Former Apple retail head Angela Ahrendts upset 'finely tuned balance'

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Former Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts upset a "finely tuned balance" at the company's stores in the name of branding, a report suggested on Tuesday, with interviews with employees supposedly indicating the brand push was more important than helping customers.

Angela Ahrendts


A series of interviews with current and former Apple employees about the current store experience, most recently formed under the stewardship of former retail chief Angela Ahrendts, is said to blame a number of areas for supposed dissatisfaction from some consumers. A change in store culture and a slip in the quality of staff during an aggressive expansion are cited as the main reasons for the customer unhappiness.

In a move to end lineups, turn stores into luxury showrooms, and create "town squares" where people could "spend time with the brand," Ahrendts axed Genius Bars in favor of a mix of roaming Geniuses as well as Genius Groves and tables, reports Bloomberg. Checkout counters were likewise swapped with roaming clerks, which the report claims created problems, since shoppers started having trouble getting the right person's attention in speedy fashion.

Customers were increasingly encouraged to schedule pickups and appointments online, and must now check in with a clerk. Once a Genius is free, that staffer then has to track down the customer, who's likely to be wandering the store while they wait. Even then they frequently have to take a broken device into a back room, losing the personal touch that came from working at a counter in front of a client.

Ahrendts also did away with paid one-on-one training in favor of free group sessions, which while better attended can be held back by the slowest learner, several workers said.

The quality of staff allegedly declined under Ahrendts' watch, even if she didn't instigate the issue.

"Employees used to be very skilled," one worker commented. "When you came to Apple, you could walk in and talk to someone who happens to be a musician or videographer on the side, really knowledgeable. They hire really nice people now, but they are much less technical."

More critically, staffers are getting less training -- while original retail head Ron Johnson saw that salespeople got three weeks to a month, that time has shrunk to about a week in most cases. Geniuses were originally trained at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino but are now usually taught in-store.

Apple has actually been shifting away from the luxury showroom motif since before Ahrendts' departure, Bloomberg observed. This includes putting up promotional stickers and posters, which can break Ahrendts' fashion-themed atmosphere.

The retail chain is now being overseen by Deirdre O'Brien, who is also retaining her role as HR chief. It's speculated that she could reverse or alter some of Ahrendts' policies, though she's had a month or less at the helm.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 89
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 5,137member
    Yes, as I have said several times previously -- that has been my experience:
    -- Poorly trained staff:  "Ask five people -- get five different answers
    -- An emphasis on sales over service
    -- Being pushed to make online appointments for service -- which the Apple store essentially ignored (You got treated the same whether you had an appointment or just walked in)

    And, I think what most bothered me was, even while buying products, about 50% of the time I knew more about the product than the employee did.

    I am happy for both myself and Apple to see this era gone and a return to a service oriented store that also sells product
    stanhopeasdasdmacplusplusflyingdpboogerman2000caladanianirelandmuthuk_vanalingamcornchippulseimages
  • Reply 2 of 89
    zompzomp Posts: 53member
    Personally, I was not happy with in store apple shopping experience when AA was involved and felt she placed to much attention on the "haves" and my taste for the apple store soured when I would purchase items on line for store pick up - I had to wait forever to pick up a paid item. I really don't think she is a good as everyone thought she was in her profession. Some times large companies draw from top salary people for no other reason than the person is a top salary person.
     My belief is that Steve would have never allowed AA within a 100 yards of an Apple employment line.
    SpamSandwichGeorgeBMacmacplusplus1st
  • Reply 3 of 89
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,007member
    Apple store in Mall or around was a spot where people besides purchase or repair or a question to ask, just like to stop by, play with gadgets, feel liveliness. If that is gone than that needs to be restored. If someone wants to purchase a Apple product than that gets priority. Than, quick thing for customer satisfaction is answer to questions about product/features to convert into sale than repair which takes longer wait which customers know if sent for repair than takes a week than few hours at retail store.
  • Reply 4 of 89
    Interesting article!  I had to visit the Thousand Oaks, CA Mall Store last year to get a bricked IPhone X replaced.  I was shocked at the poor experience.  It was not clear where to go to check in so I asked a person with a headset who seemed to be coordinating things and she seemed annoyed by me asking.  I had an appointment and had to wait about 40 minutes past that time before an employee was available to help me.  They told me to sit in this little area with weird round and square shaped uncomfortable vinyl covered stumps for chairs.  There were about 4 other people and we just stared at one another as we shifted on our stumps.  Before this time, I would always want to stop by the Apple store to check things out when shopping with my wife.  Not so much any more.  I think Apple let fashion trump practicality...
    dysamoriaGeorgeBMacasdasdchemenginboogerman2000minicoffeecaladanianirelandmuthuk_vanalingampulseimages
  • Reply 5 of 89
    chaickachaicka Posts: 145member
    In the last 2 years of visiting various Apple Stores around the world while traveling, I definitely noticed the declination in the quality of staff, specifically on knowledge, especially on Apple's own products (e.g. HomePod actually supports a line voltage of 100V to 240V AC, regardless of what plug it comes with). Yet no Apple Store staff at those I visited in 2019 was able to accurately answer my query. This differs so much from the experience I had several years ago where you walk in to an Apple Store and ask questions about Apple product, they are so well-versed that it amazes you. Example: In the year of iPhone 5, I travelled to Hong Kong for work and lost it one of the days. Got to an Apple Store at IFM, seek help to get the IMEI number as the police required it and I had no means to get that info. Got the info I needed after awhile. Got a replacement phone where the sales lady was even able to confirm that it is the same model as those sold in Singapore where I resides in (since there are a few different models due to different 4G bands/frequencies). Excellent service and knowledge of every staff who helped get me through that ordeal.

    Now - Apple Store is just so different and certainly some 'magical elements' are now missing!!!

    PS: The current Apple Store is not all bad. I like the schedule-based process so I dun waste time traveling to an Apple Store only to wait another hour to be serve (since it is always - every single day, overwhelmed with customers either to buy, to learn or to repair/replace). It used to be such a pain to be burning time away endlessly without a clue how long before you get served. Now, this part is much better.
    edited May 7 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 89
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,192member
    Every company has disgruntled employees. But not every company is Apple where employees can snitch to Mark Gurman and get a write up in Bloomberg. The biggest complaint about Apple stores seems to be that they’re too crowded. But if Jason Snell is right the new person heading retail is tasked with pushing sales. That might have been one reason Angela left.
    JWSCcornchip
  • Reply 7 of 89
    Apple stores used to be a fun destination/experience - I hope it returns to that with the new VP!
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 8 of 89
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 146member
    I used to go there and think, "Wow! This is amazing customer service. Nobody has this."

    Now I dread having to go there for help. It's like customer service at a car dealership. Once you have bought the car, you're treated like an annoyance.
    GeorgeBMacchemenginboogerman2000JanNLirelandcornchipmazda 3s
  • Reply 9 of 89
    doctwelvedoctwelve Posts: 46member
    Made an appointment, having to choose the "least inconvenient" time for me that was available. Waited for my genius. Someone walked in and asked to see a genius and was seen to before me. While waiting, I saw a younger "genius" lose their patience with an older woman who had an iPhone issue and didn't understand the fix. The genius said, "I explained it already, I am done with you..." and walked away. Not the Apple I love. 
    GeorgeBMacasdasdchemenginboogerman2000mazda 3s
  • Reply 10 of 89
    1348513485 Posts: 73member
    I still like the Apple store...I just like it a lot less than I used to. Much less fun, much more tedium--that's a bad tradeoff when you're spending a fair amount of money on stuff.

    I think the return of the Genius Bar is warranted, albeit bigger and better staffed so that the wait times for a consult or service is a lot shorter than it is now. 

    And a little better sound attenuation to lower the normal roar.

    Let's start there and then we'll move on to a modicum of adult seating later.

    dysamoriaGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 11 of 89
    glhglh Posts: 5member
    They never should have hired her. No question that the stores have deteriorated enormously -- customer experience, I have found, is hit or miss lately, and I tend to avoid the Apple Store in the mall. It used to be entirely different and much better, IMO
    GeorgeBMacasdasdmacplusplusboogerman2000
  • Reply 12 of 89
    Nobody is going to be 100% fit for a new senior role at Apple from outside.  Ultimately whoever is in charge needs to understand and balance both creative branding as well as the technical aspects of the products and services.  I think it was telling when Ahrendts came in from the branding side and overshadowed some of the technical aspects of the operations.  Apple is unique that both branding and technology are strong.


     
    cornchip
  • Reply 13 of 89
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,555member
    Ooh, more axe-grinding from pro-troll Gurman, at the disgraced Bloomberg. Yawn. 

    The stores are busy. Good problem to have. What can ya do. 
    lkruppJWSCcorrectionscornchip
  • Reply 14 of 89
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,288member
    I agree with the majority here, and have been carping on this for years here. Not all AA’s fault though. Things had been declining for years. She just made things worse. I was a part timer at one of the first stores (Newport Beach, CA) back in 2001. It was an exciting time. Remember the free bottled water at the Genius Bar? Going to the Apple Stone was a “destination event.” Now I tolerate it. Noisy, chaotic, uneven—it’s a mess. Town Square just doesn’t work. Organization needs to be imposed. Not everything about a traditional store is bad. 
    dysamoriaGeorgeBMac1stireland
  • Reply 15 of 89
    lukeilukei Posts: 333member
    I agree with the majority here, and have been carping on this for years here. Not all AA’s fault though. Things had been declining for years. She just made things worse. I was a part timer at one of the first stores (Newport Beach, CA) back in 2001. It was an exciting time. Remember the free bottled water at the Genius Bar? Going to the Apple Stone was a “destination event.” Now I tolerate it. Noisy, chaotic, uneven—it’s a mess. Town Square just doesn’t work. Organization needs to be imposed. Not everything about a traditional store is bad. 
    Spent 25 minutes with a friend trying to buy
    iPhone a month or so ago. Waiting for someone to serve us. 

    Unreal. 


  • Reply 16 of 89
    AI_liasAI_lias Posts: 305member
    When very crowded, my local store had a stale air smell in it (better ventilation system?). The online booking of Genius appointments seems to be obscured to discourage it, favoring phone calls or mailing stuff in (at least last time I tried to do it). These are my only complaints with Apple stores. Fortunately, I tried to stay away from them, and didn't experience the other problems, but I also didn't see any noticeable difference since AA came onboard. Suggestions would be to get more Geniuses so appointments are widely available, without multi-day wait times (the user base grew, grow the Genius base proportionally, if you need to). Other things would be to have more practical displays of their devices in real-life use cases (ex. Apple TV connected to nice HDR TV and surround sound, game controllers, whatever...), music-making station with Mac and studio monitors, keyboard, or a MacBook pro on a table connected to a dock, external storage, etc with a bunch of cables all over the table, etc. Not sure if stuff like this is practical, though.
    edited May 7 dysamoriairelandcornchip
  • Reply 17 of 89
    adamcadamc Posts: 576member
    If you like Apple products use them if not use something else.
    jdb8167
  • Reply 18 of 89
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,700member
    Every company has disgruntled employees. But not every company is Apple where employees can snitch to Mark Gurman and get a write up in Bloomberg. The biggest complaint about Apple stores seems to be that they’re too crowded. But if Jason Snell is right the new person heading retail is tasked with pushing sales. That might have been one reason Angela left.
    I think Angela left due to ego.  She was vested, and being an ex-CEO, she probably wanted to be back in the top chair again.  Can't blame her.

    I'm still in a holding pattern with how she handled the retail remodeling.  In my personal experience here in San Francisco, it's not better or worse.  Just different.

    I am going in tomorrow to have my iPhoneX repaired/replaced.  It's been a while since I ever needed any kind of Apple service so I'm curious to see how it is.
    cornchip
  • Reply 19 of 89
    FatmanFatman Posts: 313member
    Paid her way too much.The experience needs to be a combination of the brand, learning, sales and service. I don't know the ideal design/mix/solution, but that is why they need an expert to figure it out - she wasn't that person.
  • Reply 20 of 89
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,192member
    sflocal said:
    Every company has disgruntled employees. But not every company is Apple where employees can snitch to Mark Gurman and get a write up in Bloomberg. The biggest complaint about Apple stores seems to be that they’re too crowded. But if Jason Snell is right the new person heading retail is tasked with pushing sales. That might have been one reason Angela left.
    I think Angela left due to ego.  She was vested, and being an ex-CEO, she probably wanted to be back in the top chair again.  Can't blame her.

    I'm still in a holding pattern with how she handled the retail remodeling.  In my personal experience here in San Francisco, it's not better or worse.  Just different.

    I am going in tomorrow to have my iPhoneX repaired/replaced.  It's been a while since I ever needed any kind of Apple service so I'm curious to see how it is.
    I find it curious that she left shorty after the decision was made last fall to push iPhone sales in store. Maybe the timing was just a coincidence but I do wonder. I doubt she created Today at Apple as a vehicle to push iPhone sales. Recently I was at an Apple store to have a cracked iPhone display replaced. I just did a walk-in. It took maybe 15 minutes to get checked in and been seen by a store employee. They told me to come back in an hour to pick up my phone. It was a very slick process especially considering I was just a walk-in. Seems to me the complaints are mostly around stores being too busy. I’m not sure how much can be done about that outside of building more stores.
    cornchip
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