When developers talk about wanting to respond to reviews, many of them haven’t thought through the social implications of what that means. Matt Gemmell has. As Marco Arment points out, replying publicly also leaves iTunes (more) open for abuse by unscrupulous or uninformed developers.
One idea I’ve had is giving developers the ability to add a support link to a review. This helps both the developer and customer in several ways:
- The customer who reported the problem could be notified that a support link was added to their review and would be directed to a site which is designed to help them out. This could also lead to direct contact if there are other issues to be resolved.
- Potential customers that are reading reviews can see how a developer responds to problems. If you come across a product with lots of support links, you know that’s a developer who cares about his customers.
- Putting customer service front and center in iTunes makes it desirable for developers to create and maintain sites that provide helpful information. There are far too many products where the customer support link just goes to a product page that’s unhelpful.
Of course, restrictions would be needed to prevent abuse of these external links. For example, Apple could decide to only allow links to a developer’s support domain. There could also be limits on the number of support links a developer has at their disposal (like promotion codes, we would then use them judiciously.)
Finally, these thoughts only cover the information we exchange with the customers publicly. I still think there are cases where private contact via email is vital.