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

Higher Power Training Instructional Design Portfolio

At Higher Power Training (HPT), we provide service Instructional Design Services as an outside consultant for a variety of companies.  We are responsible for evaluating effective teaching methods and technologies for adult learners; we conduct organizational needs and performance gap assessments using analysis of subject matter, job/task, audience and context; we extract key knowledge and experiences from Subject Matter Experts to compile valuable storyboards, curriculums, publications, and training and instructional programs and materials; and by applying adult learning theory, instructional theory, and interactive communication theory with the use of various technology methods across disciplines we are capable of maximizing Human Performance Technology (HPT) or Human Performance Improvement (HPI).

By constructing instructional modules using appropriate theories and methodologies, such as the ADDIE Model we can successfully integrate interdisciplinary connections from technology, psychology, and computer assisted interactive communications based on behavior, cognitive, constructive, and multiple intelligence approaches.  We coach and monitor internal instructors to ensure the highest level of quality of programs are maintained, and provide train-the-trainer sessions when necessary. We also integrate multimedia elements into simulations, virtual worlds, scenario-based trainings and learning objects to enhance and reinforce the learning materials.

We conduct employee trainings, leadership and management classes, professional development programs, and sales and customer service seminars in a variety of industries including finance, education, engineering, science, healthcare, beauty, technology, performing arts, hospitality, retail, sports, and not-for-profits.

Our developed programs have varied from half day to semester length classroom, online, and hybrid style trainings for groups ranging from 5 executive staff members to 300 company employees to more than 125,000 customers.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 5.3: Implications for Further Research)

As the Ocean Institute Podcast Program continues to build, future research will likely lend towards implementing such a program into other subject matters taught at the Ocean Institute and other informal education centers.  The next step will be to address the Social Science and History programs offered at the Ocean Institute.  Once the pilot program is completed and all assessments have been analyzed, it is expected that by next fall, a Social Science program may begin developing.  Other potential directions may include partnering with the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, various art museums, other natural history museums and San Diego high schools to disseminate the program and assist in developing similar programs statewide.

By Higher Power Training

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.5: Review of the Literature)

Integrating technology and other multimedia into the classroom efficiently requires a number of tools to be in place.  Project TIES (Technology Integration Enhancing Science), a four-year Technology Literacy K-8 project, combines technology as a tool for teaching and learning with earth and environmental science education (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).  This experimental program was implemented by two schools on the east coast with the goal to produce a successful, creative, and replicable model for inquiry and project based instruction that uses technology to integrate science and other curricula.  The keys to success were identified as professional development for teachers, easy accessibility to all technology needed by teachers and students, and patience when converting a traditional classroom curriculum into a technology-rich classroom curriculum.  The obstacles of such a program were quite common but minimal in this case: allocating teacher and classroom time for setting up equipment, finding a sufficient number of substitutes, and the occasionally steep learning curve when moving from a more traditional, text-based approach (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).    Shane and Wojnowski (2005) have identified six significant components that are necessary for technology and multimedia to be an effective learning tool in the classroom:

  1. The idea of building new understandings through active engagement in a variety of experiences over time, and doing so with others in supportive learning environments, is critical for effective professional development.
  2. The combination of new knowledge and behaviors as a result of professional development, combined with the needed equipment, will help to provide profound and lasting changes.
  3. Technology can be a powerful entity in classroom instruction when adequate resources are seamlessly incorporated into instructional approaches and strategies.
  4. Local school district budgets have to be modified to accommodate updates and repairs of project hardware and software.
  5. For many teachers, the idea of student-centered inquiry and project-based instruction is novel.
  6. The change from a traditional to a technology-based pedagogical approach is very dramatic and will be met with resistance in some classrooms.

Whether teachers are looking to integrate pre-produced multimedia such as videos or podcasts into their curriculum, or looking to transform from a traditional classroom to a more technology-rich classroom, there will be many obstacles that will have to be defeated.  These obstacles include identifying the appropriate content (Lamb and Johnson, 2007), providing the appropriate professional development for teachers (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005), identifying limitations to technology access (Brown, 2007), and emphasizing inquiry-based learning (Chung, 2007) while promoting self-directed learning (Chang, 2007).  For multimedia to enhance learning in the classroom efficiently, each of these barriers much be addressed and eliminated before students will achieve the desired success.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.2: Review of the Literature)

I am a firm believer that although some students may fail under the constraints of formal education, those same students may continue to learn and succeed with the aid of alternative learning provided throughout our society.  Dr. Gardner states that “Human beings have tremendous capacities to learn and develop, as can easily be seen if one watches a child actively exploring his environment during the first years of life.” (Gardner, 2004, 249)  I am completely in agreement with Dr. Gardner but question the cause of limiting a person’s capacity for learning as they mature.  What in human nature, society, or education prevents children from continuing to learn at the same capacity as their first year of life?  In my opinion, the structure of education places the constraints of students’ ability to learn.  This opinion is backed by Dr. Gardner who points out that “educators should exploit the cognitive and affective powers of the five-year-old mind (an energetic, imaginative, and integrating kind of learner) and attempt to keep it alive in all of us.” (Gardner, 2004, 250)

Dr. Gardner proposes four reforms to assist in the improvement of the educational system.  The first deals with how students are assessed, the second is concerned with the quality of curriculum, the third addresses teacher practices in the classroom, and the final component is community support.  Although my opinions are somewhat mixed with Dr. Gardner’s critique of the educational system, my opinions are in complete agreement with Dr. Gardner’s educational reform.  Assessment is critical to any program, including the educational system.  Standardized testing is a poor evaluation due to the fact that it is only measuring the student’s ability to regurgitate information.  Building portfolios as mentioned by Dr. Gardner is a much truer evaluation of students’ ability because it would allow students to problem-solve, use creativity, and have a deeper understanding of the information presented in class.  As stated by Dr. Gardner, “unless the accompanying curriculum is of quality, the assessment has no use.”  (Gardner, 2004, 254)  Both the second and third reforms dealing with curriculum and teachers are related to one another.  Although Dr. Gardner does not go into great detail about improving the quality of the curriculum, he does note that professional development is critical for teachers to improve the quality of teacher practices in the classroom.  I am a firm believer that professional development is necessary for teachers to continue to improve in their professions as well as introduce new ideas, information, and technology that may help teachers improve the quality of learning in their classrooms.  The fourth and final reform addresses the need for community support.  Dr. Gardner calls for the local communities to be active in the schools.  I think this is very important when motivating students for the future as well as introducing real-world applications for information taught in the classroom.

With the need to improve education and trainings, many have turned to technology as an effective learning tool.  Simulations and video games are currently being utilized in school classrooms, businesses, military, museums, flight training, and NASA.  The potential benefits of video games and simulations include improved reading skills, logical thinking, observation skills, vocabulary development, problem solving, and strategy planning.  With such a diversified demand for simulations and educational video games, many software companies have recently risen to the challenges to offer programs to fit any need.

Web Usability

Objectives

Company websites and all marketing platforms, for that matter, are extremely critical for a company’s success to reach out to potential clients.  These marketing tools are a representation of the company; consumers consider these advertisements a reflection of the quality of work or products offered by the company.  The objectives of the Report are to provide recommendations to:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Improve website visiting time
  • Create a polished website
  • Identify the most cost effective option to compete with local competition
  • Provide online conveniences for current clients
  • Generate a flow of new clients

Web Usability

The website usability test contains numerous components.  When designing or evaluating a website properly, one must take into account: website goals, target audience, market research, accessibility, end-user scenarios, site map layout, site concept and metaphor, design details, and graphic style and images.  This evaluation will contain information about the primary page, secondary pages, and tertiary pages where deemed necessary.

Web Site Usablilty Evaluation Outline

  1. Web Site Goals
  2. Approximately 20 Goals
  3. Order of Importance
  4. Emphasize top 5

Target Audience (User Profile)

  • AgeRange
  • Gender
  • Education Level
  • Economic Situation
  • Geographic Location
  • Primary Language
  • Ethnic Background
  • Other Unifying Characteristics
  • Market Research
  • Competitors
  • Related Themes
  • Accessibility
  • User Limitations
  • End-User Scenarios
  • Information Category Outline (site map – text)
  • Web Site Flow Chart (site map – visually designed)
  • Site Concept and Metaphor
  • Design Details
  • Colors (3-6)
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Color
  • Size
  • Style
  • Graphic Style and Graphics
  • Logos, Buttons, Illustrations, Videos, Flash, etc.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 1.3: Statement of the Instructional/Training Problem)

Technology fluency, mentoring skills, and leadership qualities are important traits for students to develop to be successful in high school, college and the workplace.  However, with so much focus on standards-based education across the country, few educators successfully aid students in developing these traits.  Classes are very slow in providing technology training in the established curriculum, however as technology advances and becomes more accessible, it is vital schools integrate it into education.

Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical to economic and educational advancement and community participation. Now that a large number of Americans regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to these tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion by increasing the number of Americans using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, & National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2000, p. xv)

Technology opens the classroom to more communication opportunities, encourages more teacher-student and student-student discussions, and gives students multiple ways of discovering, creating, and communicating information in various formats.  Technology being infused into the schools is ongoing, unstoppable, and necessary. Thus, school use and access to new and current technologies is on the rise and more and more states have established technology standards for students, teachers, and administrators (Fox, 2005).
Written by Higher Power Training (HPT)