Much has been written about the structures, the founders and the personalities that have moulded the image of the amazingly successful business – Apple. Not only have we, the consumer, been able to establish new day-to-day routines by using the numerous Apple products on the market, but, aware of it or not, our lives have been deeply impacted and altered.
So when I came across this article - How to Change the World: 10 Things You Can Learn from the Apple Store – by Guy Kawasaki, speaker, business strategist, prolific author and writer of the blog: How to Change the World, I was immediately intrigued. Kawasaki outlines ten key features about the Apple Store which sets this business apart from its competitors. These key features have, he claims, contributed to Apple’s huge success.
As I read the article, I found myself wondering how our school libraries would be if we were to adopt these features, internalizing them into our everyday operations, making them an integral part of our service delivery. How, I pondered, would our patrons – both staff and students – benefit if we were to tweak our services to fit the Apple model.
Using Kawasaki’s 10 points, here is my take on how our school libraries could evolve:
Note: Following each of Kawasaki’s 10 points, which I have copied here in full, in quotation marks, I have, in the indented paragraphs, given my own thoughts about how school libraries could evolve if we were to adopt this 10 point plan. Kawasaki’s original post can be found here.
- “Stop selling stuff.When Steve Jobs first started the Apple Store he did not ask the question, “How will we grow our market share from 5 to 10 percent?” Instead he asked, “How do we enrich people’s lives?” Think about your vision. If you were to examine the business model for most brands and retailers and develop a vision around it, the vision would be to “sell more stuff.” A vision based on selling stuff isn’t very inspiring and leads to a very different experience than the Apple Retail Store created.”
My take – Stop selling stuff: Much of the work of library staff in our schools revolves around presenting and ‘selling’ books and resources to library patrons. Rather than selling our wares, a very uninspiring business model according to Steve Jobs, what would happen if we adopted Jobs’ model of asking ourselves “How we can enrich people’s lives?” A library vision based on enriching the lives of our patrons and tending to patron’s needs on ‘what’s important to them’ could well re-define the school library’s raison d’etre.
- “Enrich lives. The vision behind the Apple Store is “enrich lives,” the first two words on a wallet-sized credo card employees are encouraged to carry. When you enrich lives magical things start to happen. For example, enriching lives convinced Apple to have a non-commissioned sales floor where employees feel comfortable spending as much time with a customer as the customer desires. Enriching lives led Apple to build play areas (the “family room”) where kids could see, touch and play on computers. Enriching lives led to the creation of a “Genius Bar” where trained experts are focused on “rebuilding relationships” as much as fixing problems.”
My take – Enrich lives: Many of us working in school libraries are very aware of the different response we engender in our patrons when we connect with them at a personal level rather than just ‘servicing’ their needs as in locating or loaning a resource or ‘directing’ them with the ‘shh this is a library’ kind of interaction. By aiming to enrich the lives of our patrons, connecting with them at a personal level and interacting in a sincere and personal way, may well enrich lives as well as enrich their library experience.
- “Hire for smiles.The soul of the Apple Store is in its people. They are hired, trained, motivated and taught to create magical and memorable moments for their customers. The Apple Store values a magnetic personality as much, if not more so, than technical proficiency. The Apple Store cares less about what you know than it cares about how much you love people.” My take – Hire for smiles: Consider the different atmosphere created in our libraries when library staff are smiling, happy and jovial. Greeting library patrons with warmth and a sincere ‘I care about you’ greeting reaps huge rewards. Technical know-how, solving all problems or always locating sought after resources are not the only needs that should be attended to when staff and students visit. Just think about all those ‘chats’ had with fellow teachers and the dividends the warmth of that interaction has engendered!
- “Celebrate diversity: Mohawks, tattoos, piercings are all acceptable among Apple Store employees. Apple hires people who reflect the diversity of their customers. Since they are more interested in how passionate you are, your hairstyle doesn’t matter. Early in the Apple Store history, they also learned that former teachers make the best salespeople because they ask a lot of questions. It’s not uncommon to find former teachers, engineers, and artists at an Apple Store. Apple doesn’t look for someone who fits a mould.”
My take – Celebrate diversity: How interesting it is to read in Kawasaki’s article that “former teachers make the best salespeople because they ask a lot of questions”. Often times our library patrons forget that those of us working in school libraries are teachers. With the dual qualification of teacher and librarian, we hold a powerful range of skills to engage and assist. Don’t lose sight of it! With the essential support of librarians, library technicians, library assistants and a range of volunteers working hand in hand with teacher librarians, we present our patrons with a very diverse range of talent, knowledge and skill.
- “Unleash inner genius. Teach your customers something they never knew they could do before, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty. For example, the Apple Store offers a unique program to help people understand and enjoy their computers: One to One. The $99 one-year membership program is available with the purchase of a Mac. Apple Store instructors called “creatives” offer personalized instruction inside the Apple Store. Customers can learn just about anything: basics about the Mac operating system; how to design a website; enjoying, sharing, and editing photos or movies; creating a presentation; and much more. The One to One program was created to help build customers for life. It was designed on the premise that the more you understand a product, the more you enjoy it, and the more likely you are to build a long-term relationship with the company. Instructors are trained to provide guidance and instruction, but also to inspire customers, giving them the tools to make them more creative than they ever imagined.”
My take – Unleash inner genius: Daily, library staff are presented with a range of ‘must do’ tasks. This isn’t all that should fill our day though. By making sure that we regularly take time to assist on a one-to-one basis, teaching a new skill, or empowering users to be that much more independent when they are searching, seeking or locating information or resources, will pay huge dividends. Library staff have an enormous range of skills that must be shared! Knowing there is something to be gained by visiting the library, will encourage patrons to visit more often.
- “Empower employees. I spent one hour talking to an Apple Store specialist about kids, golf, and my business. We spent about ten minutes talking about the product (a MacBook Air). I asked the employee whether he would be reprimanded for spending so much time with one customer. “Not at all,” he replied. “If you have a great experience, that’s all that matters.” Apple has a non-commissioned sales floor for a reason—employees are not pressured to “make a sale.” Instead they are empowered to do what they believe is the right thing to do.”
My take – Empower employees: Spending time chatting with library patrons in a meaningful way on topics of mutual interest is a way of connecting and creating relationships. The flow on benefits for future encounters can be enormous. All library staff need to feel comfortable connecting in this way. Heads of libraries need to empower their library staff to know that such chatter is not a waste of time, but is really creating buying power for building a positive image of the library and its staff.
- “Sell the benefit. Apple Store specialists are taught to sell the benefit behind products and to customize those benefits for the customer. For example, I walked to the iPad table with my two young daughters and told the specialist I was considering my first iPad. In a brilliant move, the specialist focused on my two daughters, the ‘secondary’ customer who can influence a purchase. He let the girls play on separate devices. On one device he played the movie, Tangled, and on the other device he brought up a Disney Princess coloring app. My girls were thrilled and, in one memorable moment, my 6-year-old turned me to and said, “I love this store!” It’s easy to see why. Instead of touting “speeds and feeds,” the specialist taught us how the device could improve our lives.”
My take – Sell the benefit: Invariably, tending to the needs of one patron, be it a student or a staff member, there is a silent partner tagging along, seeing the interaction shared and wanting some of the same for themselves. There’s no doubt that whenever library staff help one individual, others are observing and either gaining from what they are observing or end up seeking you out later for their own personal attention. Building up good will, encouraging independence and teaching are part of what we do all the time – consciously or unconsciously.
- “Follow the steps of service. The Apple Store teaches its employees to follow five steps in each and every interaction. These are called the Apple five steps of service. They are outlined by the acronym A-P-P-L-E. They are: Approach with a customized, warm greeting. Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs. Present a solution the customer can take home today. Listen for and address unresolved questions. End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.”
My take – Follow the steps of service: A-P-P-L-E ….. WOW! Without a doubt this is what library staff do each and every time they have an interaction with staff or students visiting the library. A very cool acronym indeed – well worth hanging in the library workroom to remind us of what and how we operate!
- “Create multisensory experiences. The brain loves multi-sensory experiences. In other words, people enjoy being able to see, touch, and play with products. Walk into an Apple Store upon opening and you’ll see all the notebook computer screens perfectly positioned slightly beyond 90-degree angles. The position of the computer lets you see the screen (which is on and loaded with content) but forces you to touch the computer in order to adjust it. Every device in the store is working and connected to the Internet. Spend as much time as you’d like playing with the products—nobody will kick you out. Creatives who give One-to-One workshops do not touch the computer without asking for permission. They want you to do it. The sense of touch helps create an emotional connection with a product.”
My take – Create multisensory experiences: Book displays and shelves full of books take a long time to set up and keep in order. The best libraries are those where our beautiful book displays and well ordered shelves are a mess at the end of the day! Evidence of frequent use is what we are after! Each time those periodicals are sorted, shelved and tidied up, just consider how it would be if they were never touched! As school libraries embrace technology, providing more and more computers on which online resources can be located, library patrons will be the winners. An increased range of services, resources and events in our libraries will enrich the range of experiences enjoyed by our library patrons.
- “Appeal to the buying brain. Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. Create uncluttered environments instead. The Apple Store is spacious, clean, well-lit, and uncluttered. Cables are hidden from view and no posters on placed on the iconic glass entrances. Computer screens are cleaned constantly. Keep the environment clean, open, and uncluttered.”
My take – Appeal to the buying brain: School libraries need to be clear and uncluttered. Resources need to be easily located and easily and comfortably enjoyed. Clear, uncluttered libraries with visible and well organized signage are appealing and contribute to creaing great libraries.