Apologize for Your Screw Up: A Lesson from Apple’s Mea Culpa
No company is perfect. Openly acknowledging a mistake can improve your image and your relationship with your customer. But first, you have to fess up.
On Friday, September 28th, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology on the company’s website for their disappointing Maps app. In doing away with Google Maps and launching their own software, it soon became apparent that Apple had released a product not up to their usual standards. The world of iOS 6 Maps was a scary one in which cars melted away and giant plants roamed loose on the streets of New York.
It was not an unprecedented move (see Information Week for Apple’s Top 20 Public Apologies) but it struck me as unique in offering solutions to the problem while Apple worked on perfecting its software. It’s a valuable lesson in customer communication and worth a read.
Here is the apology in full:
To our customers,
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
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.
Anyone who has anxiously awaited an Apple product knows that the company is traditionally pretty tight-lipped. As OpenView blogger Nick Petri pointed out in a previous post, Steve Jobs was not in the business of apologizing for his product. And for the most part he didn’t have to. Apple products are revered for their simplicity, beauty, and efficiency. So when Maps failed to live up to consumer expectations, Cook knew it was time to be honest or risk an even stronger backlash.
There are valid criticisms of Apple and how they’ve handled their position in the marketplace. I’m sure if you asked Google about the Maps fiasco, they would say Apple had it coming. (In fact, Google chairman Eric Schmidt did say something to that effect.) However, Tim Cook’s apology is notable for suggesting alternatives in their competitor’s products and assuring us that they would not be happy until their customers were happy.
Incidents like this one are a reminder that honesty and humility are generally good policies to adopt. When you screw up, fess up.