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Apple enlists 'Rhonda' to help drive Mac sales at retail

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
Apple Computer this week is rolling out a number of enhancements within its retail stores to more efficiently address customer interest in its Mac line of personal computers, including a new alert system dubbed "Rhonda."

The move comes just days before the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will jump start the holiday shopping season with a massive "Black Friday" one-day shopping event at both its national retail chain and online store.

Help, help me Rhonda

Among the many enhancements is a new software assistant called "Rhonda" -- reportedly inspired by the Beach Boy's hit track "Help Me, Rhonda" -- that will be installed on the desktop of all Mac computers on display at Apple retail stores.

While exploring a Mac on display, customers will be able to click on a portion of screen to summons help from an authorized Apple sales person on the retail store floor. The Rhonda software will illuminate the Mac's display screen in bright green, attracting the attention of the nearest Mac specialist who will then greet the shopper.

Two-minute Test Drive

Alongside Rhonda, Apple is also introducing a new retail process called a "Two-minute Test Drive." The concise overview will help facilitate to potential Mac customers the many strong points of the Mac platform, including such aspects as a quick Microsoft Word demo.

Talk Mac

Lastly, Apple this week will begin offering potential Mac buyers a new complimentary service called "Talk Mac."

Essentially an extension of the the company's ProCare services, but for non-Mac users, Talk Mac offers shoppers the opportunity to schedule up to a one hour appointment with an in-store Mac specialist to learn about the Mac platform before making their computer purchases.

Customers interested in the service can simply swing by their local Apple retail store and request a Talk Mac card that will allow them to schedule the free consultation.

Expanding on Talk Mac in early 2007

Taking Talk Mac a step further, Apple early next year will extend upon the concept by allowing customers to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a Mac specialist before the store even opens for business, people familiar with the service say.

The Mac specialist will act as the customer's 'personal shopper,' touring the traffic-free retail store, answering questions and offering buying advice to meet the customer's needs, those same people say.
post #2 of 42
In regards to Mac Talk, now even fewer Mac Specialists will be available to assist walk in customers
post #3 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Feynman

In regards to Mac Talk, now even fewer Mac Specialists will be available to assist walk in customers

I don't think it has to be zero-sum. If this helps increase sales, which is the point of the service, then it would help justify hiring more people. I think signing in to Concierge to reserve a slot is probably the recommended thing to do, to assure that someone will be available at a given time slot.

It looks like Apple is refining its sales and service strategy, which can easily be a good thing.
post #4 of 42
It certainly is a delicate balancing act. Scheduling time for individuals is extremely variable, what with consultations ranging from a few seconds to possibly an hour each...

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post #5 of 42
So funny. It's from Apple so it's somehow newsworthy.

As an owner of a Mac-only dealership, we do this DAILY but WITHOUT the need for a visual prompt of Rhonda (the sales staff are attentive enough to see and communicate without the digital stimuli) or the booking of a meeting with a switcher (we welcome them and take the time necessary WHEN THEY arrive).
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post #6 of 42
Regarding MacTalk..

So Apple is going to take an hour's worth of time from a Mac Specialist to help one customer buy one product, when in that amount of time that same person can sell 10 iPods, a few printers, some software, and some iPod accessories, and maybe 1/5 of them become switchers because their kids liked playing on the iMacs so much.

Why not offer this service on the machines themselves, and save the invaluable resource and time of the employee to offer much-needed assistance to the overwhelming crowds of people that want to spend money?
post #7 of 42
and during the holiday season apple stores are packed - anythign to relieve the congestion waiting for a live person is a good thing. Also, consider the inevitable jackass that bogarts a mac salesperson for an hour goin over some inane small particulars... it woudl be nice to have an additional outlet to ask a question.
post #8 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoopaDrive

So Apple is going to take an hour's worth of time from a Mac Specialist to help one customer buy one product, when in that amount of time that same person can sell 10 iPods, a few printers, some software, and some iPod accessories, and maybe 1/5 of them become switchers because their kids liked playing on the iMacs so much.

I have to imagine that the session might help them sell plenty of the other items too.

Given how profitable the stores are, I think they've done plenty of work to maximize their resources. I don't think that your point is lost on them, and have probably factored those considerations in. For all we know, these time slots may be assigned to off-peak hours anyway.
post #9 of 42
Thank God for "these same people"!
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #10 of 42
Actually, they could have an online Mac Talk call centre. The customer clicks the Mac Talk button on any floor model, and a special VNC-enabled variant of iChat is booted with the Mac Chat consultant starting a video-chat and having complete control over the Mac to show any and everything the person is interested in. The virtual Mac Chat consultant could easily alert a member of the store's staff for any particular issue requiring in-person handling... such as a sale.

The customer could have the choice of an on-the-spot or "on demand" virtual Mac Chat, or book an appointment for an in-person Mac Chat. Plus, the virtual Mac Chat would be demonstrating -- leveraging -- OS X's capabilities right before the customer's eyes!

Is this a bad idea?
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post #11 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDuff

Actually, they could have an online Mac Talk call centre. The customer clicks the Mac Talk button on any floor model, and a special VNC-enabled variant of iChat is booted with the Mac Chat consultant starting a video-chat and having complete control over the Mac to show any and everything the person is interested in. The virtual Mac Chat consultant could easily alert a member of the store's staff for any particular issue requiring in-person handling... such as a sale.

The customer could have the choice of an on-the-spot or "on demand" virtual Mac Chat, or book an appointment for an in-person Mac Chat. Plus, the virtual Mac Chat would be demonstrating -- leveraging -- OS X's capabilities right before the customer's eyes!

Is this a bad idea?

It is a bad idea. Technology is only so good, and in the end a customer wants to deal with a physical person when in a store. You cannot beat that interaction.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #12 of 42
I think it may be a little bit of a bad idea. I personally HATE being bothered by floor workers, particularly people that don't know anything (really) about the product. At apple, they are pretty cool about letting you go about your own business.

The flashing GREEN SCREEN seems a little embarassing. I don't know if I would want to have verybody POINTING and STARING at me because I need assistance. Perhaps they could just have some computer by the genius bar that says, computer 3 needs help... they could just tag the computers like a restaurant tags a table.

Funny we are talking about customer help. As a side note... Just the other day, I walked in, and I usually avoid contact with the employees whenever possible. Funny enough, I needed some assistance and I couldn't find help when I needed it.

There is an old saying about that, but I can't think of it right now....
post #13 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland

It is a bad idea. Technology is only so good, and in the end a customer wants to deal with a physical person when in a store. You cannot beat that interaction.

I was in an Apple Store last week reserving a 17" MacBook Pro (YAY!! They called today) and bless Apple for having a healthy does of intelligent floor walkers, but one guy was just bamboozling a poor woman (45-ish) with too much geek talk.

Instead of giving here a simple explanation of why iWeb was not going to be able to help her update her existing website, he got into a tortured explanation of HTML code. ACK!! I had the same urge I've had in Best Buy... but I resisted.

They need to teach people how the explain complicated concepts in simple ways to the uninitiated.

I did, however, recently butt into a conversation between a Target employee and a television reporter regarding the Zune and iPod and properly explain that iPods DO play MP3's, followed by a simple explanation of DRM & purchased downloads both topics having been mis-explained beyond recognition. A few days later I heard a hilarious conversation in the same Target between two employees and a customer about HDTV regarding an explanation of progressive scan which was being confused with analog CRT's and *over/under scan*. Questions about the difference between "HD" and "HD ready" ensued with explanations that were off the wall.

It never ends.

gc
post #14 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Feynman

In regards to Mac Talk, now even fewer Mac Specialists will be available to assist walk in customers

Maybe I'm an outlier, but I've never been anything but BOMBARDED by sales people at my local Apple Store (Mall of America), most of whom know less about the Mac than I do.

-Clive
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post #15 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clive At Five

Maybe I'm an outlier, but I've never been anything but BOMBARDED by sales people at my local Apple Store (Mall of America), most of whom know less about the Mac than I do.

-Clive

Completely the opposite to my experiences in Apple stores. I've spent far too much time standing around waiting for some assistance. It doesn't matter how long I wait, how frustrated I look, how many employees I tag while they're helping other people ... etc.

I understand that the Apple-owned locations are busy as hell and usually full of people who have enough questions to fill an hour of the employees time (to everyone elses detriment) but, half of the time, I'd have been able to get help faster by leaving the Apple store and driving 10 minutes to the closest reseller.
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post #16 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoopaDrive

Regarding MacTalk..

So Apple is going to take an hour's worth of time from a Mac Specialist to help one customer buy one product, when in that amount of time that same person can sell 10 iPods, a few printers, some software, and some iPod accessories, and maybe 1/5 of them become switchers because their kids liked playing on the iMacs so much.

Why not offer this service on the machines themselves, and save the invaluable resource and time of the employee to offer much-needed assistance to the overwhelming crowds of people that want to spend money?

The reason is iPods sell themselves and they aren't as expensive of a purchase so people are willing to buy even if they haven't had all their questions answered.

A computer on the other hand is a major purchase and switching operating systems is not a trivial task for most people.
Most people want to be reassured that they will continue to be able to do what they have been doing on their PC.
Also your average Mac specialist only gets paid maybe $10-12 for that hour that they spend answering questions and reassuring the buyer that the $1200 dollar computer will do what they want.
post #17 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella

Also your average Mac specialist only gets paid maybe $10-12 for that hour that they spend answering questions and reassuring the buyer that the $1200 dollar computer will do what they want.

Due to other expenses, a person can't just assume the wages as the only relevant costs. Apple Retail may assume the cost of an hour of said person's time is really $60 or $90.
post #18 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella

A computer on the other hand is a major purchase and switching operating systems is not a trivial task for most people.
Most people want to be reassured that they will continue to be able to do what they have been doing on their PC.

I agree, however I'm predicting that these Mac Specialists are going to be asked the same questions over and over again to the extent that one of the Macs on the floor can answer these same questions more efficiently, and maybe more effectively.

"I want to create a PowerPoint presentation, but how do I do that on a Mac?"
"I want to save my files on my old PC to a new Mac. How do I do that? Can I still open them? What about transferring my applications?"
"How do I get to the internet on a Mac?"
"Can I use my iPod with a Mac?"

Anyway you get the point. These questions will be redundant and if a question cannot be addressed on one of the floor models, setup an appointment with a Mac specialist OR sign up for an appointment at the Genius Bar. This will be helpful for those who want assurances that their investment will be worthwhile to them.

Also, the computers can provide VISUALS for the customer to better understand any technical questions they might have. Install a program on all of the floor models, similar to a help balloons system like OS 9, guiding them through various tasks that some might do on a day-to-day basis. Have a program on the desktop that functions like AskJeeves or the psychologist in the OS 9 days that would answer random questions you gave it, answering any questions you might have similar to the Help function in OS X. Take this a step further and allow the customer to save the Q&A session they just had onto a DVD for $1.99, allowing them to review their inquiries at a later time period that allows the customer to reflect back.

I have to say, nothing beats actual hands-on experience with the product, compared to just hearing it from a sales person.
post #19 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoopaDrive

I have to say, nothing beats actual hands-on experience with the product, compared to just hearing it from a sales person.

Who said that the sales person would just be telling them what it can do? I can't imagine them not using the time to show it being done, being a quick overview how it can be done, on the machine they are considering buying.
post #20 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM

Who said that the sales person would just be telling them what it can do? I can't imagine them not using the time to show it being done, being a quick overview how it can be done, on the machine they are considering buying.

I guess I meant hearing a sales pitch while using a Mac at the same time.
post #21 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by daBoss

So funny. It's from Apple so it's somehow newsworthy.

As an owner of a Mac-only dealership, we do this DAILY but WITHOUT the need for a visual prompt of Rhonda (the sales staff are attentive enough to see and communicate without the digital stimuli) or the booking of a meeting with a switcher (we welcome them and take the time necessary WHEN THEY arrive).

Really?

Do you get a thousand people in your store every day? Even the small stores get several hundred.
post #22 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoopaDrive

Regarding MacTalk..

So Apple is going to take an hour's worth of time from a Mac Specialist to help one customer buy one product, when in that amount of time that same person can sell 10 iPods, a few printers, some software, and some iPod accessories, and maybe 1/5 of them become switchers because their kids liked playing on the iMacs so much.

Why not offer this service on the machines themselves, and save the invaluable resource and time of the employee to offer much-needed assistance to the overwhelming crowds of people that want to spend money?

Don't be so certain that Apple won't be hiring more people.

A computer program can never deal with the issues that come up when two perple are talking.

Have you found that most FAQ's, for example, don't have the answer to YOUR question? Or if it does, it isn't quite what you need?

And, what makes you think that these people won't be spending money? That's the purpose, to help people decide what they need, and how they can use it.
post #23 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDuff

Actually, they could have an online Mac Talk call centre. The customer clicks the Mac Talk button on any floor model, and a special VNC-enabled variant of iChat is booted with the Mac Chat consultant starting a video-chat and having complete control over the Mac to show any and everything the person is interested in. The virtual Mac Chat consultant could easily alert a member of the store's staff for any particular issue requiring in-person handling... such as a sale.

The customer could have the choice of an on-the-spot or "on demand" virtual Mac Chat, or book an appointment for an in-person Mac Chat. Plus, the virtual Mac Chat would be demonstrating -- leveraging -- OS X's capabilities right before the customer's eyes!

Is this a bad idea?

I agree with the others. I have always found that unless a customer is in a hurry, they want to talk a bit, and consult with someone who knows what they are talking about, and who isn't trying to push them into buying something they don't need, or want. Having that person in front of them is the best method. People feel more comfortable. They can also have a physical interaction with the product that they can't get if the other person is sitting inside the screen.
post #24 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross

Really?

Do you get a thousand people in your store every day? Even the small stores get several hundred.

Not thousands but we can get hundreds. ANY establishment will scale their staffing needs to the customers demand. Ergo, IF we had a thousand customers a day we would have more staff.
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post #25 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by daBoss

Not thousands but we can get hundreds. ANY establishment will scale their staffing needs to the customers demand. Ergo, IF we had a thousand customers a day we would have more staff.

You're doing pretty well then. Most Mac retailers I've been to over the years could barely entice a hundred customers into their store in a day, 50 would be more like it. Which store are you with? That's pretty large for a Mac establishment. I only know of a few around the country that big.

Apple has to think broadly however. No one else has a 'Genius" bar, or most all of their products out for use, in multiples the way they do.
post #26 of 42
We do okay in our region. I'm not saying we get hundreds every day but we do often have consistent rushes. A slow day is 40-60.

As for the location, that, sir, shall remain a mystery. Wouldn't want Apple opening up a location right across the street from us, now would we.
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post #27 of 42
As someone with recent Apple purchases this year (Macbook and a Nano); I am FAR from impressed with Apple's retail stores.

Service?

I actually waited 6-7 minutes to putchase a giftcard. The longer I was waiting at the check-out counter, the less the amount of the giftcard.

Apple's really's bad. This, alas, was not my only bad Apple retail store experience.
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post #28 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by donlphi

The flashing GREEN SCREEN seems a little embarassing. I don't know if I would want to have verybody POINTING and STARING at me because I need assistance. Perhaps they could just have some computer by the genius bar that says, computer 3 needs help... they could just tag the computers like a restaurant tags a table.

Let's pile on Apple while assuming the worst!! Yea!!!

I assume that you only get a Green Screen IF you click on a screen button that requests it and I think this would help people who are MORE embarrassed about tracking down the help on their own. Someone who really doesn't want to be disturbed should be able to play with the Mac and maybe even NOT be bothered while the screen stays UNGreen. Thus you get a green screen when you want it.

This way if Apple employees are distributed throughout the store they can always see a flash of green in the corner of their eyes to alert them to a need. A good store (meaning one with a good manager) can communicate well enough to each other to keep things moving.

Also these only initiate a 2-minute opportunity to help a customer about the specific device that she/he is exploring. The one-hour times are only for newbies. YOU with all your skills and knowledge can still walk up to someone with any sophisticated question you might have.

My own observations in Apple Stores are that sometimes the sales assoc. are either all busy or standing around waiting. This gives a good team the ability to flatten the peaks and valleys of service.

Also the biggest problem seems to be people crowding the Genius Bar, waiting their turn. I was in one that was full when a whole class of 6th graders came herding thru the store with chaperones. (I sure never went to shopping mall field trips when I was in school!) But the Apple magic dust fell upon them and I'm sure they are customers for life now.
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post #29 of 42
service is really bad @ the Apple Retail Stores... At least the ones that I have been in here in Nor. Calif. Which is kind of sad since they are only a few minutes from "Corporate HQ"

6-7 minute wait? That's kind of a short wait time from what I noticed. Almost as bad as some cellphone retail stores .

Of course, I would still trust these folks WAY more then the sharks @ Fry's Electronics or some of the PC sales crowd.

BTW: Anyone else notice the Xserve has listed a shipping date of 1-3 days? I wonder why no one has bothered to notify the world a new Mac is being sold?
post #30 of 42
They should make Rhonda into an actual lady that appears onto the screen and helps you. Sort of like the lady from the fictitious company "The Hanso Foundation" from the TV show LOST.

Because I don't want to be bandwidth stealer (sorta)...http://digitalhooligans.com/blog/upl...nso-711262.png
post #31 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacGregor

Let's pile on Apple while assuming the worst!! Yea!!!

I assume that you only get a Green Screen IF you click on a screen button that requests it and I think this would help people who are MORE embarrassed about tracking down the help on their own. Someone who really doesn't want to be disturbed should be able to play with the Mac and maybe even NOT be bothered while the screen stays UNGreen. Thus you get a green screen when you want it.

This way if Apple employees are distributed throughout the store they can always see a flash of green in the corner of their eyes to alert them to a need. A good store (meaning one with a good manager) can communicate well enough to each other to keep things moving.

Also these only initiate a 2-minute opportunity to help a customer about the specific device that she/he is exploring. The one-hour times are only for newbies. YOU with all your skills and knowledge can still walk up to someone with any sophisticated question you might have.

My own observations in Apple Stores are that sometimes the sales assoc. are either all busy or standing around waiting. This gives a good team the ability to flatten the peaks and valleys of service.

Also the biggest problem seems to be people crowding the Genius Bar, waiting their turn. I was in one that was full when a whole class of 6th graders came herding thru the store with chaperones. (I sure never went to shopping mall field trips when I was in school!) But the Apple magic dust fell upon them and I'm sure they are customers for life now.

?????
post #32 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by daBoss

As for the location, that, sir, shall remain a mystery. Wouldn't want Apple opening up a location right across the street from us, now would we.

I hope you're kidding!

As for the whole service side of things, Apple's stores get lots of people in every day just playing around or checking their e-mail and stuff. Most independent Apple retailers don't get those kinds of patrons or are as open to them. It looks like the whole idea is to better identify the customers who need help from the "visitors."
post #33 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idle

I hope you're kidding!

As for the whole service side of things, Apple's stores get lots of people in every day just playing around or checking their e-mail and stuff. Most independent Apple retailers don't get those kinds of patrons or are as open to them. It looks like the whole idea is to better identify the customers who need help from the "visitors."

Suffice it to say, we're not in your neighbourhood. (There's a hint in my spelling.) No need to awaken the giant. It's difficult enough to compete with your largest supplier (online store) already.

As for the 'visitors' we get our fair share of them as well. There are polite ways to deal with them such as pointing out some of our clients who happen to offer the services that these 'visitors' require.
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post #34 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by trtam

They should make Rhonda into an actual lady that appears onto the screen and helps you. Sort of like the lady from the fictitious company "The Hanso Foundation" from the TV show LOST.

Or the wildly sucessful Ms. Dewey.

post #35 of 42
Apple reps can be quite hard to track down - esp. when trying to buy a computer. I hope they increase their presence over the holiday periods - this new system may help; but then so would blocking email from the computers!
post #36 of 42
It looks like Apple is doing pretty well with their customer service. With these enhancement that will make it even easier cuz I went the their 24h store in Manhattan and I had to wait in line for a while before getting to speak the a Mac genius...

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post #37 of 42
Instead of an hour with the salesperson, funnel the extra money into customer service. Make the Mac have thhe best follow-up care in the industry. IMHO, Macs have less issues by far than do PCs. I have worked with both and see a major difference. This may cost Apple a bit in salaries, but the PR would be significant.
post #38 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by daBoss

Suffice it to say, we're not in your neighbourhood. (There's a hint in my spelling.) No need to awaken the giant. It's difficult enough to compete with your largest supplier (online store) already.

As for the 'visitors' we get our fair share of them as well. There are polite ways to deal with them such as pointing out some of our clients who happen to offer the services that these 'visitors' require.

And that's the difference between the independents and Apple.

At least in the larger stores here in NYC, you can actually bring your project in, and work on it in the store. Bring own CD, or DVD (or buy themn there), and finish it too. The only thing Apple will kick you out of the store for doing, is causing a commotion, or visiting porn sites (it IS a family store after all).

You can also bring your PC laptop and hang out while using the WiFi.

Until independents can match those services, they shouldn't complain. Tekserve in NYC does about the same, but they don't have a lot of Apple machines you can use.

I'm not interested in whether a store goes out of business because Apple moves to their city. If Apple is a better experience, more power to them.

It's rather disengenious to say that you don't want to waken Apple to your presense, isn't it? If they don't already know EXACTLY how much product you move, then they wouldn't be a very good company. They probably know more about the "store" you work for, then you do.
post #39 of 42
Rhonda, I don't like the name for the new alert system.
post #40 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by JupiterOne

Or the wildly sucessful Ms. Dewey.


hey i hadn't seen that one! hehe that's nice... oh and its from microsoft. that's cooler than msn search haha
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