Apple’s Big Mea Culpa On Maps

mapsNow that the initial hoopla of the iPhone 5 introduction has died down, we can settle in and take a good look at how things are going for the platform. All things considered, it looks like another strong release from Apple. There is one major hiccup though regarding the maps application. Since the iPhone’s introduction, the maps application has been provided by Google. For reasons not entirely known and not important for this discussion  Apple replaced Google  maps with a custom map application of their own. The Apple map application has some distinct advantages over the Google map, however, the Apple app has been riddled with problems as well. General map accuracy is less than perfect and locating points of interest on the map is particularly frustrating. This is Apple’s first try at a map application while Google has been perfecting things for years so you can see where Apple is going to have a growing period. But there is no forgiveness among customers who just want thing to work well and Apple customers are not happy. Complaints about the map application have been ramped since the introduction last week.

Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook release a letter to Apple customers officially recognizing the problems and apologizing  He even suggests several alternatives customers can use while Apple improves their maps. Among the alternatives are Apple rivals Microsoft with Bing maps and Google itself with a version of Google maps that can run in the iPhone web browser. Location based services and mapping are going to become very important core technologies in the near future which is why I think Apple created their own map application. Even Amazon is racing to add their own maps to the Kindle platform.

But here is the takeaway I want you to think about. Apple has a serious problem with one of the most popular and important functions of the iPhone. Rather than hide, deny, or deflect as so many companies will do, Apple came out front and center to acknowledge the problem and apologize. This is what customers want. They will often forgive you your problems so long as you let customers know you are aware of the problems and you care about fixing them. Social media is an open opportunity to get hammered by customers and I’ve seen company Facebook pages with a litany of complaints. You can see this as something bad and wonder why you opened yourself to this kind of abuse, or you can see it as an opportunity to talk to your customers about their issues. Explain more clearly certain things and maybe even solve some actual problems in your company. Either way, just talking to customers and letting them know you even care at all makes a huge difference and will often calm down the most agitated complainer. I have seen direct evidence of this and will feature it in a future post.