Apple’s Secret Training Techniques

Current and former Apple employees reveal some of Apple’s secrets on its store training techniques. The Wall Street Journal authors, Yukari Kane and Ian Sherr, found that Apple exercises intensive control over how employees interact with customers. After they are hired, employees are trained at length. First, they attend classes to apply Apple’s principles of customer service. Next, they must shadow more experienced colleagues on the sales floor. New employees are not “allowed to interact with customers on their own until they’re deemed ready,” which could be two weeks or longer (Kane and Sherr).

The salespeople are taught Apple’s sales philosophy: “not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems” (Kane and Sherr). Their main job is to understand their customer’s needs. Apple uses the acronym APPLE to lay out its steps of service:

  • 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.

Apple tells its salespeople to “listen and limit your responses to simple reassurance that you are doing so” (Kane and Sherr). It also tells its employees not to correct a customer if they mispronounce an item name because that would make them feel “patronized” (Kane and Sherr).

Apple store employees do not receive sales commissions, nor do they have sales quotas, but they are required to sell service packages with devices. If they do not sell enough service packages, they are re-trained or moved to another position. The most stringent criteria, however, is punctuality. If Apple employees are late in their shifts three times in six months, they may be let go.

To learn more, please read the June 15, 2011, Wall Street Journal article, “Secrets From Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity,” by Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ian Sherr.

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