The first Apple store opened on May 19th, 2001 at Tyson’s Corner Center Mall in Virginia. Today the tech giant boasts an impressive 506 stores across 24 countries and is valued at roughly $3 trillion.
Although best known for its revolutionary products such as the iPhone and iPad, Apple has worked hard to develop its retail arm—which boasts a 90% employee retention rate—and is now an example that many businesses look to when deciding how best to run their own stores.
Apple’s store employees—better known as Geniuses—are known for their insightful advice and accurate representation of the company’s brand. But how did they achieve such consistent excellence?
Keep reading to find out why and how Apple trains its employees and some key lessons from Apple that you can take away and apply to your own business.
Why does Apple train its retail employees?
Whether you’re one of the biggest companies in the world or a store with just a handful of employees, training your staff is vital to your success.
A strong training and development program can have a multitude of short and long-term benefits. Retention rates increase by 30%-50% for companies with a strong learning culture, while organizations with a weak onboarding program are twice as likely to experience employee turnover. Improved retention is especially valuable in a sector with a 60% turnover rate.
And training is valued by your workforce—93% of employees say that an effective training program positively impacts their level of engagement. A trained and engaged workforce naturally improves workplace performance—IBM discovered that trained employees are 10% more productive than those who received no training.
However, each company faces its own unique set of challenges and must customize their training to meet business demands. Apple employees are required to absorb huge amounts of technical information and then simplify it for a less technical audience. And with Apple constantly releasing new products and updates, its workforce must remain informed at all times.
To address this, Apple promotes continuous learning during the entirety of a new recruit’s first year. This training initiative—known as Pathways—provides three times the amount of core training and focuses on areas including customer interaction, store features, and product knowledge.
How does Apple train its retail store employees?
With 70,000 employees across the globe, Apple needed to figure out the most effective way to mass communicate with its dispersed workforce and equip them with relevant knowledge.
It should be of no surprise that the tech giant takes advantage of digital resources to train its workforce. Each employee starts the day with Hello—an app that provides daily briefings on the most important ‘need to knows’ of the day. This was revealed by Angela Ahrendts, the former Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple, and the approach aims to keep all employees aligned with Apple’s vision and ensure the company is never too far removed from its workforce.
They also utilize Loop—an internal social network where employees engage in peer-to-peer learning. So if one Apple employee is selling a lot of iPhones, they can share a video clip offering useful advice and tips. And to overcome any language barriers, Apple optimizes auto-translate, allowing all stores to talk to each other.
The use of online learning is supplemented by a flexible training approach. Apple lets its trainees decide the length of their initial onboarding training, empowering workers to assess their own skill level and decide when they’re ready to work independently on the shop floor.
Apple retail training: 3 takeaways
1. Customer Centricity is Key
Every successful company values its customers and works to make them a central part of its company doctrine. However, some businesses place equal or greater emphasis on driving sales and profit. Managers are motivated by sales incentives and trainees are schooled in the art of the sale.
For Apple, customer-centricity stands alone as the most important part of their retail philosophy, and new recruits are taught to prioritize the customer experience over profit. According to Gizmodo, “A fundamental part of their job—sans sales quotas of any kind—is simply to make you happy.”
And to ensure they achieve their customer-centric goals, Apple trains its employees using their own five-step ‘APPLE’ process:
Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs.
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues of concern.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
2. Produce product experts
One goal of Apple’s retail employees is to help customers understand and effectively use their products. In order to do this, they must know everything about the product themselves.
To help meet this requirement, Apple is selective during the application stage. Most potential candidates have a background in technology, ensuring those who get the job have foundational knowledge that makes the training process a seamless one.
The training then proceeds to build on this foundation and provide Apple product training via initiatives like the aforementioned Pathways, as well as training in customer service and store knowledge.
3. Empower employees
Apple unquestionably values its employees' opinions and there are several points during its retail staff training where employee empowerment is widely practiced.
Apple’s training manuals heavily emphasize empowerment. Staff are encouraged to spend as much time with a customer as they deem necessary, and management are not concerned if the interaction ends with a purchase.
Furthermore, Apple Geniuses are trained to give and receive ‘fearless feedback.’ In fact, Apple store managers who are considering a candidate are told to ask themselves the question: could this candidate go toe-to-toe with Steve Jobs? In other words, Apple encourages retail employees to be forthcoming with their thoughts, understanding that creation of such a feedback loop ultimately benefits the business.
Are you ready to improve your retail staff training?
Get in touch with us now to see how we can help 👇