The Secrets of the Apple Store

Employee interactions are intensely controlled at retail giant

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 15, 2011 10:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – At a time when retail is suffering, one store continues to thrive: the Apple Store. To wit: The number of people who visited the 326 stores in one quarter outweighed the number of visitors to the four main Disney theme parks last year. Apple’s retail sales per square foot—excluding online sales—are much higher than those of Tiffany & Co., Coach, and Best Buy. The Wall Street Journal takes a long look at the store and its hush-hush policies, talking to current and former employees, scouring confidential training manuals, and listening in on a recorded store meeting, to paint a picture of the dizzying control Apple exerts over its brick-and-mortar empire.

Applying for a job at one of the stores is intense, usually requiring two rounds of interviews that include questions about leadership skills and Apple product enthusiasm. Training is perhaps even more intense, involving customer service classes and a couple weeks—or longer—spent shadowing experienced employees before being allowed to interact with customers. And Apple exerts a large degree of control over that interaction, providing scripted training; for instance, when troubleshooting tech problems, "as it turns out" should be used instead of "unfortunately," which has a negative connotation. Employees can be fired for writing about Apple on the Internet or being six minutes late three times in six months. Click for much more, including a history of the stores.

A pedestrian walks by an Apple Store following an announcement that Apple has become the world's most valuable brand on May 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
A pedestrian walks by an Apple Store following an announcement that Apple has become the world's most valuable brand on May 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California.   (Getty Images)
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Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome. Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs. Present a solution for the customer to take home today. Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns. - A portion of Apple's "steps of service"

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