App developers could learn from Facebook’s customer service

Every Facebook developer is familiar with Facebook’s development languages: Facebook Platform runs on FBML, FQL, and FBJS, and developers learn those languages in order to create great apps. But while developers comb Facebook’s Wiki in order to figure out how to use the fb:photo tag, they rarely take the time to build up other parts of their operations critical to their success. Remembering customer service, however, can be just as important as remembering a semi-colon at the end of a line of code.

Facebook has consistently provided strong customer service for its users. While recent conflicts between customer service and advertising options have grabbed headlines (see Facebook’s controversial ad program “Beacon”), Facebook typically responds closely to user interests. A look at former Facebooker Karel Baloun’s book shows that Facebook devoted early manpower and dollars to its customer service team. That meant listening to users in order to improve the product.

This is an issue that frequently affects app developers. Developers expect to release their app, receive acclaim, and then watch the checks roll in. Real maintenance is a lot more difficult and time consuming. Just as Facebook has a customer service team, developers need to dedicate their own resources to monitoring the application directory listings and email support addresses for their apps. It can be the difference between success and failure on Facebook Platform.

The application “About” page is the most important place to monitor what users are thinking. It’s important to closely watch user discussion, and then respond appropriately. Users appreciate active developers. Keeping an eye on the About page can entail everything from answering user questions to deleting spam and competititors’ reviews. It’s not a heavy job, but it is a consistent one – one bad review can be detrimental to an app for a day, so keeping watch is crucial. After spending hours writing code, it makes sense to spend at least a few minutes listening to users.

Recent changes in Facebook’s Application directory have made customer service more important than ever. Developers need to become especially active due to the new compulsory “Reviews” board, which lets users leave any review they like. More positively, Facebook has allowed users to become “Fans” of applications. The ability to update fans on an app could raise daily active user rates and give a boost to applications. More fans means more publicity for an app. Customer Service pays real dividends.

And that’s why Facebook has always put an emphasis on listening to users. Developers should too. Like Facebook, developers face conflicts between service and business: look at the rampant spread of user-abusing forced invitations. However, it’s important for any developer to recognize the role that customer service plays in their app’s success. Code is obviously crucial, but it should definitely be supplemented by a conversation with users, even after the last file has been pushed.

Phil Edwards is Director of Business Development at Lonely CEO Media, a Facebook application development and consulting firm

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9 Responses to “App developers could learn from Facebook’s customer service”

  1. Facebook App Developer: Good Customer Service Will Pay Big says:

    [...] Facebook has a guest post this morning authored by a Facebook application developer. Phil Edwards, the Director of Business Development at [...]

  2. Jason Rubenstein says:

    Absolutely! Not only should developers constantly read their application wall and review boards, but also regularly solicit users for feedback via the updates and other communication channels in FB.

    As you start to gain a core set of customers, which include especially the “evangelical” fans & customers, ask them for feedback and begin the conversation about your product. Getting them involved in your application is essentially inviting them to take some level ownership of the app, and therefore some level of emotional investment in what it is you are, in reality, creating together.

    Clearly, most developers do not do this; I state this without speculation, based on a non-trivial number of emails we receive for our app “Just Three Words”* that state how we’re the most responsive developers with the best customer service on FB the particular user has experienced.

    This isn’t by accident – Paul Thiel, co-creator of JTW, ran a Professional Services program for a software company for several years. For us, customer service was baked into our design and business plan from day 0. And currently, while I’m geeking out on code he’s responding to customers as well as generating responses via active engagement of our customers.

    Self-promotion aside, I highly encourage every app developer out there to consider, plan, and implement excellent customer service from launch-day forward. Respond quickly, and make your customers a part of your team. Let them know the’re a part of the team, and that they input is important. Which, of course, it is.

    * http://apps.facebook.com/threewords/

  3. Facebook App Developer: Good Customer Service Will Pay Big | Social Media News Desk says:

    [...] Facebook has a guest post this morning authored by a Facebook application developer. Phil Edwards, the Director of Business Development at [...]

  4. Crazy Guide to the Internet » Blog Archive » Facebook App Developer: Good Customer Service Will Pay Big says:

    [...] Facebook has a temporary locate this morning authored by a Facebook covering developer. Phil Edwards, the Director of Business Development at [...]

  5. Inside Facebook » Facebook Makes Customer Service Very Difficult for Developers says:

    [...] customer service is of great importance to Facebook and app developers alike. However, the inherent limitations of the platform make establishing channels for user feedback an [...]

  6. Lorian Gordon says:

    I need HELP… I am trying to get my name and my no picture off of facebook. I went into profile and I checked off everything I could and thought that would taked care of it. However I am still on facebook. Can you help me please.
    Thank You,
    Lorian

  7. Rev. Elgaroo Brenza says:

    “Facebook has consistently provided strong customer service for its users.”

    We must live in alternate universes. Have you ever actually tried to use it? Over a month and ten messages in, I have yet to recieve a non-automated response. Maybe once upon a time, but currently, Facebook customer service pretty much DOES NOT EXIST.

  8. Marie boersema says:

    Why do have advertisement accross my profile & Home page. I can’t even read all my post!!! Not very happy about this

  9. April 3, 2010 says:

    I have been a advid FB and Farmville user since January … yesterday for some reason my connection to FB was cut off. I have no way of contacting them…. I can not leave a message on their wall, because I can’t connect to FB…. Please pass this on.. thank you!

    Dyanne Fries

    ACCOUNT TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE, HOW MUCH LONGER?

    Last night at 7:30PM, while harvesting my crops in FarmVille, my connection to the internet “dropped”! I quit Safari, re-booted my computer, and proceeded to log back in. After three failed attempts, convinced I must be repeating the same typo, I stopped … looked up … and right in front of me … in the middle of my monitor
    a pink box with the following message read…

    “…your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience … ”

    Both concerned and intrigued … I set out to verify the authenticity of the FB “error message” .. after a couple hours of perusing FB blogs and discussion groups,I was relieved to learn and happy to share that the FB message is “clean” .. non-viral and hacker free!!

    This morning at 7:30 AM, 12 hours now passed …still, I am unable to log onto Facebook!
    Last night at 7:30PM, while harvesting my crops in FarmVille, my connection to the Facebook “dropped”

    ACCOUNT TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE, HOW MUCH LONGER?

    Dyanne Fries
    dyfries@aol.com

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