Apple Has Taken the “Sales” Out of Salesperson

Apple_Geniuses

Right now in Canada a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop is $1,229. A third-generation 32GB iPad is $619. Buying it at the Apple Store? It’s $619. Buying it at Future Shop? $619.  Best Buy? $619. Online through Apple website? $619. There is no haggling.

(Yes there are some minor exceptions to the above, under certain circumstances, but in general the above holds true.)

This is something that has always fascinated me. In some ways it’s a statement by Apple. If you want to purchase an Apple product – this is the price.

This is a pretty cocky statement by Apple. It speaks to the confidence that the company displays in its products. Especially considering its products tend to be the highest of price points, amongst its competitors.

It’s almost as if the adage “you get what you pay for” is the company motto.

As reported by SmartMoney, it is this approach that has Apple being the envy of other retailers. Industry experts say Best Buy is remaking its “Geek Squad” in Apple’s image, and General Motors is implementing “no-haggle prices” on some of its models.

These are just two examples.

Why? Simple. In-store employees are then “free” to focus on customer service, over sales. There is no price match. There is no haggling. The price is what it is. Want to know more about the product? Absolutely no problem. Apple Store product specialists are there to help.

New employees are taught the A.P.P.L.E. acronym, according to Carmine Gallo, author of “The Apple Experience”.

A = Approach in a warm manner.

P = Probe politely.

P = Present customers with a solution that may or may not involve a sale.

L = Listen carefully.

E = End with an invitation to return.

Sound simple? It is. And history has shown it works. Using this approach serves to offer the best customer service possible.

In fact, you will not see the term “Salesperson” in a Apple Store. Instead, you will be greeted and helped by an Apple “Specialist” or “Genius”.

apple_specialist_service

In this regard, Apple has revolutionized retail sales, by being different than their competitors.

But too much of a good thing is not good. If everyone else adopts (i.e. copies,) Apple’s strategy, where does that leave them? Only time will tell.

Personally, I love this approach. Just tell me what the price is up front. Then I’ll do the research myself to see if it is justified. If so, I’ll buy it. If not, I won’t.

What do you think of Apple’s approach?

[via SmartMoney, Cult of Mac]

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Simon B

    Unfortunately, my experiences dealing with Apple “Specialists” or “Geniuses” have been more or less a mixed bag. On one hand, I remember taking my out-of-warranty iPhone 3GS into the Apple Store in Las Vegas because of battery depletion issues and was offered a refurbished phone (looked brand new) as replacement for a small fee. The Apple Genius who helped me was absolutely polite, empathetic and communicate excellently. I was in and out of the store in less than 10 minutes, with a big smile on my face.

    On the other hand, my experiences at the Metrotown store has been more or less a regretful one. Due to the supposedly common “nature” of the Macbook Pro’s battery swelling/inflating at the end of its life cycle, I went in not knowing what to expect but with determination to get this problem rectified. However, the Apple Genius was far less professional than the previous one I mentioned.

    First, anyone who really knows Apple products can tell first hand that my model of the Macbook Pro is a much older model (first generation of the Unibody design – late 2008) because of the battery/hard drive removable cover (this is also the root of my problem – the inflated battery makes it impossible to close the cover and when I force it on, one side of the cover is pushed up – bending the cover). The Genius insisted on checking the serial number to see if the Pro was still under warranty, and this to me was a disingenuous act. Of course, the result was that it was out-of-warranty and that I would have to pay a relatively premium price to get a new battery. Mind you, a “new” battery for an “older” model of Pro. To keep the story short, I refused to pay and suggested that Apple should replace the battery FOC because clearly, this was a design flaw. I said this because it is evident how Apple changed the design of the Unibody Pros after the first generation and removed the battery/hard drive lid. Anyway, it did not go as planned and the Genius started to use false analogies that undermined and insulted my knowledge as a tech-user. I was greatly irritated by the incompetence shown and lack of understanding of my problem so I left feeling absolutely disappointed.

    Unfortunately, the story did not end there. The next day, I received one of those “tell us about your experience” email that solicits feedback from customers. So, naturally, I replied truthfully about my experience and how it changed my thoughts about the company in general. It also asked if I wished to leave a contact number so that they could contact me to discuss the feedback. The same day, a customer service rep from the store, I presumed, called me and asked about the negative feedback. I was surprised because I thought the feedback was eloquently communicated and there shouldn’t be any ambiguity that would need further clarification. So, I asked what he wanted to know or discuss and this proved to be a huge mistake. Again, the rep did not intend to listen and understand my reasoning of the problem from a customer’s perspective but went on to “lecture” me about battery technologies and how the batteries for the older Pros were designed to inflate/swell for safety reasons. I repeatedly said that despite of the fact, the design flaw was on the Pros itself and not so much about the battery. The Pros should not have the removable cover in the first place, like all the generations after the first, to prevent this from happening. The caller also stated that Apple did not change the design in newer Pros to compensate for the issue but it was more of an aesthetic choice. This made my day – because If you looked at the underside of my model and newer models, there is absolutely no difference whatsoever except for the fact that I had the removable cover. It’s funny that he wanted to talk about design aesthetic because I am a designer and suppose to know these things.

    In conclusion, despite of what Apple is trying to accomplish with its approach in customer service, the “human factor” is something that is difficult to control. Some people have the right attitude for the job and some simply don’t. First rule of customer service is that customer is ALWAYS right, even if or when they are wrong. Then, there are nuances that can be applied in cases like that without appearing to be talking down/lecturing/teaching them a lesson. After this incident, I actually surprised myself by considering getting one of those sleek Samsung Series laptop for my next upgrade. Surprised because I have always been an Apple fan, a loyal supporter, a true admirer, of anything Apple. If Apple really wanted to charge its customers pennies and dimes after they paid premium for their techs, then maybe it is time to reevaluate my admiration and ensure that it is not just a blind obsession towards the company’s products.

  • Wow Simon, thanks for your detailed account of your various encounters with Apple customer service. It was very informative and interesting.

    I too have had both positive and negative experiences with Apple customer service. However, it’s been mostly positive. I think it’s virtually impossible for any company to provide 100% customer satisfaction all the time, simply because of what you mentioned – “the human factor”. A company can try as hard as they can to instil its values into all its employees, but it’s certainly never a sure thing. For example, What if one employee is having a bad day, due to something entirely unrelated to their job? That will certainly play a factor into their dealings with the customer.

    The scenario you describe about your MacBook pro is unfortunately. Based on what you described, I’m in full agreement that it should have been handled better. I mean I don’t see anything wrong with checking a serial number, to me that is OK. But insulting your knowledge as a tech user (i.e. “talking down” to you) isn’t cool. Also I agree that in the interest of great customer service, they should have just replaced the part for free.

    That being said, I had a friend of mine bring his out-of-warranty MacBook to Apple with a problem, only to have them give him a brand new one! (Newer version too!) So, I think a lot of it is the luck of the draw. Who knows what scenario will cause which reaction. It also depends on the “human factor” of the particular employee.

    Also the “tell us your experience” portion is quite laughable.

    So did you end up switching to the Samsung?

    What I will say though is that in general I still believe Apple has great customer service. Yes there is always the exception to the rule (for example your scenario,) but it appears to be the exception, from what I can surmise.

  • WhatAbout?

    Why is it ok to expect post-sale service to depend on “luck of the draw” yet you want initial-purchase prices set-in-stone across the board?

  • hub2

    The rep(s) handling your battery issue were definitely wrong, based on my experience.

    My Macbook (late-2006) also had a swollen battery that bulged top and bottom, and started preventing the trackpad button from being pressed. It was out of its 3-year Applecare extended warranty, so I was expected having to pay for a new one when I took it to the local Apple Store.

    The Genius I spoke to took one look at it, and seemed to agree with me saying this was a safety issue. He did say at first that the battery bulging is not unexpected, but quickly authorized a FREE replacement on the spot without additional coaxing from me.

    Might have had something to do with the purchase/registration record Apple has for me. PowerMac, Macbook, iMac, iPods, iPhone, various accessories… certainly not a big spender, but he may have felt that giving me a free replacement battery (worth $160) would be considered when that Macbook eventually needed replacing.

    And that’s exactly what happened–new iPhone, and just got a new MacBook Pro.

  • xxJDxx

    So basically you were upset that you had to buy a new battery on a 4 year old laptop?

  • It’s not ok. Never said it was ok. However, it is a reality of retail, or any industry for that matter. No company can offer PERFECT customer service. However it’s known that Apple’s is generally above-average.

  • Nonetheless, it should continue to strive to be better.

  • Hmm interesting point. I wonder if a customer’s purchase history factors into the decision. I think it probably must. Or at least it should. Loyal customers deserve the best service.

  • Charles

    Apples customer service is definitely above average at the very least. I don’t know why people think they deserve to get things replaced for free for products that are OUT OF WARRANTY! If you buy any other product, once that initial warranty is over, where can u go for help? You either pay a ridiculous price to fix it or buy a new product altogether. I think customers have gotten spoiled in that they have a place to go to, the Apple Store, to vent their frustrations. The fact that Apple has Stores and technicnicans to help you and offer subsidized prices to replace or fix devices that are out of warranty, is a part of great customer service that is taken for granted.

  • This is a good point. It’s unlikely that anyone (not just Apple,) would replace thing that are out of warranty. I think the main point Simon was trying to get at, is that this was actually a known defect (design flaw.)

  • Mark

    It’s been my understanding that this sort of price fixing is “Coercion”, which I thought (I was told) was illegal in the wholesale/retail market, and I’ve always wondered how Apple got away with it.

  • Hmm an interesting point I don’t know much about the law, but I wonder if it’d qualify? You’d think if that were the case, it would have happened already.

  • Simon B

    Exactly my point!
    To be honest, I would’ve been more happier if my Pro would just die because then I would gladly go and purchase a new one. Since it is still in relatively good shape and doing everything that I need it to do, I don’t see the point of upgrading as of now. However, the battery issue is something that is preventing me from using it when I’m mobile. When I buy a new phone, laptop, tv, etc, I have no expectation whatsoever that it will last forever, relatively speaking. I am fully aware that electronic gadgets do have “life cycles” and that eventually I would have to replace them. So I am not that naive to expect Apple to offer any service or replace anything for free, if it were a matter of “wear and tear”. The fact is that the battery is rarely used – even though it is my primary computer at home and at work, whenever I can find a power outlet, I usually remove the battery. And when I use System Information to check on the status of the battery, it shows that it is still in ‘Good’ status. Clearly that is not an indication that it is at the end of its lifespan. So why did it inflate so prematurely? And as Mike mentioned, I too have a friend who brought his out-of-warranty Pro to an Apple Store with a screen flickering issue and he got a brand new Pro as replacement. The best part was that the new Pro was a newer generation since they have discontinued the version that he had.
    So my question is why is there such huge discrepancies in the way they resolve issues at the store? I did not even go so far as to demand or expect them to give me a new Pro as replacement but just an older model battery, which I believe is no longer being used in the newer Pros. What is Apple going to do with those batteries anyway?
    I actually forgot to mention that the best part was that not only they expect me to pay for a new replacement but they said that the new battery would very likely do the same thing, inflate and swell, in a couple of years, suggesting that I would have to pay for a new again when the time comes.
    I said “No thanks”.