Recently, we celebrated National Customer Service Week in the States. Yep, there is such a thing! Who knew??
With bringing to market a total of 10 desktop and mobile apps throughout the years, lots of release updates, and building a substantial customer base from around the world, we have dealt with more than enough customer support for a two-person company so I thought I would share a bit about why it is such a priority for us.
For as little as 70 cents in revenue?
Our paid apps range in price from 99 cents to $24.99 with a similar scale of complexity and functionality. If we look at pure numbers, it’s easy to wander whether it even makes sense from a financial perspective to provide customer support when we may be making as little as 70 cents per download. That doesn’t cover the cost of the time to read a support case, never mind the lost opportunity cost of not focusing on other areas of the business.
It’s who we are
Regardless of the money or time, providing good quality customer support has been a priority for us from the beginning. It’s just who we are. When we spend our time and hard-earned money on purchasing a new product or service, we expect customer support to be a part of that and we expect it to be good. In-turn we would feel bad if we offered a great product but didn’t provide the same if not better customer support than we expect.
We consider customer support to be a feature of each app, not an additional company function that can be decoupled from it. It’s part of the total user experience whether you purchase a 99 cent app or an expensive automobile.
But at the end of the day we are building a business. And said business needs to be able to support our family. So without the financial incentive, what is providing good customer support really, well, good for?
Getting to know your market better
With App Store analytics, we can learn general information about the market for our iOS apps; things like # of downloads per country, # per device or operating system, and the number of app store views. These stats are important but they don’t tell us why the person purchased or did not purchase the app. And these analytics are not available for apps on the Mac App Store, which is where the bulk of our revenue is generated.
When your customer or potential customer contacts you directly through your support channel, you have access to a potential goldmine of information about your market in that one communication. If they are asking about features, you are learning what they want. It could be something you never even envisioned for your product. At this point, you have the opportunity to open a 2-way dialog to better understand what they are really looking for.
Our decision to build mobile helper apps for our Mac app Home Inventory was based on market feedback from customer support emails. We receive a number of ongoing requests for a mobile version of Home Inventory. After reaching out to dig deeper into the requests, we determined that the majority of people were really looking for a way to quickly add the basic information and photos for an item from their mobile device as they walked around the house and then do the bulk of the data entry and reporting on their Mac. This is how Home Inventory Remote Entry came to be. It really streamlines the workflow of taking a home inventory.
When we initially build a new app, we don’t implement every feature we envision in the first release. For example, My Reasons is a new app we built to motivate us to get rid of bad habits and make good habits. We didn’t initially implement notifications. We weren’t confident the extra complexity was truly needed so decided to hold off. Outcome? Our market told us loud and clear through reviews and support emails that they wanted notifications. We have since implemented notifications!
Providing awesome customer support is an opportunity to open a dialog with your customer, ask questions, get details, really understand what’s driving their purchase or continued use of the product. It’s an opportunity to build a relationship so you can continue to understand your market better and better.
Always improving your product
The reality of software development is that sometimes things just don’t work as expected. It could be a bug that slipped through your QA process, bad documentation, confusing messaging, misleading app store description, or an operating system or hardware issue. The fact that your customer is reaching out gives you the opportunity to acknowledge the issue, identify it, address it, turn their experience positive, and make your product better.
The cumulative information you have from past support cases is key to being able to make decisions about the direction of your app and business and it’s based on evidence, not what you ‘think’ should be done or would be cool.
If you don’t hear about an issue you can’t fix it. If you don’t hear about it you can’t improve the user experience with new or updated features. And if you don’t respond, you can’t build product champions which brings me to another advantage of providing good customer support.
People buy from people and we need people
Studies show that people tend to buy products mostly based on recommendations from their family and friends, and this is especially true with apps. With over 1.4 million apps on the App Store, it’s safe to say we need our customers to spread the word about our awesome apps! If our app makes a huge difference in our life no one cares because we initially built the app for us. If it makes a difference in someone else’s life, others care and listen.
But your customers won’t be your product champions if your provide a crappy support experience or none at all, no matter how much they like your app.
Think about the times you contacted customer support and they were timely, addressed your issue, and were respectful throughout even for the most trivial of things. I don’t know about you, but I tend to recommend these companies and products all day long. And your happy customers will too.
Once an issue is resolved to your customers satisfaction, you now have an opportunity to ask them politely to review the app on the App Store or ask if you can use their kind words on your website testimonials. You have an opportunity to thank them for taking the time to contact you and let them know you are listening.
It’s an opportunity to invite them to stay connected via email, social media channels, or newsletters, where you can continue the dialog to learn more and more about your market.
Building a Business
Customer support is part of the total user experience with your app, and that experience should be the best it can be.
Providing an awesome experience helps you to understand your market, improve your products, and build relationships with your customers whose word of mouth is essential to your success.
Providing awesome customer support regardless of how trivial or complex an issue may be is a worthwhile investment in the longterm success of your company.
And it’s just the right thing to do.
“This is old fashion service at it’s best and something I have not experienced for many years. I would strongly recommend this product and the support offered.” – Marg T., Home Inventory customer
Next up? Some steps to take to provide awesome Customer Support for your apps without breaking the bank or the clock.
Yes, it’s possible!