Reworking the User Experience at the Genius Bar

I went to the Apple store a few days ago and was blown away by the user experience. The staff is knowledgeable and approachable, and once they’ve thoroughly answered your questions and you’re ready to make a purchase, they simply pull out their handheld device, scan the products, scan your card, and send you happily on your way. No need to stand in long pre-Christmas lines. This is cool for two reasons: it makes the buyer’s life easier, but it also clinches the sale immediately. Standing in a long line gives the buyer the opportunity to second guess whether or not they really want to drop a couple hundred dollars. Immediate purchase ensures the credit card is scanned while the buyer is still in the warm glow of an enthusiastic, helpful salesperson.

But they’re not salespeople. They’re Geniuses. They work at a Genius Bar, not a customer service desk. A genius inspires confidence in a way that a salesperson cannot. And a “bar” suggests an openness that a “desk” does not. Putting those two words together was a brilliant idea. “Yes, we’re geniuses. But we’re not intimidating. C’mon over to the bar and let’s chat.” It gives a sense of getting a useful explanation of a complicated subject, while chatting with a friend over a latte. A little bit of genius rubs off and you walk away feeling good about technology that you previously didn’t understand.

Oh, and if you happen to be paying by check or cash and have to stand in line, they have a way cool way to pass the time. The screens (which are extremely readable) behind the Genius Bar give you changing information to read while you wait. A glossary defines terms (bandwidth came up while I was there), there are quick how-to snippets for your Apple products, and random interesting facts.

In the Christmas Eve hecticity of mall shopping, I found this to be a soothing little oasis.

It also led me to wonder about the “Reference Desk” moniker. Can’t that be renamed to reflect it’s purpose as THE place to go for information provided by friendly, approachable, knowledgeable people?

2 thoughts on “Reworking the User Experience at the Genius Bar

  1. My sister bought a tablet laptop for herself, while I only got a Think Pad. 🙂 While I thought that for personal use, the tablet is pretty frivolous, wouldn’t it be a great way to take the reference desk out to the people? We could have little wand scanners and if the patron only had a couple things, they could check out with you. Plus it would be great for inventory. Granted, the tablet aspect increases the cost by double, but I think the potential benefits may outweigh the costs. Plus, I’m sort of the opinion that the reference desk an outmoded form.

  2. I also think that “reference desk” scares people. They may think that their questions aren’t important enough to warrant “reference”.

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