Whether it’s a notification to encourage fans to download your app’s latest update or a paid advertisement to re-engage churned customers, branded communication is an integral component to a brand’s success. App publishers have dozens of ways to communicate with their customers and deliver their messages. Unfortunately, the same is not true for customers.

By and large, an app’s customers have incredibly limited ways of communicating with the app’s publishers as customer communication is typically one-way: business to consumer. Customers are left with no avenue to voice suggestions, ask questions, or get help. Of course, publishers aren’t exactly raising floodgates to keep out app feedback, and may even be encouraging feedback.

Currently, publishers promote two channels for feedback:

  1. App store ratings and reviews, organic or requested with a rating prompt or in-app CTA
  2. Email, with a redirect link or plug found in the app’s navigation or app store product page

These two channels package feedback nicely for publishers, bringing all communication to one, easily manageable channel. They can integrate incoming email with their CRM of choice and automatically filter reviews using any modern App Store Optimization tool. But for customers, these two channels are neither convenient nor conducive to their experience. Both channels require leaving the app, launching an app store or email client, and describing the query at hand using an obnoxiously small keyboard.

To make matters worse, neither channel offers much in the form of a response. The publisher might respond to your email, but by the time it finally comes, the issue will no longer be top-of-mind—especially as you’ve already been forced to leave the app. With an app store review, you may get a response, but few app publishers take the time to give anything more than a templated response.

Collecting and making sense of customer feedback isn’t a walk in the park for app publishers, either. There’s a big analytics challenge in finding a data scientist to set up the data cubes, pull in the right sources of information, and prepare the right views for leaders and product owners to consume. It can take months to set up a first version and years to get it right as sorting through feedback from different customer segments is difficult, especially as the size of your customer base grows.

At the end of the day, many customers feel that providing feedback is simply too time consuming, too annoying, and too much of a hassle. It’s much easier for them to simply uninstall your app and move on to the next alternative. Conversely, app publishers may feel overwhelmed by the idea of collecting feedback from too many of their app’s customers because they aren’t confident in their abilities to make sense of it in a way that can help drive their product roadmap.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are easier ways to gather customer feedback and turn it into your app’s biggest strength, unique only to your business. Let’s dive into the possibilities below.

The Importance of Mobile Feedback

In recent years, mobile has skyrocketed to the top, replacing desktops as the most used digital channel for the first time in 2016. The sudden relevance of mobile platforms has surfaced gaps in our understanding of the role it plays in asking for and gathering customer feedback, a recent study from Apptentive shows.

Gathering mobile customer feedback stats

Consumers expect companies to be even more communicative on mobile than other channels. However, asking for feedback is not enough. When customers take time out of their day to provide feedback, companies should do the same to thank and acknowledge the customer’s response. Companies who don’t respond to feedback are ignoring their customers; an act that ultimately damages customer loyalty.

Companies collecting mobile customer feedback stats

The effect mobile apps have on customer loyalty was made clear in our results. Of companies that saw their levels of customer loyalty decrease a great deal over the past year, two-thirds (66%) don’t have a mobile app. Companies with a mobile app reported lower levels of decline in customer loyalty over the last year.

Companies aren’t capitalizing on feedback, and by not asking their customers for feedback on a regular basis, they’re missing a tremendous opportunity. Based on survey results, customers are extremely willing to give feedback, especially when companies ask. 93% of respondents said they are at least somewhat likely to give feedback if a company asks for it. However, despite customer willingness to leave feedback, a large portion of companies are not taking advantage of this opportunity. One in three businesses surveyed said they have never asked their customers for feedback, and nearly half (43%) of the businesses we surveyed don’t consider asking customers for feedback a priority regardless of company size.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, giveaways do not entice customers to provide feedback. Only 7% of consumer respondents said they leave feedback for something in return. So what’s the real reason customers leave feedback? They want to be helpful. When customers were asked why they leave feedback for companies, the top two reasons cited were to help other customers and to help the companies improve their service in order to grow their business.

Customer Loyalty Starts with Feedback

Far too often, companies aren’t taking action based on the feedback their customers provide. A lack of communication and implementation of customer feedback can affect brand loyalty and customers’ willingness to provide feedback in the future. Our data shows that it’s important for customers to feel heard when they give feedback because when they are heard, they are loyal.

As such, communication and listening play a large role in establishing and improving customer loyalty. Listen to your customers wants and needs, then build solutions to meet those desires.

On the flip side, more than half of respondents said they are not likely to continue being a customer of a company that ignores their feedback. The majority of respondents said they are not confident they are heard after leaving feedback. While 39% are not sure, and 23% say no, it’s clear many customers feel unheard. In contrast, the majority of respondents who said they did feel heard by a company after leaving feedback received a response within a week. Respondents told us what it would take for companies to make them feel their opinions were valued, and here’s what they had to say:

How Companies Act on Mobile Customer Feedback

A response to feedback can go a long way, but roughly two-thirds of respondents say they typically don’t get a response when they leave feedback. Not surprisingly, respondents’ perception of how many companies actually listen to customer feedback is dim. This is interesting, because many companies hold a positive view of their ability to implement customer feedback: nearly three-fourths (73%) of companies believe they are good at implementing customer feedback. This suggests a gap in communication between companies and their customers about the appreciation and implementation of their feedback.

Companies who focus more heavily on retention over acquisition rate themselves as more able to implement customer feedback. But those who focus both on retention and acquisition equally give themselves the highest ratings overall. Most insightful of all, though, may be the fact that companies that rate themselves as ‘very good’ at implementing customer feedback gather it with more frequency than companies that don’t rate themselves as favorably.

6 Steps to Collect Mobile Customer Feedback

So how do you encourage app feedback to build a better, more profitable, and customer-centric
app? By showing customers their feedback is welcomed and valued.

We leverage a six-step process to help our customers gauge their feedback strengths and weaknesses.

1. Meet the Customer Where They Are

All too often, brands require customers to leave the mobile app when a question or problem arises. If the customer is using your mobile app, give them a way to provide you feedback directly from the app. Don’t disrupt their experience by sending them out of the app to a webpage or to email or Twitter. A disrupted experience typically leads to less action, which means there’s a high likelihood you’re left with a frustrated customer and no feedback.

2. Communicate Proactively

Solicit feedback proactively by messaging your app’s customers at an opportune time, or at the right mobile moment, with a message showing you care about their experience and opinions. Even if the customer does not currently have feedback, prompting keeps your internal feedback loop top-of-mind with customers. That way, the next time they do have an issue with your app, they’ll remember that they can communicate those issues directly with your team—rather than the route of impersonal and indirect app store reviews.

3. Build a Two-way Feedback Loop

Effective feedback loops should be a frictionless part of the customer experience and designed in a way that resonates with the needs of a mobile customer: quick, non-intrusive, and optimized for mobile screens. To see this optimization in action, consider how you prefer to communicate on mobile. If you’re anything like us, you prefer texting to calling, don’t like to write out long responses on a mobile device, prefer to answer in shorthand, and expect any requests on your time, such as survey requests, to be cognizant of your time. The result is a mobile-optimized feedback loop, a communication channel specifically designed with your mobile customer in mind. These channels (often manifesting in feedback forms, in-app surveys, and two-way messaging) can be built into any app or effortlessly integrated with a mobile communications tool like Apptentive.

4. Respond to Customer Feedback

Once a customer does provide feedback, let them know that it’s valued! Customers should know that their feedback isn’t go into a black hole. Take the time to respond to customers who leave feedback. Regardless of whether the feedback is positive or negative, recognize it for what it is—a gift—and give thanks. If the app feedback contains a suggestion or bug report, let the customer know where this issue stands in your roadmap. And once that issue has been fixed or that suggestion has been implemented, reach back out to inform the customer of the impact their feedback made

5. Let Feedback Drive Your Product Roadmap

Use your app’s feedback to continually improve your product. Customer feedback provides publishers with pre-validated ideas to fix or improve their apps. These insights should inform your product roadmap and rally your development team around a single, centric point: the customer.

6. Leverage Customer Engagement Tools

Now’s the time to start communicating with your customers where they already are: in your app. There are plenty of places to start, but no matter where you begin, we recommend thinking about your goals and how you can better engage and listen to your mobile customers. We also invite you to try out our own customer communication tools informed by the lessons we’ve learned from seven years of helping some of the world’s best brands collect actionable customer insights.

Looking Ahead

If you have a direct feedback channel between your customers and company, it’s important to figure out a way to assign some type of score to the feedback in order to measure customer sentiment. For example, take customer support emails. Most support systems come with the ability to tag and categorize customer conversations. You could easily add another tag and/or category when assigning conversations depending on the type and tone of the request as additional insight into customer sentiment. Your scoring system doesn’t need to be fancy; simply sync with your team to come up with a simple solution that will fit your needs and offer additional insight into how your customers feel about your brand.

Regardless of the medium through which your direct customer feedback is collected, it’s worth noting that all feedback is good feedback. Whether the sentiment is positive or negative, customer feedback is insanely valuable and should always be treated as an opportunity to learn how you can make a better product for your customers. Feedback is a gift and should be treated as such, no matter what!

For more on gathering and acting on feedback, download a copy of our recently-released guide The Complete Guide to Mobile Customer Lifecycle Management.