Acquisition & Engagement

The Inevitable Negative Review

Becky Doles

In honor of tax week, we are giving a nod to Ben Franklin and reminding everyone that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In the world of an app developer, there’s one more unavoidable part of life that we want to add to that list: negative app reviews. If your app is going to have any sort of exposure, you’re bound to get a less-than-stellar review. Death. Taxes. Negative reviews. It’s going to happen. What you have to decide is how to handle these reviews to make the most of these reviews, and turn them into a positive experience for everyone.

Step One: Find out the “why” behind the review. If someone is taking the time to review your app at all, good or bad, it means they actually care about your app. If their feedback is positive, it means they really like what you’re doing; if their review is negative, it simply means they had high hopes for your app, and it didn’t quite meet their expectations. And let’s be honest, for every customer that complains there are about 26 others who agree but have remained silent (according to Lee Resource Inc). Besides, their complaint isn’t about you, and it usually isn’t even about the app; it’s about their experience with your app. So rather than get defensive and/or dismiss their opinion, use this as an opportunity to learn from them how to better your app experience for ALL of your users.

Step Two: Let your user know their input is heard and valued. Reach out to them and apologize for their experience. That’s right, swallow your pride and do it; my 10+ years of customer service have shown me that it always makes the situation better. It keeps your user from being on the offensive about their opinion, and shows them that you care about their experience and about them. Ask them more details about what they weren’t happy about, and (this can be hard) listen without defending your app. Once they’ve said their peace, try to paraphrase back to them why they weren’t happy; showing them that you’re making an effort to truly understand them goes a long way. And be objective about what they’re saying; this can often mean that you’ll have to swallow your preconceived notions about how you think your app is supposed to work. Who knows, it could lead to you discovering a new way for people to use your app that could translate into more success down the line. Even if no changes come of this interaction in the long run, simply having this conversation with an unhappy user will convey to them that regardless of the outcome, you’re not going to argue with them about their opinion and you actually value what they have to say.

Step Three: Continue communicating. Once you understand their complaint, give them a short-term solution if at all possible, otherwise thank them for their input and let them know that you’ll be looking into a solution, even if you know that their ideal solution isn’t possible for you to offer them. It’s a lot harder to hate a company who actually takes your opinion into consideration and spends time and resources seeing if they can fix it. If you actually do make tweaks and changes as a result of their review, let them know. If you devoted time and energy to see what you could do, but ultimately ran into nothing but brick walls, let them know that too. If you’ve introduced a new feature because of them, ask them to take a look at it and give you their feedback. When you let people know that they’re a part of your process and your growth, they go from being an unhappy user to a participating team member; and chances are they’ll convert their friends into users too.

Step Four: Turn your experience into a process. Teach your team to treat all complaints (whether they be bad reviews, negative tweets, or customer support emails) with this level of care and involvement, and help them to also understand that your critics actually care about what you and your team is doing, and they’re there to help you become better. At the end of the day you’ll not only build a solid reputation as being an awesome company to interact with, you’ll find your fan base will grow and be even stronger than it would be if you had nothing but positive reviews and feedback. Nobody is perfect: no app, no company, no user, nobody. But the things that stand out and make a difference in the end is how we handle these imperfections.

Do you have any success stores that stemmed from negative feedback? Or a time when interactions with an unhappy customer blew up in your face? Share your experiences with us so we can all learn from you too!

Thanks to the awesome team at Apptentive for their inspiration for this blog post!

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she handled content strategy and marketing communications at several tech startups in the Bay Area. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned home to Charleston, SC, where you can find her strolling through Hampton Park with her pup and enjoying the simple things between adventures with friends and family.

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