Ever since the iPhone 4S was announced, there has been a mixed bag of reactions surrounding the phone’s latest voice-control feature called ‘Siri’. A lot of people love it. A lot of other people either dismiss Siri’s usefulness or claim that this stuff has been around in Android for ages.
Despite the negativity surrounding the new iPhone 4S, people have been using “Siri” so much that it has overwhelmed Apple’s servers. (For the un-initiated, Siri needs to talk to Apple servers to process and recognize the voice commands.) And Apple’s response to all this hype and hoopla surrounding the Siri outage has been just “silence”.
Sascha Segan from PCMag has an interesting take on the recent response from Apple. And as always, John Gruber responds in his blog post defending Apple. He rules out any benefit for Apple in responding to this issue.
For once, I disagree with Gruber.
Apple really could have said something regarding the Siri outages. As Sashcha puts it, a public message that they are adding additional capacity to their servers to meet the increasing workload, would have certainly calmed angry/irritated/frustrated people. This gesture doesn’t actually solve the problem and it also requires Apple bowing down a bit to accept that their servers need work (remember the iPhone 4 antenna gate issue and how Steve came out to agree that Apple was not perfect?). An official message like this is sure to garner good-will from ‘regular’ people. Humans tend to be more forgiving when they have a better idea about what is going on. Also, it is in times like these that most people do realize that even Apple is not immune to failure.
Now, Apple has the unique luxury of ignoring customer complaints longer than most companies can afford to (not forever though). Even if it does not pacify users through public “we-will-fix-it” messages like this, most of the sales will continue as usual (the iPhone 4 sales numbers clearly show that). In most cases, Apple’s products work and speak for themselves. In cases where they don’t, and when there is a serious public outcry, Apple handles them really well by taking the time to think through it, identify the cause of the problem and then come out with a public statement. This has not happened (yet?) for the issues surrounding the Siri outage.
While Apple can quietly ignore most of the complaints about Siri, this is another (small?) opportunity for them to actually show that they care about their customers and that they can be transparent when it comes to making the customer feel comfortable about what’s going on. Again, they are not indebted to anyone to do so.
Note that I mentioned “regular” people. That is because, there are people who jump at the slightest opportunity to criticize successful companies that they do not have a liking for, no matter how what the companies do. This is true not just for Apple, but also for Google, Microsoft and other companies of the same size and reach. If you ignore those naysayers, and target the regular people with an honest message that would be a heck of a thing to do.