Having a successful business takes more than hard work. It takes a solid foundation built on the support of your customers. This month BizNet Magazine shows you how Home Depot does it.

Read and learn. Use the BizNet Networking section to start your business on the road to building a solid foundation (yes it works for small and large companies). Let your customers know that they matter to you. All things being equal, people will do business and refer business to people and places they know, and like. Do your customers know and like your company?

The Foundation of Our Success
By: Lynn Martineau, Home Depot
West Coast Division President

Customer service is the foundation of Home Depot and has been throughout my 18 years with this company. In fact the primary goal of each of our 120,000 associates is to improve the shopping experience of every Home Depot customer. The reason for that is simple. It’s clear to us that customers appreciate and remember excellent service. If a customer loves Home Depot, that customer will shop us again and again.

In less than 20 years, Home Depot has grown from a concept to a thriving chain with nearly 600 home improvement warehouse stores in the U.S. and Canada. Many other retailers have attempted to copy our format, yet we continue to be the clear industry leader. We often hear the question, "What is the key to Home Depot’s success?" Other companies do many of the same things as Home Depot, yet they don’t succeed. So what do we do differently?

Merchandise?

Some customers say they shop Home Depot because of our wide assortment of merchandise. We carry an average of 50,000 SKUs per store. We have more products available for professional customers in the quantities they require to complete large jobs. We treat our vendors as partners and work together to make sure we are always in stock on the items our customers need. And we listen to our customers when they ask for new products. Yet, other companies have similar merchandise. So that doesn’t explain the success of Home Depot.

Low Price Guarantee?

Many customers say the key to our success is our low prices. We guarantee that we’ll beat any of our competitor’s prices by 5 percent. We’re able to do that by purchasing a high volume of products and passing those price discounts on to our customers. We don’t have a lot of bureaucracy in the company, which is one more way of keeping costs low and passing savings on to our customers. Yet, other companies also can have low prices. So that still doesn’t explain the success of Home Depot.

Passionate Customer Service!

We think the key to our success is our passionate customer service. It’s the way we FEEL about our customers. It’s the passion of our orange-blooded associates who help customers dreams come true. Knowing that customer service is the real key to our success, we nurture our passion for customers in many ways.

Keys to our passion!
Our Associates.

We start by hiring the right people because people are our best investment our future. We hire people who have a love of people. We learned that lesson in Dallas when Home Depot acquired a chain of stores called Bowater. Their stores had great products and low prices, but lacked a customer service culture. We added payroll, invested in people who had passion for customer service and now Dallas is one of our strongest markets. We understand the importance of recruiting people who care about solving customers problems.

Employee Ownership.

We make sure our associates feel an ownership of Home Depot. Our employee stock option program and our employee stock purchase programs help make that ownership a reality. And all of our stores reward associates for excellent customer service. When customers call or write to thank us for great service, we make a point to award that asociate a merit badge in front of his or her peers. Our associates say they appreciate the award and the recognition, but the best reward of all is simply knowing they’ve made a difference with a Home Depot customer.

Developing People.

We also build our passion by developing our people. We strengthen our progressive corporate culture with a strong set of values. Values that encourage entrepreneurial thinking. It’s important that associates feel comfortable making decisions, speaking out about things they think are wrong, and doing whatever it takes to build customer relationships. We also teach respect for others, whether it’s other associates, customers, suppliers, or our communities. We’re all part of a bigger team and that team can only be a winner if we have mutual respect.

Lasting Relationships.

By developing strong, lasting relationships, our customers grow to feel the same sense of ownership as our associates. Customers feel a passion for Home Depot, developed over time by good shopping experiences. They feel they have a stake in the store. Here’s a perfect example. In 1982-83, a storm hit our store in Hollywood, FL. As a result it was closed for months to repair the roof. When it reopened, customers were happy to see "their" store open again. They said they missed their store and that it was like being back home. Customers felt like they owned the store, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Because in truth, it is their store; we are merely the custodian.

As we look to the future, our customers will continue to guide us toward new lines of merchandise, new services, new store formats, and new markets. But some things will never change, our orange-blooded passion for helping our

customers dreams come true. We’ll continue to forge strong bonds of loyalty that will lead to continued success. And no one can copy that.

Visit Home Depot @ http://www.homedepot.com/

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Last modified: November 08, 2002