Formal Apple apology over Maps app a lesson for SMEs
Small businesses have been urged to follow Apple's lead when it comes to corporate apologies, with experts saying Tim Cook's admission of fault over the company's poor-performing Maps app is an ideal way to address severe customer service issues.
The apology comes after customers have spent the last two weeks criticising the company's Maps app, with entire websites and blogs dedicated to showing off how inaccurate the tech giant's new app is in identifying even common places.
"It's never the right thing to just let it sit," says tech entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan, whose consumer electronics site Kogan suffered delivery issues over Christmas – the founder wrote a blog post apologising for the inconvenience.
"You need to acknowledge reality, and we take accountability for our actions. We need to acknowledge when we do well, and when we can improve."
Eve Ash, chief executive of consulting group Seven Dimensions, told SmartCompany the longer the delay in apologising, the worse the company's reputation will sour.
"Apologising quickly is all about transparency," she says.
"I think a lot of companies avoid apologising – as if it admits some kind of liability. The longer they delay the worse it gets," she says.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the unusual step of writing an apology on the company's website, saying the Maps application "fell short".
"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."
Cook also said that it will take time for Apple to improve the app and, until it does, customers can use alternative apps available in the App Store. He even referenced Google, whose app was tossed from iOS in favour of Apple's own.
"Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard," he said.
It's an unusual step for Apple, which usually depends on having its products polished for launch. But it's not the first time the company has been forced to swallow its pride. Two years ago, Steve Jobs held a press conference over signal issues with the iPhone 4, and offered all users a free case.
Ruslan Kogan says the apology underscores what small businesses should already be doing – taking accountability for their actions.
"You just have to apologise," he says, but at the same time he points out customers "understand that things go wrong".
"If a customer was promised a delivery at 2pm, but the driver rocks up at 3pm, that's not a deliberate slap in the face; things sometimes happen and we constantly try to grow things and make them better."
After last year's Christmas delivery issues, Kogan gave every customer a free $25 gift voucher – even to those customers who weren't affected. Kogan says making an apology not only means acknowledging the slight, but making change and compensation for it.
"I appreciate what Apple did. He even pointed users towards the competition."