Should Apple Listen to the Critics of iOS7?

Businesses are always told to care about what users say. Should they?

Well, we know that Apple has often followed the opposite path. More than Apple listening to us, it’s we who listen to Apple. We often wait for a new Apple offering with the excitement of a child waiting for a surprise and then are thrilled with what we get.

But something different seems to be happening this time around with Apple’s recent release of iOS7, a new operating system for mobile devices. The folks at Apple have given us what they believe is a great new mobile experience. But there has been a spate of positive and negative comments on social media. Many complained about the long time it took to download the new system, and reactions to the product features have been mixed: While there have been many positive comments about the new features, a significant number of people have been critical. Experts who tried an earlier release of iOS7 are among the harsher critics.

Should businesses like Apple care about early negative feedback when releasing a new product?

Listening to users after we release a product is important. This is especially crucial for companies like Apple that do not rely heavily, if at all, on user analysis before they start a new project and base the new offering on their hypothesis about what people will love. Now is the time to check. The point is not whether to listen but how to act on customer criticisms.

If feedback signals an error (like some reports of security bugs in iOS7), there is no doubt that this has to be addressed and fixed.

But how should a company handle negative comments about its design choices — about features that function perfectly but some users simply do not like? Here is some advice.

Read the data carefully. This is especially important for unsolicited comments on social media. Customers who are satisfied are usually less vocal; they are less likely to post comments than those who complain. Social media tend to track a higher share of negative criticism.

So once you have carefully interpreted the market feedback, there are three possible actions. Change the feature if you determine that you made the wrong assumptions about people aspirations, but be careful to preserve the overall integrity of the product. Keep it like it is if you think that people will come to appreciate it in time, but explain better the “why” of your design choice. And finally, push even further and make the feature even more extreme if you realize that users are not capturing its full benefits because your approach was too mild.

David Fields

Principal of Solve. Directs our Northwest Arkansas team. Works closely with clients to identify, scope, and manage engagements that improve business results through Business Intelligence and Custom Application Development.