Apple will soon make a significant change to retail store Genius Bar appointments to improve the customer experience, according to several sources briefed on the upcoming shift. During the week of March 9th, Apple’s United States stores will launch a new initiative called “The new Concierge” that replaces traditional walk-in Genius Bar appointments. Currently, a customer seeking Genius Bar assistance can walk into an Apple Retail Store, explain the issue to a check-in assistant, and get a specific time to return for an appointment…

This new program, spearheaded by Retail Senior Vice President Angela Ahrendts, moves away from the classic appointment model. Instead, a customer describes the issue to an Apple Store employee, who inputs the issue into an updated iPad application. Using a special algorithm, the application provides the customer a wait time based on issue priorities. For example, a customer seeking an iPhone screen replacement will automatically be placed higher in the queue than a customer seeking help with a minor iCloud issue.

The customer then provides a phone number, which Apple uses to send three text messages with wait time updates:

  • 1) An initial text message confirming the Genius Bar request and providing the wait time
  • 2) A text message telling the customer to start heading back to the Apple Store
  • 3) A final text message telling the customer that their technician is ready to help and where they can be located in the store

Multiple Apple employees have called the new feature one of the most significant changes to Apple Store operations in several years, as it allows customers to request support on the spot, shop elsewhere inside of the mall, and then return when the store is ready to service them. This will likely reduce crowding in the Apple Store and possibly fatigue from waiting customers. Apple Stores will operate essentially like restaurants that provide diners with pagers and wait times instead of holding empty tables while people are waiting. However, with the SMS-based system, realtime feedback and interactivity will be provided without the need for additional hardware.

For the time being, Apple Store Genius Bar appointments that are booked online will remain mostly unchanged and will not gain the text message-based system that will replace walk-in appointments. Apple has piloted the updated process, dubbed by some employees as “the new customer journey,” in select markets on a small-scale in recent months.

The new Concierge marks yet another significant retail experience change from Ahrendts, who has already introduced new employee attire, a new emphasis on China, and plans for selling and guarding the jewelry-like Apple Watch. Alongside design chief Jony Ive, Ahrendts is also working on a more substantial redesign of the Apple Retail Store. Ahrendts joined Apple in 2014 after being the long-time CEO of Burberry. In addition to enhancing Apple Store features, Ahrendts has re-organized the Apple Retail management team and increased communication with retail employees in the field by way of weekly video messages.

Top image taken by Chris Buhr