, and oh we can do this too.” However, trying to do too much too fast or in the wrong order can hamper the success of your app. Spending time on a feature that really isn’t all that great can waste valuable time and resources. It’s important to be able to prioritize your features and plan a product roadmap with confidence.

Enter surveys. Surveys are perfect for figuring out not only what your customers want, but also what is most important to them. Give your customers a voice to aid you in your product roadmap and you can be confident that you are spending time on the correct path to grow your mobile app business.

3. Who Are Your Customers?

A few simple questions can provide a treasure trove of insight on your customer base. Collecting demographic information such as age and gender is important data for future app development and can even aid you in choosing the correct ad agency or in getting the right partnership.

Demographic surveys can also include questions about customer likes and dislikes, problems they have, and address areas not directly related to your app. The more you can understand about who your customers are, the easier it will be able to create something that they love to use.

4. Specific Customer Feedback

All customer feedback is valuable, but sometimes you need feedback about a specific item. If you’ve released a new feature or entirely overhauled your app design you may want to learn what your customers think of the updates. Do they hate it?  And if so, why? You may be curious why customers stopped watching an instructional video halfway through or why they abandoned their purchase partway through the check-out process.

Using a mobile survey can give you insight into how your app is faring, whether it is a game, retail, or entertainment. Getting specific feedback can tell you how a feature was received and why customers are abandoning their carts. If a new update results in unhappy customers it’s essential to find out quickly to help avoid an onslaught of negative reviews in the app store. These reviews seldom go away even when the problem is fixed as people rarely update their reviews.

5. Engage Your Customers

The amount of people who provide feedback in-app or in the app stores is a very small percentage of your entire audience. Encouraging the rest of your audience to share their thoughts is important to get the full perspective of your customer base and not just the vocal customers. Surveys are a proactive tool that can help you reach and get responses from a larger portion of your customer base.

Surveys tell your customers that you are dedicated to improving your app and provides them with specific questions to answer which is often easier for most people than creating their own feedback.

In-App Surveys for your Mobile App

Apptentive Android SurveyAs businesses increasingly use mobile apps to drive their futures, native optimized mobile surveys will be incredibly important for engaging and understanding a mobile customer base.

As with any app feature, it takes time and money to developer surveys that fit seamlessly into your mobile app. Apptentive’s in-app surveys are developed for native apps, optimized for mobile devices, and allow you to target segments of your customer base.

Whether you use a service or create your own, surveys are a powerful tool to drive your business and beat your competition. The app that is first to build what their customers want, knows who their customers are, and understands what their customers think is the app that will come out on top.

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loyalty-not-guaranteed

The Cost of Customer Loyalty For Your Mobile App

Many companies believe that a successful customer loyalty campaign lies in new advertisements or new customer loyalty projects quarter after quarter. There are loyalty programs galore focused on incentivizing customers to frequently return. However, these constant and insistent attempts to gain our loyalty are not working, in fact, they are failing as customer loyalty is in decline.

Customer loyalty is in decline because consumers have more information than ever before and that information only takes 5 seconds to get. It’s incredibly easy to find the cheapest alternative, a special coupon, or a new product that may do what customers want just a bit better. For mobile apps, the cost for loyal mobile app customers is at an all time high. According to a report from mobile marketing firm, Fiksu, it costs $1.90 to acquire a loyal customer for a mobile app and all signs point to a continued rise through the holidays. Marketing budgets are being strained to continue to bring in new customers, and more importantly to keep them. As defined by Fiksu, a loyal mobile app customer is someone who opens the app three or more times in a thirty day period.

Mobile Customer Acquisition Cost

With costs increasing and customer loyalty in decline, improving or even maintaining customer loyalty can seem fairly bleak. What most companies are forgetting are the basics of what drives loyalty (it’s always about going back to fundamentals). A company that treats it’s customers well will always be more successful than the company that doesn’t care about the customer experience.

When there is a problem, customers expect to receive excellent and proper treatment. This above all else drives loyalty. For mobile apps, this concept is unfortunately lacking to the point where hearing that customers are surprised to even receive a support response is a common story. To create customer loyalty it’s time to move away from marketing tricks and move back to what’s important.

  • Treat your customers with respect – This can be more difficult than you might think. Sometimes a rude customer or a customer who can not follow or understand the simplest of tasks can push you over the edge. Your instinct can make you react quickly, but take a step back and wait a few minutes before responding. No matter what the problem might be, apologize and move on to trying to help them. Many customers who may seem angry, frustrated, or dissatisfied can easily be turned into loyal customers by being treated with respect.
  • Listen to your customers – Nobody knows what customers want better than the customer. Actively listen to your customers on all channels (mobile, social, email, and web). The more places where customers can talk to you and feel listened to, the more likely they will actually reach out with something to say.
  • Respond to your customers (be human) – Start every message that you can with their name and sign it with your own. Be a real person and have a real conversation. This is essential to developing a relationship and is often the foundation of why customers are loyal. Customers are loyal to the people behind the product who provide great support and are reliable in times of crisis.
  • Rise to the expectations – Customers expect to be well taken care of and have no qualms about taking their business elsewhere if the support is not up to par. Not every company can provide quite the same service as an Amazon or Nordstrom, but every effort should be made to provide an exceptional experience for your customers. Be honest and open about what you can and cannot do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but make efforts to rise and go beyond expectations of your customers when you can. When a customer feels that you are making every effort to help them out it is appreciated.

Do you have loyal mobile app customers?

You may not consider a customer who opens your app three times in a month to be loyal. Every app is different, therefore expectations of how customers will use it differ as well. What’s important is how you are measuring customer loyalty. Common methods for measuring loyalty is the Net Promotor Score or using voice of the customer metrics across all departments to set benchmarks over time. While both of these can help give you an understanding of what customers think about your app, it falls short of actually measuring loyalty.

To measure loyalty you must dig deeper and understand the entire journey that the customer has with your app. Loyalty should be measured through a series of touch points through your app and be able to extend further into web, email, and social. We are all glued to our phones, constantly sharing and interacting through our mobile devices, yet there is still very little contact through devices with companies. Being proactive to engage with your customers and be there ready to solve an issue at hand is the best loyalty strategy you can have.

The more touch points across the customer journey the better to not only accurately measure loyalty but to create it. Loyalty is about emotion, not logic. If you have customers that love your mobile app they will come back, it’s that simple. Creating customer loyalty doesn’t need to be about spending more money on campaigns and loyalty programs. It’s about creating an exceptional experience that customers can trust to receive every time.

How do you measure customer loyalty? Do you have any suggestions for increasing customer loyalty? Please share in the comments below.

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Customer-Experience-Management-Customer-Centric-Organization-copy

Create Customer Happiness with a Simple Act of Kindness

We often forget how powerful the little things are each day. How the smallest acts of kindness, care, and respect for one another can often leave lasting impressions far larger than the act itself. The video above feels you with warmth inside and makes you think twice about how you can better interact with everyone around you. It’s about how a simple meaningful gesture can brighten someone’s day – and that is important!

In an article recently published by the New York Times, it appears that the term “pay-it-forward” is currently being employed in drive-thrus across the country. In one case, a line of 228 cars in a row payed it forward by paying for the car’s order behind them. Reports of cars paying it forward in drive-thrus have been reported from across the country and in Canada. Why are people doing this?

These acts stem from people wanting to give back, pay it forward, or just make or save someone’s day. There are so many problems, large and small,  that surround all of us every day that we often forget how much of an impact a little act of kindness can have. It doesn’t take lots of money or extravagant gifts to make someone happy. In one of my favorite videos below, captured by security cameras around the world, we see numerous small acts of kindness that may not mean much to the person doing them, but may mean the world to the person receiving them. Now, if people who don’t know one another and have no kind of relation or connection at all find value in these acts of kindness shouldn’t companies make the effort to give their customers a little smile as well? Without our customers we wouldn’t be in business. We know how important our customers are but we often take them for granted and rarely take the time to thank them. We are all very focused on creating great products and services with positive customer experiences, but we can bring our customers happiness outside our product as well.

A Great Customer Experience Is Not Just About the Product

A good customer experience begins with a great product, but ends with making your customers feel special or even loved. Build your business with customer happiness in the forefront of your mind. Be as real with them as you want them to be with you and you won’t be disappointed. I know this all sounds a bit lofty, but don’t just let it wash over you. Start a customer happiness campaign (conversation, activity, or anything!), take a step away from the desk (have you ever met a customer?), and be a company that people smile about when they hear your name.

Great customer experiences should extend beyond the product. Recently, I read a post about how one company, StatusPage.io, improves customer experience offline by handwriting notes (with some skittles!) to customers to show their appreciation. It takes less than 5 minutes to send a card to a customer. A handwritten note may not be scalable, but there are many ways to engage and make your customers feel valued and appreciated. A simple check-in with customers can go a long way.

At Apptentive, we have a phrase “People, Not Users” that represents how we approach interactions we have with our customers. We like our customers to know us as people and not just a brand. We believe in letting them know they aren’t one user of many or a number in a spreadsheet. These small acts of kindness can go a long way to building trust and developing a strong relationship with your customers. Every business, no matter what industry you’re in, should aim to build relationships with their customers.

We know an awful lot about our customers these days and are more than capable of reaching out and being thoughtful in our thanks. Creating a bit of customer happiness is as simple as expressing genuine thanks and being thoughtful in how you do it, so go thank your customers today!

What small acts of kindness do you do for your customers? Share below and inspire others to start doing the same. The more ideas the better.

While we’re on the subject of small acts of kindness, watch this amazing video from Thailand. It’s ok if you cry, I’ve seen it more than ten times and still tear up every time.

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Companies are struggling with who holds the brand's megaphone and impacts how the company sounds

Why How You “Sound” Matters to the Customer in Every Channel

Customers are engaging your brand in more than one channel and especially on their phones. That means that the same customer might be talking to you on email, on Twitter, via phone, or in some other channel – at any moment. It’s important to consider how you sound to customers when they contact you. They react to what they hear and read, not just to what you meant when you said it or wrote it.

Increasingly, the best place to interact with that the customer is inside your native app. You’ve already got their attention if they are using your app, so why not consider that location a channel that’s just as important (or more so) than email, Twitter, or phone? How you sound when you interrupt your customer’s app use has to be friendly, informative, and useful.

Companies are struggling with who holds the brand's megaphone and impacts how the company sounds

Who is speaking for your company and how?

By using the term “How You Sound” I mean the words you use and how the experience feels to the customer (as if they were talking to you on a phone or in person). When you talk to the customer across different channels, that customer measures your performance by where you provide the worst experience. If you’re going to talk to customers in your app, on Email, via Phone, and by Twitter, the tone and message should be appropriate for that channel yet still seem like your brand.

You get to the goal of “How We Sound” by building the experience you want the customer to feel, and then by checking how it feels in each channel. You can do this by standardizing (and specializing) the content, and by setting up a workflow that allows for success in each channel. To use a programming metaphor, the subclass of each interaction channel might not implement service-specific methods, and you should always ensure that the prototype methods (contactMe() and IveGotAProblem()) are easy to find in every channel.

What matters most to “How You Sound”?

Most people instinctively feel that a brand should look consistent when you encounter it in a different medium – think of the logos we use and the color schemes that ensure that a web experience “feels” like the mobile experience as well – and have a harder time extrapolating that feeling to other parts of the service experience. They just know that something feels “wrong” or “unprofessional.”

Using a common language

The best method you have for ensuring a common experience is to use common nouns, verbs, and sentences in your service design. When you are referring to the customer, always use the same words. When you ask the customer to do something, use consistent nouns to describe the parts of your product or service. Customers will need to use these terms as a “grammar” to assemble the pieces of your service experience into the “sentences” that solve their problems. If they need to know how to “Add” a “User” to have the rights to view a “Filter” as a way of making sure a certain customer can see certain information, you need to make the procedure and steps to get this done really clear.

Using a common method of handling

Using common language is a great place to start in your service design when you want to make the experience consistent across channels. You should also think about the information you need in each channel to identify the customer, to understand what they need, and to tie their other contacts together.

When a customer contacts you on Twitter, you should already know that this is the same customer who has an open support case, or the same customer who bought a product or service from your company, and that you can respond to them in a channel-appropriate method.

What’s a channel-appropriate response?

This is a fancy way of saying that you shouldn’t share information in public channels (like Twitter) that people wouldn’t want to share. So while you might respond to someone’s request for help on Twitter with “Sorry to hear you’re having issues. We’ve got it – will follow up via dm or email,” you should limit the sending private information that the customer doesn’t want to make public.

And Don’t Cross the Streams unless the customer does it first. If the customer responds to you in email, they probably want a private response. On the other hand, they might send up a message flare on Twitter when they’d prefer that you pay attention to them RIGHT NOW. Use your best judgement and you should get close to the tone, speed, and privacy that your customer prefers. The customer who often emails you might be fine with a Twitter Direct Message if they’ve contacted you this way before; and if they’ve never Tweeted at you or DMed you, perhaps you should stick to email or phone.

What’s the Goal of “How We Sound”?

You want to deliver the confidence that the experience will feel the same to the customer (and to you) no matter what the contact method. Today you might be having conversations with the customer in channels called “Phone,” “Email,” and “Twitter.” Tomorrow the names of those channels might be a lot different, and might require different inputs (Smell-o-vision, anyone?) The interaction challenge will be the same.

When you respond in a way that feels consistent to the customer, you’re well positioned to add new interaction channels that sound the same, no matter where they appear. And that consistency and emotional experience is the thing that builds and reinforces your brand.

Greg Meyer is Manager, Customer WOW at the Desk.com Team at Salesforce. You can find him on Twitter at @grmeyer

10 tips for handling negative app reviews and feedback

Comments provide great feedback about your app

Good comments tell you what people like about your app and what you are doing right. They make you feel good about your work and offer encouragement to keep going. At their best, they are both inspiring and validating: giving other potential customers in the app store a reason to buy or download your app.

Negative comments, however, can be disturbing. They make you second guess yourself, and your app, and can really bring you down.

The reality is this: you will get negative reviews and feedback.

Here are 10 suggestions for dealing with the inevitable complaints:

A photo of a note soliciting customer feedback at Bedlam Coffee

Hearing from your unhappy customers is better than losing them forever

View all feedback as an indication of care

It’s important to recognize that a customer who chooses to engage with you is a rare gift, because they care enough to invest time in sharing their opinion. The vast majority of customers come and go without saying a word to you – having enough passion to engage is a sign of someone who cares about your app in some way.

When you view all feedback, regardless of disposition, as a statement of care, embracing the feedback as an opportunity becomes much easier. Look at negative feedback with respect and amazement – how often do you take the time in your daily life to reach out and tell businesses about how they’ve made a mistake? For most people, the answer is, “not often at all, it’d take too much time”. Your app customers are the same way – the ones who take the time to complain are special.

Avoid being defensive

A natural tendency for all of us when we get criticized is to get defensive. When you’re defensive, you stake out a position to defend instead of truly embracing the customer’s point of view. In the world of customer service, this is a disaster – being on the opposite side of an issue with your customer results in antagonistic relationships rather than cooperative and collaborative ones. Observe your own reactions and emotions in order to tamp down any natural defensiveness that arises.

Acknowledge

One of the most powerful ways to deal with negative feelings and feedback is simply to acknowledge the validity of the customer’s feelings in the first place. By first communicating that the person who’s upset is valid in feeling upset, you can diffuse the tension that many people bring to a frustrating situation created by feeling like they need to fight to be heard.

Apologize

In your daily life, have you ever found yourself worked up and ready to argue with someone and then, upon hearing the words, “I’m sorry” felt a massive sense of relief and decompression?

Apologizing goes a LONG way with most people. It reminds them that you’re another human being and that you care about their feelings. When a customer is upset and frustrated, leading off with a sincere apology does wonders for turning a potential argument into a conversation.

Make It Right

Sometimes an apology simply isn’t enough. Taking the time to go the extra mile and take care of your customer in a way that resolves their issue or delivers them unexpected value is usually well worth the cost to you and your company.

For example, if your app has in-app purchases and someone is complaining, offering them free credits might cost you a bit, but it’s a simple and straightforward way to put meaning and commitment behind your words. We see app developers routinely gift virtual currency to frustrated customers, resulting in increases in retention and spend from the unhappy customer over the long run. Taking the stance that you’ll fix problems and make customers feel special pays dividends over the long run as they tell their friends about your approach and generosity.

Hear Them Out

In communication, the most important skill has nothing to do with what you’re saying. The most important skill is listening.

Remembering this fact when a customer brings negative comments your way will ground you in the importance of truly listening and understanding why they’re upset. Let your customers vent and express their feelings and concerns to you.

You might be surprised about what you learn as a result of truly listening and asking questions in order to deepen your understanding. Sometimes problems external to your app (iOS beta releases anyone?) are impacting your customer’s experience. You might find that a problem you’re completely unaware of is impacting the user experience.

Hearing a customer out doesn’t mean that you have to give in and accept their negativity, it means seeking a better understanding of where they’re coming from and how you can be on the same page.

Avoid the Trolls

Sometimes, negative comments simply come from people who enjoy creating a stir when they can remain anonymous. They love the attention they get from causing controversy.

This type of feedback is exceptionally dangerous because it can draw you into an argument that undermines your credibility. It adds no value to your product or community. While ignoring trolls isn’t always an option, if you’re going to engage with an obvious troll, don’t let them draw you into their level of discussion. Be polite, be nice and draw the line on how much time you’ll spend with trolls.

Set the Record Straight

While you certainly don’t want to get into a comment war with an unsatisfied customer, you don’t have to subject your company, your product or yourself to negative comments that are downright false.

If you run across comments that are not accurate, address them while giving the commenter the benefit of the doubt. Assume they didn’t know any better. Take this opportunity to educate them, and the rest of your community.

Once you resolve an issue, you should take the opportunity to let your community know that things are all copasetic as well. A simple follow up comment that reads:

I am glad we had the opportunity to fix this for you, please let us know if there is anything else we can do to make your experience with us a pleasurable one!

will go a long way.

Learn From It

Take what your customers are saying and see how you can incorporate the feedback to create a better product. If it is features they want, work with to evaluate and add them. If the app is buggy, sort out your bugs.

Developing a great app is a journey and every piece of feedback, negative or otherwise, presents you with information that can be used to better your app. Embrace this opportunity to keep your community involved in the process of making something great. Making your customers feel as if they have some ownership in your app is a fantastic way to build your fan base and turn frustrated consumers into evangelists.

Take the conversation private!

Public discourse with customers is often a poor way to handle complaints and problems. It lends itself to more black and white statements, a lack of empathy and speaking for an assumed audience. We highly recommend taking conversations private, which is one of the reasons why our in-app feedback tools are built to create 1:1 conversations with your app customers. Private in-app feedback is an exceptional tool to increasing the level of conversation you have with your frustrated customers.

Have some other tips? Share them!

So that’s it, 10 tips for handling negative app reviews and feedback. If you’ve got other suggestions for how to navigate the world of app development and customer communication, please share in the comments, we’re always listening ourselves!

Awesome Ways To Integrate Customer Service Tools Into Your App

Customer interactions = an opportunity to increase retention and loyalty

So you’ve built an app. Now what?

Hopefully, your customers find it useful, entertaining or life changing.

Invariably, though, some of them will find that they have an opinion, question or suggestion that they’d like to share with you.

Photo of a person with a question

Your app customers have questions

When customers want to reach out and talk to you, many developers think instantly, “Oh, something is wrong, there must be a problem”. To the contrary, however, many of our developers find that giving customers the ability to provide feedback from within the app results in a surprising number of kudos, suggestions and positive engagements.

Even when the customer is reaching out to tell you about a problem, they’re giving you the chance to truly win their loyalty over the long run. Think about it, your customer can’t get something to work right and you come in to save the day with A+, stellar customer service, surprising and delighting them. How great is that?

Put a name to your app

Even more importantly, when your customers are hearing back from you, they’re associating a name and a person with your app – giving it an identity that is more tangible than just an app icon. That customer you emailed with who started referring to you by your first name? They’re most likely going to be coming back to your app now that they know you.

Creating a personal connection with a customer is one of the biggest reasons why companies who are excellent at customer service continue to make significant gains in customer satisfaction, loyalty and profits. Companies like Zappos and Nordstrom have perfected the art of making each and every customer feel a personal connection with the company by delivering happiness.

Creating connections and delivering great customer service are easier than ever before

So how do you integrate awesome customer service into your app? Here are a few simple principles for doing so:

  1. Provide a way to contact you in the app. With smartphones, an email address or telephone number should be interactive and launch the necessary tool when clicked. Make this available so customers don’t have to search for your contact info. Services like ours actually allow you to embed feedback forms into your apps giving customers a way to contact you directly so they don’t have to switch apps in order to get in touch with you.
  2. Make it social. Let your customers leave feedback on whatever social channels you maintain. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. If you are on it, integrate it.
  3. Chat it up. Email is great but some people feel that it takes too long to get a response. And seriously, nothing can turn a customer into a madman quicker than listening to Muzak versions of Nirvana while they are on hold. Chat, however, provides immediate satisfaction.
  4. The power of video. Go ahead make a tutorial. Incorporate that into your app and see all the happy users smile!
  5. Let people tell their story. Nothing sells better than positive reviews. Make it easy for your customers to tell others how easy it was for them to do this or that with your app or how well it worked for them. Not only will this help sales, but it will help existing customers feel like your stuff actually works.

Remember, feedback from your customers – both good and bad – can help make your app a smashing success. Make sure that before it gets into the hands of your customers you have given them some way to get their feedback to you directly!

Apps that people love: Ray-Ban Bright Light

This week, we came across a concept app that we think deserves to exist, if for no other reason than the people using it would be hilarious to watch walk around.

It’s called the “Ray Ban Bright Light” – take a look at the concept video and tell us what you think:

Let’s talk about customer service

We came across two really interesting customer service post this past week that we thought we’d share as inspiration and insight:

  • Did you know there was a bill focused on requiring government agencies to provide good customer service? We didn’t either, until we read about it over here. It’s called the Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act and it sounds like a promising idea.
  • Valeria Maltoni (better known as the Conversation Agent) had a horrible experience with a large bank and turned it into a a great discussion of the top reasons why your customer service fails. We particularly liked reasons 10, 6 and 2 (go read it already!), as we see those things occurring all the time and know that they’re easily addressed.

Customer service matters for a lot of reasons, but here’s a really obvious trend makes this more important with each passing day: customers trust their friends’ words and recommendations more than anything else, so if you’re not creating great customer experiences, you’re passing up the most effective way to spread the word about you.

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Appreciate your customers by listening

Around the web and in the real world, April has been acknowledged as “Customer Appreciation Month”.  With it coming to an end, we thought we’d share a few inspiring and insightful pieces of content about some ways in which you can truly appreciate your customers: by listening to them and respecting their feelings when they come to you with complaints.

  • 5 Rules for Handling Complaints: Respond, Acknowledge, Elevate, Apologize and Downsize. I like how they laid this out and how simply actionable it is.
  • Users are the inspiration: 2 great quotes from this awesome piece below
    • “There are two reasons you should put in the time to answer support emails: because you want to fix bugs in your product, and because it’s one of the few times you actually get to talk with your customers (don’t forget, they are customers too).”
    • “Happy users turn into paying users.”
  • Found this via Om’s blog and it’s wonderful. 3 minutes from the CEO of Amgen discussing how he really learned to listen and why it’s important
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Building your app business by building apps that people love

(this is the first in what will be an ongoing series highlighting some of our favorite writing about creating an app business and the value of meaningful customer relationships)

Apps:

  • Earning an advocate: we could file this under both Apps and Customer Relationship. Fantastic post from the trivi.al crew about their process of building an app and the relationship they’ve developed with the Parse team. Remember, being responsive, helpful and human goes a LONG way.
  • Being human: also appropriate for both. A reminder that creating a human touch that makes someone feel as if they’re your only customer always stands out.
  • Raising the bar for mobile standards. “Mobile is amazingly versatile, and design for mobile is about the culture of your audience, the tasks they are trying to complete, and the context in which they are completing them. Design for mobile and therefore mobile standards need to be approached from a human perspective.” AMEN

Customer Relationships

 

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