You won’t hurt your rep as much if you give notice and deliver a polished product.
Apple would rather miss another deadline than sell a half-baked product.
The iPhone X maker disappointed customers over the weekend after announcing that its long-awaited smart speaker to rival the Amazon Echo and Google Home won’t be available for the holidays.
“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” Apple said in a statement. “We’ll start shipping in the U.S., U.K. and Australia in early 2018.”
This isn’t the first time that Apple has failed to deliver new hardware when promised. Some customers who ordered the Apple Watch 3 from Target and Best Buy this past September saw their orders pushed back until October. Last year, Apple also pushed back the the AirPods’ October launch until December, barely getting the wireless earbuds on shelves by Christmas. So when Apple announced in June that the $349 Siri-enabled HomePod would be available by December, some industry insiders were skeptical it would be actually home for Christmas.
“It’s a new product category [for Apple], which can have an impact on development. This is a new technology that’s a lot more complicated,” Brian White, the Global Head of Technology Hardware & Software at Drexel Hamilton, told Moneyish. “So when they predicted a December release [in June], they were already pressing up against the holidays and cutting it very, very close.”
Ben Arnold, the tech industry consumer analyst for The NPD Group, agreed. “That’s an untested market for Apple swimming around with the likes of Bose and Sonos, who have been making high quality speakers forever,” he told Moneyish. “That ups the ante a little bit, and if they’re selling a $350 speaker, it’s got to sound really good and do everything they say it does.”
But not every manufacturer – or every employee, for that matter – can get away with missing a deadline. Here’s what you can learn from Apple in the event that you realize you’re not going to be able to finish something for a client or an employer in time.
‘Fess up ASAP. The sooner you give a customer, client or manager notice that something isn’t going to be ready, the better. This gives them time to find an alternative solution. So someone who was going to buy a HomePod for Christmas still has five weeks to shop for a different gift.
Give a brief explanation and solution. No one has patience for a long-winded excuse, but something succinct and specific – such as not having all of the bugs worked out in a new piece of hardware and needing an extra month to solve it – is more professional than just saying, “I’m not going to meet this deadline. Can I have an extension?”
Build goodwill. If you have a reputation for delivering quality products, then you are worth the wait if something comes up. “Apple is a perfectionist, so when customers bring home an Apple product, they know it’s going to work well, especially relative to competitors,” said White. “It would hurt their brand more if they came out with a half-baked product that disappointed the consumer.” That being said, you only have so much capital to spend, and blowing too many deadlines will make you look unreliable.
Have something else to show. The HomePod may be delayed, but customers hungry for one of Apple’s new toys have also got the iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch 3, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro and the 4K Apple TV to play with in the meantime. So present what pieces of your project or merchandise line that you do have ready to go, or show an alternate product as a solution.
Arnold also pointed out that Apple’s extensive catalog – and the 375 million or so devices with Siri already on them – encourages buyers to wait for the HomePod to connect with all of their their other gadgets. “You’ve got people that are very much entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, so Apple’s biggest strength is this installed base,” he said.
Give a realistic deadline in the first place. Factor in delays when coming up with a finishing time. And don’t talk a big game if you suspect for a minute you can’t deliver. White said that Apple didn’t market the HomePod beyond the initial June announcement, and it wasn’t available for preorder yet, which minimizes the disappointment. “So coming out sometime early next year is fine,” said White. “It could wind up as a Valentine’s Day gift or in the Easter basket.”
The experts also noted that revealing the HomePod six months ago was a shrewd marketing move. When the AirPods were released two months late last year, for example, inventory was low and expectation was high – and they sold out everywhere.
“I won’t discount [delaying releases] as marketing levers to drum up more buzz and more interest in the product,” said Arnold. So Apple prematurely announcing its HomePod half a year ago got customers who may have been ready to buy an Echo or a Google Home to hold off until they saw what Apple could do.
“It got those devotees to wait,” Arnold added. “It told customers, ‘You can buy this $100 Echo now – or we have something exciting for you.’ And a lot of customers view it as being worth the wait.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved