In an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Apple's retail strategy I came across this:
Still, Apple is considered a pioneer in many aspects of customer service and store design. According to several employees and training manuals, sales associates are taught an unusual sales philosophy: not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems. "Your job is to understand all of your customers' needs—some of which they may not even realize they have," one training manual says. To that end, employees receive no sales commissions and have no sales quotas.
"You were never trying to close a sale. It was about finding solutions for a customer and finding their pain points," said David Ambrose, 26 years old, who worked at an Apple store in Arlington, Va., until 2007.
Apple lays its "steps of service" out in the acronym APPLE, according to a 2007 employee training manual reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that is still in use.
"Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome," "Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs," "Present a solution for the customer to take home today," "Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns," and "End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return."
I find it sad that a business is considered a pioneer because it asks its front line employees to listen to customers, help them solve a problem and warmly invite them back. I'm not shocked, hey I saw Glengarry Glen Ross too, but I am saddened. I know many small businesses that do what Apple is being lauded for in this article, but when the Journal of Big Business Wall Street Journal points out that this is different from what you see in corporate retail America I think that's a pretty good indicator of how lots of large companies treat their customers – as raw meat for the sales mill.