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Home / Technology / Gossip and cheers: Apple stores carefully managed drama technology

Gossip and cheers: Apple stores carefully managed drama technology



S Steve Jobs wanted customers to understand the Apple Store "with a single look" as if Gods were on Olympus. In fact, the outlets seem to speak for themselves. They are bright, neat and covered with glass. They can not differ more from the great labyrinths they are supposed to replace.

They could not profit margins either. Since its launch on the market in 2001

, instantly recognizable stores have raised more money – in total and per square meter – than any other retailer in the world, making Apple the world's richest company in the process. However, the transparency of the Apple store hides the way in which these gains are made.

When we think of "tech," we rarely think of retail stores, and when we think of "tech workers," we rarely think of low pay "geniuses" that they employ. Most media reports about technology companies encourage us to forget that the vast majority of their employees are not programmers in Silicon Valley: they are the suicides of telephones, the call center staff, the delivery staff, and the deliverers smiling shop assistants who use the Majority of Apple's workforce.

  Apple boss Tim Cook greets customers as Palo Alto, California, clap business associates in the store to buy the new iPhone X.



Apple boss Tim Cook greets customers In Palo Alto, California, employees are clapping before buying the new iPhone X. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Apple Store was designed explicitly as a brand message rather than a source of technical knowledge. Ron Johnson, the former manager of Target who designed the concept, said in the Harvard Business Review, "People come out of the Apple store to make the experience – and they're ready to pay a premium for it … Apple is in Relationship business Just like the computer business. "

Johnson and Jobs wanted ambassadors whose alleged role was not to sell products – clearly, the Apple Store employees do not get a commission – but to create positive customer sentiment and trust in the brand when it collapses. It was hard to do that when all your belongings were accumulated in a large electronics store overseen by third-party employees who lacked any special expertise or interest in what you wanted to sell.

The aim was to take full control of the brand image during humanizing . The problem, however, was that people can be quite unruly.

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Luckily for Apple someone had worked hard to fix this bug. In 1984, a group of professors at Harvard Business School published a book entitled "Managing Human Assets," which aims to improve the organization of the workplace for a new era. The book was based on the first new compulsory course at Harvard Business School in a generation launched in 1981. Ron Johnson started his MBA at Harvard the following year and graduated when the book itself was published.

Earlier, the book argued that work discipline could be achieved in a relatively straightforward way from top to bottom, but now something else was needed. "The limitations of the hierarchy have forced the search for other mechanisms of social control," the authors said. The mechanisms they proposed were essentially to treat employees as nominal stakeholders in business success, but within narrow limits that would increase shareholder profitability, they would not jeopardize shareholders' profitability.

Many of these ideas put Johnson into practice. He found the first cohort of Apple Store employees by personally interviewing each manager and providing jobs to the optimistic collaborators who worked for competitors. He sent the first five managers through the Ritz-Carlton training program to learn the concierge skills. He then developed a training program for the in-house production of geniuses. (Jobs allegedly hated the term first and found it ridiculous.) When properly worded, he asked his lawyers to apply for a trademark the following day.)

How do you create a dedicated, happy, knowledgeable workforce that can go through it? implausible as a complete battalion of geniuses in cities across the country? More importantly, how do you do it all without the stick of the authoritarian chef or the carrot of a hefty commission?

Apple's solution was to encourage a sense of commitment to a higher calling while flattering the employees that they were the few to portray it. By unlawfully raising the Bar Association, which triggered a long series of interviews to eliminate the mercenary or misanthrope, Johnson soon attracted more applicants than there were jobs. Those who wanted to go through the exhausting recruitment process were, almost by definition, a better "fit" for the brand's ethos of ethos, and more receptive to the fiction that they were not selling things, but in an oft-repeated phrase: "enriching people's lives "as if they had received a job at a charity.

  Apple employees clap to greet customers at the new Apple store in Paris.



Apple employees clap to greet customers at the new Apple store in Paris. Photo: Stéphane de Sakutin / AFP / Getty Images

"When people are recruited," explains Johnson, "they feel honored to be in the team, and the team respects them from day one because they made it through the glove. This is completely different than trying to find someone with the lowest cost, available on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm. "

Although not the lowest these eager employees' costs were still low compared to the industry average, to the amount they earned for the company, and to the $ 400 million that Johnson spent in his seven years at Apple had earned.

Lower wages also had a different, less obvious effect. As the Apple Store Managers of the New York Times explained, the lack of commissions meant that the work was not good enough to support the relatives: Older workers were functionally excluded from representing the brand without any formal policy or policy formal directive was required accompanying specter of discrimination lawsuits that it would raise. The use of psychology, not the maximizing calculus of economic rationality (money), allowed Apple to transform attitudes and wages into executive requisites.

The feeling of higher calling and flattery, of course, does not stop with the hiring process. Do it through the gauntlet and you will be "chattered in" by the existing workers: they will receive standing ovations as if they would receive a prize. The clapping, according to the employees, continues until new employees, perhaps after a confused delay, also begin to clap and become part of the performance from an outside auditor – part of the team. Leave the company and you're "crazy".

Products are clapped, customers waiting overnight to buy them are clapped, their purchases are clapped, clapping is clapped. Clap clap clap. "My hands are popping out of the whole clap," said a manager. Clapping, cheering, ecstatic commitment provided the team with a ready-mixed glue that put the teams together, affirming both the brand's character and the cult dedication of its employees.

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It can be expected that Apple Store employees, as their name implies, are tech gurus with incredible intellectuals. Their real role, however, has always been to use emotional illusion to sell products.

The Genius Training Student Workbook is the vaguely funny title of the handbook from which Apple Store employees learn their art. Potential geniuses are taught to control the customer experience with compassionate communication and relieve tensions to make them happy and their purses loose.

  An internal "genius" helps a customer in the World Trade Center Apple Store. </p>
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  19659027] In the World Trade Center Apple Store, an internal "genius" helps a customer. Photo: Andrew Kelly / Reuters
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<p>  One of the techniques the book teaches is the "three Fs": feeling, feeling, finding. Here is an example from the book, which should be played by the trainees in RPGs: </p>
<p>  Customer: This Mac is just too expensive. </p><div><script async src=

Genius: I can see how you feel that way. I thought the price was a bit high, but due to its built-in software and capabilities, it was a real value.

When customers get into trouble with their products, geniuses are encouraged to find sympathy, but only by apologizing. Customers feel bad about not seeing Apple products as the cause of the trouble. In this gas-lit performance of a "problem-free" brand philosophy, many words are actually forbidden to employees.

Do not use words such as crash hang Error or Problem Employees are told. Instead, say does not answer, stop responding, state, problem or situation . Avoid saying incompatible ; Instead, use does not work with .

Employees have reported on the absurdist dialogues that may result, for example, if they can not tell customers that they can not help even in the most hopeless cases, and customers in newsletters interview people who are neither helping nor themselves can refuse.

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Apple's "geniuses" play on a stage that is managed as carefully as they are. Jobs and Johnson wanted to control every aspect of Apple stores, including the color of bathroom signs. Almost every detail has a trademark, from stairs to tables to storage shelves. Even the supposedly "intuitive" layout, so obvious that it can be understood by everyone, is considered unique enough to guarantee a range of intellectual property rights.

  The new Apple Store on the Champs Elysee will be the largest in Paris ready to become the company's French flagship.



The new Apple store on the Champs Elysées will be the largest in Paris and will become the company's French flagship. Photo: Chesnot / Getty Images

To counteract the declining sales volumes of a saturated market, Apple has spent the last two years revising its stores to work even harder. Potted trees have been added to give the signature gray a green splash, and in such a ridiculous movement that it is almost certainly a hit, the Genius Bar has been renamed "Genius Grove". Windows are opened to blur the distinction between inside and outside, and the stores are promoted as quasi-public spaces.

"We do not really call them any more stores," Apple's new retailer, former Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts (Salary 2017: $ 24,216,072) recently told the press. "We call them town squares."

The town square. It is an almost strange symbol of participatory civil life – a world far removed from the big box that shaped late-20th-century retail or even the digital isolation of the 21st century. Apple's goal was to create spaces where people could just linger, and the initial insight that, paradoxically, focusing on anything but cold cash is the best way to collect it.

In Ahrendts' vision, the store becomes one with the community ". But the real hope seems to be closer to the opposite, that the community becomes one with the store.

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After Apple recently won to beat the $ 1 trillion mark, CEO Tim Cook sent an email to employees explaining, "Financial returns are simply the result of Apple's innovation is our values. "

This story is seductive, but like the Apple Store itself is a fiction.

Apple's system is less the result of genius than of capture and control. Semiconductors, Microprocessors, Hard Drives, Touchscreens, the Internet and its Protocols, GPS: All these ingredients for Apple's immense profitability were funded by public dollars flowing into the research via the Keynesian institution called the US Military. They are the basis for Apple's products, as the economist Mariana Mazzucato has shown.

The company's extraordinary wealth is not just a reward for innovation or the legacy of "innovators" like Steve Jobs. It is more likely to result from the privatization of publicly-funded research, blended with the ability to control the cheap wages of our Chinese colleagues, who are sold by empathetic retailers who are forbidden to say "crash." The profits have been offshore, tax-exempt and repatriated to enrich only those who have enough money to invest.

However, as the public good that drove them off innovates, the company can repeat the company's success. The iPhone evaporates. The federal funding for scientific research is falling sharply, and Apple should not make up the gap.

To keep profitability high, Apple is moving toward more and more expensive price tags for ever-marginal improvements (like the iPhone XS Max) and the ability to increase profitability by controlling other people's creativity (via Apple Music or the App Store, both of which can not log off without logging into pop-up purgatory). Meanwhile, his brand messages sell a different story with a smile.

  • A longer version of this article first appeared in Logic, a new magazine dedicated to deepening the discourse on technology.

  • Jonny Bunning is a Ph.D. student in the science and medicine program at Yale. He tweets @ bunnjey.


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