When Apple announced its new retail boss, many people were surprised: he was the former head of Dixons - a firm which, let's face it, isn't exactly renowned for its stellar customer service. "There are only two possible explanations for Browett's appointment," I said at the time.
"Either there's more to Dixons - and to [John] Browett - than most people imagine, or Tim Cook has gone completely and utterly insane."
I went for the former option and I still think that's the case, but it seems that Browett has brought the wrong bit of Dixons to the Apple Stores. According to ifoAppleStore.com, Browett has been slashing staff numbers and making employees' lives a bit less cheery in order to try and squeeze a bit more profit out of the operation "even if customer experience is compromised".
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Those words are from ifoAppleStore's sources, not Browett himself, but it isn't hard to imagine Steve Jobs hearing them and preparing a bollocking from beyond the grave.
Staff and nonsense
I understand where the changes came from: because I don't have a day job I can go into Apple Stores when they're quiet, and that usually means being outnumbered by the staff by a ratio of around eleventy hundred (them) to one (me).
It looks massively overstaffed, but if you hang around for an hour or two you'll see the Store become absolutely mobbed from lunchtime onwards. It seems as if Browett's changes were based on the quiet bit when I'm mooching around the place, not the busy bit when everybody else is.
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Apple knows it's messed up - speaking to Dow Jones, Apple said that "making these changes was a mistake and the changes are being reversed" - but the important thing is whether Apple's actually learned anything from the episode. Making things better and more efficient is one thing, but making changes that adversely affect customers' experiences is a different thing altogether.
Customer experience isn't a feature of the Apple Store: it's the whole point. Whether you're buying an iPhone case or browsing the iPads, you're supposed to leave the Store with at worst a warm fuzzy feeling and at best a warm fuzzy feeling and a Retina MacBook Pro.
Apple doesn't need to deliver a horrible Mac buying experience. Other retailers already have that covered.