Mark Gurman and Matthew Townsend, Bloomberg:
In interviews, current and former Apple employees blame a combination of factors. They say the stores have become mostly an exercise in branding and no longer do a good job serving mission shoppers like Smith. Meanwhile, they say, the quality of staff has slipped during an 18-year expansion that has seen Apple open more than 500 locations and hire 70,000 people. The Genius Bar, once renowned for its tech support, has been largely replaced with staff who roam the stores and are harder to track down. That’s a significant drawback because people are hanging onto their phones longer these days and need them repaired.
This report mirrors many of my own complaints when I’ve had to go to an Apple Store in the past couple of years, particularly for service or support:
The overhaul of the Genius Bar has been especially controversial. Customers looking for technical advice or repairs must now check in with an employee, who types their request into an iPad. Then when a Genius is free, he or she must find the customer wherever they happen to be in the store. Ahrendts was determined to get rid of lineups, but now the stores are often crowded with people waiting for their iPhones to be fixed or batteries swapped out.
The store I most frequently visit when I need support has a really strange vibe around the Genius Bar. I guess the intent is that, while you’re waiting five to forty-five minutes for your technician, you can look around for stuff to buy. But I don’t see people doing that. I see lots of people sitting awkwardly waiting at tables with lots of other people also sitting awkwardly. All of us just want our products fixed so we can go home.
The last time I went to an Apple Store was at the end of March or the beginning of April. I had picked up a pair of AirPods with a wireless charging case, and I wanted to exchange them for the model with the regular charging case. As I walked in, I was welcomed to the store and I explained that I wanted to do a product exchange. The greeter gestured me towards the rear-middle of the store, near the Genius Bar area. So I walked over there and asked someone if they could help me with exchanging a product, and they pointed me to a different person, who I once again had to explain what I wanted to do. They seemed baffled but had me wait for them to bring me a new set of AirPods which, I think, were hand-carried from the factory at that moment, all while kind of standing in the middle of where some other customers were trying to browse products.
When I brought my Thunderbolt Display in a few years ago to have the Y-cable swapped after it started getting flaky, I was told that I was better off taking it to a third-party repair facility as it would take far longer for Apple to get the part in stock. In related news, please buy my Thunderbolt Display.
I’m sure the competition is worse; but, that’s not saying much. Apple shouldn’t shoot for good enough. They certainly don’t in architectural terms.