Friday, August 12, 2016

Lessons from Apple

The Kowloon Tong Apple store in Festival Walk

I love going into Apple stores and it isn't just about the product. I love how simple the design is, how uncluttered the space is and how everything is just right.

Service is such a large part of the Apple store experience. They have so many people in their simple identifiable uniform walking around the store approaching people and helping that you simply cannot leave an apple store without some form of engagement with their employees. They are experts on the products they are selling and will be able to answer all your questions. They truly are Apple specialists. They even say goodbye and thank you for visiting when you leave.

How can we learn from them and apply this in our libraries? 

Let's start with their mission of the stores from the very outset : 

"We wanted to engage users, convey a clear message about the brand, and create a venue with superior visual articulation – so we built an environment designed entirely round the consumer, where service, learning and products were combined." Eight 

Service, learning and product. In that order.

Service :
How is service a priority in your library? We see that Apple has multitudes of workers and a "person on point" to direct people to where they need to be. These people are on the look out for customers to help all the time. School Libraries are known to be understaffed, but maybe being ready to help customers even at the most inconvenient could be something to be tried. Perhaps train student volunteers to be the "people on point" at break times when it is a busy period. The Apple genius' are experts in their field - are your library staff experts in children's literature, information literacy, policies, fixing the photocopier etc or are they there to just to do a job? How can they and you be seen as the genius' in your space.

Every Genius goes through two weeks of intensive training, covering such topics as "Using Diagnostic Services," and "The Power of Empathy." Librarian assistants and librarians could be trained in how to conduct a good diagnostic session (reference questions) to ask the right questions to find out what the customer really wants - not what you think they want, from what they said.  

One of the techniques the Apple Specialists are taught is the APPLE technique. (Gizmodo)
Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed and open-ended questions).
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return. 

See the video below for an explanation of how these 5 steps work from Forbes. This approach would work so well in a school library setting. These steps make people feel acknowledged, appreciated, enthusiastic and happy, which generates loyalty.

The new Apple Store in San Francisco has dedicated 20% of the floorspace for community events and community education. They have developed a new position their stores, "Creative Pro's" who will help customers with their lifestyle apps. Apple run classes in their stores and every connection with a customer is a "teachable moment". Apple colleagues are encouraged to learn from each other through a collaborative spirit, a readiness to learn, and being a team player.

It seems that inquiry learning is at the heart of the Apple stores as they "took all of the typical retail items out of the stores to make them a blank canvas that invites shoppers to play and ask questions. The feeling is almost like being in an interactive museum." (cultofmac) Apple combines education with entertainment.

The Product and space

Apples stores have all their product on the shelves face out, the shelves are not over stuffed. They have just enough stock for you to see what they have and know they have enough of it. There is space between the product on the shelves, the shelves are exactly the right height for the product.

The colours are simple and everything looks good.

Clutter detracts from the focus. What are we trying to achieve? Sometimes more is not better. Weeding helps to keep the product saleable - space on the shelves increases focus. Simple display keeps the focus on the product on the shelves. The CARP principles of design need to be followed across the library space. Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, Proximity for it all to be visually appealing. Apple knows this.

The product displays are hands and interactive and the wall space display is simple and elegant and features the product in a way that makes it look cool and exciting. What can be done in libraries that ooze simple & elegant with the product as the main features? Slatwall with front facing books comes to mind, simple coloured walls, no notice boards to detract from the product we are selling.

Apple bring the furniture to the level of their customers - standing height tables, with a 'bar' and stools for the genius bar, with lower seating for the little people with cool seating designs. The furniture is about a short business like visit, rather than a lengthy relaxation time, but you can do this too if you want. Just like at a real bar.

Furniture designed for the purpose. Do you want collaboration to happen? Private reflection is an important aspect of learning - do we allow for this too?  Furniture that suits the user - are heights correct? Comfort level? How long do you want people to stay?  What is the focus of the space and how does the furniture allow this to happen? 

They do not have permanent cash register locations but every Apple specialist is a portable check out point. Making even the extraction of money a pleasant, personal experience. Do you have a giant circulation desk as is want to be the case in so many school libraries?? Why has this become the norm? What message does his send to our customers? How could the check out process be more personal? Why should it be? If we show an interest in our clients, and what they are reading, they are more likely to return and engage with us. 

Their is space delineated - a place for community, a place for learning, a place for buying, and place for hanging out.  There is plenty of room in the stores for movement and flow.

One of the things I do like about Apple is that they know their strengths and and being very strategic to focus on these. The products are streamlined, they are not wasting energy trying to do too many things going off on little tangents. Apple are purely focused on what makes them great. What are the focuses in your library and programmes? Are you trying to do too many things - does this make you appear to be all over the shop? Do people actually know what you can do well? Stop and make strategic plans and do not stray from them. Focus on your strengths and build from there.

Apple have just opened a brand new concept store in San Francisco where they have evolved the Apple store experience even further - taking a risk to move on, to make changes, to just push the boundaries further. Thinking different to what has become the norm for Apple, and we as School Librarians need to be always evolving and thinking just a little bit different and pushing the boundaries - personally and professionally.

I had written a previous post about the Apple experience. Inspired by Apple.

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