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Apple erases Personal Shopping retail program

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Apple has ended the Personal Shopping program in its retail stores, removing all mention of the service online and within its Apple Store iOS app.

A report by ifoAppleStore notes that the elimination of Personal Shopping "became effective yesterday and stems from the belief that every customer should receive the same attention and amount of service."

Originally set up in 2007 as a way for individuals to reserve an appointment with an Apple retail store employee, the company once described the program as "a whole new way to shop at the Apple Store."

As a free service "where you and a dedicated Mac Specialist explore and test-drive products to find out which ones are best for you," the program was intended to foster an environment of personal attention within the company's retail outlets.

"We know the store can be busy, so when youre ready to talk, Personal Shopping is a way for us to give you our undivided attention."

However, as stores got busier, the premise of Personal Shopping became more difficult to deliver. At the launch of iPhone 3G in 2008, Apple suspended the program for iPhone-related visits.

"It is critical that all stores follow the same process to ensure every customer has an equal and fair opportunity to purchase a phone," the company told its store managers.
post #2 of 28
This seems to further exemplify a focus on disposable consumer products instead of the mac as a platform.
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post #3 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by WIJG View Post

This seems to further exemplify a focus on disposable consumer products instead of the mac as a platform.

Hmmmmm... and here I was thinking that it exemplified "we're getting too friggin' busy to offer one on one reserved service because our products are so darn awesome".

Two opinions...
Hmmmmmm...
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post #4 of 28
I wonder how often Apple Store employees were getting stood up (i.e. people not honoring their own appointments).

Or how often employees were getting gamed by people who spent a hour (or more) going through everything, then leaving empty-handed.

Another possibility to consider are Apple's retail partners. I can easily see them saying "we'll carry your product if you steer customers to OUR stores". Dropping the program altogether would be a good compromise.
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by WIJG View Post

This seems to further exemplify a focus on disposable consumer products instead of the mac as a platform.

It's ironic such a statement should come from someone with your signature
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sippincider View Post

I wonder how often Apple Store employees were getting stood up (i.e. people not honoring their own appointments).

Or how often employees were getting gamed by people who spent a hour (or more) going through everything, then leaving empty-handed.

Another possibility to consider are Apple's retail partners. I can easily see them saying "we'll carry your product if you steer customers to OUR stores". Dropping the program altogether would be a good compromise.

Judging by the Regent Street store in London, it may simply be a way of freeing up staff to deal with as many people as possible. I booked a Genius Bar appointment for my Macbook last Tuesday, I wasn't seen for 40 minutes after my appointment time. The staff must feel besieged, the place was packed out at three in the afternoon! I really take my hat off to the staff's calmness, endurance and dedication in the face of such an onslaught of humanity!

I've said it before but it's the same story in other Apple stores in the UK I've been to: Westfield and Brent Cross both also in London, Sheffield, Liverpool.

I don't think Apple minds the gamers so much, if they like the Apple stuff they'll be back sooner or later. It's taken me several visits and a few weeks to purchase major Apple gear but I've made quite a few purchases over the years.

As for the UK I don't believe dropping the programme affects the retail partners one way or the other, if anything, Apple's success has encouraged third party retailers to start carrying Apple stuff again.

It's encouraging are buying and not just browsing at the Apple Stores. Judging by the queues at the tills in Regent Street, Apple can't shift its stuff fast enough!

I'm sure Steve Jobs and the shareholders will be happy!
post #7 of 28
definitely a dumb idea from the beginning. even though the stores can be incredibly busy, you can usually find a group of employees standing around...well....doing nothing.

by the way, nothing is more unfriendly or uncomfortable than having to approach a hipster group resembling a clique to get product help.

edit: i really don't think this is exactly a typical apple store experience, but i know it has happened to me. the apple store is the tool i use to show people what it's like to own a mac (they usually end up buying). so, really, just greeting a customer at the front door and offering personal service is enough to outclass any electronics retailer, and usually apple does this anyway. personal shopping is redundant.
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiA View Post

It's ironic such a statement should come from someone with your signature

i don't get what his signature has to do with it. do you know who the flight of the conchords are? (they are a comedy band...so, you know, i'm guessing the sig isn't exactly serious)

i still think the guy you replied to was wrong, i don't think eliminating personal shopping really matters. as my post says, it's a dumb service, if you have employees greeting and personally attending to people as much as possible you really are outclassing 99% of retail outlets out there.
post #9 of 28
The key issue these days seems to be understaffing. A store manager admitted as much when he called me to follow up on a survey I took online after buying an iPad at the store. The place was crowded and the experience did not go as smoothly as it always has for me in the past. I worked at one of the first stores for a while back in 2001 and have been going to them regularly over the years. My impression has been that as they have become more popular and numerous, the quality of the shopping experience has been steadily declining. The furnishings in some stores are showing their age, it takes longer to get served, and the staff seems less knowledgeable.

Originally the Genius Bar was a relaxed place where they even offered you a bottle of chilled water from the little built in fridge. Those disappeared years ago. The store nearest me doesn't even have a rest room. The one I worked in had a really nice one. Even with all this the Apple Store is still head and shoulders above any other CE retailer, but I think they need to be careful about not losing their edge. When I got hired there were tons of Apple geeks fighting for those jobs. It seems that now the geek supply has been depleted and they are hiring more and more warm bodies who are trainable.

Plus, I had to walk a mile through the snow with no socks back when I was . . .
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post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by WIJG View Post

This seems to further exemplify a focus on disposable consumer products instead of the mac as a platform.

i wish i could find the source again, but i remember reading that macs were used for about 2 years longer than their PC counterparts. typical PC lifespan was 3 years, 5 years for macs. not exactly disposable.

as far as iphones go, i don't think it's fair to point the finger at apple for making a "disposable" product. you think cell phones weren't disposable before the iphone?

it has nothing to do apple using internal batteries, either, if that's your qualm. users don't replace them often enough, and apple charges the same price for battery replacements as they do for spare batteries. only 5% of users ever replace a laptop battery, and probably even less for phone users who are used to throwing out their phone every 2 years.

e.g.: today's macbooks come with batteries that last for 3x the cycles as my 2007 macbook. i feel like my macbook is ready to be replaced with something faster, and i have never replaced the battery, and still get about 2-3 hours of usability. do i really want to invest in a $100 battery for a computer that's already 3 years old? would anyone?

my ipod touch 1G has been thrown, stepped on, lost 3 times, and i just keep finding it and it keeps on working. not exactly disposable, i can't seem to get it to stop working.

what other electronics maker has ever decided it was a good idea to use metal and glass instead of plastic and more plastic?? only apple thought to use quality materials to reduce scratches and increase durability rather than throwing the cheapest, most hastily designed case possible. see unibody macs.



i dunno if my comments are completely applicable to what you are trying to say, but i think it's fair to say that apple is committed to lasting quality and customer service at a better level than the vast majority of electronics makers.
post #11 of 28
yeah, just sheer volume of customers. the apple store near me is ALWAYS at least 3x busier than any other store in the mall. there are @20 - 30 apple employees working there on a saturday and the store is packed... everytime i go in there i walk out thinking "i need to buy more apple stock".
post #12 of 28
I didn't even know they offered such a service in the first place.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiA View Post

Judging by the Regent Street store in London, it may simply be a way of freeing up staff to deal with as many people as possible. I booked a Genius Bar appointment for my Macbook last Tuesday, I wasn't seen for 40 minutes after my appointment time. The staff must feel besieged, the place was packed out at three in the afternoon! I really take my hat off to the staff's calmness, endurance and dedication in the face of such an onslaught of humanity!

I've said it before but it's the same story in other Apple stores in the UK I've been to: Westfield and Brent Cross both also in London, Sheffield, Liverpool.

I don't think Apple minds the gamers so much, if they like the Apple stuff they'll be back sooner or later. It's taken me several visits and a few weeks to purchase major Apple gear but I've made quite a few purchases over the years.

As for the UK I don't believe dropping the programme affects the retail partners one way or the other, if anything, Apple's success has encouraged third party retailers to start carrying Apple stuff again.

It's encouraging are buying and not just browsing at the Apple Stores. Judging by the queues at the tills in Regent Street, Apple can't shift its stuff fast enough!

I'm sure Steve Jobs and the shareholders will be happy!

yeah, really, apple's only difficult issues stem from their popularity (not just service, but also brand perception, like the iphone haters who hate anything popular.)

i think if they build more stores, congestion might be relieved by people not coming from so far just to go to one.

i can see how a genius bar is difficult to maintain as apple expands so rapidly. it's not something best buy, etc, would ever offer for a pretty good reason. free, personal diagnostics is basically unheard of.

i remember buying my first mac, i traveled 45 minutes into cleveland just to go to the store and check everything out. the maximum i would drive anywhere else for any other product was probably 20 minutes.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by akhomerun View Post

i don't get what his signature has to do with it. do you know who the flight of the conchords are? (they are a comedy band...so, you know, i'm guessing the sig isn't exactly serious)


I found it ironic how he states Apple focuses more on "disposable" products than on Macs yet proclaims the lyrics to such a disposable and frivolous song.
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by akhomerun View Post

i think if they build more stores, congestion might be relieved by people not coming from so far just to go to one.

i remember buying my first mac, i traveled 45 minutes into cleveland just to go to the store and check everything out. the maximum i would drive anywhere else for any other product was probably 20 minutes

I think it's solely an issue with demand with respect to the London stores. The new 300th store Covent Garden, is twenty minutes walk from the 1st UK Regent St store. London also has a store towards the North (Brent Cross), West (Westfield) and South West (Kingston) then there are two to the East on the outskirts in the Bluewater and Lakeside shopping centres. So that's seven stores within 90 to 120 minutes reach of each other. Furthermore the department stores and PC World are stocking Apple products and the mobile shops naturally have iPhones.
.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akhomerun View Post

i can see how a genius bar is difficult to maintain as apple expands so rapidly. it's not something best buy, etc, would ever offer for a pretty good reason. free, personal diagnostics is basically unheard of.

I think that's a very good point.

I believe the size of the Genius Bar alone in the London Regent St store is larger than the entire Sheffield Apple Store!
Regent St actually has two Genius bars, one dedicated to Macs; the other to iPod (presumably iPhones and iPads too). They're fully staffed (about six or seven geniuses on each from memory) and yet they're so busy throughout the day, I've not seen any other tech company in the UK dedicate that level of support to customers.

I take my hat off to those staff, to be under so much pressure and yet keep calm and collected. Apple have really recruited well in the UK. With all my visits to several Apple stores in the UK over the years I've not had one reason to complain, not one! Long may the Apple success continue!
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiA View Post

I found it ironic how he states Apple focuses more on "disposable" products than on Macs yet proclaims the lyrics to such a disposable and frivolous song.

I think the sig is about John Galt from rand
post #17 of 28
The walrus was Paul.

(P.S. Observations don't have to carry value judgments.)
When will the governments realize it's got to be funky, sexy ladies?
-Flight of the Conchords
Reply
When will the governments realize it's got to be funky, sexy ladies?
-Flight of the Conchords
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post #18 of 28
I used the service a few times. The last time I used it I bought an imac just last week. I waited over 40 minutes for the sales guy to see me on an admittedly busy Friday evening after making the reservation two days in advance. I am sure that I would have waited just as long coming off the street.
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by island hermit View Post

Hmmmmm... and here I was thinking that it exemplified "we're getting too friggin' busy to offer one on one reserved service because our products are so darn awesome".

Two opinions...

Welcome to the Apple Big Box! You are just another sale, but beyond that, we don't care.
post #20 of 28
Right after they initiated this program I was visiting a store in Dallas (3 hours from my home) and asked a salesman some questions about a Mac Mini. He answered a couple, but then informed me that since they were so busy that I would need to make an appointment with a Personal shopper.

I told him I was just in town for a few more hours and was just wanting some info before I decided between a Mini or an TV. He ignored what I said and told me he would help me set up the appointment on a computer. I said that was OK and would ask another salesman....then he asked me my name and a time I wanted. He was obviously new, but still so annoying that I just walked off and questioned the next salesman who asked if I needed help. I took up maybe 5 minutes of his time, he was courteous and knowledgeable.

I never wanted to hear about a Personal Shopper after that. It would have been different if I had been totally new to Apple, but these were just ideas on using a Mini for an HTPC.

Nothing really to do with the story, I just wanted to rant....
post #21 of 28
I find the whole Apple Store shopping experience to be confusing and anti-customer at the best of times. Everything seems to be geared towards making an appointment rather than dropping by. I'm glad to see they're starting to pull back from that. Not once have I ever been able to find someone to take my money, I always have ended up having to put the item back and go to another store to actually buy it.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenka View Post

I find the whole Apple Store shopping experience to be confusing and anti-customer at the best of times. Everything seems to be geared towards making an appointment rather than dropping by. I'm glad to see they're starting to pull back from that. Not once have I ever been able to find someone to take my money, I always have ended up having to put the item back and go to another store to actually buy it.

Geez, how hard is it to hold an item up with your credit card and smile to get even someone busy with another customer to point you at the right person or line? They don't even have to stop talking to the other customer to wave you in the right general direction.
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by WIJG View Post

This seems to further exemplify a focus on disposable consumer products instead of the mac as a platform.

Because you cannot get a personal concierge? Boy, that's a leap of epic proportions.
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post #24 of 28
It's basically the iPhone and iPad that has blown the roof all Apple Stores around the world. They set out to craft an experience of owning a Mac and Personal Shopping was one of that. But given the massive demand for iPhone and iPad, the toughness of retail and needing to expand and move more and more product, sorry to say, Apple will be dragged more and more mainstream. That means their retail experience will become more and more mainstream.

I went for my group interview session at the Kingston store in the UK. The manager recommended me for a Personal Shopper role at Regent St. Had my interview with two managers at the Regent St store. Didn't get past that stage, subsequently the global economy went down the toilet. My interview was July 2008. Over two years later, as cool as it would have been for any Apple fan, the realities of retail will catch up with you, I don't regret not getting the job too much now. At the time I went for the interview, I only had 8 months or so left on my work and travel UK visa. That could have factored into it.

There were actually many things I found strange and off-putting about the UK. But that is for another time...
post #25 of 28
Apple Stores were originally set up to provide a proper environment for people to explore and discover all that Appley goodness that was the Mac. They were a reaction against the terrible conditions Apple products found themselves in at big box retailers and computer specialty stores: not well maintained, poorly functioning or not functioning, sales people who were clueless or outright antagonistic toward the product.

Well trained, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, a pleasant low pressure environment, and lots of machines all set up and wired to various peripherals allowed the curious and committed to play to their hearts content. Customer support was there for the asking. Sales were secondary to the mission.

Fast forward to today. Many more products, many in unbelievably high demand, with swarms of customers. Huge installed base brings lines to the Genius Bar for support. Quiet, contemplative, Zen-like atmosphere vanished. Replaced by WalMart vibe. Too many customers, too few demo machines, too few staff.

Even if they doubled the staff the stores would still be too crowded. There aren't enough fanboys and girls to fill all the positions anyway. Attempt to train cart-wrangler dead heads to fill the gap? How big to make a store to accommodate peak hours without being wastefully empty at other times?

Apple has a problem and they know it. You don't want to overbuild and then eat it if there is a flat spot in demand and sales. You could create separate stores for the iPhone--that would cut out half the crowd, but would hamper halo effect sales of other products. What do do? What to do?

My thought: divide the stores into semi-autonomous thirds. One part exploratorium with no sales. Another part pure retail where you go to fork over cash and pick up your box. The third part is Genius Shop where you go with your problems. Triage Lounge at the front door.
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post #26 of 28
Our Apple store at the Arizona Biltmore center is always busy and lately it has driven us to online shopping. They used to have a checkout station in the center of the store but that was dropped for the iPhone POS solution. Lately though, there are very few people who are actually carrying those. There's plenty of "I can help you but I can't ring up your purchase." It's maddening to go in there with an eye for what you need off the shelf and have to wait 15-20 mins to find someone to take care of you. They need a better solution.
post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Apple Stores were originally set up to provide a proper environment for people to explore and discover all that Appley goodness that was the Mac. They were a reaction against the terrible conditions Apple products found themselves in at big box retailers and computer specialty stores: not well maintained, poorly functioning or not functioning, sales people who were clueless or outright antagonistic toward the product.

Well trained, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, a pleasant low pressure environment, and lots of machines all set up and wired to various peripherals allowed the curious and committed to play to their hearts content. Customer support was there for the asking. Sales were secondary to the mission.

Fast forward to today. Many more products, many in unbelievably high demand, with swarms of customers. Huge installed base brings lines to the Genius Bar for support. Quiet, contemplative, Zen-like atmosphere vanished. Replaced by WalMart vibe. Too many customers, too few demo machines, too few staff.

Even if they doubled the staff the stores would still be too crowded. There aren't enough fanboys and girls to fill all the positions anyway. Attempt to train cart-wrangler dead heads to fill the gap? How big to make a store to accommodate peak hours without being wastefully empty at other times?

Apple has a problem and they know it. You don't want to overbuild and then eat it if there is a flat spot in demand and sales. You could create separate stores for the iPhone--that would cut out half the crowd, but would hamper halo effect sales of other products. What do do? What to do?

My thought: divide the stores into semi-autonomous thirds. One part exploratorium with no sales. Another part pure retail where you go to fork over cash and pick up your box. The third part is Genius Shop where you go with your problems. Triage Lounge at the front door.

Apples solution seems to be sell iPads and iPhones at big box retailers because for those devices set-up and configuration are a non-issue like they are with computers. That's going to disperse a lot of the device specific sale crowd when somebody just want's it but doesn't need to play with it to make a decision.
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post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by nht View Post

Geez, how hard is it to hold an item up with your credit card and smile to get even someone busy with another customer to point you at the right person or line? They don't even have to stop talking to the other customer to wave you in the right general direction.

It's easy to hold your hand up, it's just impossible to even find that staff member, let alone get their attention. I had the items and the money in my hand, and could not find anyone to take my money.
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