Home Depot Revamps Customer Service: "We are not to let a customer go untouched."

New Home Depot CEO Frank “Li’l Franky” Blake is making customer service “his No. 1 priority,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Blake took the reigns after the resignation of Robert “Big Bob” Nardelli. Describing the renewed focus, one Texas manager said, “We are not to let a customer go untouched.”

Mr. Blake repeatedly has told managers that the stores will be liberated from many of the time-consuming, mind-numbing tasks the home office required them to do over the past six years. Under Mr. Nardelli, stores had to measure everything from how many pallets were removed from a truck per hour to how many extended warranties each employee sold per week.

Fewer mind-numbing tasks may allow increased face-time with customers, which for Home Depot, may not be a good thing. For starters, they can focus on hiring people who don’t abuse customers, but do know the products they’re trying to sell.

To give the new guy credit, Li’l Franky seems to be trying. We will hold final judgement until we see what concrete steps Blake implements. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Home Depot Tries To Make Nice to Customers [WSJ] (Subscription req’d)

(Photo: tanjila)

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  1. homerjay says:

    Well, they have no place to go but up!

  2. markymags says:

    That picture is hilarious!

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    Dammit, I don’t want more “face time.” I’m content with the way they are now. I just want there to be employees around who can tell me where I can find >blankblank

    Beyond that, I don’t CARE. Do they have to turn this into Circuit City or EB or something?

  4. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    You gotta give the man credit for trying, but after my last Home Depot fiasco, it’s going to take something more dramatic to get me back into the store.

    And they’re going to have to start from ground zero with their employees…the attitude I got from the manager does not inspire much confidence.

  5. etinterrapax says:

    I was wondering what was up when we had to be there last weekend for new toilet innards and every five seconds someone in an orange apron was asking us if we needed help. I concluded that we must somehow look like thieves, because when I worked in retail, that was how you dealt with them. Anyhow, on our second visit, my poor parents ended up getting the massive hard sell on a refrigerator when they just wanted to see what was there. It was not encouraging. It was not helpful. It was incredibly annoying. If they did something about the hourlong wait to have paint mixed, then they’d have my attention.

  6. mikesfree says:

    I recently sold my rental property but I used to use home depot a lot and spent thosands there. I kept going when they stopped helping you and started dodging you but I finally stopped when they put in the self checkout with no other option in our local store. I hope they start reversing the trend of help your own self.

  7. acambras says:

    “We are not to let a customer go untouched.”

    Sounds a little perverted and creepy to me…

  8. gardencat says:

    I always shopped Home Depot because it was nearby. Whenever I needed help, I would walk up and down the isles looking for someone…wishing and hoping I would not have to search too long for someone to assist me :(

    After going through the checkout and paying for your stuff, you had to keep your receipt out to show the security guard before you could go out the door…this was very annoying!

    So, when the nearby friendly helpful Lowes store came along I started shopping there and said good bye to Home Depot forever.

  9. JShore says:

    As a Home Depot employee, I am excited to see what our new CEO does. Nardelli was the biggest mistake this company has ever made, and hopefully we won’t pay for it forever. We are rolling out a new customer service programs in all of our stores, shifting the focus on the customer once again. And trust me if you ask where something is I will be able to tell you and I know my appliances that I sell to my customers.

  10. faust1200 says:

    Bad touch! Bad touch! But seriously folks, I’ve never not once been approached by a home depot employee. When I did need help I generally had to walk a hundred yards or so to find one. I mean, it’s a big place in there. I don’t see how they will erm touch everybody unless they have about 4x bigger staff.

  11. BigFoot says:

    Maybe he can get the junk out of the aisles, too. HD has this penchant for sticking stuff in the aisles when they want you to impulse buy it. Half the time I can’t find things it’s because they are behind some junk they are trying to offload.

    The staff are bipolar. Some are so helpful and cheery you just want to hug them. The other half are much too busy to bother with you. I once tried to get a set of door locks rekeyed at 3:00pm – no one in the entire store could handle it. So I went to Lowes.

  12. mfergel says:

    I’ll say this, I worked a volunteer activity building a playground at a local shelter. It was partially sponsored by Kaboom, which is a charity cosponsored by Home Depot. As such, the majority of the folks there were Home Depot employees and managers. Those folks worked their butts off. Unlike the typical blue collar world (which I’m subjected too), the managers actually did the work instead of looking for ways to assign it to someone else or simply stand on the side and watch (or disappear all-together, which has been the case when I have done volunteer work with our own organization). I commend the folks from Home Depot that day for actually digging in and getting their hands dirty, every one of them.

  13. Chairman-Meow says:

    Its funny, But I did notice a distinct change in Home Depot about six years ago. They used to have retired plumbers, electricians, etc on staff and these guys knew their stuff. You could almost feel the change when they replaced these guys with minimum wage people off the street…Great job “Big Bob”!

    I gave up on Home Depot when they installed the “self-checkout” booths. It would be high noon on a saturday and you would see only 2 human cashiers manning the checkout lines and 1 very busy employee handling the self-checkouts.

    It was at that point I switched to Lowes forever.

    The irony here is that Home Depot killed Home Quarters Warehouse by being better and friendlier. Now Lowes is killing HD by being better & friendlier.

  14. mikesfree says:

    @mfergel:


    That is awesome, that is a really good point.

  15. crayonshinobi says:

    Bad touch! Bad touch!

  16. laurenl842 says:

    That’s funny. My fiance was in HD 2 days ago and couldn’t pay someone to help him. He’s not the handy type, so he spent his entire lunch break wandering around aimlessly until he finally gave up.

    We went to Lowe’s that night and with their extremely wonderful employees’ help, we were in and out of there in a matter of minutes. We are in the process of an extensive home renovation. They will be getting 100% of our business.

  17. Bye says:

    I cannot believe it’s taken THIS LONG for Home Depot to even acknowledge their problem. There is a Home Depot less than a mile from our house and we’ve made a pact to go there only in an emergency because of the horrible service and the fact that they never seem to have the items their inventory system says they do. Instead, we drive over the hill into Burbank to go to Lowe’s. I think the only people who hate our Home Depot more than the customers are the employees themselves.

    BTW, GREAT picture.

  18. VA_White says:

    @Front_Towards_Enemy:
    I worked for a hardlines manufacturer that sold to Home Depot. Many of our senior technicians who answered customer and contractor calls were plumbing professionals hired away from Home Depot.

  19. Antediluvian says:

    There are lots of Home Depots in the Greater Boston Area(TM), but the employees get progressively cuter as you get closer to Boston itself. So if one of the guys is going to touch me I’m gonna make sure we’re in Somerville rather than Methuen.

    And I agree w/ the Self-Checkouts-are-crap thinking. When I saw them I immediately said “now you will have fewer cashiers on duty” and lo! they do.
    Important safety tip: The Self-Checkout cashier supervisor is required to scan things for you and process the transaction if you ask. Just say “I need help, please do this.” I’m hoping if more people do that they’ll realize the self-checkouts are NOT a good idea and lose ‘em. (Probably not, but worth a shot). And they hate it when you try to scan plants through them — the dirt mucks up the scanners. Get the supervisor to “use the gun” (remote scanning gun like all the cashiers have).

  20. speed1001 says:

    I tend to only visit HD during “Off Hours.” The local store is a 24 hour one. For some reason it seems @ 2am the cashiers only scan and make me pay for 2/3rds of my items….. The first time this happened I was in the middle of gutting my house and didnt notice the discrep until I got home. The next time however I kept an eye on the sleepy employee and sure enough she missed a few more items….

    IMO:

    HD before 10pm = awful
    HD after 10pm = awesome

  21. mmangel says:

    5 weeks ago I special ordered Legato carpet tiles from the Butler, PA Home Depot. I was told the order would take approx 2 weeks. I waited a few days after the date I was told and started calling to see if my carpet had come in. I was told repeatedly that it was not in and they kept changing the expected date of delivery. After 5 weeks and only 3 days left before we needed this carpet installed and moved into our new home my husband went into the store and the first person he encountered at Customer Service knew me by name before he could even finish asking about our order. The woman said “your wife’s name is Melissa isn’t it?” She knew my name because I kept calling and coming in hoping to find something out and never being given a straight answer or getting a call returned. The woman told my husband the order had somehow been lost and that the woman in the room behind her (one of the managers) blatantly ignored my calls and refused to return any calls. The manager comes out and tells my husband “I ordered the carpet yesterday, what do you want me to do about it”.
    We paid in full at the time of ordering for this carpet. It seemed every person in the store knew my order had been lost and no one was willing to tell me and that in fact they knew it was lost on the original expected delivery date, 3 weeks earlier. So the Butler, PA Home Depot took my money, then lost my merchandise and never bothered to tell me. They knew for 3 weeks, in that same three weeks we could have reordered the carpet and still had it before all this happened. Not one manager was willing to help or pick up the phone. I painted the rooms of my house to match this carpet and now I have to settle for a color I do not want and did not choose because I was lied to by the staff, and not just the staff, I was lied to by the store managers because they had directed the employees not to tell me what had happened to my order. I am thoroughly disgusted by Home Depot.
    I don’t feel that stealing a customer’s money for 5 weeks only to treat them with the utmost disrespect and hostility is anyway to run a business. It does not surprise me that Home Depot gets all the bad press that it does about how its lackluster sales are directly related to its below average customer service.
    We had to settle on this carpet we did not want because it was the only thing similar that we could install ourselves and get within the time frame we had to move out of our apartment and move into our house (3 days); we had picked out the original carpet because we could install it ourselves and it was the color we wanted.

  22. greenpepper says:

    FWIW, I used the email posted on one of the Consumerist columns to CEO Blake briefly outlining a problem… he said he’d have it taken care of and, well, next day it was. Shouldn’t have to go that route, but he’s good to his word.