Fighting the App Store Attitude, or: how to get users to “ask for help” again.

This week, in my post What happened to “asking for help”?, I wondered about a trend I was seeing regarding the user attitude in case of software problems. A short summary:

10 years ago, when users ran into a software problem, they just contacted the developer for help, resulting in a useful conversation where the user got his problem solved and the developer got useful information about possible bugs.

However, nowadays a user is more likely to just complain about the problem in a public place like Facebook, Twitter, the App Store or the Android Market. No request for help, no conversation and therefore: no solution.

The App Store Attitude

Let’s call this behavior the “App Store Attitude“, because it’s most apparent for mobile apps, where users, instead of contacting Support, immediately jump to “warning other users” by posting a review in the App Store or Android Market.
I must say though, that I am finding that this attitude is spreading beyond the App Store and is also starting to happen for desktop tools and for web applications.

The situation

Before I discuss how we’re trying to fight the App Store Attitude, let me explain the situation and our mobile apps a bit more.

You see, we’re not selling 99 cents apps, discardable gimmicks or even games. For that category of apps, I can kind of understand the App Store Attitude. If you buy an app like that, and it crashes, has some kind of problem or even just sucks, then yes… I can accept that the user just moves on, finds an alternative or just forgets about it. For 99 cents, it’s not worth doing the conversation with those pesky programmers.

However, at we are selling seriously expensive software solutions. Our mobile apps cost $9.99 and on top of that, these apps can only be used by people who already own our Windows or Mac software (a $49.95 purchase). So our mobile app users have spent at least 60 bucks with us, but most users own multiple $49.95 products and one of our barcode scanners (ranging from $19.95 to $144.95). They have a serious amount of money invested in our stuff, not something to discard easily.

Which also means that users who buy our mobile apps already know who we are, know how to find our website, and most importantly, they know that we can easily be contacted through our Support Page, in our Forum, on our Facebook page (17,500 fans) or via Twitter (2,500 followers).

So in short: our app buyers have spent serious money with us, they have all reasons to get their problems fixed, and they know how to contact us.
But still, as soon as a problem occurs with their mobile app, most of them immediately resort to the reviews section and just “state” their problem, anonymously.

Fighting the App Store Attitude – first attempt

In the comments on my previous post about this, some commenters (Rico, Jerry) suggested that the App Store and Android Market were to blame for this, because both only provide a standardized way to post reviews and do not offer a similarly standardized way of contacting the developer for support. And I agree, it would be great if it was more easy for users to get in contact with the developers.

But other commenters (Steven, Geoff) suggested that as long as the App Store does not provide an easy way to contact Support, why not build that into your app yourself. Provide a feedback button that makes it dead-easy to contact you and start that conversation.

Great idea, so today we did just that, we added a new Help button in the toolbar of our 5 iPhone apps.
The Help button pops up a little message that says “Looking for help?” with 2 buttons: “Check the FAQ” and “Contact Support”. The FAQ button opens Safari on the correct FAQ page, the Contact button opens the user’s Mail app on a new email, with our support email address and Subject already filled in, ready to fire away.

Let’s see if this helps. I hope the ease of contacting us will prevent most users from posting their problem in the reviews section. Of course, this solution won’t work if the app immediately crashes on start-up (no way to reach the Help button). Oh well…

I will of course report back with our findings.

3 thoughts on “Fighting the App Store Attitude, or: how to get users to “ask for help” again.

  1. Maybe, just maybe, it is the blessing. Every junk can hit the mobile store, and lots of it sells. If you take that into account, you can produce completely different product honoring that attitude.

    Also, *rant* is also a form of promotion 🙂

  2. Useful conversation (previous post) and response (this post).

    In addition to making it easy to get support – thus avoiding 1-star reviews – it may be worth trying to encourage 5-star reviews to keep your averages up. I remember seeing an app (don’t remember specifically which one) that had a simple reminder on the splash screen of its free version “if you like this app, please click here to rate it!” In the paid version, they moved it to the about screen, which wouldn’t be seen as much but still is a nice reminder.

    I would think you could make rating the app part of your email campaigns – especially if you just had a positive support experience with this new model, you could follow up with them by asking them to rate your app.

    BTW, nice talk at ESWC!

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