Bad Updates and Bad PR

I have a particular app on a mobile device that I use heavily in the course of my daily work, and I’ve used a version of this app for over a decade. I originally discovered it when I was using Palm-based devices, and it has worked well for me over the years. In fact, I like the app so well that I didn’t switch over to my current mobile platform until this specific app was available.

Unfortunately, the developers are suffering the effects of a buggy update that has had a number of obviously unexpected side effects:
1) Some users have lost data.
2) For some users the app simply stops working after the update.
3) After updating, some users are being prompted to make in-app purchases for functionality they’ve already paid for.

All in all it seems to be a pretty bad update. From the numbers of people who are having problems, questions are coming up about how thoroughly this update was tested before it was rolled out. If you can believe the flamers on the company’s support forums and in app store reviews, the company will likely have no customers left after this debacle. Of course many of those reviews are highly over-reactive and unfair, but in a way the company is inviting such vehement criticism due to a simple lack of communication.

Perhaps the most tragic thing about this whole problem is that the company is doing nothing publicly to reassure their customers. No damage control. Nothing.

Many of the forum posts are simply going unanswered. The ones that are answered get a stock reply inquiring about OS versions and suggesting that the customers open a support ticket.

I actually tried that approach. Shortly after discovering update-related problems, I opened a support ticket. Over 24 hours later, I’ve received nothing but an autoreply. I’ve done a lot of fiddling with the app, and I’ve added some information that I think might be helpful, but as far as I can tell, no one from the company has even looked at this ticket.

To add insult to injury, I wrote a forum post that could have helped at least some of the people struggling with update problems, but it disappeared into the ether. I submitted it on the company’s website, and it simply never showed up. It was almost as if someone didn’t want to see any solutions showing up on the website.

The developers are probably struggling to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, but in the meantime their customers are left in the dark. A simple post on their forum outlining the known issues and what they are doing to rectify them would at least let people know that SOMETHING is happening. But the company is strangely silent. Surely they must realize that this whole experience is damaging their brand. At the very least, the extremely critical reviews are likely costing them sales.

At the moment I’m fairly calm. My app is working, albeit with problems. I haven’t lost data. I can carry on with my work. And I still have time to move to a new solution if that proves necessary.

For my fellow fans of this app, you have my complete sympathy. It could easily have been my device that lost data.

For the company who has yet to acknowledge a widespread problem, we, your customers, are still out here. We’d like to hear from you. Good or bad, at least talk to us and let us know what’s going on.

No one wants to have a project blow up like this, but you can tell a lot about an organization by the way they take ownership of problems (or not) and how quickly and clearly communicate a repair strategy.