Apple's retail stores bring in a ton of people who buy a lot of things, least of all because of the "geniuses" who work at the tech help Genius Bars. It's not that these help counters aren't busy or successful, it's just that the people who work behind them aren't the main draw. In total, these the Genius Bars attract somewhere around 50,000 customers per day, Apple told The Loop's Jim Darymple. A majority come away from that experience either "extremely satisfied" or "very satisfied," according to a new survey from the NDP group. But 88 percent of those happy customers attributed that feeling to the very palatable zero dollars it cost them to get that service, not the service itself. Though Apple would like us to believe (via this Powerpoint it gave Business Insider) that its "people" are the secret to its success, really, it's a lot of other things.
In fact, the geniuses are possibly the biggest possible liabilities to Apple Store success, as the most erratic presences in Steve Jobs' perfectly designed retail box. We've heard stories of geniuses gone wild from Gizmodo's Sam Biddle, who got some former employees to admit to stealing phones and purposefully wiping out customer's hard drives, among other things. It only takes a few bad ones to ruin things, apparently, but even the more often found tamer geniuses have hurt business. As Apple has grown, anonymous former employees told The Wall Street Journal's Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ian Sherr last year, the company has seen the quality of staffers decline, partly because Apple has fewer "enthusiastic fans" to choose from.
Apple attempts to correct for this with what Gizmodo's Biddle, in a separate exclusive post, calls a "rigorously regimented, intricately scheduled training program" that takes place over two weeks. That, plus a handbook Apple gives out, which details how to mess up as little as possible. They teach some technical stuff, but a lot of it has to do with learning people skills. There is a workshop session called "the power of empathy," as well as a list of words Apple employees can't say, including "bomb" and "crash." These lessons teach customer service, yes, but, remember: geniuses don't sell anything. Rather, this is an attempt to train the geniuses to put the customer in the mood for buying, or at the very least give them a warm feeling about Apple products that may lead to buying in the future.
Some might argue the free Genius Bar service gets a big group of potential buyers in, but we could point to the many other Apple store parts that get them to buy the average $5,600 per square foot the Apple store generates. That Apple sells Apple stuff is the main driver. This isn't just about brand loyalty, or the fact that Apple products cost more than the average smartphone, tablet, laptop, and computer. (Though, that all helps.) The store gets its leg up because of "technical" advantages, analysts told Kane and Sherr. "It sells a single brand, has far fewer products and has only a few hundred stores compared to Best Buy's more than 4,000," they write. Each part of each store was also designed with the intention to get you to buy. The laptop screens have a particular tilt to encourage playing (and then buying), for example. The geniuses mostly just get the people in the door, reminding customers of Apple's greatness.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.