Mobile apps have a new weapon in the battle for customer eyeballs, a fight often lost because a company is too focused on getting new customers instead of nurturing current ones. UserVoice, a customer support vendor, has released a tool meant to increase customer engagement, and generate richer feedback right inside the app itself.

Customer Engagement is the New Black

Is it easier to measure a small customer base, or are startups and app makers simply more in tune with their audience? UserVoice has found its niche in the mobile apps world, but enterprises need to listen to their customers too.

Are they simply too big to be able to understand their customers, or are they using the wrong tools? Perhaps they just aren't asking the right questions.

UserVoice has updated its mobile helpdesk and feedback system with features that allow for detailed customer engagement right inside of a mobile app. Customers don't have to go to an online forum or email support because the knowledge base and customer support features are built right into the app.

Furthermore, instead of getting granular feedback from people via surveys, the Touchpoint Toolkit, as it's called, rolls this data gathering right into a voting system inside the app. It's called SmartVote, and its flavor of up vote or down vote methodology was inspired by Reddit, UserVoice CEO Richard White told the audience at UserVoice Summit 2013.

Ranking Ideas from the Most Engaged Customers

Letting customers vote on what new features to roll out, for example, would be a good time saver for developers. As the image below shows, people vote on their favorites, and the votes are instantly compiled for them to see. There's another step in there, however.



SmartVote lets people vote on ideas they think are good or bad, and the data can be more easily parsed for significant insight.

In between that first and last step is the option to mark the feature as something that person actually wants.

It's a way to differentiate whether the person simply prefers one selection over another versus if they are actually stoked about that feature. Obviously, the latter indicates a higher level of engagement for that person, and there's an option for them to sign up for an email update if and when that feature actually appears.

The interesting thing about these particular emails, White said, is the open rate is twice what a newsletter would get. Additionally, prompting people to choose which feature they might like to see in this way actually engages more casual users. Instead of always hearing from those heavily engaged super users, people who might not otherwise ever consider giving feedback may be compelled to do so.

White gave the example of using some of those super users' ideas, and letting the entire user base vote on what they think the next update should look like, for example. That way, a cross section of the user base is examined, and overall levels of engagement could go up.


Self service is the customer support way of the future, and UserVoice's Instant Answers feature is used to cut down on support response time.

Bing Ads Chooses UserVoice Over SharePoint

Mobile app PicCollage is one of UserVoice's biggest customers, PicCollage cofounder Ching-Mei Chen said, and her company has been testing the Touchpoint Toolkit for several weeks already. UserVoice cut support emails nearly in half with the help of the Instant Answers feature that suggests knowledge base info when a person types in a support question, she said.

When questions are submitted, device info is also included, and this helps cut down support time as well because developers can see if the issue is related specifically to that device or software version. These are all great benefits for mobile apps, but even Microsoft is using UserVoice for some of its online forums as well. 

Specifically, Bing Ads holds forth over several UserVoice forums, both public and private, and chose it over its homegrown SharePoint because it scales and is accessible from anywhere, Susan Palmer, experience program manager at Bing Ads said.

Palmer had found reports were hard to track with the tools she had been using, and UserVoice made the job much easier. As is the case with most of UserVoice's customers, White confirmed, Palmer found out about UserVoice via recommendation, in this case another product manager within Microsoft. 

As noted above, UserVoice has found its niche in the mobile apps world, but White is genuinely passionate about what the company's technology can do for any company that focuses on its customers. The company's feedback loop technology was ahead of its time when the company thought about launching it two years ago, he said, but the industry is ready now.

While customer support issues are important, White said, not every customer is in need of support. Using the UserVoice technology can help get feedback from those who aren't already in the support system loop, and it's done in a bit more of a subtle way. 

UserVoice offers four pricing levels including a free version for use with one agent. The Enhanced version is US $55 per month per agent, and includes things like location specific forums. At the highest level is the Pro version, and its US $95 per month per agent and includes custom terms of service and complete design control among other things.