Friday, September 7, 2007

Apple "Oops" Offers Lesson for Small Businesses

When I watched the news Wednesday evening, I was surprised to hear the announcement by Apple that it was cutting the price of an iPhone by $200 (photo courtesy of Apple).

“Wow,” I thought, “there are going to be thousands of very upset iPhone customers.”

People waited in line for days to get their hands on one of the new toys ~ I mean tools ~ and paid $599 (and up) for the privilege. Not only that, but those dedicated Apple disciples hyped the phone and added to its market value by giving it cache.

This is the thanks they get for that loyalty? To see new customers pay 2/3 of what they did?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said yesterday in an interview published in USA Today that the first iPhone customers would have to understand “that’s technology.” He weakly suggested that they return to the store where they bought the iPhone and try to get some money back from them.

What the?!

Jobs must have heard the sound of pitchforks and torches from the angry mob by the time he returned to HQ from that interview because within hours, he issued an apology to iPhone customers and offered a $100 rebate to those who paid the full price.

While most small businesses will not be in a position to create so much outrage or offend quite so many of its loyal customers in one swift motion, small businesses can still take note of the importance of owning up to mistakes. Jobs’ quick turnaround provides the best “teachable moment” of this story.

Oftentimes, companies—especially small businesses—drag their feet and take too long to correct errors. I’ve seen small businesses take months, even up to a year, to remedy mistakes in shipping the wrong merchandise, or applying a credit for returned merchandise. By the time the error is corrected, the customer’s loyalty has already been lost.

When you make a mistake with your small business customers—and you will, it’s part of life—move swiftly and sincerely to make amends.

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