There’s nothing to be gained from engaging with people at that level. Here we come to the nub of the matter: I’m not saying we shouldn’t be able to engage with customer reviews. We should be able to. Google understands that, but they’ve (as usual) chosen an odd and poorly-considered mechanism of encouraging app devs to air dirty laundry in public, and burn out due to having an additional public support forum over which they have zero control. That’s horrible. Count me out.
In all of my apps, I provide a way for the user to email me directly. I get a few of these a week (depending on the app), ranging from "can you add X", to "why doesn't it do Y" to a simple "thanks! this app solves my problem!". Because the volume isn't high, I can reply to them all.
I think I've only ever had one which was somewhat nasty, from a fairly anonymous email address. The app wasn't doing what he wanted, so in the end, I suggested he apply to Apple for a refund of the £3 it cost. Oh, well, I can't please everyone. I do wonder if he would be quite as rude to a Barista if his (£3) latte didn't have perfect latte-art on the top.
On the other side of the coin, in the past 24 hours, I've had two glowing and lovely emails from users of Trip Wallet - both who find the app fits their exact needs (and a great feature suggestion). These kind of emails make me want to keep making apps. Thanks Lars and Katherine.
I'm not sure I want to be able to publicly reply to reviews. I would like to be able to email the user, tho, even if both my, and their, addresses were hidden (ie, Apple's system sat in the middle).