retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

There is a story in Fast Company that provided an extraordinary statistic about the Apple Store - that it ended last year with an employee retention rate of 81 percent.

"Extraordinary" doesn't even seem to cover it.

That number alone accounts for why companies like Best Buy continue to struggle, why RadioShack seems like an artifact of an ancient time, and why it makes absolutely no sense to me for people to try to resurrect the Circuit City brand.

What's next? Crazy Eddie?

Readers of MNB know that I'm an enormous Apple enthusiast - in my family, we all have iPhones and MacBooks and iPads and iPods and even several Apple TVs. i've written and talked about Apple often. I won't even pretend to be neutral and objective.

But here's what grabs my attention about Apple's employee base. The company doesn't seem to take it for granted.

One of the things I've noticed over the years is how often Apple sends out surveys after I've shopped at one of its stores. Back during the Christmas season, when I filled out one of those surveys, I wasn't pleased ... we'd had a bad experience at an Apple Store where the employees seemed more interested in talking to each other than to customers. So I told them of our experience...

Within hours, I got a call from the store manager, and we ended up having a long conversation about customer service. I wasn't angry, just disappointed, and he took advantage of my temperament to try to drill down on my comments. I didn't tell him what I do for a living until the end of the conversation, and then he started asking questions about other retailers, about who I like and who I don't.

In the end, I came away from a mediocre store experience with a highly positive experience overall ... and a conviction that despite missteps, they're focused on getting it right. And they want to hear what's really going on, not just have their own opinions reinforced.

We all know of businesses not so enlightened. Michael Sansolo wrote a column here years ago about how car dealerships ask people who have bought cars to answer surveys but only give them 10s, because anything less is seen as abject failure .. which means that they really don't want honest input. I had exactly the same experience recently, and I decided not to answer the survey rather than have my answers misinterpreted or mis-categorized.

Someone I know was tell me the other day about how their new boss was calling meetings with various departments, and among other things was asking for people's complaints ... and then essentially suggested that people who complained were whiners. This guy didn't really want to listen ... it was like he knew that "hold department meetings" was on the checklist for new bosses to do, and he needed to check that box off before moving on.

Leadership isn't about checking boxes. These days, especially in retail where the stakes are high and the people on the front lines are critical to success, it is about making sure that they feel invested in the company and the mission.

That's clearly what Apple does. Now, Apple has an advantage. After all, it is Apple.

But it ought to be the goal for every retailer.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: