For large organisations where mobile apps are a key channel, planning ahead of mobile operating system updates is essential if you want to retain hard-earned customer loyalty and protect your brand and bottom line.

At least once a year, hundreds of millions of people around the globe are prompted by a notification on their phone to update their operating system (OS) with the expectation of an improved mobile service. However, despite best intentions from Google or Apple, rather than improving the experience the OS update process can often lead to a frustrating user experience, especially when all of a sudden a favourite app no longer works.

Based on insights from our own in-house study into mobile consumer behaviour, Going Mobile, nearly half of mobile users have ditched a brand completely following a poor mobile experience. I have no doubt that it is only a matter of time until that favourite app that no longer works following an update, gets replaced by a competitor and/or relegated to the “it doesn’t work anymore” pile.

This should be a cause for concern for brands. Take the recent iOS7 update. According to Apple, the number of devices running iOS 7 surpassed the number running iOS 6 after only three days. With faster mobile OS adoption rates expected than previous OS updates, what does this mean for companies and how their customers interact with their brand via a mobile app?

The bottom line
Whether an app is free to download or not, the publisher has invested a lot of time and effort in bringing it to market and acquiring valued customers. If an app is not able to keep up with OS updates and maintain service levels, customers will have to make a simple choice to:

1. endure a break in service and wait for a fix
2. ditch the app and walk away

Regardless of the choice, the result is a negative brand experience and a negative impact on the bottom line. Even worse, publishers of subscription-based apps can potentially lose a repeat and loyal customer for life.

Who’s at fault here?
The app publisher? Google or Apple? The customer doesn’t care.

So what is the solution…?

Short-term
- Assure customers an update will be live within a timeframe. Keep them informed of your intentions
- Provide a refund to those paying customers that have paid for a service
- Do not ask customers to reinstall the old OS
- Do not send paying customers an obvious template email stating “we are unable to refund subscription payments due to devices no longer being compatible after customers have made changes to their devices”

Long-term
- For Google and Apple, they need to remind customers about the potential impact updating the OS will have on certain apps. They also need to consider how long it takes for companies and their developers to get up to speed. For example, the developer notice for Android KitKat 4.4 was released in late October giving 4-5 weeks development time (familiarise/plan/design/develop/test deploy). Apple on the other hand gave developers a more generous 15 week notice period.

- For companies, their development teams need to be set up in such a way that they can react to mobile OS updates from Apple and Google quicker, or at least address the prioritised areas where the update will impact on service and their bottom line.

 

By Ronan Fitzsimons, Senior Account Manager at Foolproof.


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