A little humility can go a long way — and result in better PR. In the face of an incessant media campaign against its customer service policies in the China and a week or so of being called “arrogant,” Apple chose a response that included a small change to iPhone warranties and a big apology — from its CEO himself, Tim Cook. The effect was nearly instant: just a day later, China’s government-controlled media outlets and a government agency are singing Apple’s praises.
Reuters reports the reactions:
“The company’s apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market … Its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies,” wrote popular tabloid the Global Times, published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.
The Foreign Ministry praised Apple for “conscientiously” responding to consumers’ demands.
“We approve of what Apple said,” spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.
It’s quite a change in tune. Over the past two weeks, Apple has been the subject of an orchestrated campaign that included local celebrities bashing Apple’s return and repair policies on social media; a series of editorials calling the company arrogant; and a demand for new warranty policies, including upping the standard one-year warranty to two years for the iPad.
Apple’s decision to have Cook put his name on an apology for the inconsistent warranty and repair policies in the country isn’t unprecedented — he’s apologized for the Apple Maps fiasco, and Steve Jobs apologized for the iPhone 4 antenna — but it’s rare. The outcome was positive for Apple this time: the apology had the immediate effect of changing the increasingly bad PR the company was getting in China. But it will be interesting to see what kind of precedent this sets for how Apple gets along in its No. 2 market with the Chinese media, and more importantly, the Chinese government.