Many of us will give or receive an Apple product this Christmas, and that might involve a trip to the Apple Store. From the store design to the customer service, there is no shopping experience quite like it. When people write books or give presentations about retail they almost always use Apple as an example of how to do it well.
Nothing in the Apple Store happens by accident. From the smiling person greeting you at the door to the folks behind the Genius Bar in blue t-shirts, everything is meticulously planned down to the finest detail. And that includes the language Apple employees use.
A few years ago a copy of the Apple Store training manual was leaked to the technology news website Gizmodo and it makes for revealing reading. The manual outlines the psychological techniques Apple staff are taught to use when dealing with customers.
If you describe a problem you are experiencing with your iPhone to an Apple employee the issue will often be repeated back to you using different, more positive phrasing.
Certain words are banned entirely. For example, a computer does not “crash”, it just “does not respond.” A laptop never runs “hot”, at most it is “warm.”
Emphasised throughout is an instruction to use empathy whenever possible – for employees to put themselves in customers’ shoes.
If a customer says a MacBook is too expensive, a suggested reply employees might use is, “I can see how you’d feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it’s a real value because of all the built-in software capabilities.” Complain about almost anything and the staff will most likely reply with a variation of, “I can see why you might feel that way,” before reframing the conversation.
Reading these approved responses I realise I’ve seen them somewhere else – in a chapter from a parenting manual on how to defuse toddler tantrums.
In many ways this is classic sales training. Displaying empathy is one of the first tactics all salespeople are taught. The only difference with Apple is they go so far with it.
But it works. Apple has the highest sales per square foot of any major retailer in the world.
This article originally appeared in the Lancaster Guardian, where I am a guest columnist.