Improving Performance: Triage in the Apple Store

People in line.

Organizations look to training to address performance issues by employees, but often the solution to a performance problem is more complex. Having been charged with analyzing an organizational performance problem for a graduate class at Indiana University, Bloomington, it was timed perfectly with the crash of the hard drive on my Apple laptop computer. While sitting in the local Apple Retail Store, I started to notice something extraordinary in the way my emergency was addressed. In the past, these issues were handled by appointments at the Apple Genius Bar, but in a crisis who can wait in a virtual queue for a day or two? So I rushed to the store in a panic sans appointment, and was immediately shifted from an Apple lead to a technical support person who entered my information into an iPad program and escorted me to a table for emergency technical support issues. I waited briefly while the Apple associate made their way through the list of emergencies after an initial contact and introduction, and then returned back to me and hooked up my computer to an in-store network with diagnostic software that started analyzing my laptop on the spot. Even in the crowded store, I reached this point in under 15 minutes.

While waiting for the diagnostics to complete, I noticed other customers being greeted and funneled to different locations in the store. Each customer name was entered into an in-store software program, which logged their arrival time and needs. At each table, people were grouped by their similar issues: need for technical support, need for training, an already scheduled appointment or a desire to shop. And at each table, there was a corresponding Apple guru (or two) assisting the customers. Later, when I mentioned how this triage system was the most efficient and quick I had ever seen in a store, I was told the store was in fact testing a new system for servicing customers. Employees in the stores, it turned out were as frustrated as the customers by the crowds and the waiting, and Apple managers had devised a new system. I was told many of the customers in the store were Apple associates from other stores, and were trying out the functionality of the new service model in street clothes. Though the managers in the store could not discuss the new model, they seemed appreciative that a customer had noticed, and they told me the associates in the stores wanted the primary experience in stores to be positive interactions with associates, and not frustration with the crowded stations and the over-extended employees. The Apple Store provided a good example of the blending of technology solutions and people to produce positive results and rapid customer service.

A day or two later, with a new hard drive in my laptop, I wrote a HPT analysis using the ISPI (2000) HPT model. The full analysis: Detrie, Susan_Apple_HPT

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HPT Model ISPI (2000)

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