Customers leave a negative review when your app does not match their expectations. And in 2020, expectations are higher than ever!

One disappointed influencer can tell her millions of followers. With one 1-star review thousands of headaches can appear.

That’s why it is vital to prepare for bad reviews. Or do everything in your power to avoid the tidal wave of critique.

Negative Review? User Experience is Lacking

Most reviews are a result of an app lacking in one or more of the six attributes of a good, usable product. Your app could be lacking in:

  1. Usefulness – The usefulness is how much the piece of software  satisfies that specific need.
  2. Efficiency – How efficient can the person meet their need in the app. All while measuring the user’s effort, finance and time invested.
  3. Effectiveness – Effectiveness measures how precise the user can reach their goal while avoiding errors.
  4. Satisfaction – Satisfaction is the measure of how much the software is comfortable and attractive.
  5. Learnability – Learnability is how long we need to get adjusted to the interface. It’s how ‘intuitive’ the app is.
  6. Accessibility – To what extent persons with some type of disability can use the app?

A bad review is a direct result of the user experience of your app being not what the user expected.

The expectations vary from industry to industry. That is up to you and your team to find out. Do not forget that your competitors could set the expectations high.

How To Handle Negative Reviews

Negative reviews will be a part of any product. You can never avoid them. (Even though I claim you can in the next section. 🤫) Dealing with them can be with a good part of common sense. Treat the customer as you want to be treated.

Avoid the Trolls

Some people have an agenda. They are out to hurt you and the brand. For fun or for their own gain. It’s best to ignore these trolls. They will be unreasonable and are not worth your time.

Admit the Mishaps

If the app is worthy of the critique and you know it: admit it. Apologize for the inconvenience. Make it a full, sincere apology. Not an excuse wrapped in a ‘sorry, but…’.

Give a refund, or a free trial, in the hope that one day this customer changes their opinion of your app. The life-time value of a satisfied customer is more worth than the refund.

Understand Their Point Of View

If the reviewer mentions something that you don't understand ask them to clarify. That way they feel heard and you gain valuable information.

Be Polite, Even When They Are Not

Never lose your temper. Too many companies have had to close because of a public conversation that ran out of hand. If you have a case that is valid, but you don’t see a resolution soon, take the support into private messages.

How To Avoid Bad Reviews

There are several ways to avoid the cascade of negative reviews. Listening and communicating to your audience are the fundamentals.

Make the Critique Actionable

One of the best ways to avoid more bad reviews is by fixing what users are complaining about (duh). That means aggregating all reviews and conversation and picking out the themes. Make those part of your product strategy going forward.

Take a look at how the complaints correlate with the 6 principles I wrote earlier. These are well testable, measurable and easy to improve on.

Let the current users know you’re working on it. Let that one reviewer know you are working on the issue they took.

You might want to redirect all heat to cool down in customer support. Here are a few suggestions for setting up such a system:

Make Your Customer Support Known To The Public

I recommended making a support account on the platforms where your customers are. Get marketing to communicate that there is a help profile available.

The best place to be is in-between the user and the review site (be it the App Store, or Twitter, or their personal blog).

Make sure it is on point, accessible and serious about any inquiry.

Call it {App Name} Support or similar.

Track the Talk About Your App

Use Google Alerts, Tweetdeck, or other tools to watch the conversations about your app. Make sure that you solve any problem one has with the app.

Empower Your Employees to Solve Customer's Problems

Nothing is worse than having the communication department want to review every Tweet.

Bureaucracy is the death of an effective customer support. Take the pressure off by allowing any employee to fix problems of the customer. Give them the tools to do so.

Pro-tip: Tell employees to try to fix anything immediatel. As long as it doesn’t cost more than a given amount of money (like €100).

Respond to Criticism, Quickly!

Time is of the essence. Do not lose control of the conversations. Don’t leave anyone hanging. The value of thousands of customers are at stake.

Remember this brand that replied 2 months late to a Tweet of a girl stuck in the elevator? I do. (She got out within the first 30 minutes, by the way. The company was worse off.)

These are the first steps what I would take to fight off negative reviews. Consider the critique on your application as valuable. Because they allow you to build a better experience. And that results in users converting to paying, long-term customers.

I wish you all the luck! Now get out there and:

  1. set-up your customer support,
  2. track all public conversations,
  3. collect all critique,
  4. write action points, and
  5. test, measure and improve the app

You will see the negative reviews turn into smiley faces soon enough.

What was one of the most valuable reviews you've ever received on your product? Paste it down in the comments.