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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    In regards to Mac Talk, now even fewer Mac Specialists will be available to assist walk in customers
  • Reply 2 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 41
    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...
  • Reply 4 of 41
    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).
  • Reply 5 of 41
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 41
    macrrmacrr Posts: 488member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    Thank God for "these same people"!
  • Reply 9 of 41
    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?
  • Reply 10 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 41
    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....
  • Reply 12 of 41
    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
  • Reply 13 of 41
    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
  • Reply 14 of 41
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 41
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 41
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 41
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 41
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,035member
    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.
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