Apple’s ‘geniuses’ are straining under the iPhone’s success, but revamped stores could ease the pressure

Kif Leswing, Business Insider:

According to numerous blue-shirted “geniuses” that Business Insider spoke to, a rising tide of store visitors and on-the-job performance expectations have pushed the system to the breaking point.


Retail employees notice that the stores are packed. One says that his store can’t keep up. “We haven’t been able to keep up with traffic since I started 8 years ago,” a senior Genius at a small store in the Midwest that has yet to be redesigned told Business Insider. “I wouldn’t even walk in the store because of how crowded it gets. During Christmas [season] you can hardly move.”

Even consumers who purchased their phones through their wireless carriers now increasingly turn to the Apple store as their de-facto service center. In some cases, the arrangement is deliberate: T-Mobile earlier this year started bundling AppleCare, Apple’s warranty and service program, into its own device insurance program, funneling its own customers to Apple for service.

This is a natural result of Apple’s enormous success. The question is, what is Apple doing to help alleviate this strain?

In 2016, Apple introduced a new repair role, named Technical Expert, which can do iPhone repairs and replacements for customers, but can’t repair Macs. The new Technical Expert roles seem to be doing a better job accommodating people who walk in with broken iPhones without appointments.


With the new store design, Apple is rethinking the concept of the Genius Bar itself. Although new stores still have the traditional scheduled appointments for customers, the system has shifted to what Apple calls the “Genius Grove,” in which roving techs can service customers in a large tree-lined part of the store.

I go to the Apple Store pretty regularly, and I am seeing a difference. The original service model reserved the majority of the floor for sales, pushing all technical/service issues to a relatively small space at the rear of the store.

But the modern Apple Store feels different, the flow of technical/service response feels more triaged. Go in, find any Apple-shirted person, and explain your issue. Frequently, the path to a solution starts with that person either responding directly, or connecting you to the right someone in the store to work through a problem, often without spending time in any sort of queue at all.

It’s a night and day difference, from a customer experience perspective.

  • The plan at T-Moble that includes Applecare is $15 a month. That’s $360 for two years! And they send you to Apple anyway. So I’m going to buy Applecare for my iPhone X at Apple. In fact, I’m going to do it right now. Thanks for the reminder!

    Renee is right, the iPhone X is the best device Apple has ever made.

    • lucascott

      i wish all the carriers did that. every time I have gotten a replacement from my carrier it had some kind of issue from their lousy refurb job.

  • JimCracky

    Spent time in the Mayfair Apple Store Sunday Morning.Besides the rush of he early morning crowd, service was props, efficient and curious and may cracked screen issue was handled promptly. and professionally.

  • Definitely noticeable. I recall the point when the majority if people bellied up to the Genius bar were Windows users with iPod issues. These folk are now replaced by iPhone users – and there’s WAY more of them. I am a Mac Pro user and many of the Appleshirts have newer SEEN the inside of a Mac Pro tower. At my old Apple Store in the NYC suburbs they feared me coming through the door with my MP. I do most of my own maintenance, so If I’m there,the problem is either hard, or weird or BOTH. The easy, common stuff – I take care of myself.

    But I have seen a clear, slow degradation of expert knowledge behind the Apple bar over the years. I now reside in the eastern panhandle of WV, and use an independent tech shop.

    • lucascott

      im in LA and I’ve never noticed an issue with the knowledge of the techs but I have noticed that a lot of the folks around me were asking really basic stuff. I was in a couple of months ago cause i dropped my iPhone and busted up the screen pretty thoroughly. two folks were there to update the software on their phones, there was a woman who couldn’t figure out how to reply to an email on her iPad. and so on. as I left to go grab some lunch while they replaced my phone screen I passed a guy that was pitching a fit about how he had just spent a bunch of money on getting a new phone and it didn’t work. the college kid working the front had the patience of a saint over what turned out to be that the guy hadn’t take the plastic off the front of the screen.