Apple stores are world-renowned beacons of retail success. Their architectural design and aesthetic feel set Apple apart from 99% of the retail market. When you walk into an Apple store, the atmosphere is bright, airy, clean, and filled with happy geeks that are willing to assist you.

But what’s life like behind the white and metallic walls that house Apple’s retail employees? The Wall Street Journal has combed through leaked Apple training manuals and interviewed former Apple employees. Here are some of the findings…

“A look at confidential training manuals, a recording of a store meeting and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal some of Apple’s store secrets. They include: intensive control of how employees interact with customers, scripted training for on-site tech support and consideration of every store detail down to the pre-loaded photos and music on demo devices.”

One of the most interesting tidbits from the WSJ’s report is that Apple employees aren’t allowed to say the word “unfortunately.”

“Former Geniuses say they were told to say “as it turns out” rather than “unfortunately” to sound less negative when they are unable to solve a tech problem.”

As Gawker points out, that sounds like a great approach for the guy who’s iPhone exploded next to his ear. “As it turns out, you have a shard of glass embedded in your ear drum.”

Employees aren’t allowed to correct customer mispronunciation of any Apple product. Apple feels that doing so makes the customer feel “patronized.” So next time you visit your local Apple store, make sure you say things like “iTouch” and “MacBook Hair” as often as possible.

The APPLE acronym is drilled into trainees from the very beginning.

An emphasis on customer satisfaction, not sales numbers, that is spelled out with the acronym APPLE.

  • Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome
  • Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs
  • 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.

I think that this is the only time I’ve ever seen the words “probe” and “politely” next to each other, but I suppose the saying holds true: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Apple store employees don’t make commission, and there’s a huge pay divide between what “Geniuses” and the rest of the positions earn.

“Retail pay starts at US$9-$15 per hour for sales staff and up to $30 per hour for Genius employees. A move from retail to corporate is rare and many employees leave when they realize they can’t advance up the ladder.”

Service packages (like the discontinued MobileMe) are the name of the game. To be a successful salesperson, Apple expects you to fulfill a certain quota for service products. Most recently, employees have been instructed to push One to One with accompanying Apple purchases. Apple Care has always been a stressed sale for store salespeople.

“If they don’t sell enough care plans, they will be re-trained or moved to another position within the store.”

On multiple occasions I’ve received excellent customer service in my local Apple store. The employees trust the customers, and you aren’t assumed to be a criminal that’s trying to cheat out of a refund policy or payed hardware replacement. The “positive” approach definitely pays off.

Apple runs a tight ship, and their stores continue to be among the most trafficked in the world. Cupertino is obviously doing something right.

[TUAW]

  • One Word for those employees = ROBOTS !

  • hmmmmm

    i find their UK stores to be nothing like this. they tend to be rude, patronizing, vague and all in all very unhelpful. i brought a macbook pro from my local store (which is in a major city) and despite paying over £4000 i was not not spoken to once and not even looked in the eyes. if it wasnt for the fact i was excited and wanted it there and then i would of brought it online. ive had many instances like this at different apple stores across the UK. in fact, now i think about it ive never experienced good service from any of them.

    • Cojendo

      Have you ever received good service in the UK in general? I’m in South Florida, been to many stores, and this article describes the Apple employees and stores to a “T”.

      • hmmmmm

        admittedly service in the UK is some of the worst in the world but i was aware of the high standards that apple as a company place on their employees that it suprises me that UK apple stores are amongst of worse offenders of bad service even in a country of shitty service. the term “be the rose amongst the shit” comes to mind.

  • “MacBook Hair”
    Hair hahahaha

    • dfgbhfdv

      What about MacNook Bear? or MacNook Dare?

  • That part about “unfortunately” is ridiculous, yet hilarious all at once.

    • Andre M

      Haha

  • Spoon2

    I recently bought a MacBook pro, the most expensive kind, I asked the
    geek/genius a few questions like, “is there a physical difference in
    the two screen options” and “what are the actual speed reported by the
    Apple SSD’s?”. The so called genius had no answers and was acting like
    I was stupid for even trying to ask such questions. After spending
    almost $3000, I question the label “Genius” and would like a discount,
    say, $5 per question these guys get wrong. Plus this sales rep was
    rude and his breath stunk. This was at the Domain in Austin Texas.
    Regardless, I used the in house Apple wifi to google my questions and
    in turn, walked out with a new 2011 MacBook Pro. Which I love. Maybe
    it’s just the type of people I attract. 🙂

  • STK10

    The APPLE acronym is used in most retail business, just not as the word apple of course. The steps are the same though. Services are always the key as well. How many times do you get asked if you would like an extended warranty or service like apple care. thats where all the GP is.

    The first commenter is correct, electronic businesses want their staff to be robots, follow the sales steps offer the services or go find another job. Trust me i know, i work for a major ones in australia.

  • iKing

    Good and funny article

  • Peter Jansen

    Well, the origin of the word “robot” in Czech is “worker” , so there’s nothing basically wrong with it. The first one, however to use it’s current meaning was the Czech writer Karel Čapek.
    And I do love the “unfortunate” part very much too. 😀

  • Tbv

    My experience with the Apple store here in Delaware was quite a positive one. They replaced my malfunctioning iPhone 4 quickly, with the exception of checking to see if it is not jailbroken or unlocked.
    All the sales staff were very pleasant.

  • Brandon

    “Probe Politely” haha, and MacBook Hair, oh man it made me laugh.

  • Tyrant

    Everywhere in the world when you enter apple store its nothing special,only in usa is maybe an experience! And that because in usa customers are really no.1 and there is respect with others money in other countries nothing special and in mine country is a joke!! So be thankfull to live in usa 🙂

  • ddr

    My experiences have always been good. The ‘J’ key on my 2007 model MacBook keyboard broke off, and since at teh time it was 2010 I figured they wouldn’t have the old scissor mechanism anymore, but the Genius just ran into the office, came out with a key and popped it in, no charge.

  • Greg

    I’m from London England . I’ve never had a bad experience unlike that other uk man lol

  • dfgbhfdv

    Have you ever been to one of those fake iPhone Unlocking sites? They don’t even have real people answer your questions, and if they get a question they are not programmed for, they get really confused. Funniest answer I’ve ever got, the is no kind of scam.

  • Pk

    I’m from London, I’ve had to take headphones back repeatedly (they keep failing on me) I keep expecting the Applestore staff to be snotty about it but they’ve changed them for me no problem every time, getting the receipt off their system from my credit card. I’ve always found staff polite and engaged, and not robotic in the slightest
    that’s Applestore Westfield and Regents St