Has your experience at the Apple Stores worsened indeed?
Apple has been expanding its retail presence like crazy in the past few years as its iPhone, iPad and Mac sales exploded. There are now 500+ Apple Stores, and tens of thousands of employees that work in retail for Apple.
The change of strategy, however, has been to build the Apple Stores as a branding vehicle - they are in some of the world's poshest places, like the recently opened 114 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France shop that is housed in a magnificent old building with kaleidoscopic solar roof tops.
Apple also uses its stores to showcase breathtaking design decisions that often blend historic architecture with futuristic, all-glass lunges, and various funky accents like said kaleidoscopic roof. What it doesn't use them much for any more, it turns out, is its signature five-star customer service.
A recent Bloomberg piece described a patchwork of experiences from customers who simply wanted to walk in and buy something - from 20-minute credit card payment session, to chasing retail employees to run said card only to turn out they are Geniuses who don't deal with point-of-sale customers.
We've been hearing this "long on loyalty, short on pay" mantra about Apple Store employees since at least 2012, yet the stores and staff in them are now many times more numerous with the consequent misses on the customer-centric aspect. It looks like the hiring of Angela Ahrendts to manage Apple's retail presence was long on glamour, short on substance, as could be expected from a former Burberry CEO.
Right after Apple's holiday quarter profit warning, Tim Cook replaced Mrs Ahrendts, who was one of the highest-paid execs during her stint at Apple, with a company veteran, Deirdre O’Brien. Needless to say, the problems in the Apple Store didn't start with Angela Ahrendts but were rather exacerbated by Apple's push into many new businesses and accessories like smartwatches and AirPods that were missing from stores months after they were announced, or the recent foray into services that will require retraining to sell subscriptions and the like. According to one of the Store employees interviewed:
Apple's newest magnificent store that opened over the weekend, is situated in the Carnegie Library in Washington D.C., and is the 505th retail shop of the company. That many Geniuses simply can't all be trained at the headquarters in Cupertino like they used to be, and are now given sessions at the stores where they will work, and for a week at that, not the two or three weeks of training they had before. Moreover, the Geniuses earn about $120 on average for the day after taxes and deductions which is more than, say, a T-Mobile store rep, yet often not to the level of the prompt and personalized service they are expected to provide.
Add to these the reduced space of the Genius bars, whose staffers now have to chase customers waiting for their gear to be fixed, throughout the store, and one can easily see how converting the Apple Stores into hang-out places has backfired somewhat on the clean cut buy-or-repair approach that Steve Jobs reportedly favored.
This is why we wanted to ask you of you have noticed a similar decrease in customer-centric focus upon your visits to your local Apple Store in the past few years when the breakneck expansion of their number was joined by an overhaul into hangout places and Today at Apple session meetings.