Engaging Customers for Better Ratings and Reviews

October 15, 2012 Pivotal Labs

Our First Guest Blog Post!
Not too long ago we posted a blog on how-to improving your app store rating. We never know who’s going to read our blog but are thankful for all of our readers. A few weeks ago, one of them reached out to us asking to share his knowledge on improving your app store ratings with you. His name is Robi Ganguly, Co-founder and CEO of Apptentive, a site dedicated to helping customers converse directly with the developers in order to improve ratings, increase downloads and help developers create more successful applications.

We were thrilled that Robi wanted to share his knowledge with us. So here is his take on getting better ratings and reviews for your apps:


App developers want great ratings in the app store because they are interpreted as an indicator of quality. Data from a report titled Examining the Relationship Between Reviews and Sales by researchers form NYU and the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that this is of particular value for things that are difficult for consumers to evaluate prior to purchase, such as books, movies, and apps. The higher the rating, the more likely you are to pique the interest of potential customers.

It is natural then to ask, “How can we get better ratings?” and, “How do we get better reviews?” But those are the wrong questions. Instead, the questions you should ask are:

  1. How do we create a great experience so people will love our app?
  2. How can we engage with our customers, so the ones who love us will write a review?

It’s not about you: it’s about the customers

The ratings and reviews in the app store are not for you, the app developer. They are for your customers. Ratings and reviews can help you identify what customers like or dislike about your app, but their primary purpose is to act as guideposts saying, “This will make your life better,” or warning, “Danger, thar be dragons.”

An e-mail to all your customers asking them to rate your app or code in your app to ask for a rating after a certain numbers of uses are both legitimate techniques for soliciting feedback, but they put the focus on you, the developer, not on the customer. As we like to say, “if you’re trying to get ratings just to get more ratings, you’re doing it wrong.” Nothing about these techniques makes life better for your customers. The key to better reviews is to identify the customers who love your app, and encouraging them to talk about it. And one way to do that is to engage with your customers.

Listening and acting

Customers today have a different set of expectations. Simply being able to fill out a “Contact Us” form and have your question disappear into the ether is not enough. In these days of instant downloads, 24-hour service hotlines, customers expect to be heard when they speak up. You need to provide an easy way for customers to give feedback, you need to listen, and you need to respond.

Listening is important because your app might make sense to you, but it doesn’t always make sense to your customers. In a recent blog post, Seth Godin suggests that the biggest customer question is, “Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?” Find out what your customers expect, what is confusing, and identify what you can work on. Listening sends two powerful messages. First, you are telling your customers that you care enough about their opinion to give them the tools to express it in a quick and easy manner. Second, you are telling your customers that you trust them enough to give you real and honest feedback on your application.

Responding is also important. For positive comments, taking the time to say “Thank you,” tells your customers that there are real people behind the app. Negative feedback provides an opportunity to make your product better. Acknowledge the user’s frustration, diffuse the tension, apologize, and if feasible, make it right. Fix that bug. Show that you care about creating a great experience for all of your customers. Give them reasons to stick around, to trust you, to understand why your app works the way that it does.

Get more reviews

A quick search of the app developer discussion boards will show that the ratio of app downloads to app reviews varies greatly, with the numbers ranging from one in one hundred to one in five hundred. When you listen to feedback and respond, good things can happen: more feedback, better ratings, more honest input, and a significant number of customer relationships that are spawned through simple conversation. And you will know which users are engaged with your app.

Research at George Washington University and University of Texas Austin suggests that the number of reviews also matter. More reviews encourages more sales (Do online reviews matter? by Duan, Gu, and Whinston). There might be many users out there who love your app, who aren’t necessarily thinking, “I need to go write a review.” So ask them to.

In the end, you will have better ratings and more positive reviews. What is more important, though, is that you have created a connection with your customers. By asking for feedback, by listening, by responding, and by encouraging them to rate your app, you will have relationships with engaged customers who love your product and who want to talk about it.

About the Author


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