After weeks of anti-Apple rhetoric from China's state run media outlets complaining about iPhone customer service standards, Apple CEO Tim Cook has not only written a formal apology but even gone so far as to change the Chinese iPhone warranty policy — and it's better than Apple's American policy now.
Per the new China policy, when an iPhone breaks, Chinese iPhone 4 and 4S owners will get a brand-new phone with brand-new one-year warranties, instead of the refurbished phones with the same old warranties that had led complaints straight to the top in Beijing. Specifically, Chinese consumers will no longer get refurbished parts, and they also have a longer warranty than before. American consumers, it should be noted, have no such luxuries. For comparison, here's the current U.S. iPhone warranty policy — note our emphasis in yellow on the "refurbished" factor, which China's consumers no longer have to worry about:
For the last couple of weeks, the prominent state-run television stations and newspapers (and maybe a celebrity PR campaign) have portrayed Apple as "arrogant," insisting that the company's customer service standards were disrespectful to Chinese iPhone users because of the existing warranty policy. The iPhone only has a one-year warranty, while the standard of Chinese law is a two-year warranty. While the propaganda didn't convince everyone and analysts didn't really think Apple would lose too many customers, Cook still felt the need to make a public to-do in the name of customer service — he's made similar moves with a Siri abortion glitch and of course Apple Maps. "We are aware that a lack of communications," Cook said, "led to the perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn't care or attach enough importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers."
So, it seems, the public bashing didn't backfire after all, and maybe a lot of whining from the media in a big market can get things changed on the customer service front if the whining is loud enough. Though, from this Wall Street Journal report, it sounds like it took a little more than a state-run media campaign to get the attention of the CEO of the second most valuable company in the world. "The sharp criticism of Apple has led analysts to worry the Chinese government may take further regulatory steps aimed at foreign handset manufacturers like Apple," writes the Journal's Paul Mozor. And one regulator said it would heighten supervision over Apple. So, it probably wasn't just the public shaming that did it. But still.