August 28, 2012

Are Things Getting Worse At Apple Stores?

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Earlier this month, reports began to surface about possible layoffs in Apple´s retail stores. According to these reports, some employees either had their hours drastically cut or were simply not on the schedule anymore, causing many to believe that Apple would begin laying off some of these employees, who were mostly new hires.

Shortly after these reports came to light, John Browett, Apple´s senior vice president of retail, sent a memo to all retail management, saying simply, “we messed up.”

According to Browett´s memo, his team had begun to fiddle with the formulas behind staffing and scheduling, resulting in some odd outcomes. Browett then promised to ditch this formula and bring in some new blood to alleviate some of the strain placed on these employees who were working at understaffed stores.

Today, another report from ifoAppleStore.com says that while Browett´s admission of guilt became public knowledge, many retail employees have yet to be given an official explanation of how things will be changing as a result.

Furthermore, some of these employees told ifoAppleStore.com that the company continues to push a profit and revenue agenda over the long-held customer satisfaction aim.

“Sources say employee performance standards have changed to emphasize the employee sales functions, more small products will be stocked at the stores, and that several budget categories have been slashed, including for store maintenance,” says the IFO report.

“All the while, morale continues to drift lower among many retail store employees.”

Apple retail sources told IFO that, despite Browett´s claims, employees had, in fact, been fired, laid off or scheduled for zero hours. Furthermore, these sources have also told IFO they´ve yet to hear any official apology from their management or Browett about the incident, not even an acknowledgement of Apple´s public statement.

In the days after the public admission of guilt, these same sources have said the employees who were laid off, fired, or removed from the schedule have returned, and inter-store transfers are once again being approved.

Though these employees are able to work again, they may not like the new atmosphere in the stores. Some employees are saying the company is moving to a more profit-driven metric by which to measure their employees.

Now, an employee´s sales success is being judged by how much up-sell they can tack on to a customer´s purchase, such as accessories, services, etc. Furthermore, sources have told IFO that management is telling employees to push Apple´s EasyPay app by having customers buy their items themselves on their own devices.

However, when a customer does purchase an accessory or product with this app, the revenue is credited to the store rather than the employee, affecting the specialist´s overall numbers by which they are judged.

The report even suggests that less time and attention has been given to cleanliness and maintenance, once characteristics synonymous with the Apple brand, IFO seems to blame some of these changes on Tim Cook, who pushed then senior vice president of retail operations Ron Johnson to focus more on profits and revenues than customer conditions in 2009. Once Steve Jobs was no longer in charge, says IFO, Johnson felt his support was gone, sending him on his way to JC Penny.

In the coming weeks, Apple is expected to release a new iPhone, followed by a new iPad, followed by the traditional American holiday shopping season. If these reports are true, it´s likely we could see the Apple retail chains, once regarded as the best in the business, come to their breaking point.