Leaked documents show Apple's tight control on store employee conduct

The shopping experience at Apple Stores seems like a nice casual environment. Walk in and you're greeted with representatives in the front, or sales associates that come to your assistance at a push of a button. Customers are free to play around with the hardware or use the display machines to check up on their inbox. The language used by sales associates is upbeat and positive.

On the surface, it's a pleasant experience. But a meticiously planned experience it is, planned to the smallest detail by Apple and executed by its retail employees with little margin for error. And that is what the Wall Street Journal's Yukari Kane found out, by speaking with current and former Apple Store employees who also showed her confidential training documents. A video interview is available here:

According to the documents, employees must stick to a script when dealing with customers. The "steps of service" involves five letters spelling the acronym APPLE:

  • Approach customers with a warm welcome.
  • Probe politely to understand all the customers' 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.

In addition, employees are trained not to correct customers' mispronunciation of product names, and to never use the word "unfortunately," instead opting for "as it turns out..." if they cannot resolve a customer's problem.

There are also strict rules applied to employees. Employees may face consequences if they are late more than three times in a six-month period. And of course, employees face termination if they are caught writing about their employment experiences or about Apple on the Internet.

Despite these strict rules, the sales positions are still popular. On the flipside, these conditions may be those the Apple Retail Workers Union is working to contest, despite the competitive pay offered by Apple Stores in comparison to other retailers.

Image Credit: Apple Store, Carrousel du Louvre

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When I worked for PC World, they used this utterly ridiculous sales pitch called MILESTONE - each letter was a step. Then they changed it to something called FIVES, which was even more ridiculous - it involved not using negatives and keeping the conversation in your control. Lots of suggestion and mind games in it.

It was really pathetic. They wanted us to not sound like robots even though they wanted us to use specific words and phrases in a very specific order. Such as using phrases like "Have you considered", or "It's not in stock but GREAT NEWS! - WE CAN ORDER IT!!!"... God. Sake.

What a load of ridiculousness.

I went into the apple store inside summit mall in Fairlawn Ohio last month to purchase an ipad2, salesperson came up to me and asked if there was anything he could help me with, I said yeah I want to purchase an ipad2 wifi only, do you have any in stock?, the salesperson snapped an angry "NO!" and walked away.
I drove down to best buy and purchased an Iconia tablet instead, not exactly what I wanted but it does the job.

BS!.
Sales & Customers service always feature an hidden (and evil) guideline. For example (and it is pretty popular) always try to sell in credit (and several payment) than in effective, and always try to lure to another product, tr

For customer service, the trick is to never escalate the problem, Genius bar act as the low-level of support.

I don't see anything wrong with this. Jobs are hard to come by. If you can't follow rules. Go work somewhere else. I can't believe people think oh they got a job but they go by their own rules. Maybe this is the reason why Apple retail stores do well. At least out here in San Francisco.

aboi said,
I don't see anything wrong with this. Jobs are hard to come by. If you can't follow rules. Go work somewhere else. I can't believe people think oh they got a job but they go by their own rules. Maybe this is the reason why Apple retail stores do well. At least out here in San Francisco.

No they sell well in San Francisco because there are lot of "queens" and emo kids...

lol, next time you're in a mall and see an Apple store, keep mispronouncing product names in such an obviously wrong way.

"Hey man, how are you doing? I'd like to mess around with one of the new Ipodpads to see if I like it"
Worker: ....... okay. What was that again?

"The new 16 Gee Bee iPodpad with 4 Gees"

This steps of service is how any sales-heavy electronics store operates AFAIK. Bar the whole "say anything bad about us and we'll kill you" thing, it's a very similar operation at Maplin where I work - I don't see anybody massively complaining here. Also, swapping "unfortunately" for "as it turns out" is just sly sales talk, what's the big issue? Not correcting customers about something as fickle as pronunciations is just good service, there's no need to make them seem stupid.

And, being late to work... how hard is it to turn up to work on time? I've always turned up 10-15 minutes early at least every morning, with only something like 4 or 5 exceptions over a 20 month period - and only one of those was where I turned up after 9am.

If I'm being honest this (in my eyes) has made Apple Store employees seem like whiny SOBs then "poor waif sales guys being beaten by the big bad bully corporation".

oh no apple have guidelines for there staff...so does every other store that wants to keep there image nice and shiny !!

I work in a chauffeur company, and we have the same. A script that they have to say to every client, so the experience in the company is the same. I see nothing wrong with this. Common practice.

If this is an attempt to slander Apple on their tight image branding than your effectiviness is debatable. As discussd above-- providing a consistent and friendly customer service experience is simply for the majority of highly successful companies. The acronym "APPLE" is laughable but other than that the operation seems to be up to par with other training and staffing procedures.

Me thinks some one needs to post something on the new page and is lacking in fodder.. really.. since when is customer service guidelines a bad thing..?? what do you expect?? A training vid of some sloven jerk picking his nose saying wtf you want man .. im only 2 mins away from my break??? I worked for MS and other companies and still am doing it .. I expect my self to have a standard for the company that pays my bills .. (and very well at that) so why should I not project a positive image to my product and service.. ??

I'm no fan of Apple, but like everyone else is saying, 'be polite and helpful to customers' and 'don't be late for work' aren't exactly draconian rules.

Boy - these Apple people sure are strict. To think they want to deliver a consistent experience to their customers through training and policy. What is this world coming to? /s

I still corrected people with the product names when necessary though; the prime example being people calling a MacBook Pro a "Mac Pro".

Worked at an Apple Store for a year which was mostly a pleasant experience. Only downside was dealing with a couple of ****ty customers each day, but it's not much different from other retail jobs really.

The strictness is definitely there, evidenced by the harsh terminations that happened for the slightest deviation during the 6 month probationary period.

"In addition, employees are trained not to correct customers' mispronunciation of product names, and to never use the word "unfortunately," instead opting for "as it turns out..." if they cannot resolve a customer's problem."
----

Haha

Apple guy; Hello how can i help you?
Me: i want a Pearbook Pro and one uPod

Would be nice, but as it turns out.. we dont have an apple store where i live.. -.-" well only in Copenhagen which is 7 hours from where i live

I've always wanted to know why Apple store employees act so smug, but this article doesn't answer that question. I had one of them step back and look down at me when I referred to a "display" as a monitor. "We don't sell monitors, we sell displays."

Enron said,
I've always wanted to know why Apple store employees act so smug, but this article doesn't answer that question. I had one of them step back and look down at me when I referred to a "display" as a monitor. "We don't sell monitors, we sell displays."
That's funny, even though monitor is a more precise term. Display is fitted into a monitor.

Doesn't look strict at all, looks like they set guidelines for their staff to be helpfull to customers (what they pay the staff to do)

Uh, this is pretty much how every company with good service runs, sorry to burst your bubble. I am an MS supporter and tease Apple fans, but this must have been a slow news day...

JAGFin1 said,
You want strict, check out the guidelines for Disney World.

Hahah, +100000!!! Seriously, I had a friend that worked there. Some really screwed up stuff there...

XerXis said,
strict? I didn't see any strict rules .

Yeah, the authors name is Dennis, so we know he never followed the rules anyways.

RealFduch said,

The artcle just didn't mention important thinks like forcing employees to go to meetings on sunday even if it's their day-off, forced overtime work, and generally bad treatment of emploees.

BTW, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_JDnD...xAR6K2-Jv58/s1600/credo.jpg

When i worked in a small restaurant i was forced to attend a meeting on a Sunday whether i was in that day or not. They started 9am for at least an hour and i HAD to be there as part of my employment, i was paid for that hour.

There was a strong debate so it rotated from 9am, to 9pm.. both are extremely inconvenient times... but that's life. Seems like another reason to bash Apple? Neowin really need to start filtering their news reports better because the stuff that keeps getting posted on the MAIN PAGE is utter pointless and not newsworthy.

This article is stupid, i see nothing wrong with it and every where i have worked has had this behaviour. Paint it however you want, everytime i have been in the Apple store it looks like a cool place to work, especially if i was looking for 'that sort of job'.. i'm sure there are as many perks as there is down-sides, like most jobs.

RealFduch said,

The artcle just didn't mention important thinks like forcing employees to go to meetings on sunday even if it's their day-off, forced overtime work, and generally bad treatment of emploees.

That's called having a job. Nothing unusual there.

How is any of this even noteworthy? Lateness policies NEED to be in place, and when dealing with such a precise brand as Apple, it makes sense to train your staff well.

As much as I think Apple is the tech world analogue of North Korea, I can't see any problems in optimizing their sales and customer experience. That is pretty much what retail is all about, and that is not something new.
It is pretty ridiculous though that they are not allowed to write about Apple tho'.

Not sure how this is news? Any sales/customer service environment will also have scripting, set ways to deal with common objections, etc

Is that a large meal you want?

DomZ said,
Is that a large meal you want?

No thanks.

If I wanted a large meal, I would have asked for one.

You asking me isn't upselling, it's just ****ing me off!

Neobond said,
There's nothing wrong with setting guidelines on how to deal with customers.

Exactly, this just ensures that the customer has a consistent and pleasent experience and hopefully ensures they return.
If you think this is bad my old employer had a script which told you exactly what you should say if you are on the phone or face to face, exactly the words you should use to great them, exactly the words to say when you say goodbye to them, and even some canned responses in regards to certain situations where a particular question might arise to avoid legal issues.
You always had to be positive, never say anything that could be misconstrued as a negative reaction towards a product, service or customer enquiry.

So this makes sense to me, show me some evidence that they measure the length of their hair or send their employees for tattoo removal and I will start to get worried

Exactly, in fact the problem I usually have is when employees end up sounding like robots to certain questions. World gone crazy imo.

Neobond said,
There's nothing wrong with setting guidelines on how to deal with customers.

I work for a retailer and they do this, too. It's about positive and above all, consistent customer service across the board.

Neobond said,
There's nothing wrong with setting guidelines on how to deal with customers.

But many of the policies (not mentioned in this article) are really bad. Do you like the forced changing shedule? When one day you work till night and the next day you start working early in the morning. What about forbidding to process broken items during the normal work hours forcing this work to be done owertime?

This quote just sums it all up:
“I have never felt so undervalued as an employee or so constantly undermined by useless management as I did at Apple.”

This quote just sums it all up:
“I have never felt so undervalued as an employee or so constantly undermined by useless management as I did at Apple.”

You can get/hear this type of comment from just about company or organization; it is not just an "Apple" thing.