The introduction of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 went relatively well, with one notable exception – many people are up in arms about the quality of Apple’s new maps software. Withering criticism has been heaped upon the company. Here is the New York Times’ David Pogue. Here is The Wall Street Journal’s and All Things D’s Walt Mossberg. You know it is bad when a Tumblr blog has been created lampooning your software’s shortcomings. Yikes.
What does a company do in the face of such a maelstrom?
We previously chronicled Netflix’s botched rollout of a separate DVD-only service called “Quikster.” However, Apple’s move is different in that they can’t just create a system update that reverts back to Google Maps – which previously came pre-loaded on iPhones and iPads. Doing so would: a) defeat the business rationale for creating a maps app; b) admit that a competitor is flat-out better than they are at something; and c) provide Google with leverage – should they even allow such a move – to force Apple either into an exclusivity pact or to provide additional concessions.
Still, Apple’s maps stink.
Today CEO Tim Cook admitted that the company blew it. He even apologized, saying he is “extremely sorry.” This is from an AP article:
“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.”
It is a bold move for a company to mention, let alone outright endorse, competitors. However, as a PR move, this may prove extremely shrewd. Apple’s famously loyal customer base may appreciate Cook’s honesty and give the company some time to get this app right.
A key lesson, and one that applies to professional services companies as well, is that if you truly have botched something – oftentimes honesty is, as the cliché goes, the best policy. One of the worst things a company can do is stand their ground and remain tone deaf to their customers as they get pummeled by criticism.
These words can go a long way in preserving relationships:
We are truly sorry. We will fix the issue. In the meantime, here is what we can do for you.