User Feedback Management and App Store Ratings

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screenshot of app store reviews
An app’s store rating has a tremendous impact on how well an app ranks in the app store and strongly influences what percentage of store listing impressions result in downloads. Many apps (and by extension businesses) live and die with their app store ratings. At the same time, app store ratings are simply a reflection of how well an app is received and how it interacts with its users. Many would-be negative reviews can be circumvented through in-app feedback mechanisms. In turn, many potential positive reviews are left unfulfilled because a user was not properly prompted. This article will explore how apps and app owners can combat negative reviews, successfully solicit positive reviews, and even convert 1-star ratings into 5-stars.

What’s in a Review?

Before even addressing how to optimize reviews, it is important to understand what motivates reviews.

The first (and most important note) is that the most common type of 1-star review (by far) is an app being buggy or crashing excessively. If your app has these problems, there is very little you can do to improve your ratings and you need to improve the quality of your app before continuing with the other portions of this guide.

Another thing to note is how much your overall company and services impact your app store reviews. For example, take a look at the top reviews for fast food apps. Many will mention the quality of the food as the main motivation for their review, rather than the app itself. Reviews for store locator and loyalty program apps will often reference how much they love or hate the company’s customer service. The point here is that app store reviews are strongly influenced by your overall customer sentiment. Improving how your customers feel about your company, staff, and product will ultimately improve your app store rating without even changing your app.

Now that these general points are out of the way, let’s look at what you can do within your app itself to improve your ratings.

Listen, Redirect, and Contain

review complaining about a buggy app

At some point or other, a user is going to be frustrated by some aspect of your app. They might not be able to find the screen they are looking for, their data might not be updating properly, or they could simply be frustrated by a missing bit of functionality. When this happens, the worst case scenario is that your app is given a 1-star review. However, this is an entirely avoidable outcome. Instead, your app can do the following:

  • Listen – Provide your users with a clear channel where they can request support, ask a question, or even suggest a new feature. These options need to be prominently displayed within your app and on the screens that might lead to the most frustration. When users do contact you, your support team should have a meaningful and engaged conversation with these users. This interaction can significantly improve how your app is viewed by this user and can actually help improve your app.
  • Redirect – By providing a channel for this feedback and subsequent conversation, you are redirecting negative sentiment from the app store.
  • Contain – Assuming you are able to resolve these issues with your user, you have likely defended against a negative review. In fact, if your customer is now appreciative of the help, they might be willing to leave a positive review!

It is amazing how many positive app store reviews can come from this simple approach. Users do not always expect great support for in-app issues and if you take the time to assist your users, you can create some life-long fans. If a user or group of users requests a feature that is eventually added, they will feel a sense of ownership of that feature and likely be very appreciative. It is important to keep track of these requests and reach out to users as their request are fulfilled. That interaction is a great time to request a positive review.

Notice, Harness, and Elevate

positive customer interaction leading to a better review

At some point or other, your user is going to be delighted by some aspect of your app. They might have completed a purchase, received a positive notification, or completed some rewarding action. When this happens, the best case scenario is that your app is given a 5-star review. However, that is not an entirely guaranteed outcome. To help ensure this does happen, your app can do the following:

  • Notice – Try to find a moment in your app where a user is very likely to have just completed a positive experience. Maybe their order was completed or perhaps they beat a particularly challenging level in a game. This moment is the ideal time to reach out to your user with a review request.
  • Harness – The next step is to harness that positive feeling into positive feedback for your app. By showing a review request prompt, you cause the user to associate that positive feeling more concretely with your app.
  • Elevate – The final step is to ask that the user take this positive feeling and turn it into a 5-star review for your app. In iOS 11, this can be done directly in your app. With other operating systems, you might have to send the user to the app store to complete the request. Either way, make sure you explain to the user what is being requested and how their review can be completed.

Many of your most active and enthusiastic users might not ever consider leaving a review for your app. Harnessing the above approach can be a fantastic way to make sure these users make their affinity for your product known.

Turning that Frown Upside Down

customer support working with a user who left a bad review

It is important to remember that a negative review is not the end of the story. Particularly for new or smaller apps, converting negative reviews to positive reviews can have a significant impact on your app’s rating. This can be achieved through app store management and customer support. Spend some time going through your reviews, read the negative comments, and try to sort out how to best help each user. You can reply to their review with concern for their issues and advice to help resolve the problem. Sometimes this can be achieved through a simple response. Other times, you will have to link your support email address and help the customer through an ongoing conversation. Once the customer is feeling better and their issue has been resolved, politely ask if they would consider updating their negative review. You would be amazed at how often users are willing to do so. So few app owners take the time to interact with customers in this manner, so your effort will go a long way to winning them over.

Conclusion

After putting in the tremendous effort of creating an app, don’t neglect to effectively manage your app’s reviews and customer feedback. By making a few insightful decisions in your app development process and spending time regularly reviewing your app store listing, you can significantly improve the rating, install rate, and overall customer sentiment towards your app.

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