Apple continues to show that it has more creative initiative and nuanced understanding of its customers then most companies.
There’s always been a dilemma in retail. You want to help the customer, but you don’t want to pester them. Ideally the customer approaches you and asks for help, but if you’re not available or the customer is shy then that’s less likely to happen.
This is where technology can be very helpful.
Apple has an in-store app used by it’s employees to make the interaction of asking for help more effective. The New York Times has detailed the app in their article, A Look at Apple’s Spot-the-Shopper Technology.
By making it obvious how to ask for help and making it as easy as hitting a button, you’ve just changed the interaction for your customers in a way that will probably satisfy every personality. You may be able to improve it slightly by making it more obvious and more subtle that someone is pushing the button. The NYT article notes the example of a similar technique used on planes with the call button, but that is rarely used because it becomes such a public display. If the call button on airplanes were more subtle and the flight attendants were notified without other passengers knowing then it would be used much more often (although maybe airlines don’t want it to be used more often).
I think about these nuanced interactions a lot. They pop up all over the place. I was just thinking about one the other day where you have a teenager who doesn’t want to call home every 15 minutes and you have parents who want to know their child is ok. Potentially you could build an app that makes it easy for the parents to contact the teenager and for the teenager to let them know they are ok without it being a big deal. You could imagine an app that let the parents send out an “are you ok” message and the child to just hit “I’m ok” without anyone else knowing and I would imagine that interaction would be improved a great deal.
Interactions like this happen all the time. It’s why text messaging is so popular, why email became so popular, etc. The technology changes the way the interaction takes place. There are still some situations where you want to make a phone call, but, there are also some situations where a text is more ideal. For many people the majority of the time a text is more ideal, so it’s used more often then a phone call these days.
In any case, I think that you can improve a lot of interactions with the correct application of technology. It’s good to see some companies, such as Apple, recognize this as well.