Apple Stores On ‘The Nose’ As iPhone Sales Slump
Apple stores are on the “The nose” with consumer complaints climbing according to recent claims.
Recently Bloomberg interviewed both current and former Apple employees who blamed a combination of factors on the decline in the experience that consumers get in an Apple store.
The staff claim that Apple stores today have become mostly an exercise in branding and no longer do a good job serving customers.
They claim that less qualified staff are being hired during the past few years.
It’s also alleged that The Genius Bar, once renowned for its tech support, has been largely replaced with staff who roam the stores and are harder to track down.
The claims come as Apple customers are not buying as many iPhones and are hanging onto devices longer and need them repaired.
One customer told Bloomberg that he visited an Apple store to buy a laptop for his 11-year-old daughter and spent almost 20 minutes getting an employee to accept his credit card.
Apparently, he asked staff to run his sale, but he was told they couldn’t because they were Apple “Geniuses” handling tech support and not sales.
“It took me forever to get someone to sell me the product,” the customer who runs an e-commerce research and consulting firm.
“It’s become harder to buy something, even when the place isn’t busy. Buying a product there used to be a revered thing, now you don’t want to bother with the inconvenience.”
Apple customers have taken to online forums and social media to vent their frustration.
Three months ago, Apple issued a warning that revenues were set to fall and would come in well below forecasts, mostly owing to slowing sales of the iPhone. Now it appears that problems at their stores has also contributed.
Recently Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts a former senior executive at Burberry, quit the Company.
Bloomberg said that Last year, Apple stores and the accompanying web site were responsible for a significant chunk of the $77 billion that the company got from direct distribution channels.
As recently as 2017, the retail arm was generating an estimated $5,500 in sales per square foot, easily outpacing rivals.
Now it appears that’s getting harder to pull off.
Apple is now trying to turn stores into “Town Squares,” where shoppers could hang out and, in industry parlance, “spend time with the brand.”
Lines at the Genius Bar were not trendy and spoiled the effect that Apple was trying to achieve, so stores started replacing the beloved customer-service counters with Genius Groves (comfortable seating under trees), tables and roaming Geniuses.
Checkout counters at these stores also disappeared in favour of salespeople armed with mobile devices.
The goal was to make Apple stores more like luxury showrooms, pushing offstage the unseemly business of checking out and fielding complaints.
Angela Ahrendts was credited with these changes.
Her strategy was to move sales and service onto the web—encouraging staff to tell customers to “get in line, online.”
Customers were to make an appointment on Apple’s website and then pick up the product at a store.
Apple was “trying to streamline things,” says one employee, “but in the process made things more difficult for some customers.”
Bloomberg said that before her arrival, the Apple Store excelled at three key tasks: selling products, helping customers trouble-shoot their devices and teaching them how to get the most out of their gadgets.
“Steve Jobs was really keen on stepping into the store and knowing what to do,” recalls a former Apple retail executive, who requested anonymity to speak freely. Mission shoppers who wanted to pick up a pair of headphones or an iPhone could get in and out quickly; those who wanted to learn more about their purchase could spend an hour getting trained by a Creative.
If someone brought in a busted iPhone, a Genius would sort it out.
Over time, according to several current and former employees, Ahrendts upset that finely tuned balance. “You don’t feel like there is much engagement at the front of the store, there isn’t a push to people,” says the former executive. “The store should be a place where you see upgrades happening.”