Helpshift Blog

A blog about making customers happy, creating beautiful mobile apps, and what we're up to at Helpshift.

3 Ways to Win Viral Word-Of-Mouth (WOM): App Marketing with Customer Service  

January 31, 2016

3 Ways to Win Viral Word-Of-Mouth (WOM)

App Marketing with Customer Service  

The app store can be pretty overwhelming these days. Even when I know what I want, the options are so vast that I usually end up leaving without downloading anything. When it comes down to it, most of the apps on my phone are there because of my friends’ recommendations:

Friend 1: “That photo you posted looks awesome.”

Friend 2: “Oh thanks, I used Squaready.”

Friend 1:“I keep forgetting to pay off that other credit card.”

Friend 2: “Yeah I feel that, my budget would be a mess without Mint.”

We’re living in a market oversaturated with options, and because of this, we have begun depending more and more on the opinions of close friends and family: 92% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than any other form of advertising (a figure that’s risen 18% since 2007).

Its a Consumer’s World: What It All Means

People are becoming more selective about our products, our apps, about everything. It’s a consumer’s world, and  it’s up to brands to make sure that what they’re offering is invaluable and distinct from everything else out there.

So how do you garner these vital reviews?

Make the First Impression Count

About a quarter of users download an app, launch it once, and never return. Even in mobile gaming, the category with the largest share of the App Store, only has a 28% retention rate after the first day. Therefore, making a killer first impression is paramount to, not only reducing churn, but also increasing the likelihood users will talk to their friends about your app. Clearly, users are displeased with most apps, so they’re sure to talk about the ones that wow them.

There are several key components to making a good first impression. One, is having searchable FAQs. Often, a user doesn’t like or return to an app because they are unaware of the solution to their issue.searchable_faqs For instance, I downloaded a scanning app earlier this week, only to realize that it was essentially just a liaison between the computer and the phone in other words, completely useless. Now, if this app had had searchable FAQs, I could have typed: “can you take a scan-like photo with this app?” It’s entirely possible that the app did present some solution for my need, but I simply wasn’t privy to the available solution.

Many apps solve this problem with native onboarding tutorials that pop up to guide the new user through the product the moment the app is launched for the first time. Similarly, plenty of apps offer some version of a “what’s new” tutorial after an upgrade (pro tip: utilize the description space in your app store page to let users know what changes they can expect in the update).

good-wom

Make sure your users know how to use each feature of your product, and the benefits they receive from using it.

Offer Opportunities for Community Growth

After I buy the new Maggie Nelson book, I will get recommendations based on what previous buyers with my similar profile recently purchased—already I feel like I’m getting tips  from a friend with the same taste. Facebook does something similar with groups: people in this group are also in these other groups. In San Francisco, I’ve actually found some really cool events and met some fascinating people based on Facebook group suggestions. Apps that leverage user interests to engage them for longer periods, and connect users with similar interests are building organic community through smaller networks or people.

Apple, Airbnb, and the like have made it their endgame to get users talking to each other. For Venmo—that’s the entire distinguishing factor behind the brand (They recently tweeted, “Bored because you already scrolled through all your social media? Don’t forget Venmo’s feed is filled with your funny friends.”) Which goes to show, the app that helps connect users to a community is better equipped to build brand loyalty and earn great word-of-mouth buzz.

Provide A+ Customer Service

When things go wrong, customer service is on the front lines and therefore, defines whether or not a user will return. An app’s customer service should be proactive rather than reactive (notice we’re not using the word “support” here).  What this means is providing the customer with the tools to help themselves immediately in their current context. faqs_word-of-mouth-appA customer self-service structure that allows users to find solutions within in the app itself should be the focal point of your customer service. This reduces friction in the app’s experience. Customers would be able to view an FAQ, and resume activity all without the need of filing a support ticket. If customers are forced to wait in confusion until an agent responds leaves the customer no choice but to search for the competition that achieves the same intended task. Apps that make it easy to resolve problems are the ones people want to recommend to friends.

Proactive customer service can also target those who might need help before they even realize it. When the average company never hears from 96% of their customers, and for every 1 vocal customer, there are 26 who stay silent, it’s imperative that you target users before they abandon the app, and offer help. Over in-app channels through which customers can, not only ask for help, but be offered it. Think of it like an in-store sales rep asking if he/she can help the customer find anything.

proactive_word-of-mouth-app

As users rely more heavily on their own social networks, apps and brands are going to have to become a part of that inner circle to grab and engage users. It’s the app’s job to provide excellent customer service and an inherently valuable product. Apps that do this guarantee themselves free advertising via word-of-mouth, and whether that be in person, over text, or on social media, it’s not to be underestimated.

Ask Tushar: The Future is Mobile as Commander and Control

January 31, 2016

Ask Tushar Episode 3

The Future is Mobile as Commander and Control

“Set phasers to stun”

I turn around, and see Tushar, leaning against the hallway wall. “Why Tushar,” I said, “Have you been doing another Star Trek Marathon?”

A hearty laugh reverberated throughout the narrow hallway. “We seek inspiration in the most unlikely of places,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “And I have found it. Let me tell you who the real commander is.”

If you look at the direction the world is moving, our devices are becoming more and more connected via The Internet of Things (IoT). The gadgets in our lives are being controlled by the mobile device. There is the connected home, the connected car, and even the connected body. Everything I do is linked, and ultimately tweaked, changed, and controlled through a web of apps. So the phone, in essence, is becoming the command and control center.

Before the smartphone, relationships were very isolated. You knew Joe from your favorite store. He had a one-on-one relationship with you, he knew what you liked and disliked. But then we moved to the web, where companies would collect data about our behavior, make a profile, and start offering us things via targeted ads. However, the phone linked these two types of connections. Companies now have a wealth of data about customers, as well as a channel to directly chat with customers. Furthermore, the mobile phone allows for interesting data partnerships, to make our world even more connected.

Companies are going to team up so that their respective databases can work together to proactively offer things to customers. Proactive customer relationship management is about using data to preempt problems, then leveraging this information to send the right messages to the right customers at the right time. The phone, which lends itself to being the command center, also lends itself to being the customer relationship manager.

As things and companies begin to share data and create partnerships, we will see two things happen:

  1. Customers will get offers and deals based on the connected devices in their home (e.g. an offer for dish soap once your phone is alerted that you have used 30 of the 40 soap packets you bought).
  2. The phone will be the venue through which all of these offers and deals are made. Every interaction, purchase, and notification will come to you through your phone.

The smartphone is therefore two things: a control center, and a personal communication venue. It is at once connected to everything, and highly personal. Customers will directly interact with their preferred companies via apps, while harnessing the many devices in their lives. Resistance is futile; mobile is the new commander and control.

Live long and prosper.

Apple Get’s It: How Design and Customer Service Drives Loyalty

January 31, 2016

Apple Get’s It: How Design, User Interface and Customer Service Drives Loyalty

The Golden Trifecta: Design, User Interface, and Customer Service

Apple is universally applauded for three things: design, user interface, and customer service. I remember clearly the moment when I switched to Apple in my first year of college, with the purchase of the then-new Macbook Pro (incidentally, the computer I am currently typing this story on). Purchasing it was an entirely pleasurable experience — friendly, knowledgeable customer service representatives, and even a student discount. Learning how to use the computer took less than an hour, despite it being an entirely different interface from the computers I was accustomed to. Not to mention, its lightness and sleekness were both convenient.

This is not a eulogy to Apple. Rather, I want to examine how these three aspects of the company transformed me into an incredibly loyal customer (and I mean loyal — At this point I would go without a phone before I would use a non-iPhone).

Customer Service

Let’s start at the beginning. If you’re a new customer, you need things to be explained. I didn’t understand the mac operating system, and I wasn’t aware of policies like AppleCare insurance, or the Genius Bar, etc. However, I was onboarded in three crucial ways: the first, was with an incredibly knowledgeable, patient, and polite young sales rep. He was phenomenal at picking up on what I knew and what I didn’t, explaining things accordingly. This just comes down to good hiring practices and diligent training on the part of Apple.

pabloThe second, though, was once I was interacting with the operating system. Apple very clearly walks through each step; getting started with your new product, giving you options at every step to opt out of the tutorial (for the non-noobs among us). Even back in 2010, Apple had already realized the power of virtual customer service, and allowed me to onboard myself in a matter of minutes. This eliminated the stress and anxiety that I would have inevitably experienced had I been shown how to do things by some pushy sales rep.

The third, was through a wealth of online support communities. When I did run into problems or have a question about the device, finding answers to my questions online was incredibly simple.

I’m not alone in my lauding of Apple’s customer service. Ranked #3 in USA Today’s 2015 Customer Service Hall of Fame (Amazon was #1), the company is known for having both very happy customers, and exceptionally happy employees (they have a 4 out of 5 score for employee satisfaction on Glass Door– an unusually high rating). As Shep Hyken, customer service expert, noted, customer care is not just a department, “it’s a company-wide philosophy.”

User Interface (UI)

User Interface (UI) is closely related to customer service. Both have to do with making the customer experience as simple, easy, and seamless as possible. 30 years ago, Apple introduced a UI system of layered windows and calligraphy-inspired fonts, that made the original Mac incredibly accessible. Later, when Steve Jobs was appointed interim CEO, the company’s UI changed to “Aqua” the glossy buttons, blue-tinted scroll bars, and translucent menus that we still see today. Apple was revolutionary in, first, its menu button on the iPods, and now, the Home button that we’re familiar with on iPhones.

This brief history is simply to illustrate that Apple has focused on user interface and ease of use since its inception. The home button makes using an iPhone for the first time intuitive because there’s only a single option to navigate back to the home screen. Similarly, Apple does an amazing job of creating a consistent UI experience across devices.  Its growing a user base from building a familiar UI that its loyal fans expect. Now, when I’m using an app with chat capabilities I expect to see the blue bubble with 3 dots to indicate there’s a human on the other side. The simplicity of iMessage UI has been established as my new standard for chat.

Having an intuitive, beautiful user interface makes your product easy and pleasurable to use.

Design

Now for the fun part: status. Apple’s products come with a certain cache, much of which (I believe) is due to the fact that they look opulent. They are light, sleek, and futuristic. Even the old Apple desktops were largely pure white. To boot, Apple has a distinctive logo that users actually want to display; it’s a status symbol.

first-mac-desktop-19841984 : Apple releases first Macintosh computer, featuring bitmap graphics.

To have a great design that users are proud to use habitually, you must put yourself in the minds of your customers and what they value: convenience, simplicity, and consistency. I am, in part, such a loyal customer because I am completely accustomed to both the UI and hardware design of Apple products. Although they frequently release new iterations of old products, the basic design elements stay more or less the same. This ensures customers won’t jump ship because the product’s look, feel and overall experience is too far deviated from the original UI.

At its core, these three elements to a product come down to the product itself, and customer service is part of that. Too often, companies fail in one category or the other; either they’re too focused on making a product with perfect design and UI and don’t offer enough support, or they offer fantastic support but don’t emphasize the customer’s experience with the product enough. But to have a truly loyal customer, you need the trifecta: design, user interface, and customer service.

At The Heart of The Multi-Billion Dollar Mobile Gaming Industry: Product and Customer Service

January 25, 2016

At The Heart of The Multi-Billion Dollar Mobile Gaming Industry

Product and Customer Service

For those of us who remember our first video game as a CD version of Mist inserted into a black, fifty pound desktop computer— a game that was only to be played as a special treat on a rainy day— the amount of time and money that has since been funneled into the gaming industry appears astronomical. And it is. But it isn’t just the sheer growth of the industry that is impressive, it’s also the agility of its evolution alongside the technology boom. The U.S. currently boasts 164.9 Million mobile gamers, and the average person in the U.S. spends $26 annually on mobile games.

Of course, this is hardly surprising considering the rapidity with which consumers have moved to mobile to fulfill all of their needs- be it with banking, email, shopping, or social media. But the mobile gaming industry is unique in that games generate the most revenue of any app type, this despite the fact that 90% of revenue generated by games on the App Store this year came from free-to-play apps (with monetization arising from in-app purchases).

So, the challenge for the mobile gaming industry is simply this: captivate users the moment they launch the game, and keep them engaged long enough to develop loyalty.

Aside from the obvious “develop a good game,” retention often boils down to the responsiveness of your customer support team. When the product comes up short, how do you deal with it? It’s the old adage: it’s not the mistakes you make, but how you react to your mistakes that determine who you are. In mobile gaming, it’s all about being proactive — anticipating those blips.

According to a report done by Econsultancy Multichannel Customer Experience, what matters most to gamers when it comes to support is efficient customer service and a quick resolution to problems. No surprises there: gamers want issues to be fixed quickly and easily, so they can resume gameplay.

These are the key ways to retain users at zero days, seven days, and three months:

In-Game FAQs

The fastest way to give your players efficient customer service and resolution is through self-service. Users like to help themselves; in fact, 67% of respondents to a recent survey said that they prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. Providing FAQs also serves as a way to deflect unnecessary tickets from cluttering your agents’ support queue, allowing support agents to focus on more difficult issues that require more consultation from the engineering or product teams.

The FAQs section of your app should be both easily accessible and extremely actionable. Most importantly, though, it should actually reflect the most frequently asked questions. Gather analytics on performance metrics for FAQs, as well as analytics on tickets being submitted (that could possibly warrant a new FAQ). This let’s you know what to fix in your FAQ section, and what to add or remove as the game evolves.

In-Game Rating Prompt

In-game rating prompts enables a direct line of communication to your dissatisfied players, creates an actionable feedback loop and provides an opportunity to improve the player experience at large. By redirecting unhappy players to the support channel, where the player can resolve their own issue, not only does this deflect 1 star App Store reviews, but more importantly, quickly identifies potential product issues like bugs or feature functionality.  Better to discover a problem directly from your customers than to passively find out from the app store why customers are discontent.Rating Prompt.001

Segment players with intelligent rating prompts, that only request ratings from users who either recently had an exceptional customer support interaction OR fit your highly engaged customer profile. The key is to never interrupt the player’s experience with an annoying, binary pop-up rating prompt “Do You Like This App”. Instead incorporate a dynamic rating prompt that targets loyal customers with a simple question. ‘Do you enjoy Outlook?” If the answer is yes, then introduce the idea of leaving a rating or review in the App Store. However, if the answer is ‘No’ redirect those users to your in-app customer support chat. If your most loyal customers are unhappy with their experience you want to directly connect with them to receive unfiltered feedback.

In-Game Communication With Support

Customers don’t want to leave your game to find help. They want the option to speak  with a support agent in the context of when and where they need help. In-app communication puts a human touch on the player experience. When a player seeks help, make sure they can connect with a real human inside the game — without risking abandonment while they exit the app to open their email and then wait around until an agent finally responds. Allowing your players to contact you within the game not only makes players feel that they are being heard, but also ensures you don’t risk game abandonment.

Create A Rapid and Functional Feedback Loop

Gamers want quick resolution to their problems. And when there’s a product issue, the best way to ensure it gets rapidly rectified is through a functional feedback loop.

There are several different kinds of feedback: one, is literal feedback, in which a customer messages your support team in the app. The second is inferred feedback, which is gained through app usage data such as type of user, what screen was viewed when the app crashed, what app version the user is running, etc. And the third type of feedback is from the support portal to the product and development teams to collaborate on product iterations that align most closely with customer needs.

This feedback loop has both long-term and short-term implications for customer satisfaction. In the short term, the user gets their problem fixed. In the long term, though, all of this feedback can be parsed into tangible improvements or suggestions for where the app should go. Developers get to see what their users want, and can give it to them in updated versions. This keeps the relationship between the user and the game from getting stale, and also practically ensures that users will be happy with updates.

Notice how strongly the words “in-game” were stressed throughout the first three components. Why? It’s faster and easier for customers. In fact, one of the reasons that mobile gaming has been so successful is due to the in-app purchases model (IAP) that developers included early-on. Gamers needed only to click a button to make a purchase, and this ease has, in part, led to mobile gaming being the 80 billion dollar industry it is today.

Why Customer Service is So Important to Mobile Gaming

Recently, Sean Murphy, CEO of Andy OS, wrote a piece for TechCrunch in which he explains why we fell for video games back in 1971 when Pong came out, and now, why we have fallen even harder for mobile gaming.

At the heart of both, he says, lies a sense of freedom. A freedom to be other than oneself, to be extraordinary in any way one could desire. “It is this expansive freedom to explore and fantasize that drives people to justify paying for things in a game that are absolutely not real, much to the chagrin of non-gamers or investors who don’t dabble in the space. Once a gamer has a taste of the freedom that gaming provides, desire becomes demand and entire businesses are built to meet it.”

At the heart of good customer service for mobile gaming is an understanding of the total engrossment that gamers feel when they enter this other world. It is a way not just to escape our reality, but also a venue through which one can truly express oneself and move through space and time in a new and different way. To yank someone out of this experience with a tech glitch or improperly explained step can be jarring and upsetting. For this reason, if nothing else, having lightning-fast, in-app, easy-to-access customer service is incredibly important to the mobile gaming industry.

Ask Tushar: How to Help Users Before They Even Know They Need It

January 25, 2016

Ask Tushar Episode 2:

How to Help Users Before They Even Know They Need It

For weeks now, a question has been bubbling around the edges of my brain… Day and night I am consumed by mobile customer care: reading about it, talking about it, dreaming about it. And yet, there is a nagging dissatisfaction. A piece is missing, and, until now, I didn’t know what it was. With the aid of a six pack of Deschutes and a roaring fire, though, I am finally able to articulate it:

1 in 5 users seeks help. But what about the people who need help, but instead of seeking it, simply leave the app or remain dissatisfied customers?

Luckily, I knew that there was one human being who might be able to enlighten me. I sought out Tushar; he answered readily and happily.

Aha, that is an excellent question. Customer care is about carefully identifying to people who are looking for help, and reacting to those who have shown some level of investment by contacting you in the first place. If an app can make that experience of receiving help seamless, the 1 in 5 that are seeking help will be motivated to continue using your product because resolution to the initial problem was immediate. These customers are opting to have a conversation with you, so let’s make sure that these users become loyal evangelists of your company. However, this only accounts for the people who raise their hand to ask for help, not the people who run into a question, issue, or problem and decide to abandon the app. We’re moving further away from the concept that support is reactive and instead, mobile devices have allowed customer support teams to become proactive and make an impact on retention over time. Today, there is a proactive way of guesstimating the cohort of users who may require help based on behavioral trends along with product trends. As an app trying to distinguish itself from today’s crowded app marketplace, it is in your best interest to identify key mobile moments where a particular set of users may be in need of help, and to proactively message them with guidance to a solution.

Step 1: Make the current space for users who are already seeking help fantastic.

  • This means ensuring your in-app knowledge base is accessible and easy for your users to interpret. In addition, there should be dedicated support channels available to directly communicate with customers inside the app should the knowledge base (FAQs) not resolve their issues or questions.

Step 2: Make Help Intelligent.

  • Once you have profiled this cohort of users and understand the defining characteristics of a user who may be in need of help. Even before users have convinced themselves to take the step of pressing the contact button, you should proactively reach out and say “Hey, I want to help you.”

When we are defining the concept of being there for your customer, what we really mean is that it has to be easy for your user to access help. Companies often stop building the materials that make this possible. When it comes to FAQs, community forums, customer support, and product information, many companies try to superimpose the available web content into a mobile context. And that’s what needs to change. The majority of users will have problems that can be easily resolved with simple instructions, rich media, or help pages/forums. The reason why it is not being done well right now, is that accessing information and consuming that information on a small mobile device has been a big problem. Helpshift is solving that problem by rendering this information, inside the mobile app, in a native way; allowing people to quickly search for what they are trying to find available in the right context. Again, without needing to leaving the mobile app to search for a resolution – i.e. forcing users to contact you via email or web portal.

Think about what mobile is and who you build mobile apps for. Mobile users have already set the paradigm as “hey, we don’t want to talk to everybody, we don’t want to chat with everybody; what we want, is a solution to a problem.” So if a person has crossed that barrier, or threshold, where they desperately want to talk to someone, then they have self selected. And here is the fundamental problem. What is happening to a large percentage of people who decide the FAQs cannot help them? They’re not going to file a support ticket; instead users will give up and leave for a competitor.  Some may initially keep it, but remain dissatisfied and eventually churn. But, as a large company investing in mobile, do you really want to take that risk of churn? No. And that’s why you need to proactively identify users who are in need of help, so that you can message them to say “Let us offer you help.”

Based on the type of user — whether they are a high value user or a small-value user — you can place them in the correct funnel. The funnel is very simple: it’s either a self-service funnel or a personal, conversational funnel. Instead of relying on a customer to raise their hand and say “Please talk to me!” now you intelligently connect with the customer by offering attentive customer care. And that changes the game dramatically. It will grow your user base and help retain more customers, but most importantly, it shows commitment to caring for your customers. And once they see that level of investment in your care channels they will naturally develop a stronger relationship with the app’s experience and stick around for the long hall. So, if I had to say just two things about mobile customer care excellence, it’s that customer care has become a differentiator and driving loyalty through meaningful customer support interactions reduces long-term CPI costs.

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