Three simple feedback rules for real Five Star app reviews.

The review page on the AppStore for minimalist website builder Simpl is a thing of beauty. Almost nothing but 5 star ratings and positive reviews as far as the eye can see.

These are all real customers and are all real reviews. There is also a thriving, public, customer support area which not only converts users to customers but drives a lot of the product innovation. How has this magic been conjured?

Feedback is the vital ingredient, but asking for it in the right way, at the right time is the real trick.

Throughout the design, development and deployment of your product effectively collecting and actioning feedback from stakeholders and users can be the difference between success and failure. This is not news. The rise and rise of the UX professional and their mantra of user centred design has been well documented over recent years however there is a case to add a little nuance to the purist view of always considering the user’s needs first.

Of course there’s a delicate balance between the user’s needs and the hard realities of what the business requires the app to do. After all, even in today’s world of magic VC money and the unicorns that they create, if the business objectives are not served then the product disappears and the user’s needs are not met at all.

Collecting feedback during design and initial development is straightforward. Use small frequent releases throughout the process; collecting feedback verbally, as well as using the various testing and analytics tools that are available can help you to shape your product into a market dominating force.

But what about when you go live for real? How do you handle the valuable feedback, warts and all, from users who are not the friendly alpha and beta testers? How do you deal with users who want instant gratification or else they tell the world how much your product has ruined their (and their children’s) lives?

Users can be difficult, and noisy. It doesn’t matter what the problem is or who is at fault; it’s your problem and your fault. It maybe user error, maybe hardware error, maybe they didn’t read the instructions, maybe they are trying to use their device in airplane mode while 20,000 leagues under the sea having already fed it their dog. It doesn’t matter. It’s your fault and they are going to leave negative feedback. It might be by ranting to their friends, it might be via twitter or Facebook. Even worse, they may leave negative feedback on the app store page.

Social media reviews and rants you can respond too. And you should. Bad feedback is a great opportunity for good customer service. And good customer service sells. So reply, quickly, effectively and publicly. An individual’s rant on social media feedback is here today, gone tomorrow. Chances are most people won’t see the review but those that do can see your response too.

The app store is different. App store reviews stick. Users glance over them when making download decisions. And you cannot respond. On the flip side 5* ratings and positive comments significantly boost ranking and downloads.

It’s good to encourage users to share their positive experience. However when you encourage and facilitate users to leave reviews you are taking a risk.

This is how we have mitigated this risk and facilitated the astonishing rise in publicly positive reviews.

1- Choose your moment

Asking users to leave a review is a good idea. As long as it is relatively frictionless, our experience has been that many users are happy to leave a review. But you do need to choose your moment.

Do not get in their way when they are busy or ask them a question that they are not equipped to answer. Take advantage of the natural areas of user achievement within your application to ask users to share their experience.

For example Simpl asks for feedback immediately after the user first successfully publishes their web site. By this point the user has actually spent some time with the application. This is a feel good moment. They have achieved something. Their workflow is done for now. We are not interrupting the user in what they seek to achieve.

2- Do not be a pest

Many great app experiences have been ruined, ironically, by a constant nagging to share the positive experience with the world. It is OK to ask more than once and not necessarily take no for an answer but, linked to the above, choose your moment in which to ask again. A never ever ask for a review on launch.

3- Direct feedback to the correct place

This is the magic bit. The workflow for collecting feedback is key to making sure that you both maximise the marketing benefit of positive feedback and use negative feedback for product development.

Using Simpl as an example again, we direct feedback to one of two places. When user feedback is requested in app the first question we ask is if the user is enjoying using Simpl. If they answer no then we express our sorrow and encourage them to tell us why. In this case the feedback option takes the user to the support forums. This enables a conversation between you and your users.

By answering questions, solving problems, and responding to negative feedback not only are we able to convert some disgruntled users into customers, but also the whole discussion is a public display of great customer service. And great customer service sells.

When users indicate that they are enjoying using Simpl only then do we direct them to the app store review page. Here they can leave their 5* reviews and tell the world how great the application is.

The impact on the Simpl review page has been remarkable nothing but 5 star ratings and positive reviews as far as the eye can see.

Written by Rob Borley, MD of Dootrix.

You can download Simpl for iOS here, and if you’d like to make feedback work for you, please do get in touch.

Or have a browse around our Reading Room, which is full of useful and stimulating things for both sides of your brain.

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