Angela Ahrendts spoke yesterday to Fast Company about her first two years as Apple's retail chief and her strategy to improve the company's customer experience at its global chain of retail stores.
In an interview titled "Apple's Angela Ahrendts On What It Takes To Make Change Inside A Successful Business," the Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores explains that, in her first six months at Apple, she travelled to 40 different markets and met with retail leaders to learn about how stores were "uniting people and getting them to collaborate."
When asked if Apple Store staff feel the same pride working for the company as Cupertino employees do, Ahrendts boasted about the company's 81% retention rate in 2015:
We just ended the year with the highest retention rates we’ve ever had: 81%. And the feedback [from Apple Store employees is that it’s] because they feel connected. They feel like one Apple. They don’t feel like they’re just somebody over here working with customers. I don’t see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that Jony Ive and the team took years to build. Somebody has to deliver it to the customer in a wonderful way.
Ahrendts goes on to explain that her experience at Apple has taught her just how strong the culture is within the company, which was "built to change people's lives", and that the same core value is being continued by Apple's current CEO Tim Cook:
That foundation, that service mentality, that drive to continue to change lives — that is a core value in the company. And Tim Cook has added his on: He says it's also our responsibility to leave it better than we found it. So you have these two amazing pillars and a culture built around that. It's the same in retail and in Cupertino. That is the underlying mission, and how could you know that unless you're inside? But it is deeper than you would ever imagine.
Apple has aggressively expanded in China under Ahrendts' retail leadership, with stores opening last year in Chongqing, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Tianjin, and several more on the way throughout 2016.
In an interview for 60 Minutes late last year, Ahrendts spoke about how Apple is continually refining new designs for its stores worldwide to achieve a common "wow" factor, so that customers are "transfixed" from the moment they walk through the doors.
Ahrendts officially joined Apple in mid-2014 to replace former SVP of Retail John Browett, who was fired from the company a year and a half earlier. Previously CEO of hugely successful UK fashion retailer Burberry, she is currently Apple's highest paid executive, according to a recent regulatory filing.
Read more of the Fast Company interview with Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts here.