The Apple Store Uses Technology to its Advantage

If you have been to an Apple Store lately, you might have noticed that on the desktop of every machine, there is an icon you can click to get help. When you do click it, the screen turns to red and it says a Mac Specialist will be over shortly.

I’m not sure how long Apple has been doing this, but it is a really good idea. It has a lot of potential and shows how a smart company can use their existing resources to improve the customer service experience.

Like with anything, this system has its flaws.

I clicked to get help and no one came over. I waited for about 5 minutes (the waiting isn’t  that bad when you have a full computer to play with), but no one came over to help me. This could actually make the experience worse than if there was no icon. Having no icon keeps expectations low. Having an icon and saying someone will be over shortly raises expectations.  

For a system like this to work well, you would probably have to have staff members dedicated to helping customers that request help. In a small store like the one I was at, it probably doesn’t need to be more than one person. In a larger store, you’ll need more people.

It isn’t hard to update the system to remove the icon when the store gets busy. If the manager notices the store is busy, he could probably just click something and the need help icon would good away. Or, he could have it so the message says that it may be a few minutes until someone comes over to help you.

Everyone working at the store was busy and it wasn’t a particularly busy time or day by retail standards. On a different, but still related note, there was about an 8 person deep line at the cash register. These were people who had several hundred dollar products in their hands – wanting to give Apple their money! And they had to wait. In other words, the store was understaffed.

Apple Stores sell a lot of expensive merchandise per square foot. At McDonald’s, an 8 person deep line during lunchtime is fine. At the Apple Store, it’s unacceptable. One would think that the company would hire more people. They don’t pay their  employees very much, either (last I heard they made a few more dollars than minimum wage and had no commissions), so the cost would probably be worth it. With more employees, people can ask questions when they have one, buy items when they need to, etc.

Staffing is the critical component for a request help thing like what the Apple Store is trying to do. If Apple got that right, it would be a really cool (and effective) way to improve the customer service experience using the technology they already have sitting there.

Your “homework” should be to think about ways you can use technology that you have in your store or that your customers have access to. How can you use that technology to improve the customer service experience?

2 Responses to “The Apple Store Uses Technology to its Advantage”

  1. A Mac Specialist said:

    Aug 22, 07 at 12:16 am

    The “Need Help” button is a great idea that has been poorly implemented. It’s bad for customers and employees alike. Here are it’s flaws:

    1. You’d think by clicking the button, a little buzzer goes off somewhere to alert us to your presence. Not so. You’ll notice it turns the screen orange. This is all it does… now you have to wait and hope an employee notices your screen is orange. This is really hard to see on a laptop, and even harder when the customer has other windows open. There are better ways to get our attention… unfortunately.

    2. So few people actually click the button, it’s not very high on our radars.

    3. The great majority of the clicks are in fact accidents by clueless people, and when we come over to help, they reply “Uh, just looking.”

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Aug 22, 07 at 6:01 am

    That’s for your comments. That is what I suspected and a good reason why it is good in theory, but bad in implementation.