Customer support on the App Store

With just a couple of days left till developers from all over the world descend on San Francisco for Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference everyone is discussing what Apple are going to come up with within iOS 7. Especially discussions around Jony Ive and “Flat UI”. While obviously i’m keen to look at what Apple come up with i’m also hoping for improvements elsewhere within the App universe.

At Buffer we focus a lot of our attention on providing great customer support, with a team of ‘happiness heros’ focused on providing support and keeping our users happy. We also have engineers contributing a day a week to help with the trickier support questions, delving deeper into the root cause of issues.

We get a fair few reviews for Buffer which also mention how great our support is but we have one weak link in our customer support, which is on Apple’s App Store. A user may be experiencing a problem with the app, may not understand how something works or even has a feature request for something we’re working on and there is very little we can do right now to get in touch with them to help them out.

How it works right now

With the current App Store reviews are left with a iTunes username. Developed don’t get any other details about the reviewer or the ability to reply to the customer directly or publicly on the App Store.

Fortunately we have managed to match up iTunes account usernames to Buffer accounts to help a customer, however this has only been possible in a couple of cases. Most can’t be matched and the customer is left without any assistance, unless they get in touch with us.

In those few cases we have managed to match up usernames the customer has been pleasantly surprised we had gone that far to make contact based on a review to look into resolving their issues and they were left happy at the fact we had done so.

How customer support could work

For the past few years in the build up to WWDC the topic of allowing developers to reply to App Store reviews comes up with lots of developers voicing their opinions on why its a good or equally a bad idea.

Apple allows users who download our app to review our app, quite rightly so. However as Rene Ritchie mentioned in his post “Rather than just letting developers respond, Apple should fix App Store reviews for everyone“, the reviews aren’t always reviews. Sometimes they could be bug reports, feature requests & support requests etc. It would be great if Apple could distinguish between these types of “review” and handle them differently.

Those that are categorised as anything but reviews could be passed along to the developer to look into. Apple could then allow developers to initiate a support thread with the customer, Apple could then send the customer an email with the reply-to set to the developers email address with copy including the review and maybe a comment from the developer. No privacy has been breached unless the customer specifically responds to the email, although auto-responders could be troublesome.

I’d love to improve our customer support for the odd review that pops up for Buffer in the future, the above would strengthen the current weak link. I’ll be crossing my fingers that Apple have improvements to the App Store to show off on Monday during the WWDC Keynote along with many other things on my wishlist.

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