A copy of the training manual used to prepare Apple employees for work at its in-store Genius Bars shows the smooth patter and sales mindset Cupertino seeks to indoctrinate into staff.
Before donning the sacred blue t-shirt and becoming a Genius Bar operative, staff must first pass through a 14 day training course teaching not only technical tips and tricks but also how to empathize with customers, monitor their nonverbal tics, and guide them to making a purchase. As the manual says: "Everyone in the Apple Store is in the business of selling."
The Genius Training Student Workbook, leaked to Gizmodo, introduces Apple's own sales technique in some depth. Sales training has traditionally focused on acronyms like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) or DIPADA (Drop Its Price And Drop Again), but Apple has its own variant – unsurprisingly named APPLE (Approach, Probe, Present, Listen, End.)
Apple doesn't want high-pressure sellers behind the bar – quite the opposite, in fact. The manual reinforces a constant message that staff must be empathetic to a potential customer's needs and should employ what it calls the Three Fs: the words "feel," "felt," and "found." In roleplaying examples given, the employee is taught to use these words to establish a bond with the customer and win their trust. For example:
Customer: This Mac is just too expensive.
Genius: I can see how you'd feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it's a real value because of all the built-in software and capabilities.
Staff are also trained to look to nonverbal clues in people's behavior. Examples given include rubbing the nose, indicating the person is suspicious, or tilting their head to one side if they are feeling cooperative. Some of these are a tad obvious, however – you don't need 14 days of training to work out that a blank stare from someone indicates boredom.
There is also a list of key phrases not to be used by Genius Bar staff. Apple hardware does not "bomb," "crash," "bang," or even "freeze." Instead it "unexpectedly quits," "does not respond," or "stops responding." Similarly there's no such thing as a "bug" or "problem," just a "condition" or "situation."
Such vocabulary rules are not uncommon in the industry (this hack was once told never to write something is "cheaper" in product documentation, only that it is "less expensive") but parts of the manual do read rather like a manual on seduction. Be that as it may, if Apple's retail sales are anything to go by, the techniques certainly work. ®