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Release Day: Overview of New Dashboard and Conversations Features

Today is another exciting release day at Worldwide Apptentive HQ, and we’re pleased to announce two new features which have been requested by customers with increasing regularity. These features are being pushed live across all instances of our platform at every customer price tier – so enjoy the new flexibility that these offer you, if you are a customer!

1) Dynamic Date Ranges for App Health Reporting Dashboard

We often heard that our frequent Dashboard-using customers wanted the ability to modify applicable date ranges for their core App Health Dashboard, thereby refreshing the data powering all of the insight modules on the Dashboard. We recently pushed this live and invite our customers to try it out. You will be able to increase or decrease the applicable date range (from the previous 1-month, un-modifiable default) in the upper right header where the Dashboard Report dates are displayed. In so doing, the date range on Love Score chart module below updates to cover the entire date range selected… or at least back to the start of activation of our SDK and service in your relevant app(s).

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New Dashboard view, with new dynamic date range feature highlighted. With a Giant Red Arrow. Because we love Giant Red Arrows!

 

2) Conversation Search

For those customers with active customer conversations enabled by our Message Center platform module, we frequently heard feedback that our customers wanted the ability to query against their customer message submissions. We are pleased to share that this feature is now complete and live across all customer instances of the platform on the “Conversations” tab of our customer service management application.

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Conversation Search enables Apptentive customers to query the application user Conversation submissions and responses handled by our Message Center platform module.

As our platform improvements release schedule settles in to a regular rhythm here, we will always strive to use our blog as the ‘first / best’ location to learn about these new version releases and feature enhancements. Look for the “Product Release News” post Category as our way of identifying platform release updates in the future.

Warm regards from all of us at Apptentive – and as always, we welcome our customers’ feedback (and ideas) on product enhancements here in the Comments, via our GitHub page or StackOverflow, and of course via our direct feedback channels.

apptentive-device

Voice of the Customer (VOC) on Mobile – Why is it important?

The average consumer is now spending the majority of their time on mobile and there’s a growing number of companies that have shifted their focus to mobile apps. Being part of the mobile ecosystem places you closer than ever to your customers, but it also places you at the mercy of the trends and innovations in the mobile space. This shift has redefined how companies communicate with their customers and needs to be treated differently than online, in person, or on the phone.

The expectations, needs, and wants of your customers can quickly change based on other innovations in the mobile space. That’s why understanding the Voice of the Customer (VOC) is so important.  VOC can change quickly, even if you’ve done nothing to change the experience of your app. As a result, if you’re not already doing so, you need to start being proactive in getting to know your customers.

What is VOC?

Voice of the Customer (VOC) has become a standard business term used to describe the process of collecting data about customer expectations, preferences, and dislikes. VOC market research studies are generally conducted at the release of new products, services, features, or design to understand customer sentiment around new or changed items.

The key to creating a truly effective VOC program is to always be gathering data from your customers, and not just asking for feedback during a release or update. When your customers share their voice in real-time with you they expect you to listen, act, and respond back to them so make sure to respond. Responding helps build relationships and encourages your customers to talk to you again in the future.

Why is VOC Important?

Retention is one of the largest problems for mobile apps. It is very easy for a customer to find a new app to fit their needs if they are frustrated or experience a problem. By the time they’ve left a review in the app store to provide you with feedback, it’s already too late. By being in tune to the VOC of your customers, there are a number of steps you can take to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to continue to be their app of choice regardless of a problem or two.

In an effort to paint the bigger picture of where VOC fits into a company’s process, we put together this simple image that covers what VOC is and how we can help you capture it from your mobile customers (see below). Print it out, bring it your next mobile meeting and be up-front…”We’re not doing this…we need to be doing this…and here’s why!’

Mobile VOC

Need more convincing?
The speed at which you can update and improve your mobile app is essential to having success. Having tools to implement Voice of the Customer campaigns provides you with the feedback and direction to find success faster and more efficiently. Listen to your customers to receive early warnings on bugs or other problems with your app and you’ll always be prepared to handle problems as they arise instead of finding out about them after it’s too late.

Now is the time to be proactive and invest in the tools to give your company a direct line to your customers. Going forward, if you need help collecting your customer VOC,  you can contact us directly (or request a demo) and we’ll share with you the secrets behind conducting a strong VOC campaign that will impact the bottom line of your mobile business.

Customer Love in App Store Reviews: An adjunct to Net Promoter® Score

There are many reasons an app developer would want to use metrics. But at their core, metrics are about answering simple questions:

  • Are we doing a good job?
  • Do people love our app?
  • How do we get better?

One of the premiere metrics of customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter® Score, that is, How likely is it that you would recommend X to a friend or colleague? on an scale from zero to ten. By subtracting the “detractors” who answer zero to six, from the promoters who answer nine or ten (the “positive passives” answering seven or eight are discarded), you get an effective measure of customer delight. It seems like a simple question, but there are reams of research to support the idea that this simple question is goldmine.

If you are able to implement such a metric, fantastic. Even if your business is selling and supporting mobile apps — where you don’t have a steady stream of walk-in or call-in customers of whom you can ask how likely they are to recommend your app — we can gather this information with in-app surveys, or by sending out an e-mail blast to paid subscribers. But in the app marketplace, we have moved beyond passive likelihood to recommend: people are actively recommending (or criticizing) apps in a public forum. What metrics, then, can you use to make day-to-day decisions about your app and your customers? For the mobile app business, I would suggest an adjunct to Net Promoter® Score. A question that can be crucial to an app’s long term success, and a metric you might be able to measure with data you already have: do people love our app?

In our work delivering customer insights and targeted messaging on mobile apps, Apptentive has found customer love to be a key indicator of a few things:

  • Customers who love your app are more likely to rate or review it in the app store.
  • Customers who love your app tend to give it higher ratings in the app store.
  • Customers who love your app are more likely to use the word “love” when they write a review in the app store.

Why are these things important? Because customers who love your app will be more engaged customers. Engaged customers use your app more frequently, and are more likely to purchase it across multiple platforms. And because research shows ratings and reviews are particularly important for things that are difficult for customers to evaluate prior to purchase. Higher ratings and better reviews mean more downloads.

One of the ways we measure customer love is with in-app feedback. In the app itself, ask the user, “Do you love [insert app name here]?” and measure the yes and no responses over time. And there is another way, using data you already have available: download the reviews from your iTunes Connect, Google Play, or other app store account, and count the percentage of reviews that use the word “love” in them. You might be surprised how many people are willing to say, I love this app, and what a powerful message that sends to other potential customers.

At Apptentive we are strong believers in empowering developers to listen and respond to users. If you are using an in-app feedback model, customer love is a great metric to see how well you are doing over time. And if you have not yet started to engage your customers directly, it is still a great time to start measuring customer love. It is one way to answer that question, “Are we doing a good job?” And once you start to listen to people and respond, you’ll also be able to answer the other question, “How do we get better.”

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!

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.