Should app developers provide support contacts?

Microsoft has been continuously in the community and critic spotlight with their handling of the recent update issues. Now heads are turning to the decision in no longer enforcing support contact means to be supplied in apps for users to use to approach developers. Was this a wrong move by the software giant?

I am in agreement with a select number of developers who have already voiced concerns - there has to be some level of quality control after an application (or game) has made it to the Marketplace and has begun racking in downloads. Should a user locate a genuine bug, or experiences issues with the application, there has to be some way to get in touch with the developer to receive support.

As well as bug reporting and support, for any developer who begins to skip providing a support channel, they will be missing the golden opportunity for potential feedback from users in how to further improve their application(s). I have often got in contact with developers with regards to a feature that I feel should be present, or simply to enquire as to how development is progressing and what the roadmap currently looks like.

You can compare this to purchasing hardware (or software) from a company and noticing there is no contactable email, address or phone number. Puzzled, you continue to deploy the hardware or install the software and begin using the purchased product. Days down the line you come across a serious hardware fault or issue with the software and require immediate assistance. What then? Where does your voice reach a destination where your cries are somewhat understandable (except all the swearing of course)?

Back to WP7 and the matter at hand I am under the obvious impression this could impact the Marketplace in a negative way. Reviews and ratings provided by the community are the main variables that your decision-making considers when choosing to download (and purchase) an app or not. Should these be cluttered with bug reports and ranting instead of constructive criticism and feedback or ratings being marked low due to the app malfunctioning, this will blow potential users downloading. A simple support email present solves this. 

I'm not too sure why Microsoft has decided to take this approach when they have established such a high level of quality in applications and the user experience - especially the support side of things. Todd Brix, head of Marketplace and Developer Experience Product Management (MDEPM for short?), was approached by ZDNet for some answers. Todd explained in a reply that they "have revised [their] certification criteria for applications submitted to the Marketplace to make the inclusion of consumer support contact information a highly recommended, but optional, practice."

Moving onto to reasoning for the alteration:

"While we still believe and will continue to share data and encourage developers to voluntarily provide customer support contact information as part of their app or game experience, we no longer think it is right to fail an app or preclude it from being published because a developer either overlooked or did not want to provide such contact support information."

I have to halt the conversation for a brief moment and disagree with what Todd asserted. I believe it’s more than just to disapprove an application due to no support details being included, how hard is it to include a dedicated email address at the very least? Phonealytics, by developer Luke Lowrey, has an included "Feedback" link in the settings that opens up the mail app with a recipient added. I've spoken to him too - nice guy. Point being, it's not difficult to implement means of contact.

Returning to Todd's statements, he believes the Marketplace reviews and rating submissions will remain justified.

"We believe the market and consumers are better able to decide whether a developer’s decision to provide customer support contact information indicates a pride of creation and a mechanism to get direct customer feedback or not. The data we have collected and observed suggests that apps that include customer support contact information are better rated, downloaded more often, and result in better developer results and a better customer experience."

With this change that has been put forward, along with other reports and news around Microsoft's questionable user experience based decisions. One begs to consider the possibility that they may be focusing too heavily on denting Apple and Google with their retrospect OS instead of establishing a solid user base with strong satisfaction foundations. Sure, things may look rosy and peachy for the time being, but who's to say more debatable decisions wont be made in the near future. I just hope Microsoft learn lessons quickly. 

What are your views on this predicament? Do you believe Microsoft should have developers provide contactable details to customers/users?

Source: ZDNet

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.