How we turned angry users into our biggest fans

Taking a short detour from our multi-post bootstrapping series, we thought we'd give an insight into how we deal with customer support at FIPLAB.

Every so often, we'll get an email from a confused, clueless and undeniably angry user of one of our apps. The email usually complains about a bug they believe to be experiencing.

More often than not, it's a simple mistake or misunderstanding on their behalf (e.g. not clicking the right button, failing to configure a particular preference, not having the latest version of our app, etc). It's annoying to have to keep guiding novice users like these through the most basic of tasks, especially when we've taken the time to write out a FAQ.

However, rather than just sending a cold response with an FAQ link, developers should really consider writing a custom, super polite reply, for example (read from bottom to top):

*In case any of you are wondering, we couldn't autorefresh the data due to T&C with TfL.

This is how we turn angry users into our biggest fans. We've done this over a dozen times and it works like a charm. Note, this is not some manipultive strategy, but a genuinely positive approach to an otherwise monotonous (and often irritating) task - never act fake or condescending, or people will see right through you. Don't think of this as a chore, but as a responsibility to the betterment of your PR and the business as whole.

We've found that if we respond quickly (within a few minutes) to these emails with a rapid and easy solution, 99% of these users will email back overwhelmingly pleased. Not only because their problem has been solved, but due to the fact that they have received a personal, human reply far quicker than they ever expected, that's if they expected to be replied to at all.

Sometimes it seems as though these users are even happier than they would have been, had they not experienced any issues at all. Customers really reward rapid, personalised support far more than most companies realise. These days, when we receive angry emails, we just smile, as we know it's another opportunity to impress users with great customer service.

What's most interesting of all is that many of these users go beyond a simple 'thank you' response. They seem to transform from 'angry' users into 'product champions' in a matter of minutes - not only do most of them end up writing a positive review on the App Store, but some go far as to begin acting as free customer support agents by helping other users through our Facebook fan pages and Twitter.

So from now on, whenever you get an angry email, be sure to respond fast with a solution or failing that, give a genuinely honest reply stating that you are working on a fix/update. Don't miss out on great opportunities such as these to secure a lifetime's worth of goodwill from an 'angry' user.

Btw, we're launching a podcast called App Teardown. From the feedback we've received in our bootstrapping series (Part 3 coming out soon!), we teamed up with our friend Colin to produce a show where we will teardown top apps to find out what makes them tick, bring on guest developers to help them improve their products, and generally just give the inside line on how to make money on the App Store.

Click here to signup for emails on new episodes. No spam, just tidbits of money making gold.

5 responses
@Antonio I'm no CEO but offering a customer a refund every time they say the word doesn't seem like a good policy. It's not like the customer couldn't / didn't want to use the app anymore.
What's better than offering a refund is fixing the problem for the customer.

Offering a refund is easy, but will that really make the customer happy in light of a £1.79 purchase? I think they would prefer to be able to use the app correctly instead.

So true, a quick courteous and personal reply does build customer loyalty. There is this humane part of "business" that many brands are turning towards. Even more with the current channels like social media.

Another view point I'd perceive from this post is that every angry email is an opportunity to improve the product. Probably it's more intuitive and "natural" for this man to expect 'live' results. In the interaction design process, we record every reaction and understand what people need and provide solutions.

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