Apple employees say the company’s retail stores have become an ‘exercise in branding’ and no longer service customers well, according to a Bloomberg report.
Current and former employees tell Bloomberg that a combination of factors have led to a customer service decline at Apple Stores. They say it’s become increasingly difficult for visitors to quickly purchase an item or get support for their device by stopping at their local Apple Store.
“It took me forever to get someone to sell me the product,” says Web Smith, who runs 2PM Inc., an e-commerce research and consulting firm. “It’s become harder to buy something, even when the place isn’t busy. Buying a product there used to be a revered thing, now you don’t want to bother with the inconvenience.”
Sources say that changes made by former SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts are partly to blame. Ahrendts worked to turn the Apple Store experience into a more luxurious one, getting rid of unsightly lineups and checkouts.
One of her first moves was to turn the stores into “Town Squares,” where shoppers could hang out and, in industry parlance, “spend time with the brand.” Lines at the Genius Bar would have spoiled the effect, so stores started replacing the beloved customer-service counters with Genius Groves (comfortable seating under trees), tables and roaming Geniuses. Checkout counters also disappeared in favor of salespeople armed with mobile devices. The goal was to make Apple stores more like luxury showrooms, pushing offstage the unseemly business of checking out and fielding complaints.
Apple’s tremendous rate of growth worsened the situation. The company has opened over 500 new retail stores and hired 70,000 additional employees over the past 18 years. This growth resulted in workers who are no longer as technically savvy as they used to be.
“Employees used to be very skilled,” one source says. “When you came to Apple, you could walk in and talk to someone who happens to be a musician or videographer on the side, really knowledgeable. They hire really nice people now, but they are much less technical.”
When Ron Johnson was SVP of Retail, sales associates got three weeks to a month of training but now they get a week if they are joining an existing store. Geniuses were previously trained at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino but they are now mostly trained in stores.
With veteran Apple executive Deirdre O’Brien taking over as SVP of Retail and People, some employees are speculating that she will bring back the Genius Bar and perhaps create separate areas to promote Apple Music, Apple News+, the upcoming TV+ video service and iCloud storage.
More details in the full report linked below…
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