I’ve written a lot about the need to apologize when you make a mistake. Owning up to your mistake is the first step in recovering and regaining the trust you have lost.
However, you can’t keep repeatedly apologizing for mistakes because the repetition engenders a suspicion that perhaps you really weren’t sincere to begin with. Instead your apology begins to look like a sham.
China’s state-run media has been waging a campaign against Apple's repair and warranty system, claiming “Apple has different policies in China than in other parts of the world.” To right the wrong Cook announced that “Apple will provide Chinese customers with an improved repair policy on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, clear and concise warranty information on the Apple website, increase supervision and training of authorized Apple retailers, and improved accessibility to feedback.” Taken by itself, the apology is a first step in repairing the damage done to Apple’s potential business in China.
This is not the first apology Cook or Apple has offered. When IOS 6 was released the furor over the half-baked Apple Maps resulted in an apology to consumers. Bloomberg Businessweek expands on Apple’s apology history, reporting that in 2007 “co-founder Steve Jobs offered users rebates and an apology because early customers complained about a price cut two months after it went on sale.” In 2010 Jobs again apologized for problems with the iPhone4’s antenna and even gave the purchaser a free case to help resolve the problem.
The problem with repeated apologies is that they begin to appear hollow—perhaps even insincere. And when they are perceived as insincere, your audience stops believing in you. Apple’s stock price closed at $428.91 on Monday. That’s a far cry from the heady days of +$700 value.
Apologies are great, and they work to resolve difficult situations. While one or two or even three or four apologies may be taken at face value, how many times can a person or company apologize before their audience loses faith?
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."