updated 11:27 am EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
Letter from Apple promises little actual change, however
Just a day after Apple promised to "review" its warranty policies and make some minor changes in implementation for the Chinese market, early reaction to the open letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook appears to have neutralized the state-run media attacks on the company. Cook issued a lengthy letter that apologized for any "miscommunication" and lack of transparency that may have appeared "arrogant" but appears to be heavier on a more humble tone than much in the way of actual shifts in the repair policy.
In the letter (a computer-translated version of which appears below), Cook promises that the company will post a "clear and concise" explanation of the Apple warranty; review and tighten the training of Apple repair providers in China to ensure a more consistent experience; create a new feedback portal that makes it easier for Chinese customers to directly contact the company over warranty issues, and improve handling of "repair or replacement" issues that crop up in the first two weeks after an iPhone 4 or 4S purchase. Apple's official warranty otherwise remains largely as before, but with more emphasis on consumer awareness of the policies.
Reaction to the "apology" has been positive, with a Foreign Ministry spokesperson saying it "approved" of what Apple said, and praising the company for responding "conscientiously" to demands from "consumers." Complaints about Apple's after-sale service had previously come mostly from state-run media rather than genuine grassroots, with many online consumers defending Apple from the more exaggerated charges propagated by attacks in the news media and TV shows. In the "apology" letter, Cook reiterates that more than 90 percent of Chinese customers have expressed satisfaction with Apple's existing policies.
A tabloid published by the same company that puts out the official Communist Party newspaper The People's Daily said that the apology letter "has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market" and that "its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies," reports Reuters. The statement hints that other US tech companies may soon find themselves in a similar situation to Apple -- a recent state white paper from a government think tank claimed that the Chinese market is "too reliant" on Google's Android OS and said the search giant was using its dominance to discriminate against Chinese manufacturers, and the state-run media outlets have previously gone after other foreign companies such as KFC operator Yum Brands and McDonalds.
Companies like Apple find it difficult to navigate China's multi-audience state media outlets, where the agendas for such attacks as those Apple has endured for the last two weeks are difficult to fathom. Chinese media is known to be susceptible to corruption and bribery by rivals, or engage in attacks intended to bolster Chinese manufacturers ahead of foreign companies for political or economic reasons.
China is Apple's second-largest and fastest-growing market, and its primary target for smartphone sales. The smear campaign, based largely on misinformation regarding perceptions of "bias" against Chinese consumers in repair and warranty service, seems originally designed to spark discontent with Apple but backfired after the orchestration effort to get Chinese celebrities to join in the Apple-bashing was revealed. Online citizens parodied the propaganda effort and ridiculed state-run monopolies as being far worse than Apple when it came to the way they treated customer service, resulting in a significant embarrassment for some state-run media outlets.
Despite popular sentiment appearing to favor Apple, the company's new more pro-active response to government attacks demonstrates that it is learning to be more adept at defending its reputation. The company is having not-dissimilar fights over warranty issues in some EU countries, where laws require a two-year (but more limited) warranty compared to Apple's usual one-year (but more wide-ranging) policy. The company has struggled with authorities in Italy, Australia and Spain among other places to avoid mandatory two-year extensions.
Cook's letter (machine-translated version), in its entirety:
To our Chinese consumers:
In the past two weeks, we have received a lot of feedback about Apple in China repair and warranty policy. We are not only a profound reflection on these views, together with relevant departments to carefully study the "Three Guarantees", and also look at our maintenance policy communication and combing our management specifications of Apple Authorized Service Provider. We are aware that, due to the lack of external communication in this process and lead to the speculation that Apple arrogance, do not care or do not attach importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers.
In order to further improve the level of service, we are implementing the following four major adjustments:
Improved iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S repair policy
[bullet] Provide a concise and clear on the website of the official Apple repair and warranty policy statement
[bullet] Increase the intensity of the supervision and training of Apple Authorized Service Provider
[bullet] Related issues to ensure that consumers can easily contact Apple Feedback Service
At the same time, we also realize that operating in China, and communicate much we need to learn the place. Here, we assure you, Apple for the commitment and enthusiasm indistinguishable from other countries. Bring the best user experience for consumers and satisfactory service is our ideals, our commitment, and it has been deeply rooted in Apple's corporate culture. We will make unremitting efforts to achieve this goal.
iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S repair policy improvements are as follows:
So far, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S repair this in one of three ways: as from the purchase date of 15 days found the problem, we will be entitled to a refund or replacement for consumers recalculated 1 year warranty period iPhone; 15 days after discovery problem, Apple will replace the part depending, such as camera modules or batteries; replacement parts also can not quickly repaired the iPhone, Apple will provide consumers with a part reassembled new parts, retaining only the consumers existing iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S back cover.
Nearly 90% of customers expressed satisfaction with our repair services, and consumer satisfaction is the most important criterion for Apple to measure its own success.
But others suggested that part of the re-assembly of repair almost replace the machine, so the direct replacement of a device will be more beneficial to consumers. Therefore, since April 2013, Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S service pack upgrade for all 1-year warranty on new equipment replacement parts and replacement date recalculated.
Consumer iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider has been part of the re-assembly kit maintenance, we will replace them as whole and for maintenance after the iPhone recalculated from the date of repair year warranty. Apple's warranty system has been updated for the information and, therefore, affected consumers do not need to take any additional action.
Now, all consumers can see on our site clear and comprehensive maintenance and warranty policy terms and conditions.
We are pleased to provide consumers with information who wish to learn more about the after-sales service. For example, we have been to provide 2 year warranty for the MacBook Air and Mac computer motherboards and other major components. Likewise, the the iPad main components has been entitled to a 2-year warranty period, and other components for 1 year warranty.
We realize that our site before this is not clearly stated policy. Hopefully, the following will answer all the questions about Apple's [warranty] services.
Apple is to make greater efforts to ensure that Apple Authorized Service Provider to follow our policies, and make every effort to provide consumers with the highest quality service. Week since March 18, 2013, we made a new training materials for all Apple Authorized Service Provider to ensure that each staff provide services for Apple products is not only familiar with our policies, but also to grasp three guarantees "provisions and related policies.
At the same time, we have taken the initiative through face-to-face meetings and other forms of verification and to ensure that each Apple Authorized Service Provider have opened training courses to update the knowledge of the staff for the maintenance and warranty policies. We will make unremitting efforts and continuous monitoring of the performance of the Apple Authorized Service Provider to ensure that consumers can get the highest quality service.
Now, the feedback service-related issues is also very convenient. As the consumers of the services provided by any Apple Store retail store or an Apple authorized service provider doubt, to Welcome www.apple.com.cn/support/service/feedback/ directly get in touch with us. Our goal is to consumers where to buy Apple products or receive services, users can enjoy world-class experience.
Heartfelt thank you to give us valuable feedback, we always harbor immense respect to China, the Chinese consumer is always the top priority of our hearts.