Profiles Employee Assessment Blog

Subscribe via E-mail

Your email:

Now Accepting Guest Posts

Human Resources Today

Browse by Tag

Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Workplace 101: A Profiles Global Business Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

What We Can Learn About Customer Service From Apple's Training Manual


How does Apple maintain such astronomical sales? Part of the secret is out. Apple’s Training Manual, Genius Training Student Workbook, has been leaked. The training guide for Apple’s retail salespeople has been made fun of for being a bit cultish and manipulative.

But as Gizmodo points out, something about Apple’s selling system works, however strange it may be. Everyone hired to work at Apple's retail stores must complete an intensive 14-day training program. The training manual covers everything from "Using Diagnostic Service" to "Genius Actions and Characteristics."

There is another myriad of instructions for how to behave on the sales floor with exhaustive instructions. The manual lists words employees cannot say. An entire section is dedicated to reading a potential customer's nonverbal cues. Who knew an unbuttoned coat signaled confidence? Empathy is of particular importance. Apple employees are instructed to be understanding of what a customer or potential customer is going through and express that understanding whenever possible. Apple employees are also encouraged to provide feedback to other employees if they notice their interaction with customers is not up to Apple standards.

"Hi, fellow Genius. I overheard your conversation with your customer during that last interaction and I have some feedback if you have a moment," is the way employees are encouraged to approach each other.

Even if you are not in the business of selling phones and tablets, you can learn a few things about customer service from Apple's manual:

1. Everyone in the organization is in the business of selling: Apple's guide states this verbatim, and we are sure CEO's everywhere would agree. But knowing this fact and integrating it into your corporate culture are two different things. If employees do not see how their job contributes to the bottom line, they can begin to feel disengaged. Disengagement can dramatically lower the quality of employee’s work, decreasing productivity and eventually customer satisfaction. Remind your employees constantly how their job contributes to the over-arching goal of the organization. Everyone is in the business of achieving the company’s goals!

2. Positive language is important in the work environment: Apple salespeople are not allowed to say that a device “crashed.” Instead, phrases like “stopped responding” are encouraged. Every employee should watch the language they use to describe their work. If an account or client is difficult, encourage your employees to replace words like “annoying” or “too much work” with “opportunity to get better” or “chance to learn what we did wrong.” Positivity is contagious and every failure is an opportunity to improve service to customers.

Empathy is important with potential customers: While Apple instructs its salespeople to “not apologize for the business [or] the technology,” salespeople are supposed to empathize with customers feelings about malfunctions, prices and other issues. Here is one example from the manual:

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.

This is a great model for any organization to follow. Customers want to feel that they are understood. Training anyone who has direct contact with customers to practice empathy is critical to retaining loyal customers.

Apple is not the only company to use strictly defined customer service tactics. Zappos goes to great lengths to ensure its customers are happy. The company is one of the few online retailers that does not outsource its call center and whose customer service representatives do not read from a script. The company has numerous stories about how it goes above and beyond for customers. One Zappos employee sent flowers to a woman who had ordered six pairs of shoes because she was trying to find one pair that would work for her feet after a difficult surgical prcedure. Zappos also overnighted another pair of shoes to the best man in a wedding after UPS sent the original pair to the wrong location. It is clear that Zappos values its customers. This kind of intensity is not innate in each customer service representative though: all Zappos contact center employees undergo seven weeks of training. 

What do you think about Apple's training manual and Zappos dedication to customer service? Let us know in the comment section below or on Facebook and Twitter.


I believe that the example provided in the article does not show the proper used of empathy. As I have been trained, empathy is identifying or labeling the "feeling" and not merely stating, "I can see how you feel this way." In the example provided, notice that the words highlighted in bold are "feel," "felt," and "found" but don't recognize the actual feeling or emotion. An alternative might be: "I too was "surprised" at the cost and had an initial "sticker shock" at first, but after comparing price to value, I realized the Apple was a real find." If you don't label the individual's feeling (surprised, sticker-shock, amazed, upset, etc.), you are not actually "walking in the customer's shoes" or being empathetic,but merely stating facts.
Posted @ Monday, September 10, 2012 10:42 AM by Jim
Hi Jim. Thank you for your feedback! I definitely agree that sympathy is about recognizing feeling and emotions, not just stating facts. I believe Apple was simply trying to standardize some responses for the training manual. I would hope individual store managers encourage employees to provide personalized feedback for each customer.  
Posted @ Monday, September 10, 2012 3:21 PM by Diamond Richardson
I'm sensitive about being pulled into anything that feels cult-like and manipulative. I feel like Apple is on the borderline. However, I can't help but be impressed. 
I do think the point about empathy is good. Too often salespeople just start talking. They should ask questions, listen, and understand. Then they can offer up much better information. 
Posted @ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:54 AM by Aaron
The salient point for CEOs everywhere is 14 days of training and I would add " no exceptions " . It is hard to be empathetic and effective when you are not confident in what you are saying and selling. Retailers notoriously underinvest in training and customers bear the brunt of that short sightedness.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 10:35 AM by Carol Borghesi
Great point, Aaron. Old-school selling style is all about spewing product benefits. I think Apple is setting a good example by writing a training manual that emphasizes focus on the customer’s needs and concerns. But I will agree that the manual reads a bit cultish!
Posted @ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:18 PM by Diamond Richardson
I completely agree, Carol. I personally worked retail jobs in high school and would have appreciated extra training time to get familiar with inventory, cash register duties and store procedures. Unfortunately, some managers have the “throw the employee in the deep end and let them figure out how to swim” mentality.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:32 PM by Diamond Richardson
You have to listen you have to reverberate in order to understand you guest issue. No matter how busy you may be when thier is a issue you need to slow down and deal with it help your guest help you find resolution to the problem
Posted @ Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:29 AM by Ziggy
Very true, Ziggy. Too many retailers train their employees how to sell, but not how to listen. Thanks for your comment!
Posted @ Friday, September 14, 2012 10:50 PM by Diamond
thank for informations , very nice post :D
Posted @ Monday, April 07, 2014 10:13 PM by cara menurunkan kolesterol
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics