Home Depot: The Customer Experience

This is the first blog of a new series called “Who Needs Training?”.  This series is designed to provide the consumer’s prospective on the need for staff and management training, based on personal experiences with businesses. We have all encountered both excellent and poor customer service; those experiences are critical to the success of any business. By approaching these experiences in Human Performance Technology, we can identify those who need training and professional development, while appreciating others who have been trained effectively, and apply those behaviors and practices in the workplace. This is by no means a complete Human Performance Technology analysis, but rather feedback from a customer’s view point.

My wife has an amazing green thumb and enjoys caring for her small garden.  Unfortunately, so do the bugs. Her solution was to purchase more bugs – specifically, lady bugs, that are suppose to protect her tomato plants. So today, on October 15, 2012, at approximately 4:30 p.m., I accompanied my wife to Home Depot in search of these protective lady bugs.  I, myself, know nothing about gardening or bugs, so the practical thing to do, is to seek a little more information in the Gardening Section of Home Depot. To my surprise, the customer service experience was terrible. Because of the time of the day, the store was fairly empty so finding employee assistance was very easy, however, their helpfulness ended with their accessibility.  As we approached the cashier in the Garden Section, it seemed as if we startled him, as it appeared that he was either hiding or avoiding doing any work.  When asked if they sold lady bugs, his only response was that he does not normally work in the Garden Section and we should find someone else to ask!

I am a practical individual and I understand that it’s unrealistic to expect staff members to know where every item in the store is located; however, in basic customer service training, all staff should have learned and developed the “soft-skills” necessary to assist customers and their needs. Calling for additional help, taking a moment to reference a directory of product inventory, or responding with a simple phrase such as “I am not sure, let me find out for you” is the difference between good and poor customer service.

My initial response was that this particular staff member was lazy or simply a poor employee, however, as we approached a second staff member, working in the Garden Section, he provided a similar response, and again offered us no additional assistance.  He had indicated that he was new in the Garden Section and thought that the lady bugs were a seasonal item, but was uncertain. Based on this second encounter, and the inability to find any additional staff members trained to assist us in the Garden Section, we left the store with a negative experience rather than our lady bugs.

A classic model used in Human Performance Technology is included below and will be used to analyze the customer experience throughout this blog series.

The Person

The Environment

Skills and Knowledge

Data or Information

Capacity

Tools and Setting

Motives

Incentives

When reviewing the customer experience at Home Depot, we will first address “the person”. Both staff members we interacted with in the Garden Section lacked any knowledge about the Garden Section. Regarding capacity, both individuals appeared to have the ability to possess the skills required to complete the tasks they were presented, however, we can only assume that they have not been trained to develop such skills and knowledge and/or lacked the motivation to provide simple customer service.

From an environmental aspect, neither staff member referred to any reference or resource to answer our question, which leads me to believe that supportive material is not provided to staff members, which is reflective of poor management, failing to provide an environment for staff to succeed. Reflective of the similar responses we were given by multiple staff members, I can conclude that these staff members have not been trained in customer service skills, therefore setting these employees up for failure by not providing the tools necessary to satisfy each customer’s needs. If argued, that these staff members are trained and prepared with everything they need to succeed, then it would appear that there is a lack of incentives for employees, as both these individuals lacked any desire to go above and beyond to find the answer to a relatively simple question regarding product inventory.

To consistently quantify and simplify the customer service experience from a Human Performance Technology approach throughout this blog series, we will refer back to the HPT model and give an “X” for each failed section. Since the model is developed in three sections, the worst score a business can receive is “XXX”, while the best score would be no “X”s. In my opinion, I have scored the Home Depot experience as follows:

Home Depot Experience (10/15/12)

    The Person & The Environment
X Skills and Knowledge & Data or Information
X Capacity & Tools and Setting
X Motives & Incentives

Human Performance Technology Grade: XXX

If you are interested in learning how to maximize Human Performance Technology for your business, please contact Higher Power Training

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2 thoughts on “Home Depot: The Customer Experience

  1. Customer Experience with Sprint:

    I had a horrible experience with Sprint. A company, that in my opinion, definitely needs improved customer service training. I recently switched from AT&T to Sprint as my mobile carrier, but to my surprise, I did not have coverage in my house. I went back into the store to discuss the issue, and their response was that they were unable to help me, but provided my a customer service number to call. So called, and after nearly a half hour waiting to speak to someone, I was transferred from one person to another, until someone indicated that they needed time to look into the issue and that they would call me back in 2 to 3 days. Since I could not use my cell phone in the house, I gave them my land line number to call, but instead of calling it, they called my cell phone, and of course it went straight to voicemail and I never received the message until the next time I traveled down the street with the phone. So again, I had a long wait on hold when I called them back, only to have resolution to the problem. At that point, my husband called to speak to a supervisor. This was the only positive experience, as he did what he could to find a resolution. He provided us a boost tower that is designed to improve phone coverage. But the reliability of this product is horrible. The first one sent to us, did not work. Then second tower constantly needs to be reset. When my husband called again to find out why we have to reset the tower frequently, my husband demanded resolution to the problem, but the response from the customer service rep was “Why are you still our customer?” I can’t believe any employee would say such a thing, but outside of management, every customer service rep we have interacted with at sprint were useless, and a majority were rude. To answer his question, the only reason we are still Sprint customers is because of the the outrageous cancellation fees. I can’t wait for our contract to be up! In my opinion, this is a company that needs new training!

    – Dissatisfied Sprint Customer

  2. As follow up to our lady bug expedition, we were successful in finding the lady bugs for my wife’s garden at Armstrong’s Nursery. And the customer service experience was absolutely on point. We were greeted with politeness, sincerity, and an eagerness to help us. Not only did they know what products they carried and where each product was located, but they also had the gardening knowledge to inform us how to best use the ladybugs to help product my wife’s tomato plants from aphids.

    From a Human Performance Technology perspective, I reviewed the Armstrong website and their declarations and can confidently say that training is essential to their success:

    Local Expertise
    Armstrong Associates are known as “plant people”, providing expert local advice in a friendly environment. Many Associates are “CCN Certified”, meaning they have passed rigorous horticultural testing by the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers.

    We’re Outdoor Living Experts
    Armstrong offers California’s best selection of quality trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, houseplants, seasonal color, sod and more. We’ll also provide you with all your outdoor living needs including high-quality patio furniture, grills, pottery, fountains, bird houses, bird feeders and more.

    We Make Gardening Easy
    We have hundreds of nursery experts to help answer your gardening questions. We love what we do and we love to share our knowledge. Our goal is to make you successful in the garden by taking the guesswork out of gardening.

    To consistently quantify and simplify the customer service experience from a Human Performance Technology approach throughout this blog series, we will refer back to the HPT model and give an “X” for each failed section. Since the model is developed in three sections, the worst score a business can receive is “XXX”, while the best score would be no “X”s. In my opinion, I have scored the Armstrong Nursery experience as follows:

    Armstrong Nursery Experience (10/15/12)
    The Person & The Environment
    Skills and Knowledge & Data or Information
    Capacity & Tools and Setting
    Motives & Incentives

    Human Performance Technology Grade: A perfect No “X” Score

    If you are interested in learning how to maximize Human Performance Technology for your business, please contact Higher Power Training.

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