Social proof is a powerful tool in all marketing activities, because people rely on other customers’ feedback, even if they are strangers. App store users are not different, and thus, good or bad, the ratings and reviews people give your app matter a lot.
Your app’s average rating is especially crucial. If it’s too low, many users will dismiss your app without checking your product page.
A study by Apptentive shows that the conversion rate jumps by 280% if the average rating increases from two to three stars and by 89% if the rating changes from three to four stars. This data is supported by the fact that 46% of users stay away from apps with less than four stars.
These findings indicate that users differentiate apps by three quality brackets:
- good apps with four or five stars
- mediocre apps with three stars
- bad apps with one or two stars
The numbers show the importance of positive user feedback. But they also mean that every bad rating has the potential to harm an app’s success significantly. Thus, it is crucial to deal appropriately with user feedback, in particular, if your app is new to the store.
But as reviews and ratings are off-metadata, you cannot manipulate them. However, you can interact with reviewers by responding to their feedback.
Of course, you can say “thank you” to users who give you positive feedback. But your focus should be users who gave three stars or less to your app. The right responses create the chance to make these users reevaluate your app and improve their rating.
The Right Mindset to Deal with Negative Feedback
Be aware that negative feedback is unpleasant to read. Learning about your faults and users’ disappointment and anger can cause you to react defensively. You might feel the urge to play down or delegitimize negative feedback or even fire back in an aggressive matter.
Don’t do so. Assume that every review is legitimate, reasonable, and honest. Make one thing perfectly clear to yourself: Users who give you feedback are users who care about your app. And by giving feedback, they also give you the chance to recognize and correct your faults.
A negative review is a chance for a constructive dialogue, for learning, and for making your app a better product. In the best case, this dialogue encourages users to re-review your app and improve their rating.
Different Types of Negative Reviews
You can make the process of responding to reviews much easier if you categorize them first. Most feedback fits into one of three categories.
Complaints about Specific Issues
Often, negative feedback addresses a specific event that caused a negative experience for the reviewer, for instance:
- an app crashes
- a bug caused the app not to work as intended
- a login problem including lost credentials
- server downtime
- an unpleasant interaction with another user
Not every user has the same needs, and for some people, your app might not offer the perfect solution. Thus, it is common to receive complaints about or requests for missing features. Usually, these requests don’t come with a negative rating, but rather with a three- or four-star rating.
Finally, some feedback is very general or even vague. It does not address a specific problem. Instead, it contains high-level criticism like “bad app” or “not worth downloading” or just a thumbs-down emoji.
First, say sorry
No matter if specific or general, the first part of your response to a negative review should be “sorry”. An honest apology for a bad experience can cool down heated minds and increases the chance of a fruitful discussion.
Alternatively, say “thank you” in response to feature requests to let users know that you value their efforts to help improve your app.
Answering to Specific Issues & Requests
Replying to specific issues is easier than responding to general critiques because it is (more or less) obvious why the user gave a bad rating. Thus, it is also clear how you can encourage the user to rethink and reevaluate your app: solve the problem.
To do so, figure out if you already know of the issue or if you can replicate it. If the answer to both questions is “no”, it is unlikely that you can provide a satisfying answer to the user in your response. In cases like this, try to initiate a dialogue via another channel. Ask the user to contact your support team and describe the problem in more detail so that they can figure out an appropriate solution.
If you are aware of the issue, tell users that you are working on solving it. Provide a timeline for a bugfix if possible. Give them the feeling that their problem is on your agenda and will be dealt with soon.
You can reply to feature requests in a similar way. If you plan to add the feature the user has asked for, say so, and provide an estimated release date. If you don’t plan to add the feature, use a response that does not commit yourself to fulfill the wish but leaves room for hope. Something like “we will consider your request” or “we will discuss your suggestion internally” does the job.
If you don’t understand what exactly the user is asking for, initiate a conversation with your support team.
Again, giving users the feeling that you care about their wishes is key.
Responding to General Critiques
Dealing with general or vague feedback is harder. The proper response requires a little more empathy on your side, especially if the tone of the reviewer is rather harsh or aggressive.
Try to figure out what the intention behind the review is.
Some users might express their frustration in an unconstructive way, although they are willing to work with you to find a solution to their problem. Deal with these users like they had a specific problem that you cannot replicate. Apologize and ask them to contact your support team to explain their bad experience.
Other users might not be interested in solving the problem at all. They just want to make a fuss and provoke a reaction. If you feel that an apology won’t make any difference, and constructive dialogue is not on the table, the best option is to ignore this user. Better to invest your time in reasonable reviewers than in trolls.
Getting back to Users
As mentioned before, you cannot solve every problem right away. So you will have to put off responding to some users until a future app update.
You should keep those users in mind, and get back to them as soon as you release the bugfix or requested feature. Users get a notification when a developer answers their review. So even if you respond months after the initial review, users will be notified of your efforts and realize that you didn’t forget about them. It’s a great way to build trust with your audience – and might prompt users to improve their ratings.
Organizing Your Response Kit
The more feedback you get, the more often you will face similar requests and give repetitive answers. To reduce the time you have to invest in writing responses, it makes sense to create a kit of text modules that you can use to tailor answers quickly.
You need modules for these purposes:
- to thank a user for their (feature) suggestions
- to say sorry for a bad experience (bug, issue, problem)
- to initiate a conversation between the user and your support team to get more details about an issue
- to initiate a conversation between the user and your support team to understand a feature request fully
- to inform the user about a solution to his problem that is already live in your app
- to let the user know that you are working on solving the problem
- to encourage the user to reevaluate your app
Be aware that users will recognize if you use the same text modules over and over again. So consider creating two or three different modules for each purpose, so not all of your responses look the same.
(Click to enlarge the image)
Responding and Monitoring
You can answer user reviews directly in iTunes Connect (see screenshot). To see only the negative feedback, use the filter “most critical” or select the one- or two-star ratings.
You can also monitor users’ reactions to your responses by setting the filter “edited reviews”.
The Google Developer Console offers similar functionalities. You can filter reviews by the number of stars, and you can also display only reviews that were edited by the user.
Google Play allows you to see the full history of every interaction with a user. Check out the screenshot below (username and text blurred for privacy reasons). A user who rated our app with one star because it crashed several times, changed his review to five stars after he learned about the bugfix.
A very helpful function of the Google dashboard is the Reviews Analysis. It shows you how the average rating changes after you reply to a review. With this metric, you can monitor perfectly the outcome of your efforts.
In the case that your app gets a lot of reviews, you should consider using a 3rd party tool like Apptentive or Instabug to manage user feedback. They allow you to filter, monitor, and reply to reviews more effectively.
User feedback is crucial. With regards to App Store Optimization, it is an essential factor in a user’s decision-making process when searching for an app.
But it is also valuable input for every app owner, especially if it is negative feedback. It helps you find problems in your app and make it a better product. And it provides the chance for a constructive dialogue. Thus, you should take your users’ reviews seriously and invest time and work into responding to them.
Oliver Hoss is the Mobile Marketing Manager at Scout24.ch and the author of “App Store Optimization – A Step-by-Step Guide to Boosting Your App’s Organic Downloads”. Get to know the author in his interview with the Mobile Masterminds team.