The Art of Avoiding Negative App Reviews

A few months ago, I launched iTunes and noticed a negative app review tied to Winery Passport that complained we were missing two wineries near that person’s home.

Negative App Reviews

One star. That’s what they rated us. It stung.

They left that comment despite an in-app modal window asking for winery suggestions and a link on the “Info” screen that read “Winery Suggestions.” I couldn’t ever erase that review, it would permanently be attached to Winery Passport, and worse yet, it impacted our overall rating now and in the future. With Apple using reviews to some extent in their search algorithm, it meant an immediate impact on our future downloads.

Think about that: For every negative app review you receive, that’s going to impact you negatively in terms of downloads, as well as financially. So how do you prevent those negative reviews? Mobile marketers and product managers have been working to answer that question for years now.

The first thing to understand is you’re never going to completely stop every single Negative Nelly from leaving you one or two stars, along with a comment to boot. Take a deep breath, accept that and we can continue.

That review about missing wineries was one of several Winery Passport had received when we first launched. We thought we were doing a transparent job about asking for submissions, but apparently not. We then made a change.

That change was upping the support we offered to users. I’ve always been a proponent of putting existing customers first. They’re the ones who will create a relationship with your app, tell their friends about it and, in Winery Passport’s case, the wineries about it. The support we offered to users was always quick and responsive, but I was missing out on something.

Your product itself is the primary (but not only) influence you have on someone’s opinion of it. That’s one word to remember: opinion. There are always going to be lovers and always going to be haters. The old saying that you’re never going to be able to please everybody is so true. It’s not worth trying. If you can create a more personal connection to your product, however, then that influence swings more in your favor.

Take Action Against Negative App Reviews

After a few weeks, I put a line in the signature of my support emails:

Support Signature

That one line, along with a link to Winery Passport in the App Store, increased our reviews tremendously. Not only were we receiving product praise, but compliments on our ability to work with users. We built Winery Passport to allow real-time updating of the wineries listed in the app (this is the same for Brewery Passport) so we were able to make an immediate update to meet the user’s need. This was the result:

Positive Review

Eliminate Bad App Reviews

So what can you do? First, be transparent with your users. Offer them the ability to connect with you through email and social channels. Email is recommended since that is private. You want to make sure the users let you know their feelings rather than the app universe.

When I was at Avis Budget Group, the apps I took over featured a phone number and that was it. No one wants to use an app and have to call someone with questions or feedback. Instead, renters would go into the App Store and leave their thoughts — negative, most of the time.

Knowing the impact, the team worked to implement a feedback system. The results were about 20 messages through the system a day, a lot less reviews in the App Store and a positive-to-negative app review ratio that was tighter than ever before. It was a huge win for a major brand.

Again, offer your users an opportunity to connect with you. If you don’t, they’ll have no choice but to go to the App Store.

Secondly, provide tremendous support. Even if you can’t help, let the user know you heard them. That goes a long way. I wasn’t getting positive reviews just because of an email signature. I was getting positive reviews because I 1) asked for them, 2) did so when I knew the user was going to be very happy with the product.

Reviews, both positive and negative, are going to happen. You can minimize the bad ones by adding another layer to your business model. Transparent support helps you monetize, acquire and retain users. That is, after all, what you’re trying to accomplish with a polished marketing plan in the first place.


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  1. 1
    will lynn

    We had gotten some negative review, and it really affected the team morale. As we believe in the app tremendously. We know rome wasn’t build in a day and work hard on releasing new app updates every few months.
    Our last negative review and comments really affected us.
    But reading your article put things into perspective and we feel it’s less of a problem now.
    Thanks for your advice !

  2. 2
    Scott Stanchak

    Thanks, Will. The product guys usually are the ones that take it the hardest. It’s especially difficult to read when it’s something that’s 1) on your roadmap or 2) not an issue at all. Just keep building a great app, and remember: for every negative comment, there’s five good unwritten ones. I’ll take that ratio any day!

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