Gini Dietrich

Apologies in a Crisis and Other Lessons from Apple

By: Gini Dietrich | October 1, 2012 | 
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On Saturday morning, Mr. D and I made our way to Michigan Avenue to visit the flagship Apple store.

I would have preferred the less touristy store in Lincoln Park, but we were there to get his new iPhone 5 and it was where they sent us (in other words, we had no choice).

Because he’s never upgraded his phone (he still had the very first and original iPhone), I didn’t make much of a stink of it because it’s about freaking time.

When we arrived at 9 a.m., the store wasn’t yet open, but they were letting people in who had reserved phones. A full hour before they opened to the public.

I’d heard rumblings that the Apple geeks (geniuses, customer service reps, what are they called?) are no longer allowed to spend more than 20 minutes with a customer, so I was also anxious to test that out.

Just a Rumor?

He had his phone within minutes of arriving, but then Benny (who became our BFF in the next hour and 20 minutes) suggested he do a back-up of his old phone from the cloud and then he sat with us while Mr. D set up his new phone.

It turns out, either because of the amount of money we spent or the rumor wasn’t true, Benny spent an inordinate amount of time with us. He was showing me cool tips and tricks with iOS 6 and, when something wasn’t working properly on my phone, he called over four different geeks to help me.

It was a really great experience, even though I was on Michigan Avenue on a Saturday.

This rumor is being told over and over again in news stories as one of the things Tim Cook has changed since taking over the leadership position at the company. Now, if someone were to come in and kick the tires or want tips and tricks without attending one of the gazillion training sessions each store offers, I can understand putting a limit on how long a geek can spend.

But, as paying customers, it was not something we experienced.

Apologies in a Crisis

Something else interesting is happening with the leadership at Apple. Tim Cook apologized on Friday to Apple customers, fans, and critics for the issues the maps have in the new operating system. Not only did he apologize, he suggested people use Google maps while they figure out the issues.

I’m positive Steve Jobs is rolling over in his grave because of that, but as a communications professional, I appreciate the humility and effectiveness an apology brings.

We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better. 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.

The last time the company faced a crisis was with the launch of the iPhone 4 and its reception issues. Steve Jobs, in his way, refused to admit anything was wrong, let alone apologize.

The Lesson for You

There isn’t a single organization devoid of mistakes. Heck, I run a small organization and even we’ve had cause to apologize from time to time.

You will make a mistake. You will have a customer upset with you. You will miss a social media alert that tells you someone is peeved. You will have customer service issues. You will face a crisis.

The single best thing you can do? Apologize and publicly tell customers what it is you’re going to do to fix the issue. Do not use the word “but” when you make your apology.

Say you’re sorry and we’re going to do X, Y, and Z to fix it.

Apple seems to be learning that lesson. So can you.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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