Controlling the Customer Experience

June 29, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The A.P.P.L.E. Way 06/20/11

TOPIC SUMMARY:

The Wall Street Journal just did an interesting deep-dive on the Apple retail stores, interviewing current and past employees and obtaining some of their training manuals. One of the things that stuck out for me was the fact that they aren’t really relying on some technology advantage – it’s about carefully controlling the customer experience. For example, they use the acronym APPLE as follows:

A – Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome.
P – Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
P – Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
L – Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
E – End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

Nothing high-tech about that at all. Each employee receives at least 40 hours of training to ensure they know the products and understand how to treat customers. They are not on commission and earn a typical $9-$15/hr or around $30/hr at the Genius Bar.

And the results are an impressive $4,406 per square foot. To put that in context, compare it to Tiffany at $3,070, Coach at $1,776, and Best Buy at $880.

Other retailers have tried to emulate the model, but no one has seen success. Apple is Apple, and they did exactly what worked for their business. No one else is Apple, so no one else should copy their stores. But retailers can and should be inspired by Apple’s success and strive to find ways to improve their own customers’ in-store experience. And it doesn’t take a ton of technology.

Discussion question:  What can other stores learn from Apple’s employee training methods and customer service guidelines?

My post:

Apple’s incredible margins and focus around specific and limited product makes the job of creating extraordinary customer experiences the norm. However, the lesson for all retailers is the focus, passion and willing to invest from senior leaders that drives the consistent execution. It is not necessary to emulate everything Apple is doing. The key is to learn from them and apply SOMETHING to your approach that will make a difference in the experiences of your staff and for the customer.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  The A.P.P.L.E. Way

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Apple stumbles

February 7, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Apple Goes Soft in Fourth Quarter – 2/4/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

Apple Stores open at least a year saw customer traffic fall off 1.8 percent in the December quarter and sales drop 17.4 percent, according to Charlie Wolf, a hardware analyst with Needham.

Mr. Wolf said that visitors to Apple Stores during the holidays “were not in a spending mood.”

This has to be a concern to Apple, which a Barron’s article points out, sells computers and other gadgetry that tends to be more expensive than competitive products on the market.

A falloff by Apple has to be a concern to mall owners and managers since the chain has consistently attracted consumers and registered sales that Mr. Wolf said were “undoubtedly the highest among retail chains in the country.”

Discussion questions:  Is there cause for concern for Apple Store operations? Where do you see opportunities for Apple to benefit during the economic downturn?

My post: 

Despite the universal falloff in retail spending across all categories, including luxury retailers, it will shock many to see Apple participate in the malaise.  To this point their focused vision, gorgeous stores, innovative products and flawless execution have enabled them to deliver stunning results and to this point defy the economic downturn. 

I believe that this is not a major long term concern for Apple.  It is merely the reality that consumers are cutting back on all but the essentials, including iPods and other cool Apple products.  The relatively small drop in visits (-1.8%) shows that people still love the product but just can’t part with the money at the moment – but will be back to buy as their confidence in their financial situation improves.  Apple has the financial strength to weather this storm – which for them will be relatively brief compared to the majority of boring me-too retailers out there.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13529

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