After the highly anticipated iPhone 5 release hit a major snag with its Map app, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, issued a formal apology that took the bite out of brand bashing and growing criticisms of what has been dubbed Mapplegate.

Like the proverbial worm in the apple, Apple’s map app failure surprised customers and also created an unintentional opening for competitors (e.g. Google Maps) to capitalize on Apple’s management lapse. Stellar sales won’t erase product shortcomings or prevent reputation crises – not even if you lead Apple, the technology behemoth.

Management

The map app failure took Apple off of innovations tech pedestal and left some to question if Apple’s leadership post Steve Jobs will continue to rise to the level of past accomplishments. The argument could be made that discontinuing the Google partnership before Apple had a strong map app of their own was a premature management decision. Apple might have been better off if it offered their map alongside of Google Maps until Apple Map app was ready to shine alone.

While Tim Cook should be given credit for swiftly apologizing for the inadequate map on iPhone 5, every download of a competitor map app (suggested by Cook in his apology letter) works against Apple’s goal of building their geo mapping market share. Apple’s management took a sizeable risk by releasing a map that wasn’t ready for primetime and now management has little wiggle room for error going forward. Apple’s new proprietary map app simply wasn’t up to par with what customers expect from Apple’s brand which has left a bad taste in the mouth of Apple’s customers – not good for Apple’s reputation or brand.

Power of an Apology

Apple’s apology shows it is possible to leverage crisis management techniques to improve reputation by:

  1. interrupting the tide of criticisms
  2. shaping the story surrounding a crisis
  3. interjecting solutions to the short-term problems
  4. show a brand cares about the products they deliver to customers

Telling your side of the story–the truth–taps into the unspoken power every CEO has at their disposal. In times of crisis, customers want to hear directly and swiftly from the person at the helm of the organization.

Lessons

This humbling product development misstep has taught Apple several important lessons:

  1. Brand loyal customers want what they pay for
  2. Brand loyal customers will share what they dislike about smartphones (more than what they like).
  3. Recommending competitors can lead others to question if management is capable of creating and delivering quality products customers count on & crave
  4. A sincere apology can diminish brand storms
  5. Reputation is a tentative and should be highly valued
  6. Management decisions should always consider the effect management decisions might have on reputation, consumer confidence and brand loyalty.

Tim Cook’s full apology follows:

What can Apple do to remain the apple of their customers’ eye?

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