Apple needs to shore up the chinks in its armor
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Apple needs to shore up the chinks in its armor

This week Apple became the most valuable company ever and its stock hit an all-time high (see http://macte.ch/bTrs0), but the company should beware: there are chinks showing in its armor.

The biggest is a blunder so colossally stupid that the powers at Apple have to be wondering if replacing retail guru with John Browett was a mistake. Browett came to Apple from European technology retailer Dixons Retail, where he has been CEO since 2007. Dixons isn't exactly famous for customer service or quality.

"Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met," Apple CEO Tim Cook said when announcing Browett's hiring. Recent events make you wonder exactly how many people they met.

Last week "Dow Jones" reported that Browett, had spearheaded a new staffing formula for its retail stores, leading some employees to see their hourly shifts cut and retail locations to be understaffed. It didn't take long for Apple to realize it had made a mistake.

Browett then instructed leadership teams to tell employees, "We messed up," says "Dow Jones," quoting two unnamed "people who were aware of the communication." Reportedly, during the brouhaha, shift schedules were affected, but no one was laid off. What's more, Browett also wanted employees to know that it was hiring new staff, according to "Dow Jones."

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told "Dow Jones" (http://macte.ch/2JPpz) that: "Making these changes was a mistake and the changes are being reversed ... Our employees are our most important asset and the ones who provide the world-class service our customers deserve."

Everyone, especially new employees, need leeway to make mistakes in their learning curve. But suggesting Apple, which is rolling in money, cut back employee hours -- and thus service -- in its retail stores has to make you wonder if Browett is truly Apple material. And why did no one reign him in?

To a lesser degree, Apple's decision to withdraw its products from EPEAT, then almost immediately re-add them (see http://macte.ch/nlyxE) seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a knee-jerk decision.

Last month Apple asked EPEAT (http://www.epeat.net), a government-backed, environmental rating that helps identify greener computers and other electronic equipment, to remove 39 desktops, laptops and monitors from the body's list of environmentally friendly devices including legacy models that already hold the certification.

Almost immediately -- and following a hailstorm of criticism -- Apple said it made a mistake withdrawing its products from the EPEAT rating system, In an open letter (http://macte.ch/mOEh8), Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield said the company is re-adding all eligible products to EPEAT.

I'm not one of those folks who think that Apple is destined to decline without Steve Jobs at the helm. Perhaps the two "mistakes" mentioned were the results of two personnel and bad timing.

However, they come across as sloppy decisions. And "sloppy" is a word that should never be associated with Apple.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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