For better or worse, Apple's retail locations are becoming as much of a cultural institution as their products. More people visit Apple Stores each year than the four Disney theme parks. What's the secret to their success? According to the Wall Street Journal, it's simply just giving a shit about the customer.
WSJ has an in-depth report looking at the behind-the-scenes practices of the retail outlet, right down to employee training. By obtaining internal documents and talking to former employees, the Wall Street Journal lays out the ways in which Apple has ascended to the top of the retail pile. Above all else, Apple Stores focus on having knowledgable people who know how to interact with customers and keep them happy (enter the Genius Bar). These are the five main concepts which seem most consequential to their success:
• Don't Sell, Help: Apple employees are instructed to not pressure customers into buying something, but rather, help them with whatever they need. This is somewhat counterintuitive to the strategies of most sales-oriented retail outlets, but it's also annoying to deal with the people working at most sales-oriented retail outlets. Employees are trained to listen to the customer and respond only using pleasant mannerisms. Words such as unfortunately, which is gentle-yet-negative, is a forbidden phrase.
• Drink the Koolaid: Apple generally looks to hire people who actually use and like their products. Candidates undergo multiple rounds of interviews which the WSJ says are competitive. Brand loyalty and enthusiasm is looked upon favourably.
• Knowledge is Power: Apple prides themselves on training their employees. According to the Wall Street Journal, when an employee is hired they not only undergo weeks of drill-down training, but also have to shadow a sales associate on the floor. Becoming a genius bar technician requires even more training, and also comes with regular testing pertaining to Apple products. Other stores often expect employees to get a crash course in customer service through trial and error on the sales floor.
• Mums the Word: For Apple Store employees, loose lips sink ships. More specifically, they sink their own ship. If any Apple Store employee is caught responding to rumours, acknowledging bugs, defects or glitches before receiving a directive to do so, or writing about the company on the internet in any manner, they will be fired. New inventory is constantly kept within view of security cameras, or locked in the manager's office.
• Lookin' Good, Sellin' Good: When Jobs came back to Apple in the '90s and revamped the company from top to bottom, one of the things he wanted to do was reshape the conception most people had of electronics stores. Instead of a messy rat's nests of gear that valued utility over interior design, Jobs made sure retail outlets were bright and modern-looking, with beautiful materials and and a clutter-free layout. The attention to simplicity makes it less overwhelming for the average customer and the fixation on beauty is something that eventually spread from the interior to the exterior.
That said, the whole launch day practice of clapping and cheering as people buy a new gadget at the Apple Store, along with the general attitude that said product will change your life is creepy. Damn creepy. It just makes me want to buy stuff online more often than not. But I digress. There are plenty of other good facts in the article you should read through. [WSJ]