Apple is reported to be trying out a new customer service initiative across its retail stores. The new strategy, called “table selling,” involves assigning employees a product table where they are responsible for working with groups of customers who have different needs, but are interested in the same device. Customers had previously been helped on a first-come, first-served basis that sometimes caused lengthy wait times, with customers walking out frustrated.
While helping multiple customers with similar purchases might help Apple sell more iPads and iPhones at a more rapid pace, the new strategy does not go without its fair share of criticism. Some Apple Store employees believe the new approach could be too transactional and take away from the personal experience the Apple Store offers.
“I don’t think everyone has the same questions or needs,” an Apple Store employee familiar with the strategy said. “I feel like it’s slowly turning us into Best Buy. Every time I go to Best Buy, there is one guy barely able to handle and help 5 people all wanting different things. [Group selling] is taking away what used to make Apple special.”
Apple is also adding a new support role called “Dibs.” The “Dibber” is responsible for filtering out those with non-Apple problems. Apple wants its retail employees to provide only minor support for third-party products. The Dibber would point the customer toward the third-party’s support site for those products.
The Apple Store has ranked number one in sales per square foot for the past two years, earning twice as much as its closest competitor, jeweler Tiffany’s.
Apple CEO Tim Cook referenced the problem many Apple Stores face last February when he said, “Some of our stores aren’t big enough. But like cash, it’s a good problem to have,” according to Tim Cook. “So this year we’re closing 20 stores and moving them to larger spaces,” the Apple CEO added.
Former SVP of Retail John Browett took what is most assuredly a unique approach to Apple’s crowding problem, he fired employees, cut the number of hours for part-time employees, and froze the hiring of new workers. Let’s play a game called: “Why isn’t John Browett working for Apple any longer?”
I’m not sure the new selling approach will work for Apple. As a former Apple Specialist, I know that customers valued the one-on-one time I was able to spend with them. They also appreciated any help we tried to lend then no matter what the issue was. And as an employee, I knew that although I may have not sold them anything on that visit, they would most likely return to make a purchase later, in some cases asking for me by name. It was called building relationships. It worked.
What’s your opinion reader? Do you think Apple’s new approach to “customer service” is doomed to failure, or do you see big things for this new approach? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.