In a way, that’s quite a comforting thought. It means that there is a repeatable process for ensuring your apps receive more positive and less negative reviews – and receive more of those all-important five-star reviews.
You’ll never satisfy all the people all the time, but if your star rating is overwhelmingly four to five stars, users will ignore the relatively small amount of negative reviews.
Develop a product that people want or need
That’s easier than it sounds, of course. It essentially breaks down into two aspects. Firstly, are you in a good market? And secondly, is your app a good fit for what people want?
Let’s focus on the second aspect for the purposes of this post. If you’re at the cutting edge, developing something that is genuinely new, it’s always more of a risk. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” No-one asked for the wheel. And no-one asked for the Internet.
You need to start with the experience you want to create, then work backwards to make the technology fit, not the other way around. When you think about it that way, it is far more straightforward to work out whether your app is something that people want because you’ll be talking in terms that match people’s real desires, like “making it easier to…” or “making it cheaper to…”
When you’re matching what people want and making their lives easier, more fun or less expensive, then the spontaneous affirmations of five-star reviews will follow.
Eliminate bugs before you launch
This is obvious. But it is absolutely critical. You have to be sophisticated in your testing process. And you need to eliminate every bug you can find. Prevention is always better than cure in app development.
For an indie app developer, maybe you have the luxury of releasing a beta-like native app and fixing it as you go along. But for the larger companies that we usually work with, who have an established brand, the repercussions to the brand of a buggy app can be extremely damaging.
Your mobile testing and QA processes have to be sophisticated and wide-ranging. That means functional testing, non-functional, interruption testing, memory leakage testing, performance testing, usability testing, installation testing, language testing, security testing and memory testing. And it means testing across multiple devices.
Users have so little tolerance for buggy apps. They don’t understand the complexities of software development and they have very little sympathy for you. All they know is that you have wasted their time and/or money and for that, they’re angry.
Promote an in-app feedback channel
You can drastically reduce the amount of negative reviews by making it easy for people to communicate with you about problems post-launch. Simply put, you want the channel for negative feedback to be private rather than public.
The negative reviews will only typically appear when your users feel they have no other outlet. So your feedback channel needs to be easy to find within the app. Putting it more than a click away can make it next to useless.
Digital natives are quick to post negative feedback on social media or app stores, but by making it easier for them to message you than post online, overwhelmingly they will do so. Which brings us onto the next point…
Provide amazing customer support
Responsive and helpful customer service is absolutely vital for you to generate more five star and less one star reviews. Maybe you haven’t fixed every bug pre-launch and maybe there are still problems that people are finding.
But going the extra mile and showing that you are trying to fix things – and then actually going and fixing things – will leave a great impression of your app.
Like me, you must have read many positive app reviews about positive customer service. Things like “I admit, I did have problems with the app initially. But 20 minutes after emailing their customer service, I got an email back. And within a day they had fixed the problem.” These are five-star reviews from people that perhaps would not have reviewed it at all, had they not been so happy with how you turned things around for them.
Don’t take away what people love
For an established app, be careful about what you change. That means being careful about any feature that people are used to, whether it’s for an earlier app release or even a web or desktop app that people know.
If you take something away that people loved, beware. Previously quiet and satisfied users can suddenly turn in outraged online reviewers. Updates that are perceived negatively by an installed user base can result in a very rapid decrease in its star rating, with all the negatives that that entails.
Mine your reviews
The app store reviews you receive are a treasure trove of ideas and feedback which need to be mined. You can be more or less sophisticated about how you gather and analyze those results. It can be as simple as a pen and paper and as sophisticated as dedicated software to analyze app store reviews. Either way, do it.
“You can’t do anything about negative reviews” is the wrong emphasis. The fact is that you can do something about making sure you don’t get similar negative reviews in the future. By mining your reviews, you can see a clear picture of what’s going wrong, and therefore, what to concentrate on in the future. Maybe it’s a bug, maybe it’s a sign-in issue, maybe it’s a lack of functionality, maybe the UI is not sophisticated enough or not simple enough. Whatever it is, it is the app-using public voting for what you need to prioritize next.