Bad Reviews Aren’t Personal—They’re Data. Here’s How to Use Them

By Elena Serbanescu, Head of ASO, Appodeal Stack

In the highly digitalized world of 2022, consumers have many avenues at their fingertips to provide feedback on almost any product or service they use. Reviews are one of the most powerful tools in the hands of an audience. In the 2022 world of mobile apps, they can easily turn a mobile game into an overnight success—or become a deal-breaker for your potential players.

Why bad reviews matter

Bad reviews clearly have an impact on downloads. Your ideal customer could be about to select your game in the app store, but then they see that scathing review from one grumpy ex-customer and suddenly they decide to bring their gaming elsewhere.

In the early days of mobile apps, app store users relied on trial and error. They’d install a game, try it, disliket it, and uninstall it. But mobile device owners have matured and so have their decisions regarding new installs on their devices. Many users will skim through a few reviews to make sure your game is worth a shot. More selective explorers read through pages of reviews before deciding whether to install.

It’s no surprise that app stores have gradually placed more weight on reviews. Customers depend on reviews to assess the app’s quality, and app stores are all about making the customer happy. But that’s less great for you if suddenly a truly terrible review is prominently displayed on your app page, especially if the review doesn’t really do your app justice. Not only will a bad review hurt your brand image, but it will also hurt your discoverability in the stores, install volume, and conversion rate.

The good news is that you can mitigate the negative effects of bad reviews with the eight tactics outlined below. None of these is a silver bullet, but they can help you increase the chances that reviewers change their reaction from negative to neutral or even a negative opinion for a better one.

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1. Don’t underestimate the power of a timely response

When people leave a bad review, most often they just want to be heard. They had a bad experience, and they’re calling out for someone to acknowledge that. You get this opportunity with every review. When you reply to someone’s review, they get notified. This means that your response–and your response time–matter.

First, you can address their issue and let them know what you’ll do to change that going forward. This will make them feel better. They may simply be happy that someone is listening. Second, you can simply tell users that you value their input, which sometimes can be just as effective to make users change their ratings.

2. Develop response guidelines

So you’re ready to answer reviews quickly and comprehensively. Easier said than done. To address reviews in a timely manner, you need to develop clear, practicable guidelines:

  • Determine who in your company will address which issues, when they will do so, and what type of information they will give to users
  • Decide who will collect all this feedback and pass it along the development food chain
  • Develop different response models and templates to make it easier for the designated team to deliver responses hustle-free.

Here’s a simple example of a template to use if a user leaves a negative review about ads interrupting their experience: “Hi [user name], thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback! Please consider the fact that displaying ads enables us to continue to offer this app for free. For an ad-free experience, you have the ability to upgrade and remove ads in the settings section. For any other inquiries, please contact us at [email address]. Thank you!”

3. Establish priorities

Not all negative reviews are created equal. They can cover anything from technical issues to generic complaints from choosy users, to suggestions for app performance or gameplay improvements.

Your top priority should be solving any technical issues that your users highlight. You can prioritize the rest based on your short- or long-term goals. What’s most important to you, fixing immediate technical issues or improving customer in-app experience? What about optimizing app performance or adding new features?

Make sure to document your prioritization approach in the guidelines, so that your team is well aware of what they should handle first.

4. Balance automation and customization

Give your users a chance to interact with a real person. An impersonal AI chatbot response can frustrate and push reviewers over the edge more than anything else. While an autoresponder is certainly more timely, it doesn’t do anything to help the reviewer feel heard. For that, most people need to connect with an actual human being.

Having customized answers for each and every review is not always possible. But it’s helpful to create optimal response templates, like the one mentioned above, that will guide your teams on how to quickly address various issues while keeping your message personal.

5. Consider the tone of voice

Don’t get defensive. An empathic, polite tone makes your brand more likable and increases your chances of turning a disgruntled player into a customer for life. But don’t get too submissive. Remember to apologize only when necessary, for instance, if there are real malfunctions or a user has a frustrating experience because of in-app errors. Excessive and repeated apologies rarely influence users and do little to solve their complaints.

The content of your response should always be focused, and concise. Avoid fluff and stay clear of unnecessary details. Don’t go too formal—that just makes you sound like a robot, which isn’t what your user needs right now. Keep your language casual, clear, and simple. Make the user feel like the answer comes from a real person, who is understanding and willing to help.

6. Responses should solve problems

In every review you respond to, include practical, informed solutions to the user’s issues, and simple step-by-step guidance. Offer clear answers to questions, or ask app users to send a more detailed email to customer support or any dedicated team involved.

7. Dig into that treasure trove of knowledge

Yes, we all hate bad reviews. But remember that users aren’t just venting. They’re offering you valuable, honest advice on what makes your app problematic and how it could be better. Negative reviews are especially valuable if you organize them into categories, like technical issues to fix, a less-than-optimal update, in-app processes that need optimization, or in-app flow clarification. The more you glean from the negativity the more you can cut through the clutter and understand where the main issues lie. And if you immediately act on those issues, bad reviews can become a surefire way to enhance app performance and prevent your app from getting more bad reviews.

8. It takes a village

Turning bad reviews into positive opinions is always a team effort. To successfully mitigate bad feedback, you need to develop a process that incorporates your whole team. You have your developers who kick the process off by determining how and when to ask users for review during the user journey. Your customer support representatives handle follow-ups. The legal department, the product owners, and the marketing managers are all part of the review lifecycle. Everyone’s contribution matters. The faster and smoother the information moves among people and departments, the better your chances of neutralizing the negative effects of bad reviews.

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Bad reviews are how you improve

In 2022, reviews of all kinds are the new norm. They are nothing to dread, nothing to brag about, they’re just a source of information to act upon. Successful game publishers already know that mitigating bad reviews is part of the process to optimize their mobile apps. But this continuous improvement process should be the industry norm. Publishers willing to grow and prosper should listen closely and act promptly, create a process for harvesting what’s useful from bad reviews, and, most importantly, use that information to their advantage.


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