Home Depot takes hands-on approach to customer service


Home Depot is looking to reclaim its lost legacy of customer service by implementing a new handheld device that lets employees check stock, call around the store and ring you up on the spot, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Big Orange retailer had been one of most successful retailing stories since the modern retail era began in the 1970s. That success prompted competitor Lowe’s to look at what Home Depot was doing and reorient itself with a more female-focused version of a home improvement store.

But after years of gangbuster growth, both retailers got eviscerated by the housing bust in the United States. So much of the spending in these stores is based on construction, additions, renovations and what goes on in the first 6 months of home ownership. And we all know that’s died down.

Complicating matters for Home Depot was the fact that the company really lost its customer focus back when former CEO Robert Nardelli ran the ship. Nardelli fired a lot of longstanding customer service reps and really thinned out the headcount on the floor. It became such a sore spot that you went into the store couldn’t get any help.

But Home Depot is now getting on the ball with a new device called the First Phone. It allows employees to check stock, answer questions and it can be phone or walkie-talkie and even ring you up without having to wait in a line or go to a self-service register!

While I was in Home Depot recently, I found a sales rep in the orange apron and told him I was looking for plastic owls. He wasn’t familiar with the location of the item I wanted. (Who would be, right?) So he pulled this thing out of his holster and started looking for it in the inventory. No luck. That’s when he started talking to somebody who knew exactly where the plastic owls were. And then, a la Nordstrom, the guy walked me to the item to make sure I found it.

So many companies don’t have the revenues they did before the real estate bust. They have to figure out ways to be more efficient and at same time serve the customer. To me, this First Phone thing is all about recapturing that former Home Depot magic by creating a connection to customers even in a giant, cavernous store.

And why was I looking at plastic owls, inquiring minds want to know? We have an aggressive woodpecker we’ve nicknamed Loco that is determined to destroy every piece of wood on our house. It comes around all hours of the night and starts pecking away. The only thing that stops the woodpecker is these plastic owls that scare him away!

Clark Deals
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