People seem to either love or hate the Genius Bar in Apple’s retail stores. Rarely does there seem to be any in between. But smart-as$ photo to the right aside, the model that the company created is one that’s revered as one of the great success stories in the history of retail, with experts crediting its creation as a vital ingredient in the recipe that produced Apple’s explosive growth over the past decade or so.
And that appears to be no accident — the Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation of sorts, reviewing employee training manuals and talking to Apple executives off the record, to get some insight into how the whole operation is run. Perhaps to the surprise of no one, what Genius Bar employees say to customers is sort of tightly scripted. These people do work for Steve Jobs, after all.
According to several employees and training manuals, sales associates are taught an unusual sales philosophy: not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems. “Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs—some of which they may not even realize they have,” one training manual says. To that end, employees receive no sales commissions and have no sales quotas.
“You were never trying to close a sale. It was about finding solutions for a customer and finding their pain points,” said David Ambrose, 26 years old, who worked at an Apple store in Arlington, Va., until 2007.
Apple lays its “steps of service” out in the acronym APPLE, according to a 2007 employee training manual reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that is still in use.
“Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome,” “Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs,” “Present a solution for the customer to take home today,” “Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns,” and “End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.”
Apple’s control of the customer experience extends down to the minutest details. The store’s confidential training manual tells in-store technicians exactly what to say to customers it describes as emotional: “Listen and limit your responses to simple reassurances that you are doing so. ‘Uh-huh’ ‘I understand,’ etc.”
The whole thing is sort of mundane, but quite interesting if you’re intrigued by the cult of Apple, human psychology, or both. I can certainly recall times that I went into the Apple store and walked out with things that I had no intention of buying when I walked in. I suppose an employee “found solutions” for problems I didn’t even know I had. Those rascals!
All told, though there’s some good hate out there for it, I love the Genius Bar. Without it there have so many times where I’d have been stuck like a cat in a hamster ball…