Apple hasn’t been having a great year. Now, chief executive Tim Cook has made the bold step of offering a formal apology to Chinese consumers after the country’s media attacked the company over supposedly unfair warranty measures.
China is a massive opportunity for Apple, being one of its fastest-growing markets. Any upset could potentially tip the balance of power away from Apple into the arms of Korean giant Samsung and its Galaxy range of smartphones.
This is only the latest incident for Apple. Last year, Cook gave a formal apology for the company’s launch of its maps but apologies from Apple are few and far between.
The controversy started last month, when China Central Television aired allegations customers who return defective iPhone 4 and 4S models receive a refurbished phone, rather than a brand new replacement. There were also allegations customers had to keep the back-plates of their originals phones.
The China Consumers Association called for Apple to “sincerely apologise to Chinese consumers”.
The outcry was enough to make Cook issue a formal apology, in Chinese, no less, and said the company would make four adjustments, including replacing iPhone models with new units, rather than refurbished models.
Cook also said the company would update its warranty policy, and improve training and supervision of retail employees.
“For the concerns and misunderstandings passed on to the consumer, we express our sincere apologies,” he said.
It’s easy to see why Apple is so willing to apologise – the country is one of the company’s fastest-growing regions and contributed $6.8 billion to the bottom line during the first quarter of the current financial year.
But this also marks the second formal apology Apple has made in a year, the first being for its troubled Apple Maps launch. Such sudden enthusiasm for apologising suggests Apple is more willing to recognise when it’s on the back foot.
Here are three lessons you should take away from the experience:
1. Get your warranty programs in order
We have some pretty vigorous warranty laws in Australia, but that doesn’t mean companies haven’t tried to break them. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is on to companies about this.
If the Apple controversy teaches you anything, it’s that you need to have your warranty programs in order. Don’t contradict existing laws or regulations, or short-change customers – you’re only going to get yourself in trouble.
2. When customers complain, deliver results
It’s not enough to just say, “We’re working on it”. You have to come up with some tangible changes you can make to ensure customers are getting what they’re asking for.
Apple has promised its warranty policies will change as a result of the outcry. If you can’t deliver, don’t bother making a statement. It’ll only make the situation worse.
3. Admit when you get it wrong
Too many companies don’t actually admit when they do something wrong. If you screw up, you need to admit it.
By actually apologising, Apple is doing more than most companies ever do. By virtue of that decision, it will improve its standing among Chinese consumers.
If you do something wrong, don’t try to hide. Just admit it.