retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Unless, of course, you happen to be Apple.

9to5Mac is reporting that "Apple will soon make a significant change to retail store Genius Bar appointments to improve the customer experience, according to several sources briefed on the upcoming shift. During the week of March 9th, Apple’s United States stores will launch a new initiative called 'Concierge' that replaces traditional walk-in Genius Bar appointments."

According to the story, "This Concierge program, spearheaded by Retail Senior Vice President Angela Ahrendts, moves away from the classic appointment model. Instead, a customer describes the issue to an Apple Store employee, who inputs the issue into an updated iPad application. Using a special algorithm, the application provides the customer a wait time based on issue priorities. For example, a customer seeking an iPhone screen replacement will automatically be placed higher in the queue than a customer seeking help with a minor iCloud issue. The customer then provides a phone number, which Apple uses to send three text messages with wait time updates."

The story goes on to say that "multiple Apple employees have called the Concierge program one of the most significant changes to Apple Store operations in several years, as it allows customers to request support on the spot, shop elsewhere inside of the mall, and then return when the store is ready to service them. This will likely reduce crowding in the Apple Store and possibly fatigue from waiting customers. Apple Stores will operate essentially like restaurants that provide diners with pagers and wait times instead of holding empty tables while people are waiting. However, with the SMS-based system, realtime feedback and interactivity will be provided without the need for additional hardware."

The new program is said to not affect people who book Genius Bar appointments online before going to the store.

I think this is an Eye-Opener. Let's face it - the Apple Store is generally considered to be state of the art when it comes to a retail experience, and the Genius Bar is one of the best ideas any retailer ever has had. Apple could hardly be blamed for leaving things alone ... but that's not the way you maintain leadership and encourage innovation.

I'm reminded of the line from the Amazon commercial: "Normal just begs to be messed with."

And, of course, the line from the Apple commercial: "Think different."

As usual, Apple's approach to business and retail is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: