A few weeks ago there was an upset regarding Apple’s move to trim down Apple Retail staff in an effort to boost profits. Some employees had their promotions retracted or there hours slashed significantly, and some were laid off. A short time later, Apple made the statement that they had “messed up” their staffing formulas for retail stores when they most recently adjusted them.
iFoAppleStore is now reporting on the matter in more detail, and point to Apple CEO Tim Cook and retail chief John Browett’s operations backgrounds and focus as the key to this change. They then compare the philosophies of Cook and the late Steve Jobs. In short, Jobs, with the help of the previous retail chief Ron Johnson, believed customer satisfaction should come before pinching pennies. Jobs passed away and Johnson left the company to become the CEO of JCPenny, so now Cook and Browett are in charge of this area, and they have a more number-centric view of the retail effort.
In fact, the report notes that Cook hired Browett specifically because of his attention to “traditional concepts of retailing”, making numbers the primary metric of a company’s performance. Apple did reverse course earlier this month, and changed their staffing polices back to what they were prior to the upset. However, the stores are still ordered to reduce workshop offerings and have made guidelines for staff evaluation and compensation that, you guessed it, put profits over the happiness of their customers and employees.
I think Apple is really screwing up here. Apple’s retail experience is what sets it apart from, say, any other big box store like Best Buy. Apple’s staff is quick to help you with your needs, and by reducing staff you cut into this performance. Before these changes, the Apple retail experience was delightful, perhaps the experience will remain that way, but I doubt it.
Besides, with around $100 billion in the bank, the company doesn’t need to worry about squeezing every dime out of the retail experience. Let’s hope the company comes to its senses on this matter soon, but with Cook and Browett at the helm, it doesn’t seem likely.