As you probably know, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently announced that the popular iPhone would experience a $200 price drop. While this news brought a collective cheer from many of those yet to purchase an iPhone, many of the early adopters who paid the original $600 for their iPhones hit the web voicing their frustration at seemingly being taken advantage of. A day after the price cut was announced, Mr. Jobs posted an open letter on the Apple website apologizing to the loyal customers, and stating that existing iPhone owners could qualify for a $100 Apple Store credit, on the condition they had paid full retail for their iPhone. Apart from being such a quick response to public outcry, what made this letter unique was its final paragraph:
We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers. We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple.
That’s right. Steve Jobs apologized. Apple could easily have issued a press statement informing current customers of the $100 credit, but Apple knows its loyal customers (the bulk of iPhone’s early buyers) see Steve Jobs as the face and soul of Apple. They listen to him and trust him. His name on an apology speaks volumes to how the public perceives the integrity and values of the Apple brand.
It can be argued that a $100 store credit is simply a way for Apple to get customers into their stores, and a few have gone so far as to claim this was Apple’s marketing plan all along. Regardless of motive, Apple has made a positive step toward rectifying a mistake, and its CEO has taken ownership of that mistake. This is an unusual move in today’s business climate, especially in retail. Retailers might have a contingency plan for service recovery, but faceless marketing and indifferent front-line clerks typically execute it. For a top executive of Mr. Jobs’ persona and charisma to step up and take responsibility is virtually unheard of.
Some of you might recall that shortly after Steve Jobs returned to the company in the late 1990s, Apple launched a grammatically questionable advertising campaign encouraging potential customers to “Think Different”. It’s nearly ten years on, and while that slogan isn’t used externally anymore, it’s nice to see that it’s still a basis for Apple’s customer experience.