Bad apologies dominated 2017, but near year end Apple provided a better example of a sincere apology accompanied by a clear explanation and a meaningful act of contrition.
When consumer suspicions were confirmed that older iPhones intentionally slowed down, Apple issued a statement on its website confirming the suspicions were true. After apologizing for a lack of transparency, Apple explained the slowdown was designed to extend the battery life of older iPhones, not prod users to buy a new one. And, it said it would reduce the cost of replacement batteries from $79 to $29.
The company’s statement is straightforward, clear and informative. It is a mature response to consumer concerns and a good model for how to respond to a crisis.
Far too many apologies in 2017, especially ones associated with sexual misconduct, were feeble and inadequate. Some were quasi-apologies. Others were defensive or defiant. They contributed to further decay of the reputations of the would-be apologists.
Sincere apologies don’t come easy. They can be uncomfortable. The temptation is to trim the truth. That’s why Apple’s face-the-music statement stands out from the pack.
“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize.”
The statement acknowledges the problem, owns it and apologizes. Then comes an explanation that is neither defensive or fuzzy:
“About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.
“Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.”
However, consumer grumbling began last fall about slower iPhone performance, which gave rise to conspiracy theories about Apple’s true intentions. Apple’s statement tackles that head on:
“First and foremost, we have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”
That declaration is followed by an understandable explanation of how cell phone batteries age and can cause sudden, unexpected shutdowns.
Apple’s statement ends with a section titled “Addressing customer concerns,” which includes the offer to reduce the price of out-of-warranty batteries to $29. The iPhone maker says in early 2018 it “will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.”
The statement concludes: “At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support – and we will never forget that or take it for granted.”
Conspiracy theories may still bounce around, but Apple provided consumers – and skeptics – a clear, comprehensive explanation coupled with an apology, a consumer pledge and a compelling offer for users with aging batteries. You can’t ask for or expect more from a credible crisis response.