When Apple’s CEO Tim Cook apologized over the flaws in its new Maps software, the gasps from business commentators everywhere were almost audible.
Not only had Apple shown some humility, but, even more surprising, Cook recommended competitors’ software while Apple worked out the bugs. Apple released the apology in the following statement:
“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.
Humility and apologies were not exactly the typical responses of Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. To be sure, Apple has seen its fair share of problems, with issues ranging from iPhone 4 reception problems to hiccups with MobileMe and iCloud. But Jobs’ response was typically dismissive or combative. Some observers have speculated that this stance may have been the consequence of a consummate perfectionist. But be that as it may, those days appear to be over. Welcome to a newer, gentler Apple.
Cook’s apology was not the only evidence of this shift in tone. In late March, Apple and its main manufacturing contractor, Foxconn, agreed to significantly improve labor conditions at Chinese factories, following months of controversy worldwide.
Are these shifts in tone advisable? Some observers have suggested that Apple has so much goodwill that it can afford to spend some of it without losing its customers’ loyalty. But this perspective is problematic. It is based on the idea that goodwill, loyalty, or trust works like a bank account, but this metaphor is misleading. To their horror, companies frequently experience that their trust bank account gets depleted much more rapidly than they thought. Rather, it is much better to think of trust as currency. The same message from a highly trusted company has more credibility than a company with lower trust. But like a currency, trust needs to be maintained, especially when things go wrong and people pay attention. From this perspective, Tim Cook’s actions look like confidence-building measures of a company that cares about its customers and their communities.