Dear Tim Cook: Apple’s retail focus should be on delighting customers, not generating cash

“‘At Apple, our most important resource, our soul, is our people.’ So starts the Apple Credo. When I started a year-and-a-half stint working for Apple retail in 2008, we were given this text on a fold-out business card and told to carry it around in our name-tag lanyards,” Serenity Caldwell writes for Macworld. “From the reports I’ve heard in the last few weeks, however, it seems like one employee hasn’t looked at his Credo lately.”

“Apple’s new senior vice president of retail, John Browett, has been accused by several websites and blogs of cutting employees and their hours in the name of cost-efficiency and keeping stores from becoming ‘too bloated,'” Caldwell writes. “Rumors got so out of hand that company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet took the uncharacteristic-for-Apple step of publicly commenting on those reports, telling Dow Jones that the changes were ‘a mistake… and are being reversed.'”

John Browett, Apple Inc. senior vice president of retail
John Browett, Apple Inc. senior vice president of retail
Caldwell writes, “Boy, I sure hope so. While I don’t doubt everyone at Apple is happy that retail boasted a modest 22 percent profit margin last quarter, the second the company forgets that the stores are not solely about selling computers is when its retail operation becomes a failure. A manager of mine once told me, ‘The Apple Store is a place to ask questions and find out how a Mac fits into your life. The fact that we sell the computers is just gravy.’ So if John Browett hopes to turn the gravy of the Apple Store’s operations into its sole existence, he’s potentially looking at a catastrophic mistake.”

Read more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: If these rumors are true, we’re looking at the single biggest error made by Apple so far in the post-Steve Jobs era. Mr. Cook would do well to be very, very careful with how he addresses this issue. Browett is Cook’s biggest hire to date. Apple Inc. shareholders should be concerned.

In fact, concerned Apple shareholders might want to email CEO Tim Cook directly and ask him if these rumors about Browett are true and, if so, what exactly he’s doing about it: tcook@apple.com

Related articles:
Apple Retail Store chief Browett: ‘We messed up’ with Dixons-eque staffing gamble; refutes layoffs – August 16, 2012
Apple retail chief Browett to get $56 million golden hello – May 27, 2012
Apple grants 100,000 shares to new retail head John Browett – April 25, 2012
Tim Cook emails UK customer: John Browett’s role isn’t to bring Dixons to Apple Retail – February 1, 2012
Eyebrows raised over Apple’s hiring of Dixons CEO to run Apple Retail Stores – January 31, 2012
Apple hires Dixons CEO John Browett as new retail chief – January 31, 2012

Apple Inc.: The most profitable retailer in America – August 15, 2012
Apple’s retail juggernaut is magical and revolutionary in its own right – May 25, 2011
Apple Retail Stores hit 10th anniversary (with video of Steve Jobs’ tour of 1st store) – May 18, 2011
Apple Store: ‘The best damn retail experience in America!’ – December 2, 2010
Apple’s retail stores generate huge sales – December 27, 2007
Piper Jaffray finds ‘gravitational pull’ at Apple Retail Stores – November 26, 2007
Apple thinks different with cash register-less retail stores that bring in billions – November 23, 2007
Apple makes retail seem ridiculously easy – May 29, 2007
How Apple’s Steve Jobs is revolutionizing Manhattan retail – May 08, 2007
Fortune: Apple Inc. is America’s best retailer – March 08, 2007
How Apple Retail Stores beat Best Buy, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany – December 19, 2006

74 Comments

    1. Listen, you work in retail. You have a ceiling of worth. It’s supply and demand. Apple Retail Store workers aren’t meant to support a family. It’s a kid’s or a retiree’s “job.” If you don’t want the job, there are 20 people lined up to take it.

      It sounds great to say, “Pay the employee an equivalent value to their performance” with any number of exclamation points after it. It’s also a very young, naive, and, yes, liberal thing to type. It’s a throwaway line that feels and sounds good until you stop and think about it for more than a split second.

      So, now let’s be practical about it and see how we could put your little exclamation into practice. How are you going to incentivize it if you are supposed to be delighting customers? That’s your goal, from the mouth of Steve Jobs himself: Delight customers. So, how do you measure delight? Are you going to measure each customer’s average smile and then compare it to the largest one you can generate? What if some customers never smile and are only secretly delighted? You see how ridiculous your little piffle is now, don’t you?

      If you use sales figures per employee, the only hard unit of measurement available, you’re creating exactly the WRONG situation: Employees pushing products on people, hard sell, make those commissions, everything the Apple Retail Store is not.

      Bottom line: Employees are important. Some are more important that others. There’s no way to properly measure an Apple Store employee’s performance, because their goal is to delight customers, and you can’t measure delight. Therefore, your little slogan is nonsense.

      1. Okay, your comment doesn’t add up to much.

        There was a time when working retail did put enough food on the table, did provide health benefits and, offered a retirement plan.

        Unfortunately, it has been sacrificed to maximize profits and the ‘trickle down theory’ has not worked. What Browett has attempted to do is further maximize profits from an already anemic group of employees. To some, Apple is not paying enough to their employees considering the huge amount of Apple profits. What Mr. Browett is doing is taking further advantage of this.

        If, “At Apple, our most important resource, our soul, is our people” then shouldn’t they be treated like an important asset whose job that should pay more than your average retail outlet?

        The real bottom line is” Employees are important, pay them what they are worth if they are being underpaid, not just lip service, okay?

        1. My comment adds up to much more than does yours.

          It doesn’t matter if there was a time when unicorns shat silver dollars – that time is not now.

          Apple Retail Stores are the most profitable on earth. That was achieved without offering health benefits, retirement plans, etc.

          Like I said, supply and demand.

          Wouldn’t it be nice if you could play with Apple gadgets, go to work in the climate controlled Apple Store and support a family, maybe even buy a nice vacation home, cars, etc.

          Wishes are not reality.

            1. How is your comment helpful? He expresses his opinion, if you disagree express how and why.

              Assuming that people should share your opinion on anything makes you pompous.

              To the extent that F2010 does that he’s pompous.

              By calling him pompous you are joining him in being pompous and your foul mouth makes you crude, too.

              If you want more civility in society then lead by example.

        2. “There was a time when working retail did put enough food on the table, did provide health benefits and, offered a retirement plan.”

          Yep, there was. That time was back when the labor force didn’t include women and minorities. It was also a time when housing consisted of 2 bedrooms and a single bath with no built-ins in the kitchen or forced air and heat. It was also a time when a family fortunate enough to have a TV had one and it was black and white with no remote or DVR. It was also a time when your car had a 3-spd tranny on the column, no radio and the heater was an option.

          Grow up. Retail jobs are not careers, at best they are jobs for college students and the unskilled.

          Apple re-invented retail jobs (just like they re-invented just about everything they touch), hire not the best, but the best for them, and pay above the industry average, while at the same time employing far more per customer than any other retail operation in the US (world?).

          The success of Apple Stores is the direct result of re-thinking the retail concept (think CompUSA, Gateway, Computerland, etc) to showcase products that people want, once exposed to them. The retail employee is important, but not as important as the vision, its implementation, and the product, otherwise Apple Stores would be just like all the others.

          For all the belly aching about changes at the Apple Stores, they still have 20 – 30 applicants for every position, and, except for normal attrition, nobody is quitting over these issues. To the contrary, having Apple Store experience on one’s resume is deemed a big plus (as in off book value/compensation). That is the only testimonial for pay and working conditions that counts.

          1. “Grow up. Retail jobs are not careers, at best they are jobs for college students and the unskilled.”

            Keep repeating that far and wide and see how many elections you win.

            1. Well you’ve said essentially the same thing three or four times thus far by my count, but unfortunately for you your argument fails on one major point:

              Apple’s explicitly stated goal is to create careers in retail for its employees. I used to work there. It’s a drum they beat often.

              And they pay far more than you’d think. Managers and tenured geniuses are making 50 grand a year.

      2. It’s pretty easy to survey your customers and determine if, in their judgment (the only one that counts), their in-store experience was excellent. I know of a large bank in another country that does exactly that, and has been outpacing its competitors for 7 years mainly because of outstanding customer service.

        Apple has surveyed me every time I’ve been to the Genius Bar.

        Measuring customer delight is not easy, and it’s difficult to identify an indivual employee (vs. a group and a collection of other factors) who is accountable for the customer’s experience. Nevertheless, it can be, and is, done. Routinely.

        Providing outstanding service is always a risky investment and easy to slash precisely because the impact on the bottom line is so indirect. Dell used to have good after-market service and then somebody decided it was a cost center, not a profit center. Dell has had many challenges but the erosion of their service only added to them.

        The respones here suggest that looking too closely at the quarterly bottom line on retail overheads will hurt Apple in the long run. Apple’s investment in a great retail experience has driven the great retail results we keep reading about.

        1. Funny you should bring up about getting surveyed every time you’ve been to the Genius Bar.

          Thinking about it, I realized that has happened to me also… after every visit , I’ve gotten an email asking me about my experience.. except once.

          I have an iMac that had been in about three to four times over a year for a random, recurring video glitch. The first time no glitch was found. They even kept it overnight to run some sort of continuous test and nothing showed up. After I got it home the glitch didn’t show up for about a month, then started again. After about four months it was so bad I had to take in again. This time a casual test indicated my hard drive was about to fail. The Genius said replacing the HD issue would probably fix the video glitch. Which surprised me as I had never heard of a HD issue causing a video problem. No repair cost as it was still under AppleCare.

          Got a new drive and everything was fine… for about a month, then the video glitch started again. It was always kind of minor, but it would worsen over time. I took it in again and they still couldn’t determine the problem. It never appeared when it was in their store, even though it always appeared on start up at home. This Mac was used in a SOHO set-up and I could only take it in when it was’t being used.

          At any rate, I took it in again and they still couldn’t track down the problem. They told me they would probably have to replace the MB and it would take a couple of weeks. At this time I was scheduled to leave in about a week for a three month, out-of-state trip, and my AppleCare was going to expire in July right in the middle of my trip. When I told them that, they said it would not be a problem to bring it in when I got back and they would fix it under warranty because it was in their system for this resolved video problem prior to the warranty expiring.

          When I got back, I took it in (four months after the last visit and two months after AC expired), and after about five minutes of checking, I was told it would cost me about $500 just to replace the MB. When I brought up what I had been told the last time, they told me they had no record of it being brought in for a video problem, and it didn’t matter since AppleCare had expired. When I asked to see the store manager, he told me it was just Apple policy and he couldn’t help me.

          Quite calmly, I told them that I was a Mac user since the late eighties, had spent a great deal of money with Apple since then, and because of what I had been told four months earlier (I think, by the very same Genius), that I was extremely disappointed, I said that I would be assessing all future Apple purchases and repair work much more carefully, and that I would never take the word of Apple personnel at face value again.

          I took my Mac and left. For some reason, I never got the usual corporate follow up email inquiring about my visit.

          1. I always escalate to a higher manager when I really know what I am being told is incorrect. You should in this case too. There is plenty of documentation in their system the problems you were having. I also get names and id numbers of people.
            That being said, I also have had many good experiences with Apple Stores and usually take them at their word so I may have not followed my own advice.

          2. You screwed up. The rule is that if you bring in a unit that has a problem, a fix under warrantee is made, get it in writing. get a case number and have them add that problem discovered under applecare. Then go home and print out the item.

            That is the rule. verbal does not count. sorry

      3. Destroying the heart and soul of a great company in the name of “supply and demand” is a catastrophic failure of understanding. Greatness does not need to be “incentived”; but unfortunately, few recognize greatness when they see it.

        Tim Cook talks as though he has totally internalized Steve ‘s vision. One doesn’t have to be a visionary to absorb and comprehend what a visionary is saying. Now Tim Cook has to put his money where his mouth is. If Apple falls from grace, it will be because the custodians of its future have failed to grasp the true meaning of Steve’s vision. His first priority was always to delight Apple customers, not Apple shareholders.

      4. Typical Business School MBA pablum!

        The do nothing, middle management, leech society that the animatronic-Reagan built is unsustainable.

        Artists and other “creative” types (engineers, writers etc…) are the “enemy” and people that can Maximize “efficiency” are the warriors bent on returning to the Serf and Peasant days.

        All the MBA’s want is to find a unique way to suck the excess “value” out of society and discard the spent husk.

        1. No. No that’s a huge generalization. He’s a fucking moron. There, that’s an accurate, honest observation that deals with the reality that everyone is responsible for his own actions. He’s a fucking moron. And too the asshole(s) who enabled this.

        2. i have a feeling you don’t know a damn thing about Ronald Reagan. You really should read up on what he did for this country and who he really was. Please just don’t regurgitate what you heard from somebody else who heard that it was a good idea to hate Reagan

      5. “Listen, you work in X. You have a ceiling of worth. It’s supply and demand. X workers aren’t meant to support a family. It’s a kid’s or a retiree’s “job.” If you don’t want the job, there are 20 people lined up to take it.”

        The modern Republican Philosophy well stated by one well soaked in the Kool-Aid. It’s Bullshit, plain and simple.
        **********************************************************************************
        I work in healthcare and people who do not know me willingly entrust me with the lives and wellness of the most important people in the world- their families, friends and sometimes themselves. In our work there is rarely time for do overs and people do not want apologies- they expect expertise, compassion and meticulous attention to detail.

        Our people are our most important resource and the face of our organization. The fanciest equipment and all the MBAs in suits mean NOTHING if our people on the front line do not treat our customers and guests like we would wish our own family to be treated. The most polished and spotless facility means nothing if our staff is poorly skilled or hard hearted toward the needs of those we serve.

        The tough talking my way or the highway management style appeals to authoritarian types, but fails to function well in most instances. Maybe you are too young to know that what you espouse is exactly what Apple does not need.

    2. What you suggest is not tenable. If you pay way more than the going rate for that sort of work you attract a very high percentage of people who are there for the pay, not because of a thorough love of the product and what it can do for customers. That pay is not terribly fair to the enthusiastic employees, so you compensate by ensuring they have stock vesting over time and career paths that matter to them.
      It’s an interesting truth that “so goes the division, so goes the company” — meaning that if the entire retail division believes that their purpose is to delight customers with knowledgeable sales guides, then those employees who learn best how to achieve that will be promoted and deepen and continue the legacy. On the other hand, if the division begins promoting profit over experience, those employees who focus more on profits and efficiency get promoted. As CEO, Mr. Cook needs to really get to know the VPs — what makes them tick and where they sit on the continuum of profitability to delight — and then trust and reward for meeting the right metrics. And perhaps he needs to ensure that their first several weeks (and 6 follow-up weekends) are spent at Apple University unlearning the non-Apple crap that got them to the lofty positions they held before coming to Apple (see the comment above about high-paying jobs attracting the wrong kind of people).

      1. Again, just how many million did Tim just receive from Apple? And I believe (within reason) you should make as much as you can. But let’s face it, Tim could do the great job for 1/10th of what he gets and still do the same level of work and be fabulously wealthy. It’s generally me bitching about the liberals trying to turn us into socialists but for you to make statements like this are simply absurd. What? Do you think Apple can figure out who you are and reward you? Look dummy, when you go to work it helps if you are enthusiastic about your company and your job with them but you are called a volunteer when you are going in but don’t get paid! I can’t believe you are trying to spew such bullshit. And I’m a hard working conservative who believes that you should try to do work that you love as well as what pays the bills. But nobody goes to work at Apple just for the fun of saying “I work at Apple”. Well they do but after a few weeks they’ll leave if there isn’t a paycheck. Who are you trying to bullshit anyway. There’s probably a good reason you’re a “former” mgr/employee ; you couldn’t pay your bills even though you still lived with mommy and your co-workers got tired of your ass kissing phony bullshit. Go try to impress someone else. Even fanboys are throwing up after reading your crap!

  1. Don’t forget, Tim Cook caught a lot of flak for hiring Browett in the first place based on his dismal record with the UK retailer he was coming from. This situation looks quite bad for Cook if the rumors of Browett badly bungling this are indeed true as they seem to be.

      1. They don’t know or care what they’re talking about, and only really care about selling extended warranties which is where their money is made. Typical of the worst of retail, where customers are walking wallets to be emptied.

        1. After many years in Apple sales channels, I can tell you — sadly — that the slogan “don’t leave money on the table” was all too prevalent, and to the old-timers it was an affront to “The Apple Way” but since it came from VPs it had to be adopted and acted upon if you were to retain your job. That environment existed because Steve didn’t really care much for sales. Hopefully Tim Cook is seeing this toxin for what it is and taking steps to correct it.

      2. Let me enlighten you. The problem with Dixon’s was their staff. Knew nothing about the products (ESPECIALLY Apple products) if you had a question, they’d read the label at you. All they could explain with any conviction were the benefits of their extended guarantee. There were never enough of them, and they were not good at noticing a customer in need. I’m not a shareholder – if you are complain to Cook now. Get him out. Dixon’s stores (now Currys/PC world) are actually improving since he’s gone.

  2. Tim Cook: “His role isn’t to bring Dixons to Apple, it’s to bring Apple to an even higher level of customer service and satisfaction.”

    Browett is a con artist. I bet he was even pocketing the supposed savings.

  3. Big blunder for Apple. I have some good friends that have been working in Apple flagship stores for a decade.

    They are terribly overworked, the stores are always packed, there is no break. They get no commissions. Apple s squeezing them every second of the day. it’s pathetic.

    1. That needs to be fixed. (Most) Apple employees want to be the best, to help customers, to get the respect they should have by nature of for whom they work. They’ve got to be treated well, especially since their pay isn’t what some feel it should be.

    2. This whole story is a disaster, but let’s set one thing straight… Apple Store employees have never worked on commission. And that’s a good thing for the customer. You don’t want a salesperson whose incentive to sell you something is for his own financial gain. You want him to sell you what is truly right for you, even if it’s not the most expensive thing.

      1. I myself lean towards your compassion: Experience is gained by making mistakes after all. What everyone needs to keep in mind is that Apple is unique – You’ve got to realize that to your core in order to understand how blunders like this can happen. It’s because it’s so unique that it’s very hard to know if an outside hire can take skills that got him/her promoted through the ranks of *other* companies and adapt those skills to what makes Apple unique. It’s not easy and the skill of recognizing that ability in candidates is not something you learn either at Apple or elsewhere, so the hiring process is very challenging. As someone else here mentioned, correcting this mistake this quickly means Tim was involved. Hopefully that conversation has led to an awakening, an epiphany even, for Mr. Browett.

  4. He’d be ideal in a BetterBuy, or a Walmart. Dixons, Currys and PC World are great if you know exactly what you want, and can just point it out to the sales bod and say ‘I’d like that, please, and no, I don’t want the extended warranty’ if you want detailed info, forget it, they sell anything electrical with no specialists. Want a Mac? ‘Oh, you don’t want one of those, this HP or Dell will do the same thing and it’s tons cheaper! By the way, do you want the extended warranty?’

  5. E-mailed him about an hour ago. Let him know how I felt. Kept it clean. Gosh, I haven’t heard back from Tim yet. Boy, this is a real shitstorm! And it should be. This should never have happened. Damn! Heads should roll! MDN you state it very well. Damn!

    1. He’s dead. He died last year. He wouldn’t want your comment. Deal with today. We have idiots ruining Apple. Quit whinning like a little girl. It’s time to let Apple know that the masses are mad about this shit. Lead,follow or get the hell out of the way!

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