The Other Side of App Development: Support

Winery Passport App Store

That was a review someone had posted in the App Store for Winery Passport on Saturday night. When I read it Sunday morning, a feeling of extreme satisfaction came over me. Outside of developing and marketing all of the apps and Web properties I maintain, I always put a strong emphasis on supporting them as well. One of the ways I do that is through blogging. I often write about common questions I receive or to try to explain new features. This way, it helps avoid potential emails since the answers are already public. Granted, not every user will see the blog post, but even if a handful do it is worth it.

There are inevitably always going to be emails though. With Winery Passport there are dozens every day, and I respond to every single one of them. Whether it’s feedback, criticism or suggestions, I welcome it all. If a user takes the time to write an email, it’s usually because the app is affecting their life in some way. It’s important to recognize that with a response.

Coming up with a strong support plan is critical ahead of your launch. You’ll want to have a unique email address for users to reach out (i.e. [email protected]). This also helps keep your marketing and bug-related emails separate from an organization standpoint. Be prepared mentally to see your inbox fill up with support emails — it’s not always easy to keep up.

In the scenario above, someone was having issues using the nearby search on Winery Passport. We did extensive testing on that feature ahead of go-live, leaving us unsure of this specific user’s problem. My first response was to ask the user if any wineries were within 50 miles of their locations — our nearby search radius. They were unsure. I then walked them through the steps to ensure Location Services was turned on in the app and on their phone’s settings. With everything looking good, the user said they’d try again when they were sure a winery was close by.

During this time, I received another email about nearby search not working. I noticed a common theme though. Both emails came from iPads — the default signature gave it away. Winery Passport isn’t supported on iPad, but Apple allows iPhone/iPod Touch apps on them. So I fired up the iPad and, sure enough, eventually the nearby search didn’t work. I sent off an email to the initial user, who was very happy with my communication. Their issue may not have been solved, but they understood why and were appreciative of me caring enough to keep on top of it.

With multiple reports of that issue, I included it in a post on the Winery Passport Blog related to common questions and suggestions users have sent me over the last week.

You have to be prepared to deal with users who are non-technical and some who can walk you completely through a situation. Either way, you must try to simplify the scenario to get to the bottom of it. Not every user will provide you details, nor do some understand what’s necessary for you to help them out. That’s why you must hand-hold, walking them through the potential scenario based on how you know it to see if there is any hiccup in the path.

A few months ago, a user reached out about LetterSlider crashing for them. I’d say 99 percent of the time, that would be the note: “my app is crashing.” It would be impossible to test every scenario that could be happening for these users. How would I know everything they’re doing to replicate or anything about their hardware? But this was no typical user. This one gave me the exact operating system, phone and steps to replicate right off the bat. Within five minutes, I was able to replicate and put in a fix. We had the updated LetterSlider back in the app store in 24 hours thanks to an expedited review. This is why support is valuable, because not only do you help others, but sometimes others help you.

It’s always frustrating when someone leaves a review in the App Store related to something you could have fixed or explained had they reached out. It’s impossible to win every user over. Just try your best to win those over who do care enough to reach out.

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