Apple’s Genius Bar – an Opportunity for Pharmacy

We have written about the Apple Genius Bar before, and its transformation into a “health bar” in the UK-based Lloydspharmacy.
We have also previously commented on how similar it was to the pre-1960’s pharmacy counter and how it was private enough then for pharmacy patients.
For Apple, the Genius Bar has been a great success story and has had an incredible run, providing appointment-based customer service, repairs and consultations out of Apple’s retail stores since 2001.

Remnants of pharmacy versions of Genius Bars still exist in some Australian pharmacies, but they lack the focus of being a hub for all professional services.

With a great interface for making appointments that combines Apple’s obsession with the perfect customer experience with a personalized touch, it’s hard to see how it could get much better. Starting this month, however, Apple is embracing the technology almost everyone is now carrying in their pockets to make the Genius Bar appointment process even easier for those with busy schedules, minimise frustration for those with urgent tech problems, and—to Apple’s benefit—get customers spending more time in the store.

And here is where the real potential can be unlocked in a pharmacy, because a number of patient encounters can be pre-planned and systemised to be stored in an iPad or other NotePad.
This creates knowledge transfers in a fully researched manner, that includes transfers to patient devices such as their smart phones and iPads.
It is possible to create an entire toolkit of your own individual and personalised tools to deliver to a patient’s portable desktop while simultaneously engaging with a patient to teach them how to deal with a pharmacist personally and electronically.
And it is not limited to just pharmacist interaction because this type of system can be partly supported by a clinical assistant (to leverage a pharmacist) as well as in other specialist areas of the pharmacy (cosmetics, hair care, skin care etc).

Apple’s new Concierge initiative aims to improve the customer experience at the stores for people who don’t like to pre-plan. 

Apple employees already use iPads and iPhones as pagers to order products for customers and set up Genius Bar service, and this revamp expands on that convention. Instead of making an appointment and/or waiting in a long line, customers describe their problem to a concierge on site, who puts it into a special iPad application. This app uses a special algorithm to triage the customer’s problem, sending it to the front or back of the queue according to priority. A broken device screen, for example, will get higher priority than someone with a lower level problem (and their portable device needs to be working before a knowledge transfer can properly take place).
This is the aspect of the initiative that’s meant to keep customers shopping in the store–without anxiously glancing back at the Genius Bar queue. On their phone, they get:

* An initial text message confirming the Genius Bar request and providing the wait time

* A text message telling the customer to start heading back to the Apple Store

* A final text message telling the customer that their technician is ready to help and where they can be located in the store

Genius Bars are already installed in Apple locations around Australia and electronic enthusiasts among you may have already used the system.

The following link illustrates the concept brilliantly. It’s simplicity and organisation of engagement information is really first class. Go to

And the website style is a classic for pharmacists to emulate for their own adaptation for professional services and products.
This is a project that could be started with minimal cost and effort and you may even be able to recycle and refurbish some old counters or benches to kick-start the process.
Apple originally started with one Genius Bar in a store, but it quickly spread to multi-Genius Bars because of their popularity.
This type of project has been covered in this edition under the title:

Pharmacy Inertia is Crippling Development – Build Clinical Spaces and Move into your Local Area Market Plan

It is very clear that when you visit the Hornsby branch of the Apple store (physically or by website) that they are intimately tied into a local area marketing effort.
The site is localised to Hornsby (even though it can be leveraged to other locations) and the front windows/doors frame the Genius Bar presentation like an artist’s painting, selling the concept to passer’s by.
Apple are doing nothing that pharmacy has not done before, but they are definitely doing it better.

It is frustrating to see community pharmacies struggling with the way forward.
The Genius Bar embodies what pharmacy has always done and it represents a great way to differentiate your pharmacy from the supermarket varieties.
You can still have a “cut price corner” to be seen as being competitive and as a means of recruiting new customers for patient conversion, but most pharmacies do not seem to have taken even this basic step.
Genius bars, while initially taking up space, actually reduce the need for display space as personal selling takes up the slack.
As long as there are sales assistants able to receive a delegation communicated by electronic messaging, customers and patients can be serviced seamlessly and efficiently.
Other forms of virtual display can also reduce stock holdings e.g. connected glass, as utilised by Westfield Shopping Centre.
Go to One Precursor Strategy For Building a New Paradigm Pharmacy

The Genius Bar concept can obviously be part of your local area marketing design plan and you do not have to embrace major expenditure to bring it to life. Just pick your own entry point and adapt it to your own purpose.
Just doing something positive will prevent the depression that arises from the anxieties that pharmacists collectively have been experiencing, because of the continual stream of bad news.
Screen out the bad news and just simply get on with it!


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