A guy and his three siblings all walk into a Microsoft store. The first sibling says to the guy, “Where are all the iPhones?” the guy replies, “this is a Microsoft store, they do not sell iPhones here.” Disgruntled, the sibling walks over to the phone department. The second sibling asks the guy, “Where are all the iPads?” the guy replies, “this is a Microsoft store, they do not sell iPads here.” Confused, the sibling walks over to the tablet display. The third sibling says to the guy, “Where are all the employees?” the guy replies, “this is a Microsoft store, they do not… wait there they are, over at the Apple store.”
As fabricated as this may sound, this actually happened to me my first (and last) time I entered a Microsoft store. It was only then, that I realized, why there were no customers in the store either. The worst part is, it only got worse with every next second. The presentation of the store was very misleading. Before seeing anything with the company name on it, there were excess amount of third party products lined up and down the demonstration tables. I couldn’t tell what they were selling or who was selling it! Lots of colors, random order, and tons of different company names, made this store that much more confusing.
I came across a small structure, a house with a yard surrounding it. No tag or description were present, it was just another missing book from the bookshelf. After some time spent looking at this foreign object, a man approached me (an employee finally!) and gave me instructions to take a picture of the house with my iPhone 5, while he took the same picture with his (the stores) Nokia Lumia 1020. He then asked me (based on the my picture) to tell him what the numbers were on the house. I zoomed in as much as I could, but failed to see these numbers. He showed me his picture and zoomed in, to the point where, the numbers were crystal clear. I had a surprised look on my face, of which my Apple iPhone just lost a battle to his Windows device. He saw my vulnerability and decided to make his pitch, to sway me, into leaving the store with more than just my siblings. I noticed this right away and asked him in a sarcastic tone, “Is this what you say to all your customers?” he replied with a condescending look and walked away, knowing I was just there for the demonstration. Talk about quality service. The only thing I left that store with that day was knowing I would never go back. Further strengthening my love for Apple and hatred towards anything else. People mean everything for a business. With them, a plethora of possibilities are imaginable, without them, there is nothing, but an empty Microsoft store.
It starts with the customer service. People want to be treated specially and have the feeling that there is no pressure of taking out their wallet. Employees at Apple know that their products are desirable. They use this to their advantage because they do not need to approach the customer, rather they know the customer will approach them! This laid back attitude helps set a comfortable tone within the store, for both consumer and seller. Next, the store layout is much different than other retailers. It’s clean, organized, and most of all WHITE. There are no distracting colors, only a pure white presentation that is appealing to the human eye. The demonstration tables are all neat, well spaced apart, and have an interaction based theme to it. Its a hands on approach that people like to have. Being able to pick up the product and use all of its features instantly, is something that you can’t sell.
The final ingredient that Apple excels at, within their stores, is the concept of personality. From the minute you walk into the store, to the moment you leave with a white bag, there is only one person that you interact with. It only takes one Genius to help you, talk to you, and sell you their devices. They take out the tedious step by step process of purchasing an item. You ask, they answer, you want, they give, you buy, they sell, it’s that simple. In order to make this happen, each specialist carries a personal iPod touch with a case that enables them to accept purchases.
You’re just a swipe, and signature away from opening your new product – simplicity at its finest. Apple knows how to sell people on their product, market it, and eventually make money from it. Their success comes from inside their departments. They find that their workforce is their competitive advantage. Something Microsoft may need to adapt, in order to stay relevant in the race for perfection.