We asked you if you have experienced a notable decline in customer service focus in your local Apple Store in the past few years when the breakneck expansion of retail locations joined forces with the ex-Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts overhaul of Stores into hangout places. "Employees used to be very skilled," said one insider interviewed by Bloomberg. "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."
Said Bloomberg investigation described a patchwork of experiences from customers who simply wanted to walk in and buy something. These ranged from a 20-minute credit card payment session, to chasing retail employees to run said card only to find out they are Geniuses who don't deal with point-of-sale customers. The Genius bar has been shrunk significantly to make space for things like Today at Apple sessions, or simply hangout spots, rather than sit by the person who is repairing your Apple gear and chat about the issue.
All in all, over 70% of out respondents have experienced some sort of a downgrade in the customer-centric appeal of Apple Stores lately, especially the so-called "mission" customers that simply want to go in and buy something quickly or have it repaired without Geniuses chasing them throughout the admittedly beautiful interior.
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.
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.
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.