After spending one year of research into every aspect of the Apple Retail Store for my book, The Apple Experience, there’s very little new information that surprises me. However, sometimes people leak information that can teach all of us a lot about running a successful business, communicating brand messages effectively, and enhancing the customer experience.
One such piece was recently leaked and posted on the tech site, Gizmodo. The title, How To Be a Genius: This is Apple’s Secret Employee Training Manual. According to Gizmodo Senior Staff Writer, Sam Biddle, “We read Apple’s secret Genius training manual from cover to cover. It’s a penetrating look inside Apple: psychological mastery, banned words, roleplaying—you’ve never seen anything like it.” This description alone should teach you a lot. It reinforces the fact that nothing at the Apple Store is taken for granted. From the way you are greeted when you walk into the store to the way Genius Bar experts (technical/troubleshooting specialists) communicate with agitated customers, Apple carefully considers the experience its customers have at every touch-point.
Apple likes to say it “values a magnetic personality” as much as—if not more—than proficiency. When a company hires a troubleshooting specialist, clearly that candidate needs to have more technical know-how than a salesperson. But it’s interesting to note that the internal Apple Store training manual for Apple Geniuses spends as much time on communication as it does on process and technical knowledge. After reviewing Gizmodo’s article on the secret manual, I found seven ways that Apple has reinvented the customer experience and, as a result, become America’s most profitable retailer.
Follow five steps of service. According to Gizmodo, “Selling is a science, summed up with 5 cute letters: (A)pproach, (P)probe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd.” These five words correspond to five specific steps that employees are trained to walk a customer. By the last step the customer should feel welcomed, empowered, happy, and eager to return. Although I explain the five steps in much more detail in this article and video, the steps are:
Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed and open-ended questions).
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
These steps work for any customer-facing interaction. AT&T has adopted a version of these steps in its retail stores and its customer service scores are rising because of it. The Ritz-Carlton uses a modified version of the steps. Restaurant owners use it. I even know a doctor who is incorporating the five steps to reimagine the hospital experience. In other words, these five steps work effectively whether you’re selling computers, phones, hotel rooms, food, or medical care.