24 March 2022

Three Steps That Elevated SeaWorld’s App Reviews From Rough to Rave

Trenholm Ninestein, Director, Product Management
Mobile / Technology

This blog was co-authored by Trenholm Ninestein and Adam Tierney.

By the time your mobile app receives feedback on the App Store or Google Play stores, it’s too late. If the users of your app had a less than stellar experience, their grievances will be aired in public and your average app rating will take the hit. This can result in your app updates falling on deaf ears and may begin to drive users away.

People are interacting with reviews of apps and services more than ever. In fact, recent research shows that review interactions such as searching, filtering and clicking to expand and read an entire review are up 50% from pre-pandemic levels. This suggests that consumers are looking to build confidence in the apps and services they use during these uncertain times.

It didn’t have to be like this, and it doesn’t have to continue. With proper preparation, and a data-driven mindset, your mobile app can land in the hands of your customers and start earning positive reviews to tilt the scale in your favor.

If better app reviews feel out of reach, especially on a small budget, we’ve got three steps you can take today to pull you app reviews up off the floor. 

Rightpoint Dives In with SeaWorld

SeaWorld’s guests were frustrated. All four of the company’s mobile apps were receiving negative reviews and users were asking for new capabilities - and this was happening for both their Android and iOS apps. In addition to delivering a new mobile app experience, Rightpoint partnered with the new SeaWorld digital leadership team to bring their app reviews from below 2 stars to greater than 4 stars across both platforms. 

This would not be an easy fix. SeaWorld’s negative app reviews were the result of a frustrating experience that left guests feeling like their only recourse was to raise their issues loudly in public. How could we help funnel guest feedback to the teams equipped to fix it and preserve the integrity of our app reviews?

A Little Help from Our Friends

For support managing the qualitative and quantitative feedback in the new apps, Rightpoint turned to two of SeaWorld’s existing partners: Qualtrics and Quantum Metric. Qualtrics is an experience management platform that helps product teams collect customer feedback and turn it into actionable data. Quantum Metric is a data and analytics platform that provides opportunities and insights into customer friction and intent. Together, these tools provided the team with the ability to connect session replays and data to help uncover the root cause behind a negative customer experience.

Both tools have mobile SDKs that make it easy to start making waves. With Qualtrics, we included a way for guests to leave structured feedback without having to leave the app experience. Since SeaWorld has many branded apps, the team took measures to connect the guest data to the appropriate location – and know if the feedback was left while the customer was in the park. This way, the app user can give directed feedback without taking their complaints to the app store.

At the same time, Quantum Metric would give real-time access into how users are interacting with the app experience, including key workflows such as onboarding and commerce funnels. The team would also be equipped with app performance data, engagement metrics and the information to drive decision making. The session replays provide two things of incredible value: first, an ability to view “over the shoulder” of a user interacting with the app; and second, the metadata behind the replay – platform, location, API calls and network details – offering a holistic capture for the team. Individual replays that demonstrate friction can be quickly aggregated to gauge pervasiveness and impact to others.

In order to bolster your app’s customer satisfaction while receiving high quality qualitative feedback that is actionable, you can chart the following course and take some of our suggestions for early actions:

Step 1: Dig into the verbatims and craft problem statements

If you have an existing app or service, start by taking the time to read thru the feedback that customers have left on the app stores. What are the good aspects that users enjoy? What are they struggling with in the experience? What features did you release that may have impacted satisfaction? Use these reviews to create a prioritized list of problem statements that are worth solving for your customers. Much of the guest feedback for SeaWorld was centered around the in-park experience, specifically access to passes and location. With this feedback, the team could focus on delivering value to guests around the in-park experience, and delay development on features that were not as prevalent outside of a park location.

The SeaWorld team started with a strategy to focus on the in-park capabilities due to the guest feedback and competitive analysis they conducted. After reading your app reviews, find the persona and problem that is most valuable to solve – and set key metrics to measure success.

Step 2: Get obsessed with data – and review it constantly

If your app is not collecting any data, it will be impossible to measure the results. You must first instrument key surface areas that can provide indicators of where to go deeper in your analysis. It is also valuable to gather information on the non-functional aspects of your app experience, such as crashes, that also impact the user. Setting targets and goals will help to orient the team to success; while configuring prompts and alerts when events are out of band lets the team quicky address and rescue a bad user experience. Before releasing a new feature, develop a hypothesis around the data – what outcome do you think it will deliver? Do you have the ability to measure its success? As a team, it is mission critical to then review the data on an ongoing basis.

Take a cue from the SeaWorld product team and setup weekly stakeholder meetings to review data and metrics. Start by tracking the latest app ratings, review sentiment and crash rating – and discuss ways to improve these scores. Over time, layer in more data, such as engagement, revenue and conversion – whatever the key metrics are for your app experience.

Step 3: Communicate with users to let them know you are listening

When a customer takes the time to leave app feedback, they expect to be heard by the brand. With real-time engagement on social media, the expectations are even greater: 7 in 10 Twitter users expect to receive a response from brands that they reach out to directly. The good news is that both app stores provide mechanisms for responding to customer reviews. Let users know they have been heard and that their feedback is important. 

After the release of the new SeaWorld suite of apps, customers started asking for new features to address their needs. As the amount accelerated for commonly requested functionality, those items popped to the front of the roadmap. 

The SeaWorld product team actively monitors reviews and informs their users that they are listening. Schedule a time each week to craft personal responses and address their feedback – if their request is in a future release, let them know.

The Splash Achieved

By all metrics, this project was a resounding success. At present, since the app’s release in July 2021, it has received more than 20,000 ratings on the platform app stores, and 10,000 feedback surveys filled out in the app. The app’s star rating was boosted to a whopping 4.9 on the App Store and 4.6 on Google Play. In addition, the accelerated amount of qualitative feedback has helped to inform the product roadmap and provide immediate course correction for near-term priorities. Many of the old one-star reviews have been turned around in the wake of the success, highlighted by the user post below.

Let us help you do the same! Contact Rightpoint today.