Tales From The Orchard – No Knowledge, No Service.



Have you ever asked for help from somebody and they do their best and are very nice, but they really don’t know what they’re doing, you get more and more frustrated and then you end up fixing the problem yourself? I’m sure we’ve all been there, right? Well, this past weekend, it happened to me and my mind was blown away by the irony of the situation. Follow…

One of the things I had always admired about The Orchard was the emphasis they strove to put on knowledge and training. It didn’t matter if you had prior knowledge of their products or services because they would train you and fill in the gaps. It was promoted as rights of passage for each achievement, which anyone can tell you is a complete 180 degree turn from the retail business model. From entry level sales positions to the coveted Genius role, all positions in the store had a specific training regimen that had to be completed before starting them. One of my fondest memories of my time there was being sent to “The Mothership” in Cupertino for weeks at a time for specialized training courses. Mingling with the higher ups of the company, meeting new friends and even spotting my hero, Steve Jobs, across the company cafeteria are memories I’ll never forget. I truly loved and respected a company who always encouraged it’s employees to keep learning because having egg on your face in front of a customer when you didn’t have an answer was frowned upon.

Now, not everyone excelled with the training. There were the few employees who simply couldn’t keep up with the knowledge. A few “bad apples” who’d sell a mouse with an iPad and wonder what they did wrong. But for the most part, knowledge was embraced and yearned for.

Until Steve died.

Then, slowly, the priorities for the stores shifted. No longer were training and knowledge the emphasis for upper management. They were only interested in numbers. Sales numbers, service numbers, time, inventory, customer survey scores etc. became our day to day. Internal employee surveys often showed a demand for more training as the shift was happening but was never really met with any certainty. They’d try one method of training for existing employees for a quarter and then drop it. The following quarter would be something else they’d try and inevitably it would fail too. Those of us that happen been a part of the Orchard when Steve was alive saw the writing on the wall. Knowledge takes training and training is expensive. The heads of retail couldn’t quantify knowledge because it didn’t add up on a spreadsheet. Therefore, it had no value.

So, cut to last weekend. I ordered a lightning to 3.5 mm adapter for my iPhone because I lost mine. I placed the order using my iPhone, the Apple Store app, and Apple Pay. It was quick and easy and I was really impressed with how seamlessly it all worked. A few days later, I got an email from the Apple online store saying my package would be delivered that afternoon. I was surprised and delighted it was 2 days before the shipping date I was given. Then, I realized my package was being delivered to my old address in Los Angeles and I was currently in Charlotte, NC. Frustrated that I had screwed this up somehow, I clicked the link in the email for support and looked for the return policy. All of a sudden, a chat screen pops up and a girl named “Nikki” asked if she could help me out. Pretty Cool, right?!

I told her about the address discrepancy and she said she could take care of it, but first she needed me to answer a few security questions to verify it was really me she was talking to. I gave her what I thought was the right info and she tells me the phone number didn’t match what she had on file. That was confusing because I have only 1 phone number and I’ve had it for 10 years. We tried it again and got the same result. (And to answer the somewhat obvious question, No, I did not identify myself as an ex Orchard employee. There is no real advantage and It wouldn’t have mattered in this case anyway.)

The next 20 minutes was spent trying reset the information my Apple Store account. It seemed to be caught in a loop. I couldn’t change the information on that order because that order was still in process and I couldn’t change the info in my account settings because I had an order pending. (I’m pretty sure that’s what my version of Hell will be like) So then, my helper sighs into the phone and says, “You’ll just have to dispute it with your bank.”


I said, “Were you seriously trained to dump your customer’s problems onto another company?”

“I’m not sure what else we can do.” She says, “Apple ID issues aren’t my area.”

How and when did the conversation change to Apple ID?

“There’s nothing wrong with my Apple ID.” I told her as I quickly went into iTunes on my computer and verified my Apple ID settings. All the information was correct. I told her I made it a point to make sure all that information was up to date right after my move. I even had her hold on while I checked the info on my phone and it too was correct.

I told her from my perspective, this was an Apple Store app problem since my information was correct everywhere else. She said that may well be the case but until I could verify the phone number she had in front of her, she couldn’t help me. I’m not going to tell you what I said next because it wasn’t very ladylike.
While I was cursing a blue streak, I had a mini-epiphany. Apple Pay. I paid with Apple Pay. The answer had to be there. I went into the Apple Pay Settings on my phone and sure enough, the wrong street address, state, zip code and phone number were listed as contact information. All of that data was from my Los Angeles home, including a Google Voice phone number I used once. I quickly read that phone number to her and she verified it being the right one and continued to process my re-order. As we were finishing up the chat session, I asked her why Apple Pay wasn’t connected to my Apple ID?

It took her a full 2 minutes to come back to me and she said, “It ’s security thing. So, if your phone is stolen they can’t get your banking information.”

I was really happy I was in a texting session and not a live call because I laughed out loud at her ridiculous answer.

Instead, I typed, “Isn’t that what the fingerprint scanner is for?”

Another 2 or 3 minutes go by and she comes back asks if there was anything else she could help me with? I let her off the hook and thanked her for her help.
As I signed off of the chat session, I shook my head. It’s wasn’t her fault she didn’t know why Apple Pay and my Apple ID don’t work in tandem. It’s really wasn’t her fault that she didn’t know how the security features of Apple’s biggest selling product work because I’m betting she was never trained on that information. I blame The Orchard’s retail honchos who have no appreciation of knowledge and don’t care if the underlings doing all their grunt work are properly equipped for their jobs.

Which brings me to my next point. There is a rumor floating around that The Orchard is phasing out the Offsite Training courses for the Genius role. The premise of which is highly disturbing to me. Not only are they phasing out a huge morale boosting rite of passage for employees, but the idea of watching a video tutorial on taking a computer apart is as beneficial as a hands on classroom experience is absurd. You’d think Betsey DeVos had re-invented The Orchard’s training curriculum. Several of my ex-colleagues who are still with The Orchard have told me they think the higher ups care more about renovating stores that don’t really need renovation to appease the ego of the VP of Retail. That, by her eliminating the cost of certain training programs, she can pour that money into frivolous undertakings that don’t benefit the customer experience or the employees.

This is heartbreaking to me. The Orchard used to stand for knowledge, high end customer service, and employee engagement. I truly feel that without Steve’s vision and leadership The Orchard is a rudderless boat drifting in circles.

Let me summarize my thoughts like this; Would you leave your car in the care of a mechanic who had been self taught by video tutorials and practice simulations?

Because that’s what The Orchard will soon be asking us all to do with our computers.

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