Oct 4, 2012

Apple is fast to fail, fast to apologise

Nobody likes Apple's Google-rivalling maps application -- not even the CEO. But at least he apologised and vowed to do better, writes SmartCompany's Patrick Stafford.

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the controversy, Apple made its Maps application available to everyone a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a pretty big disaster and, understandably, customers who are used to Apple-style perfection aren't happy. Tim Cook took the unusual step of making an apology on the home page, saying the product wasn’t up to scratch. "We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," he said. It's a large piece of humble pie from the company that obsesses over details like the material used in the floor of its retail stores. And a revelation the company has a lot more work ahead of it if it wants to compete with Google. But the statement underlines something much more important: how the internet age has changed how businesses fess up for their mistakes. The digital age has made information so freely available, so quickly, that everything you do is amplified. As a business, if you create something extraordinary there's a chance it could go viral and end up providing you with literal overnight fame and success. On the other hand, everything else you do that's not so good can be made even worse by the fact people know about it. And it won't just be your customers, either. If a business does something particularly bad, there's absolutely no reason to think that other people won’t catch on and make an example out of you. Apple knows this, and that's exactly why Cook made his mea culpa -- something it rarely, if ever, has done before. And yet the actual admission of error isn't so much the important part of this equation, but rather the speed at which it's made. Ruslan Kogan found this out last year when his company experienced some shipping problems. Not only did he apologise on the company’s blog, but he gave everyone a $25 gift voucher. There’s hesitation among some companies to say sorry for things that go wrong, that somehow an admission of guilt may repel customers. Exactly the opposite: saying "sorry" is not what people expect and, as a result, will help improve any loyalty that may be broken. But that loyalty depends on speed. If you know there's a problem, you can't just wait a few days to make sure everything is okay. You need to be on Facebook and Twitter as soon as you can, even just letting customers know you're on top of things. Even now, some entrepreneurs will dismiss this type of thinking. But in an age where hackers can target your business just because they can, leaving yourself open for any sort of criticism is a mistake. An apology is good, if appropriate. And you should consider making one if circumstances allow. But the more important lesson here is speed -- if you're late, you may as well not say anything at all. *This article was originally published at SmartCompany

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7 thoughts on “Apple is fast to fail, fast to apologise

  1. ad avve

    You can still use Google Street View on iPad and Iphone. The site below is quite good:

  2. Gopala Krishnan

    An apology does not help as much as some simple action, possible today.

    Apple must provide a simple way for people to downgrade or revert to IOS5 Maps or IOS5 – both of which have been blocked by Apple. Millions of users who blindly upgraded and now want to go back to what they had paid for, are now stuck without a downgrade path. Many think it is illegal for Apple to not allow their users to revert to IOS5. The problem is a 100 times worse outside the USA, where Apple Maps data is very poor.

    Unfortunately, most of us Apple users followed the ‘nag’ screen and upgraded to IOS6. When a free update is available to Microsoft Office etc., almost everyone updates.

    Big companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft – as the average person becomes dependent on their products, they must be kept in check. they cant be irresponsible, illegal or unethical.

    IOS6 Maps Vs. IOS5 Maps – an analogy –

    If you bought a car with a satnav system and it was upgraded by the car company to one that did not work well, what must a consumer expect? Especially when the car company has announced a problem, along with a public apology?

    I suspect you will ask for a replacement satnav or the old satnav back as a temporary fix (and surely they cant refuse to give it back to you?) The car company is required by law to do a product recall and will also be liable for damage due to accidents caused.


    It is not much of an apology if you don’t allow people to revert to Google Maps as their default mapping service.

  4. Nick Heidl

    I and many Apple users would be even more appreciative of a “sorry” when Apple admit to ripping Australian’s off. The fact they don’t even go to the Senate Hearings, and rarely respond to any criticism, is an indication of arrogance. I disagree that Apple said sorry fast, far from it. They knew they were releasing what would be best described as Beta R1 version purely on the basis to immediately and prematurely remove Google maps.

  5. Peter Bayley

    Apple has peaked. The powerful influence that was Steve Jobs has gone. The aura of infallibility which allowed Apple such a high degree of control over its customers is dissipating and its users will gradually realize that there are viable alternatives outside the walled garden. Apple has taken us “higher” and for that, our thanks – but I doubt we shall see his like again.

  6. Nick Heidl

    If Apple are smart they will continue their trend of closed shop (iTunes) for a long time, doubt they will change that but more likely to allow “licensed” sites to utilise itunes engine and market products they can make money from, from which Apple would get a cut once again. What this means is Jailbreak is still a barrier but the apparent “choice” will alleviate many Apple users issues of this controlling factor apple has. However, when you are the most valuable company in the world Apple will flex only when it has to, as long as they don’y flex like Nokia who didn’t flex at all until it was too late (catch up). I don’t Apple has peaked, no, I think they will continue to bring new technology to their devices every year. The problem is, they don’t manufacture which is Samsungs trick card for faster innovation.

  7. Plane

    The failure of the Apple maps was widespread and well reported. They couldn’t deny it, nor readily fix it and saying “we are looking into” would have across as lame. The Apple apology was forced on them simply by the negative widespread media being generated by it.

    And Apple has always been a media savy company

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