The Power of the Follow-Up Message
Want to know one of the easiest ways to turn your customers into evangelists? The answer may already be sitting in your inbox. If you’re an app developer, then you are probably well aware of how important customer feedback is in shaping your product. Anyone familiar with the lean methodology of building a startup company also knows that collecting feedback is essential to the measurement cycle. While much is said about the importance of feedback as a tool for building better products, little is said about its importance in setting the tone of community engagement. Customer feedback is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to not only inform product decisions, but also to turn the inquiring customer into an evangelist. What’s the secret sauce? Follow up with them.
During the last week of September, my company launched Canary to the App Store, a calendar app for iPhone that simplifies scheduling meetings and calendar management for Google Calendar users. In less than a week, we secured 3 press features in Business Insider, TechCrunch, and LifeHacker. With the press came a flurry of feature requests that no one on the team anticipated — people asking everything from why we didn’t integrate into iCal (a common question) to when we planned on adding a landscape view. In addition, the launch of iOS 7 was just around the corner and we knew an upgrade was inevitable. I immediately went to work fielding questions and compiling the feedback to prioritize what to build next.
We soon realized that the iCal situation had to be addressed with a quick solution (one that couldn’t involve engineering at the time due to the scope of the challenge), so we created a guide for syncing iCal to Google on our blog. The tipping point came when I received a particularly abrasive email from a user who was extremely upset that he couldn’t get his iCal events on Canary. I apologized and sent him the link to the post. No response. Then a few days later I decided to follow up with him asking if everything had worked out. Suddenly, the previously frustrated user had transformed into an extremely thankful one. He had been completely won over by our willingness to follow up and was appreciative enough to try out our tips, successfully becoming an ardent supporter of our app!
I immediately realized that this incident provided a very valuable opportunity for us and decided to see how I could replicate its success with the ongoing conversations we were having about features with our other users. I began by grouping them across email and social media based on the similarities in their feature requests. Once we prioritized what would be ready for the next release, I went back to the users who had made the requests and let them know what to expect in the upcoming launch. Then, on the day of the next release, I let them know that the feature they had requested was now available for download. The responses to my emails and tweets were amazing. Almost every user responded and every single one of those responses was extremely gracious and appreciative of having their voices heard in the development process. Sending a follow-up email turned what is often a unidirectional, static interaction into one that conveyed attention to detail, and an actual interest in discourse. After two successful release cycles, I’ve realized that following up with your customers during the feedback process is effective for a number of reasons:
1. It’s the perfect way to close the feedback loop with your customers — especially in a public forum.
People will always be armchair developers. There’s no stopping that. However, it’s important to recognize the good ideas and suggestions that make your product better and provide closure for the initial concern or idea that initiated the discussion. Following up about a bug fix or a new feature is a sign of your willingness to get to a resolution and it demonstrates that you value your customers’ opinions to everyone who witnesses that interaction.
2. It gives people a sense of ownership over your product’s growth.
When people feel that their voices are not only being heard, but are actually a part of the conversations that influence product decisions, they will feel a much deeper connection to everything that your team produces. They are more likely to tweet about you, feature you in their blogs, and recommend you to their friends and family.
3. It makes your customers more willing to do things for you.
Need to administer a survey? Want a customer’s perspective on a new feature? Need beta testers? Reach out to those people with whom you’ve followed up. They are more likely to answer your questions, engage with your content, and test new things after you’ve already established a relationship with them that says, “I’m actually listening.”
This type of communication has had a powerful impact on our company’s culture, arguably more than the content that we’ve produced. More importantly, evidence of it on our social media channels, our App Store reviews, and the speed at which we’ve been able to improve Canary lets potential users know that we’re a team willing to listen and collaborate. Think about how you’re connecting with your customers through feedback and how you can make those relationships more valuable to the community that you’re building. It’s worked for us!