Craig is our Senior Service Designer at Design Thinkers Academy and has previously worked on retail projects to deliver the best customer experience that will differentiate brands in a commodity market. Here Craig explains his not-so-joyous experience at the Apple Store.

The Apple Store was the go-to case study for best-in-class retail services and experiences, however, based on my latest experience, the title of best-in-class has long-slipped.

The following is a summary of what I observed and experienced during my time at the Apple Store, and little things that could help:

Customer management

It feels like Apple have become a victim of their own success. Their stores across London are some of the most popular retail destinations and as a result find it very difficult to deal with the influx of customers; some to browse, some to buy, some to fix, some to learn. Some of which may have booked an appointment, some of which might not have. The Apple Store staff have to assist so many people which is made clear by the queues winding their way out of the store.

Pass…words/codes can be mega confusing

The benefit of smart features like Keychain, is that all our passwords are saved from the first time we enter them, meaning it’s very rare that you ever need to re-enter passwords. The problem with that being our brains delete it from our memory to make space for other things, and when required to set up a new device, we can’t recall these passwords. Often we’re saved by the ‘forgotten my password’ button, however, just to make things more complex, we have passWORDS and passCODES, specifically designed to make unlocking our devices easier and as a failsafe for biometric ID.

Store employees can have a hard time helping people with passwords/codes, making sure the difference between them is understood by the flustered customers they’re trying to help. It was clear one particular customer wasn’t going to solve his problems in store, as he became victim to the forgotten passWORD/CODE phenomena.

Wi-Fi

The main issue I faced at the Apple Store was the Wi-Fi. Due to so many people in that store soaking it up, there was very little bandwidth available to set up the device from my iCloud backup. I ended up being there for nearly a couple of hours and it didn’t even fully install. It feels like there needs to be some bandwidth management going on.

Refreshments

Ideally, you aren’t going to spend multiple hours in an Apple Store, on this occasion however, spending that long in an air-conditioned environment really dried me out; so much so that I begged the Apple employee for some water, which turned up in one of those cone-shaped paper ‘cups’ that you’d find at the gym. For the amount of money that I’d just spent, it would be nice to be offered a Nespresso capsule, much like what Sigma Sport in Kingston (one of the best bike shops) offer their customers.

The X-perience

If I was buying a X (10), had just spent £999 and wanted some assistance in setting it up, I for one would be demanding business class lounge facilities, on par with what you’d find in an airport. To me, the Apple Store experience feels far too utilitarian for the cost of the product, possibly improved by the segmentation of space depending on what you’re there for, making you as a customer feel more valued when purchasing a device.

Victim of their own success

My overall opinion of the Apple Store was that the whole experience was not a pleasant one and I was not expecting to be there for as many hours as I was. Perhaps Apple have not re-thought out their customer journey. Since they’ve scrapped USB ports, headphone jacks and the like, more and more Apple users are confused with the product experience, leading to more people needing to use an Apple Store for some clarity on which new adapters they need to use. I would suggest they take some time out with some design thinking and begin to make their in-store experience as polished as the iPhone X before they lose customers to other brands that give a better experience.

 

Craig Tomkins is a service designer with experience in retail, automobiles and transport. He has a Service Design MA degree from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London and has worked with the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Sainsbury’s.

 

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