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Apple's apology not too late

(Xinhua)

19:37, April 02, 2013

BEIJING, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Apple CEO Tim Cook's apology to Chinese consumers is better late than never.

Amid waves of criticism regarding the company's unfair customer service in China, Cook made the apology in a way that was more specific and sincere than the company's previous attempts to apologize.

"We are aware that due to insufficient communication, the public holds the idea that Apple is arrogant, disregards or pays little attention to the feedback of consumers," read a statement to consumers signed by Cook and posted on Apple China's website.

"Therefore, we want to express our sincere apology for any concern of misunderstanding arising from the process," the statement said.

Although Apple fans were disappointed by the company's indifference before the CEO issued the apology, the belated letter finally demonstrates the crisis management skills that a first-class company needs, especially in a country that generates 13 percent of its sales.

"China is currently our second-largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will," Cook said while visiting Beijing in January.

China's huge market potential is undoubtedly the most attractive trait for foreign companies that wish to do business in China.

Foreign companies reap handsome and stable profits with innovative products, but at the same time, are cossetted by the loyal fans who tend to become indiscriminate when it comes to unfair treatment.

Renowned companies that overspend their consumers' loyalty and trust are not only behaving unwisely, but also risk hurting the credibility that they have spent so long to build.

Chinese consumers, like those in other emerging markets, are becoming increasingly selective and developing a greater taste for high-quality products and services.

Providing customers with the products and services they deserve and applying equal standards in emerging markets is not merely appreciated, but required for foreign companies.

The statement said Apple will make four major adjustments to improve its after-sales services for Chinese consumers, including improving its warranty policy for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S and enhancing supervision and training for authorized service providers.

"Apple is making greater efforts to ensure Apple Authorized Service Providers follow our policies and offer high quality services to consumers," Cook said in the statement.

Apple's apology and positive moves should have come earlier, but it is not too late for it to rebuild Chinese consumers' trust.

Apple is not the only company that has had to repair a broken image in China. Auto giant Volkswagen said last month that it will recall 384,181 vehicles with defective gearboxes in China, a move that it previously refused to make. The company recalled 13,500 such vehicles in North America in 2009, when similar complaints surfaced.

Last year, Carrefour was fined for fraudulent pricing practices in several of its stores in China. The world's second-largest retailer admitted the wrongdoing and made an apology.

Rather than taking pains to make up for faulty practices, foreign companies should prevent such practices from being implemented in the first place. A preventative approach is necessary if they wish to sustain their business in China.

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