Iturrey: Conciliatory Companies
By Alesy Iturrey, Staff Columnist
Published on Friday, October 5, 2012
In our pop-tech, consumer-based society, every company, product and service is rated, ranked and expected to be perfect. Just last Friday, Apple’s highly anticipated release of the iPhone 5 quickly sparked reviews of the design and software. Of all the critiques, what was most striking was how poorly the Apple Maps feature functioned in the new iOS6 operating system. In response to the widespread discontent and consumer backlash, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook posted a letter on Apple’s website to Apple customers apologizing for this major malfunction. In response to this very public glimpse of corporate honesty, Apple has received positive press. This media response to Apple following its apology for failing to produce a product that satisfied expectations has demonstrated that it can be to a company’s advantage to be honest about its product, even if it has shortcomings, in order to maintain the trust of its customers.
Apple Maps featured directions that were largely incorrect, flattened images of famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower and bridges that went underwater, among other glaring inaccuracies. The faulty application was not only limited to iPhone 5 users, but also affected Apple products that were updated to the new operating system, iOS6.
Technology has changed our exposure to such mistakes in many ways. Information and communication are widespread, and blunders such as missing products on Amazon’s website or unexpected changes like the implementation of Facebook’s Timeline feature are more visible than ever before. This drastically changes the relationship between individuals and the masses, as online and technically-savvy businesses must be transparent in order to gain customer trust. Similarly, individuals are now able to openly express grievances with the intention and expectation that the intended audience — Apple, in this case — will know of their critiques. A company may even respond in a big way, such as Apple has, through a public letter on their homepage.
A quick search notes that many of the largest and most well-known tech-based companies are frequently apologizing for a variety of issues. In addition to those mentioned at Apple, Amazon and Facebook, the Sony Corporation, Research In Motion’s Blackberry Corporation and even Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have all at some point (for some, more than once) apologized for faulty service.
As consumers, we should be pleased that the companies producing goods in our current technologically-advanced and media-regulated age are aware of the incredible loyalty required to ensure the trust of the consumer. Companies producing our products are interested in our satisfaction because it ensures good business. Honesty has become an effective means of managing product shortcomings and is better than previous attempts to mislead an intelligent and capable public.
Not only do these “incredibly high standards” lead major corporations to produce better products and larger profits, but they also are the same driving forces that create some of the most innovative and competitive brands that exist today. When we set these standards, mistakes will happen. But we will also see the emergence of some really good ideas. Errors should no longer be seen in a negative light — they produce and enforce some of the most unique and practical ideas, expediting the creative process in most cases. In Apple’s particular scenario, the Maps debacle could perhaps lead to a partnership between companies to change the way applications function on the iPhone and set the stage for more personalized and customizable smartphones.
Apologizing for a blatant inadequacy will generate respect. In a world in which creativity is a driving force in business and innovation is a proud sponsor of some of the most important cultural developments, there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. But in this same world where information is available with a click of a button, those mistakes or faulty claims are never hidden for long. Apple’s big-time fluke reminds us of the importance of honesty in our society and that we should demand that individuals and businesses possess integrity in everything they do.