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In-App Surveys

Best Practices in Mobile Research

The Apptentive Guide to Mobile Research Best Practices

The following is Part 3 of our three-part guide on mobile research and in-app surveys.

Before you set out to work on creating your own mobile research instruments, we wanted to provide a few best practices that we’ve discovered with the help of our customers. These are proven tips for creating effective mobile surveys optimized for response rates, customer experience, and the collection of actionable insights.

Best Practices: Survey Design

When designing your mobile research instrument, do:

  • Design with mobile in mind
  • Keep questions brief and concise
  • Allow customers to opt out at any time
  • Aim to address your research objective with as few questions as possible
  • Limit the number of options for multiple choices
  • Break the questions up so that only one or two appear at a time
  • Provide an ‘Other’ field with a textbox for fill-in answers to your multiple choice questions if you suspect that some respondents may have answers you had not previously considered
  • Add an option for ‘Don’t Know’ or ‘Not Applicable’ for questions that some respondents may not be able to answer
  • Pre-test your survey internally to identify any weaknesses and ambiguity

And don’t:

  • Create overlap in multiple choice responses. All responses should be mutually exclusive
  • Present rating scales with large matrices of options or questions ones that require scrolling on a mobile screen
  • Create vague responses that are open to the interpretation of the respondent (i.e.: If asking about use frequency, give tangible options like ‘twice a week’ and ‘once a month’ rather than ‘often’ or ‘rarely’
  • Frame questions in a way that leads the respondent or creates bias (i.e.: “Why do you like this app?”)
  • Request personal information at the start of the survey as this may lead to lower response rates. If you need this information, make the questions optional and move them to the end of the survey

Apptentive customer communication

Best Practices: Survey Integration

For best results integrating your research instrument within your app, we recommend you:

  • Use an in-app survey rather than directing mobile customers to a web survey so as to not detract from the customer experience. If you are using a web survey, be upfront about asking customers to leave the app for an external link.
  • Use event-based targeting that isn’t intrusive. Don’t immediately ask new users to take a survey, and only ask customers to take your survey once rather than asking each time they load an event.
  • Integrate the survey with your existing customer analytics to allow you to target the responses against your audience segmentation to uncover trends based on loyalty, device, etc., without having to ask customers to fill out additional questions.

We hope this guide helped, and we wish you all the best in your mobile research endeavors! Of course, this list contains just a few of our favorite tips. Please help us grow this list by letting us know in the comments below what tips worked best for you and what you’d add to the list.

Want more best practices and help thinking about your in-app surveys? Sign up for an enterprise plan for unlimited access to our dedicated customer success and support teams. We’ll work with you to create a plan specifically for your mobile app and research needs.



Revisit the highlights of this three-part guide on Slideshare:

Mobile research best practices from Apptentive

CES logo

CES – The Challenge of Customer Communications in the IoT Era

I recently had the opportunity to represent Apptentive at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and wanted to share a few observations from the event that left a lasting impression and an indication of the expanding role of customer communication in an increasingly connected world.

On CES

First impressions? CES this year was HUGE.

CES 2015 hosted over 170,000 industry professionals from all reaches of the globe and celebrated innovations in every area of consumer electronics. The four-day conference took up over 2.2 million square feet of exhibit space at the beautiful Cosmopolitan Hotel on the Vegas Strip and had over 3,600 exhibitors – including a record number of startups.

Apptentive at CES

Apptentive’s Red Russak and Robi Ganguly presenting on customer engagement at APPNATION, this year recognized as an official partner event of CES

The theme of this year’s conference was “The Internet of Things,” (IoT), and I’d say that’s a pretty good way to categorize the eclectic collection of gadgets we saw – from smart pacifiers, to high-tech roller skates, to Edwin the Duck.

CES boasted a “who’s who” of tech innovators. From big brands like Tesla showing off an entire selection of self-driving cars to overseas startups selling designer selfie sticks, every minute was full of humbling sights and memorable experiences.

Red Russak at APPNATION / CES

Apptentive’s Red Russak sharing ideas (and food!) at APPNATION’s Startup Garage

On Customer Communication, Our Own Awesome Customers, and the Best Party on the Strip

Amid all the chaos of dodging connected cars and drones galore, there were three prevailing observations that made a noteworthy impression.

First, an overarching appreciation for the customer experience is here to stay. Brands didn’t come to showcase the latest and greatest innovations. They came to deliver a spectacle, an experience.

Throughout our many conversations, one theme reigned supreme: Companies are looking for customers to love the brand, just as much as they love the product. They understand that it’s more important than ever to talk to their customers and understand their needs and pain points rather than innovating for innovation’s sake.

CES proved that anything can be a connected device, from toothbrushes to rubber ducks. The big question, now, is how brands can break through the noise to effectively communicate with their customers in any sort of consistent manner – let alone provide an omni-channel experience. Customer relationships are getting harder to maintain as the proliferation of new technology continues to clutter the customer experience landscape. It’s paramount that brands think about how customer insights can be collected and shared across devices in order to build a product that customers not only want, but love.

The 3,600 exhibitors in attendance proved that product is no longer a sufficient differentiator. In order to really stand out, you need to build a strong customer brand perception into the core of your development, messaging, marketing, and ultimately, engagement. In 2015, the importance of maintaining a focus on the customer cannot be underestimated.

Ravi Ramkumar at CES

Ravi Ramkumar (left) with friends of Apptentive at our Customer Appreciation Dinner

Second, CES reminded me of why I’m in the business of customer communications. Talk about customer love and reciprocal loyalty – our incredible customers made a point to carve out time from their hectic conference schedules to visit our suite, share their feedback, rep our product, and proudly don our t-shirts. Our customers and key partners alike gave us an amazing reception at our customer appreciation dinner at Jaleo Las Vegas – over the best tapas in Vegas, no less!

So to all of our customers I had the privilege of meeting at CES and APPNATION, and to all of our customers I hope to meet at future events and Appy Hours, thank you.

Microsoft Party at CES 2015

Thanks for a great party Microsoft – Can’t wait to see how you guys top it next year!

And third, I want to give a shoutout to our friends at Microsoft for hosting the best party in Vegas, hosted by Tiesto himself! Thank you for topping off the CES experience with c-suite executives raging in backpacks and startup tees.



Overall, I had an incredible experience at CES and APPNATION. My only regret is not having enough time to play with the gadgets and meet the incredible entrepreneurs behind them.

But, hey, there’s always #CES2016.

In-App Surveys

7 Steps to Creating Effective In-App Surveys

The Apptentive Guide to Mobile Research & In-App Surveys

The following is Part 2 of our three-part guide on mobile research and in-app surveys.

In working with thousands of mobile developers on collecting mobile customer insights, we’ve learned a thing or two about what works – and what doesn’t work – when it comes to designing an effective in-app survey. We believe mobile research is an incredibly powerful tool for improving communication with your customers, and have made it our mission since day one to help brands create Customer Love.

We’ve therefore highlighted the steps of one of our favorite survey design roadmaps to help you think about what’s involved in creating surveys that will both deliver the data you need and enhance the overall customer experience.

1. Pick Your Survey Tool

We have an obvious bias here, but the very first thing you need to consider is your choice of survey tool. This includes both the decision of whether to use an in-app survey (like Apptentive) or a web survey (like SurveyMonkey) and the decision of whether to make your survey platform in-house or seek out a third-party solution.

We’ve done our best to highlight the pros and cons of each of these options below:

Using an In-App Survey Tool

Pros:

  • Allows for a frictionless customer experience as customers never have to leave the app
  • Dramatically higher response rates when compared to web surveys
  • Easy to integrate into points of engagement within the app (‘mobile moments’)

Cons:

  • May require additional engineering time to integrate into your app

Using a Web Survey Tool

Pros:

  • Several very established survey and analytic tools available to choose from

Cons:

  • Lower response rates
  • Requires your customers to leave the app to take the survey
  • Branding and the customer experience are often less cohesive between the app and the externally hosted survey

Using an In-House Solution

Pros:

  • Unrivaled flexibility

Cons:

  • Very resource-intensive in terms of developer time and money
  • Necessary testing of, and updates to, the survey tool may take time away from your product roadmap

Using a Third-Party Solution

Pros:

  • Turnkey solutions available with reporting tools and dashboards
  • Access to existing documentation on best practices for customer success

Cons:

  • Requires some developer time, depending on ease of SDK integration



2. Determine Your Research Question

Before jumping into designing your survey on your chosen tool, take some time to identify a single concrete research question that you hope to answer with the results of your survey. This will provide a benchmark for your data analysis and can help to keep the survey short and concise if you constrain yourself to asking only those questions necessary for addressing your research question. (We’ll provide more on why shorter is better when it comes to in-app surveys in Part 3 of this guide.)

Research questions are generally classified as either attitudinal, behavioral, demographic, or technical. An example of a research question for each of these categories can be found below:

  • Attitudinal: How do new users like your app?
  • Behavioral: How do users interact with your app? What are the most common use cases?
  • Demographic: Which age bracket is your app most popular with?
  • Technical: How can this app be improved?

Once you have carefully selected your research question, several of the remaining steps will come naturally – including your target audience and the type of data you need to collect.

3. Identify Your Survey Audience

It’s now time to determine which customers are best suited to honestly and accurately address your research question. Once you’ve identified the customer segment, you can begin to seek out pain points within the app where the survey will provide the most value to both the customer and your team.

Common mobile research samples include:

A Sample Generated With Event-based Targeting

Our Recommendation!

Delivering your in-app survey to customers who engage in pre-specified ‘mobile moments,’ i.e.:

  • The third time a customer uses the Search function
  • The first time a customer shares content via the app
  • After a customer updates to a new version
  • After a customer uses a new/beta feature

Advantages:

  • Can be used to address narrow, feature-specific research questions
  • Can be used to refine and beta test new versions and rollouts
  • Respondents inherently have familiarity with the app event they’re providing feedback on
Disadvantages:

  • Resource-intensive, unless using third-party mobile engagement solutions since activity is a necessary condition of the sampling selection


A Random Sample
Randomly choose a percentage of your mobile customers to survey.

Advantages:

  • Diversity of responses makes the data highly representative of your overall audience
  • Surveys can be prompted even if mobile analytic capabilities do not collect information on customers and customer activity
Disadvantages:

  • Sample may be too broad to address narrow research questions that require a high level of familiarity with the app
  • Responses may be too generalized to uncover trends based on customers’ familiarity with the app, device used to access the app, etc.


A Sample of New Users
Customers prompted during their first time using the app.

Advantages:

  • Allows you to collect information, unbiased by existing loyalty, that can be used to improve the customer experience and retention
Disadvantages:

  • Requesting customer information from first-time users may create a negative initial experience with the app, and has been shown to be a leading factor in app exits


A Sample of Loyal Users
Prompted the n-th time a customer opens the app or a few months after installing and regularly using the app.

Advantages:

  • Can be used to uncover which features loyal users find the most valuable / what is bringing them back to your app
  • Can be used to gather suggestions from those already familiar with those apps – and customers can be further delighted if those suggestions are acted on
Disadvantages:

  • Responses may have an upward bias and have difficulty capturing equally important negative experiences with the app


An Opt-In Sample
Instead of identifying sampling criteria, let your customers proactively navigate your menu to find ways to voice their feedback.

Advantages:

  • Survey can be easily integrated as a link in your app’s navigation with no third
    party tools or prompts
  • Least intrusive – avoids potentially annoying notifications and prompts
Disadvantages:

  • Can lead to selection bias as those who opt-in may not share fundamentally different views/attitudes than those who do not opt-in
  • Opt-ins have the lowest response rate and the survey link can be difficult for potential respondents to find, making it hard to create open dialog with customers


4. Design Around the Research Question

When it comes to writing the actual questions for your in-app survey, start by asking yourself what sort of data best addresses your research question. Some research questions (particularly attitudinal) lend themselves to quantitative questions and rating scales. Others (particularly technical) are best addressed with qualitative, open-ended questions.

Survey questions can be classified as open-ended, closed-ended, or mixed. We’ve done our best below to address the use cases of each classification and their ability to address your anticipated needs:

Open-ended (i.e.: Providing a textbox for the respondent to type his or her answer)

  • Exploratory in nature
  • Less likely to result in bias from leading questions/response choices
  • Provides qualitative responses similar to a focus group
  • Can be time-consuming to answer, particularly when using a mobile device, leading to lower response rates

Closed-ended (i.e.: Multiple choice questions and rating scales with pre-defined response choices)

  • Can provide both qualitative and quantitative responses
  • Questions typically take less time to answer and experience higher response rates
  • Questions and response construction requires more care remove bias

Mixed (i.e.: A multiple choice question with a fill-in ‘Other’ option)

  • Allows room to write in answers that were not considered when the survey was designed – may uncover new customer needs/sentiments

For more on quantitative vs. qualitative questions, and their use cases, check out this post by our friends at SurveyMonkey.

5. Integrate Into the Mobile Experience

In-app survey event targeting

Now that you’ve determined your audience, the next step is to identify where and how to reach them within your app. If you’re using event-based targeting, seek out mobile moments in the customer journey – points of engagement where customers may feel happy, frustrated, or lost. Concentrating on these moments allows you to hone into a single part of the customer experience and can lead to more actionable results if the feedback directly relates to the point of engagement.

When prompting your in-app survey, be careful to not interrupt or annoy customers in the middle of a task. For example, if you want to ask about the in-app shopping experience, prompt your survey after checkout instead of after a customer adds an item to his or her cart. Remember, your survey should be designed to add value to both you and your customer.

If you’re targeting new customers, give them time to try out the app before prompting your survey. A ratings or feedback request upon first log-in is a sure way to create a negative first impression.

And finally, if you’re using an opt-in sample without any sort of prompt, insert a link to your survey into a logical place in your app’s navigation menu – such as the Help or Contact section.

6. Pre-Test Your In-App Survey

Before making your survey live, it’s important to pilot the survey internally or with a small sample of customers. This allows you to ensure that your survey is working as intended and identify any weaknesses or ambiguity.

While testing your survey, check that the following items are in order:

  • Questions proceed in the intended order, and responses are mapped to the appropriate next question or prompt if conditional branching and skip logic are in place
  • Questions are easily understood by those unfamiliar with the survey
  • Response options are clear and do not contain unintentional overlap
  • Optional and required fields are appropriately coded
  • Responses are accurately collected upon completion

After you’ve tested your survey and are satisfied with the results, we’d recommend resetting the response count so that the test data does not interfere with your actual results. You’re ready to push the survey out to your intended audience.

7. Analyze the Results

By this point, you’ve launched your survey and have collected a statistically significant number of responses. Now it’s time to dig into the results of your labor.

Data analysis should be a straightforward process for those quantitative questions directly mapped to your research question. We recommend going through each question individually and asking yourself whether each result confirms or rejects your hypothesized answer to your own research question: Are the result of customer rating scales consistent with what you’re seeing in app store ratings? Has your latest version update improved customer sentiment? Do customers feel comfortable navigating your interface and new features?

In the case of qualitative questions, you may need to do a little more work to get meaningful and generalizable data. For open response questions, we recommend categorizing the responses into themes – such as feature requests, usage or interface questions, customer testimonials, and customer complaints. You can then search through your results for the most common trends and begin to incorporate these insights into your product roadmap and QA efforts.

As a last step, decide whether you want to keep the survey running or close it. This is often a matter of saturation (if you already have the sample size you need and additional responses provide little value) and relevancy (is your research question still a priority, or is there a new question worth asking in a separate survey?).

We hope these seven steps will help kickstart your in-app survey design. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you create your next survey and keep us updated on how customer insights shape your app.

Continue on to Part 3 of our guide on in-app surveys and mobile research, or preview our section on best practices on Slideshare:

Mobile research best practices from Apptentive

Apptentive logo

Getting Started With Mobile Research: Why It’s Important

The Apptentive Guide to Mobile Research & In-App Surveys

The following is Part 1 of our three-part guide on mobile research and in-app surveys.

According to a recent survey by Mblox, brands and their customers rarely see eye to eye when evaluating the customer experience:

  • 73% of brands believe they truly care about their customers, while only 36% of consumers agree with this sentiment.
  • 67% of brands believe their mobile communication methods meet or exceed customer expectations, while only 47% of their mobile customers are really satisfied with the brand’s mobile communications.
  • 86% of consumers are open to mobile brand communications, while only 58% of brands use mobile to engage their customers.

There’s a clear disconnect between brands and consumers. But it’s easy to see why: Brands base their perception of the customer experience off of the ratings and feedback provided by a very small proportion of their customers. Less than 1 percent of mobile customers take the time to write a review. But don’t confuse silence with satisfaction. For every one unhappy customer that makes his or her voice heard, there are 26 silent but equally unhappy customers – 91 percent of whom will leave your app and never come back.

So how do mobile publishers reach beyond this vocal minority for a more accurate assessment of the customer experience? By giving customers a voice with in-app surveys.

Improve the Customer Experience with Mobile Research

The Benefits of Mobile Research

In our experience working with app developers around the world, we’ve found in-app surveys to be an incredibly powerful tool for conducting mobile research and improving customer communications.

If done right, in-app surveys take the guesswork out of your mobile strategy. They provide a mechanism for dissecting a customer’s experience with your app and give them a voice to express suggestions and critiques. In turn, these insights can be used to re-shape the customer experience landscape.

With in-app surveys, you can:

  • Open up communication with your mobile customers to gauge how they like the app, identify pain points in the customer journey, and test the demand for proposed features;
  • Identify customer segmentation trends for targeted messaging and advertising;
  • Improve mobile retention and customer loyalty by engaging your mobile customers and incorporating their feedback; and,
  • Circumvent negative app store ratings by addressing customer issues before they make their way to a public channel.
  • Extend your sample size with in-app surveys that dramatically outperform web, phone, or email surveys when it comes to response rates.

We hope that this introduction helped demonstrate the importance of mobile research as you plan your 2015 roadmap. Over the next two weeks, we will continue this series with a few tips on how to set up an effective in-app survey and some best practices we’ve discovered with the help of our enterprise customers.

Continue on to Part 2 of this guide to begin designing your in-app survey, or check out highlights of the complete guide on Slideshare:

Mobile research best practices from Apptentive

CustomerEngagement

The Importance of Mobile Feedback

Through conversations with thousands of mobile developers, we’ve found that evaluation of the customer experience publishers hope to build into their apps often comes down to simple guesswork without any tested and true ways to gauge satisfaction. You have a steady stream of new installs and fantastic ratings in the app stores. And yet, your mobile customers come and go, with only a small portion continuing to use your app after the first month or even past those crucial first 30 seconds.

Fortunately, it no longer has to be guesswork. Many publishers are taking the first steps when it comes to better evaluating their in-app customer experience. Every day, we work with new CX-centric developers to integrate in-app surveys and customer communication tools into their apps. These tools, seen commonly all over the internet but rarely inside mobile apps, empower businesses to survey their customers. They unlock a wealth of insights in a much greater volume, and of a far more representative nature, than what the limited information in app store ratings seems to convey.

Urbanspoon Mobile Feedback PromptOne such customer – Urbanspoon – used the mobile feedback prompt seen to the right to proactively ask customers for feedback with an in-app prompt. After implementing this feedback forum, Urbanspoon received over 7,000 pieces of feedback. These insights uncovered critical components that helped Urbanspoon in its strive to constantly create a better app for its customers with each new update.

Using in-app surveys to open up a channel for customer communication and gather mobile feedback has allowed Urbanspoon and countless others to save money, prioritize features, learn more about their customer base, receive structured feedback, and engage customers.

Save Money

Mobile apps aren’t cheap. Every new update requires time and money, and lots of it. Mobile app developers have an inherent vision of what they want their app to be, but don’t always consider how the needs of their customers may differ from this vision. As a result, publishers are wasting valuable resources on new features and rollouts that don’t necessarily provide customer value.

However, if you can directly ask your customers what they’d like in an app using in-app surveys, you can be sure that your development time and money is being put to good use and that each new feature will enhance the customer experience. Or better yet, create a minimal viable product and test it in a mobile focus group environment to see if you’re on the right path.

Prioritize Features

As a developer, you have dozens of features on your roadmap that you’re excited to one day get to. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to do too much, too quickly. Collecting mobile feedback and giving your customers with a voice allows you to determine which of your proposed features are most important to them in the context of your app.

Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you can begin to prioritize your roadmap based on what will add the most customer delight. You’ll also be able to determine which of your current features needs a little touch-up to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Customer Love

Better Understand Your Customers

If we’re adamant about one thing, it’s our philosophy of Customer Love — seeing mobile customers as people, not users. Each of your customers has their own likes and dislikes, their own use cases for the app, and that one thing that will really make them love your app.

Using in-app surveys, you can begin to collect valuable demographic and psychographic information to segment your customer base. This research allows your in-app communications to speak directly to a segment’s unique interests. You can also use it segmentation to target your out-of-app marketing to potential customer groups that match one of your current customer personas and likely have common needs and interests that will draw them to your app.

Make Product-Specific Inquiries

You’ve rolled out a new update, only to find that retention is falling. Or you see customers abandoning their purchases half-way through checkout. Do you know what’s causing this behavior?

Once again, collecting mobile feedback can provide you an answer. By proactively surveying customers at key moments throughout their experience with your app (e.g., after they’ve used a new feature for the first time, or after they close out of the shopping cart platform), you can evaluate their experience with, and attitude toward, your product on-the-spot. This allows you to identify and fix any customer pain points early on and intercept negative app store reviews.

Engage Your Audience

The reviews you see on the app store ratings page represent only a small minority of your customer base. This minority tends to be skewed toward either extreme when it comes to their evaluation of your app. These are people who either love or hate your app, with a lesser proportion of those in-between making the leap to the ratings page. You’re getting only the feedback of the vocal few and not feedback particularly representative of your greater audience.

Providing your customers with the tools needed to share their thoughts – without requiring them to leave the app to take a web survey or visit the app store – allows you to unlock a much more precise perspective of customer opinion. Mobile surveys (particularly when done right) let you to quickly poll a much larger portion of your customers and have response rates dramatically higher than their web counterparts and competing market research instruments.


For more on opening up customer communication, check out MobileDevHQ’s Complete Guide to App Marketing, in collaboration with Apptentive’s Ezra Siegel and a panel of industry experts.

Enterprise App Marketing eBook

The Retention Problem

Cutting Costs with Retention Marketing

What Continued Increases in Mobile Acquisition Costs Mean for Developers

Customer acquisition may seem like an easy task. After all, the growth of the mobile market is only accelerating and the mobile internet is predicted to be in the hands of half the world’s population by 2020.

If you build it, they will come… Right?

Not anymore. An increased number of smartphone holders worldwide and an increased demand for apps have created an extremely competitive marketplace where customers almost always have several strong options when it comes to finding that perfect app.

As customers increasingly shop around in the app stores and evaluate their options, mobile publishers are hit with dwindling customer retention rates. According to our own research, only 40 percent of customers continue to use an app they downloaded a month ago – and this number plummets to 4 percent over the course of the first year in the customer journey.

The Retention Problem

The cost of acquiring a loyal mobile customer (defined here as someone who opens your mobile app at least 3 times) is therefore at an all-time high. According to Fiksu’s Cost Per Loyal User (CPLU) Index, the average CPLU increased 34 percent from September 2013 to September 2014.

Between August 2014 and September 2014 alone, the base CPLU rose from $1.86 to $2.25. This 21 percent spike corresponds directly with the unveiling of the Apple iPhone 6 and iOS8. Both of these events led to an increase in demand for mobile devices and apps and a subsequent increase in competition among mobile app publishers vying for attention in an increasingly crowded market place.

Cost Per Loyal User, 2012-2014

As acquisition costs continue to rise, mobile customer retention becomes more important than ever. If done right, mobile retention campaigns can lessen the burden of the much-costlier new customer acquisitions while still allowing you to hit those monthly revenue and active customer goals.

We’ve put together a few, low-cost strategies to boost customer retention and loyalty – in turn, fueling sales, higher ratings, and organic growth through word-of-mouth and customer delight.

Give Your Customers a Voice

Before you can hope to delight, or even retain, your mobile customers, you must open up a two-way conversation where their voices can be heard. App developers constantly strive to create that perfect customer experience, but many lack the tools to evaluate whether or not their assumptions of customer opinion are really on mark.

Sure, there are the ratings on the app stores that can be used to guide future updates, but these are indicative of only a small fraction of your mobile customers – namely, the vocal minorities who either love or hate your app.

But what about the less vocal majority, those with opinions somewhere between those two extremes? This is a group that likely won’t make the journey to the app store ratings page unless they’re truly delighted or peeved. They constitute the bulk of your audience, yet their voices remain largely unheard across the much of today’s app market place.

To fill this void, developers are bringing customer service to the mobile channel – incorporating two-way chat capabilities between customers and publishers and prompting in-app surveys to gauge opinion throughout every step of the customer journey. In addition to allowing them to preemptively address customer issues before they surface publicly as a negative rating, these interactions provide developers with a wealth of data that they can use to shape future updates and delight their audiences.

Use smart, well-timed push messaging and in-app surveys

Opening up customer communication is just the first step in improving retention. Next, it’s time to actively ask for and respond to that communication.

We recommend our customers look for ways to reach out and solicit feedback during key events throughout the customer journey – such as the third time a customer logs in, or the first time someone shares content via the app. Once these events have been triggered, don’t wait for the customer to search through your menu navigation to tell you what they think. Instead, prompt a brief, non-disruptive conversation to gauge customer opinion at the broadest sense before diving into more specific sentiments in the event that the customer wishes to continue the conversation. (For more tips on asking for customer feedback, check out our 5 Tips for Writing Effective Mobile Surveys.)

Let your customers know they’re valued

The surest way to delight customers is to let them know that they are valued – and that means giving thanks and showing appreciation. If customers commonly make a similar request, consider shifting your development schedule to prioritize that need. Likewise, on releasing your next update, give a shoutout to your customers for contributing to a new feature release and remind them that you’re building a customer-first experience where their voices are not only listened to, but highly valued.

Regularly refresh your app with rich content updates

It’s no mystery that creating valuable is key to delighting mobile customers. If customers see new and interesting content each time they open the app, they are likelier to spend more time in your app consuming that content and return to your app frequently to see what’s new.

To really wow your mobile customers, align your content strategy with your customer data provides additional opportunities. For example, use your in-app prompts to suggest relevant content based on your customer communications or reward your returning customers by offering them exclusive discounts or deals out of appreciation for their loyalty.

Understand your app’s customer retention rates

And finally, it’s important to know your numbers – how to calculate retention rates and the revenue generated by each loyal customer. Of course, each app will have different retention and average revenue per user goals and benchmarks, but being able to calculate these metrics will allow you to internally compare both your marketing effectiveness over time and the ROIs of your retention and acquisition strategies to determine what makes the most sense for your business.

Calculating Your App Revenue

We’ve released a few guides to dive further into this concept and help demonstrate the importance of mobile customer retention:

Have a favorite retention marketing tip we missed? Pass on the knowledge by sharing it in the comments section or tweeting us @Apptentive!

2

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).

1

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!’

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.