Aug 292012
The Sydney Apple store

One of Apple’s great successes has been in delivering services through its stores. Tech site Gizmodo managed to get a peak at Apple’s training manual for their in-store ‘Genius’ technicians.

A word that keeps popping up in the manual is ’empathy’ – as Gizmodo says;

The term “empathy” is repeated ad nauseum in the Genius manual. It is the salesman sine qua non at the Apple Store, encouraging Geniuses to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,”

While the Gizmodo writers and many of the site’s readers seem surprised or cynical about this, it’s not surprising for anyone who’s worked in sales or tech support, and the Apple Store Geniuses are doing both.

Empathizing with the customer or caller gives them confidence and builds trust. For someone in sales, listening and emphasizing is how one finds out what the customer really want. On the support desk, putting yourself in the customer’s position makes it easier to diagnose the problem.

That empathy a real return on investment – US Apple Stores earn 17 times more per square foot than the average retail store. The next most profitable retailer is Tiffany & Co who only boast have the revenue.

What Apple again show is that training matters. Every surly computer store assistant, every grumpy flight attendant or bored call centre worker can, with the right training and incentives, be just as effective as an Apple Store genius.

Sadly too many businesses, particularly retailers, see training as a cost and their employees as naughty children. Those businesses have a serious problem.

Without empathy – the ability to put yourself in your customers’ shoes – your business is working with a distinct disadvantage.

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