I received a bit of feedback on ‘Useless’ Is a Loaded Word and Why I Don’t Do Sales on the App Store where some misunderstood and assumed I completely ignore user feedback. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, I do my best to make sure I am accessible in as many venues as I can be comfortably as a one man development shop.
The problem with leaving feedback and bug reports on the App Store is that developers have no way to respond or followup on the reviews. Apple holds on to customer data with a an incredibly tight grip. This is a good thing for those paranoid about their email and name getting out to a variety of small companies, but when it comes to supporting users it makes it nearly impossible. Trying to identify an App Store reviewer named ‘crazyfun666’ and getting in touch with them to try and work with them through a problem is an exercise in frustration. 1
Instead of focusing on a channel of feedback that is toned towards negativity and impossible for me to have a conversion, I choose to shift my customers to other avenues for submitting their support requests.
At the bottom of each product description on the App Store and every release notes screen that appears in the App Store app I append the following:
Please refrain from sending your bug reports or feature requests using the App Store. Instead, to ensure a direct response from us send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet us at http://twitter.com/secondgear or Like us at http://www.facebook.com/secondgearsoftware. We’re always happy to help our users and receive their comments!
It is not an original idea. I believe the first person I saw do it was Edovia, but it is a brilliant piece of marketing.
- It informs the user of the proper methods for sending support and guaranteeing a response to the inquiry. In this case not the App Store.
- It offers a support email address for the user.
- It offers the user a link to your company Twitter account, which is a decent avenue for support and a great way to get product news out rapidly.
- It offers a link to the company Facebook Page for those that aren’t into Twitter.
What’s better is that if the user is viewing this information on the updates screen in the App Store app, the links to Facebook and Twitter are clickable so the user’s browser will launch and take them directly to the page to follow or subscribe.
In App Support
Asking users to not use the App Store as a venue for support is one thing, but you need to ensure that it is easy for them to get in touch with you. Most people seek out the App Store as a venue to vent frustrations and submit feature requests because there is no easy and obvious way to get in touch with the developer.
In Elements I have “Send Feedback” prominently displayed on the Settings screen inside the app. Tapping the button will launch an email sheet that sends an email directly to me where we can have a dialog about what features you would like to see in the app, or what issues you may be running into.
In addition, I also have a longstanding habit of putting an About screen inside the app that contains more company information including another link to email support, the physical Second Gear homepage and a link to our social media pages.
If you tap the Twitter or Facebook buttons, Elements checks to see if you have a native app installed on your device and then launches the respective native app and takes you directly to the profile page.2 If there is no native app installed, it defaults back to launching MobileSafari so you can follow or Like in the traditional way.
The @secondgear Twitter account is a great first method of contact with users. I use it often to do release announcements as well as to gauge customer interest in potential features or changes in an app. For instance, I recently asked my Twitter followers whether they used Elements in portrait or landscape primarily and what was their primary font. It is a small subset of my user base, but it gave me more than enough data to use in deciding the direction I am taking the application going forward.
I try not to use Twitter for anything more than basic support. It is hard to debug complex issues in 140 character increments. If a customer asks me a general question that can be answered in a single tweet, I will most likely answer it right there. If it is something that is going to require a bit of back and forth, I ask them to email me the request in so I can more easily track it and take the time to offer a more complete response.
I don’t do much support with the Second Gear Facebook page mostly because not that many people who use Elements are Facebook junkies. In fact, up until recently it was impossible as far as I could tell to be notified when a customer posted on a comment or status message on your Facebook wall.
There was an instance where a customer left a comment on a several week old post asking a pre-sales question that I didn’t see. I felt terrible about it and send him a private message apologizing for the issue. Facebook now will email you when a comment is left on your Facebook page which makes it easier to use as a support venue, but I still prefer Twitter for social media interaction.
Potential For Improvement
If Apple did a single thing to improve the App Store experience for developers and users alike, it would be to allow us to respond directly to an App Store review either in the store itself or via a private email send through iTunes Connect. Being able to interact with customers through the App Store would make me much more open to reading reviews because it would become a legitimate support channel.
As it stands App Store reviews are just anonymous graffiti left on the iTunes wall as a user passes through.
- Because of the contact difficulties associated with App Store reviews, I have my name set to ‘Justin Williams (@justinw)’ on my reviews. It is a bit of a helpful hint for the developer who reads them. More than a few have contacted me via Twitter to thank me for the feedback. ↩
- This trick doesn’t seem to work on the iPad version of Twitter. ↩