by Karen McCandless
Published on 22 December 2015
If your name's not Mark Zuckerberg it can seem like an insurmountable hurdle to get make your mark on the App Store or Google Play, especially when the top ten app list has been populated by the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, seemingly since records began. But while you aren't going to match these titans in terms of download numbers, you can still make sure the people that download your app keep it there, rather than hitting uninstall after ten minutes.
According to research, 80% of apps are deleted after just one use, while there's a 60% chance that if a customer hasn't used your app in the last seven days, they never will. So how do you make your app a regular fixture on a user's phone?
Customer service, plain and simple. "Let's face it-for every app that succeeds, there's an extremely similar version of the same idea that fails," says Tushar Makhija, chief customer officer at Helpshift. "The difference between what works and what doesn't often boils down to customer service, and the channel of communication between user and app developer. Customer support on mobile is much, much more important than anywhere else."
Here are some tips that will make sure your customers have the best possible in-app experience so that your product makes a lasting impression.
If you wait until a user has a problem to get in touch with them, then you're too late - only 4% of unhappy customers will voice their complaints; 91% just never come back. Today's customer service (especially in the fast-paced mobile app world) is all about being proactive, and reaching out before something goes wrong (or before a user has reported the problem).
"Customer support used to be about cleaning up the mess when something would go wrong; it was the last resort," says Makhija. "On mobile, all of that has been flipped on its head because discovery is so difficult- there are too many choices. Customer support becomes, not a reactive entity, but a proactive competitive advantage."
The app stores are goldmines of information - think of all the useful comments that customers leave in the form of reviews. And with 63% of apps found through app store searches, negative user reviews will drag down your position and deter other users from downloading. So don't ignore reviews or get downhearted because someone doesn't like your app, instead listen to their feedback and work on fixes to common problems.
Setting up a private channel of complaint allows you to address issues without ever getting to the negative review stage. Intelligent rating prompts also stop you pushing a rating review to every user, instead directing those not enjoying the app to the private complaints channel, while those who like the app can be prompted to leave five-star ratings on the app stores. "To remain successful and retain users, app companies are going to have to be deep listeners and quick responders," says Makhija "Users are the best tools that we have, so why not use them?"
Making an app is easier today than ever, so chances are there will be four others that claim to do the same thing as yours. One way to make an app stand out and keep your users loyal is to deliver regular updates. These don't have to be mammoth user interface redesigns or major feature updates, bug fixes and tweaks based on user feedback (see the point above) are also very welcome.
"After a year of using the app, customers want things to have grown and improved," says Makhija.
So you've got an app and people are downloading it, but your work is far from done. Maybe you created an app for a specific purpose or to solve a certain issue, but do you know if that's why your customers are using your app? Or maybe you've noticed that people are uninstalling your apps, but do you know at what stage or why? This is where you need to choose the metrics that are important for your business and app, and start to measure them. These can include shares on social; retention (new versus returning users) and conversion rate (achieving the desired outcome); popular pages and features; and time in app.
You may think you know who your customers are, but do you really understand them? What are their likes and dislikes, how do they want their information delivered, when do they use the app and for what purpose? This data can help you build up a profile of your customers and determine what message you want to send them by segmenting them based on in-app behavior. You can then focus on ways to retain users, rather than merely getting them to download the app.
"There is a very low "entry barrier" to get your app, which means the user isn't emotionally invested in a product that they instantly downloaded for free," says Devin Turner, content manager at Helpshift. "Making an app is a holistic experience; keeping users in your app isn't as simple as "making a great app." You have to guide users on the road to making your app a habit in their lives.
If you've been doing your homework and have got to know your users as per the above point, then you'll already know how frequently they use the app, their in-app purchases, what device they use, and many other data points. By using this data, you can communicate with your customers in a much more personalized way. Rather than receiving a generic response, you can tailor it according to your customers' needs and likes.
"It's never been easier for users to close your app and use another," says Makhija. "Engage them with highly personalized push notifications based on their usage and device details. Communicate directly with customers through in-app chat to help make more informed product decisions, while keeping support and engineering efforts aligned."
Customer service these days is all about self-service, which makes a good FAQ section designed for a specific channel key here. If your customer is using an app to find the answer to their query, the chances are they don't want to pick up the phone or write an email, especially because immediacy is key for mobile users - they don't want to spend hours on hold. "Mobile is an inherently solitary medium. If we wanted to chat with a support agent, we wouldn't be using an app," says Makhija. "Being true to the medium is of the utmost importance when creating customer care, otherwise you're forcing the user to engage in an interaction that they clearly aren't desiring."
Make sure this FAQ section is embedded in the app so the customer is engaged there, and isn't forced to leave it to do their own detective work, as this interrupts the user experience. "This avoids churn while your customers embark on a journey to find an answer to their question," says Makhija. "Users want their questions answered right then so they can get back to whatever they were doing before their experience was interrupted by this issue."
Also make it searchable with auto-complete for common questions, and analyze the behavior of users regularly so you can update and adapt according to commonly-asked questions. "The result of a great native FAQ is a win-win all around: the user is better equipped to answer their own questions, which leads to a reduction of tickets for agents to deal with, and ultimately allows the user to spend more time in the app rather than dealing with customer support," says Makhija.
As we've already mentioned, few customers bother to report problems, so you don't want to lose any more business by making it a challenge to complain. And once they have reported a problem, make sure you address it quickly and thoroughly, and let them know when it's done.
"Either the customer is not provided with a clear channel to express their dissatisfaction, or the person on the other end is not equipped to rectify the situation," says Makhija. "An effective customer service strategy eliminates barriers to engagement, serves customers in an efficient and effective manner, and creates trust and satisfaction."
We're spoilt for choice in this day and age, and one of the most effective ways of getting your application to the top of the incredibly competitive app market is through word of mouth from loyal followers. If you're lucky enough to have app evangelists, give them a channel where they can spread the word. According to research, half of your users come from a positive review from another happy customer. So get on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc and start interacting with your users.
"Passionate users are a catalyst for growth," says Makhija. "They'll generate excitement about your product and inform their friends. They'll spread the word about what sets your business apart from the competition. They'll convert others and make believers out of them, too. Users engaged via community are also far more likely to stick with your game or migrate to another one of your products"
We all remember the feeling of annoyance and frustration when we click on an option in an app only to be redirected to the browser. If you're going to offer customer support, make sure all the options are available without leaving the app, as this is of paramount importance when it comes to user satisfaction and retention. Helpshift, for example, offers in-app messaging that allows you to communicate with a customer service agent without leaving the app.
"In-app customer care offers the ultimate channel to host one-to-one communication," says Makhija. "Our software enhances the mobile user experience with tools that allow businesses to proactively engage users with push notifications, in-app surveys, and chat. It increases retention with private in-app feedback channels and FAQs, coupled with detailed user and device data that helps build long lasting relationships with your customers. All this, combined with the robust ticketing service allows customer support to resolve issues faster, provides better knowledge content to their users, and meets the users' expectations of immediate demands."
So if you want to make your app a permanent fixture on your customers' phones you need to allow them to seek help anytime, anywhere, in-app, and in a simple and straightforward way. "Apps are used daily because they make users lives easier," adds Makhija. "And making it easy for users to contact you will make it more likely that those users will return to your app."
This article was brought to you in conjunction with in-app help desk provider Helpshift.