The Problem with App Store Reviews

The lack of customer and developer interaction on the App Store is a bit of joke. It's been seven years since the App Store launched and developers still have no way to respond to customer reviews. Just the other day I was trying to think of other online stores that only allow one way communication. I could't think of a single one.

This tweet from Bill Morein encapsulates why this is an issue: 

"Nothing like that feeling of seeing an easily solved problem in an App Store review and being unable to contact the person to help them out." - @wmorien

It's good to know it's not just me that feels this way. It's really annoying to see a customer experiencing problems with your app, yet you can't reach out to help them. Sometimes the feature is already available and the user just missed it, this typically results in a 3 star review. If only there was a way to contact a user to help them.

Here's a real world example from the US App Store for Clear:

There is a way to do this in Clear, but I had no way of letting this user know about it. It's 2015 for crying out loud. Why does Apple still not provide a way for me to help users?!

Worse still, if a customer leaves a bug report on the App Store there’s no way to get in contact with them. It sure would be nice to be able to ask for more details so we can replicate the issue and fix it. Here's another real world example, and while I don't think its an issue with Clear, it sure would still be nice to help this user out too

I don’t blame customers for leaving bug reports or feature requests in App Store reviews. From a customer perspective leaving an app review for the developer is probably the easiest option for them. I don’t think customers realise that as developers we have no way to respond or reach out to them. I can’t reply to their review, I can’t email them. I have have no idea who they are. 

One-way Communication

I think the App Store is the only place on the internet where the conversation is one way. The internet was made for two-way communication, yet Apple have ignored this as far as the App Store is concerned. Artists got a way to interact with their fans in Apple Music via Connect. Developers didn't.

Every other site on the internet that has product reviews allow for a two-way conversation, I can't think of any other system where the product maker cannot respond.

The Solution

The most obvious solution would be to allow developers to respond to reviewers on the App Store. I’m not suggesting a completely open system like a forum, we’ve all seen how quickly those can get out of hand. Allow developers to respond once to each customer review, if it does’t solve the issue or the user has more questions then let the user email the developer directly to carry on the conversation in private. I believe this is how the Google Play store works.

I’m under no illusion that this is simple to add. I know it would be a massive undertaking for Apple to implement, but it needs to be done. The App Store has been around for seven years, it's time it matured a little. Developers and customers have waited long enough.

Final Thoughts

At Realmac we work hard to respond to every email and tweet we receive about our products. I care about every single one of our users, I want them all to have a good experience with our products. I'd love for us to be able to respond to customers on the App Store to help them out, or to say thanks for leaving a nice review. A way to let users know we’re listening.

Allowing developers to help customers should be high on Apples priority list for the App Store. I’d even take this over Paid Upgrades on the App Store (maybe).

It’s in everyone’s best interest to allow two-way communication. It would enabled an even greater level of satisfaction for customers (and developers). Not only that it would also allow the better developers to stand out from the crowd. It would highlight the bad developers. Especially those flooding the app store with poor quality apps as they'd never be able to keep up with the replies. Maybe developers could even get a customer satisfaction rating based on the way they take care of their customers.

The Next Web wrote an article about this way back in 2012. It's now three years on and it's still a problem.

Apple needs to continue to improve the App Store experience otherwise the subtle exodus will continue.