Friday, October 17, 2008

Home Depot

I'm going to talk about my recent experience at Home Depot. It is relevant to the Tucson Tamale Company. I want all of my current and future employees to read this and take it in.
Thursday I went to Home Depot on East Broadway (right by the 'In and Out' Burger), yeah, you know where it is. Anyway, I walk in the front door and I'm greeted by someone, friendly as can be, asking me if I need any help. Is there anything she can help me find? No, I tell her, I pretty much know where things are. After all this time of shopping there and never having anyone offer to help you find things, you learn to help yourself. I marched down the front aisle toward the tool area. Not 25 feet from the first woman, another asked me if I needed any help. Very friendly. It actually caught me by surprise. I've never had that kind of service at this store (or any home Depot for that matter).

I do remember years ago getting good service at Home depot, but that was long ago.

I continued my march to the tool area and just like in the movies, a group of ten, maybe twelve executives turned the corner and walked past me. How did I know they were executives? Well, they were all white males in their mid 30's to 40's. They all had on perfectly pressed and incredibly bright Home Depot smocks (meaning they hadn't ever gotten them dirty, I'm sure none of them could have answered a question about an impact hammer) and they all turned the corner in unison. As I shopped I had the best service I have ever had at a Home Depot. If someone from Home Depot is reading this right now, they might be smiling. Don't. You'll soon see why. As I started to check out the cashier was all smiles and asked all the right questions, "did you find everything?", "would you like to use your Home Depot charge today?" Notice it was one question about my needs and one question about their needs...
I said to the cashier, "the executives must be in the store" His expression soured, in a long sad voice he said, 'yeah'. So much for real enthusiasm.
As I was driving back to my shoppe I contemplated what I just experienced. First, I've seen the routine many a times. The executives are in town and everything is different. You spend a lot of time 'preparing' for the execs. Whether its PowerPoint's or getting everyone to smile, the only motivation is, "THE BIG WIGS ARE HEADED THIS WAY" Like they would actually fire everyone if things weren't perfect?
I was really bothered by what I saw. On so many levels, in so many ways. Let me detail them:
First, you, Home Depot have shown me what great levels of customer service you're capable of and out of all my visits to your stores the ONLY time you have achieved it is when the execs are in town. So now I'll be even more frustrated with your service because of what I saw. You can be your own worst enemy.
Then I imagined the execs flying back to wherever, patting themselves on the back about what a great store they have in their area. They don't want to know the reality. They love the show as much as the manager who put it on.
Everyone giving themselves kudos, the execs, the store managers for this 'perfect performance' while the employees, the ones who do the real work are left sad faced when I mention 'executives'. I hope someone from Home Depot reads this and sees what the real problem is. If they don't they can call me:) Todd, 520-465-7314...
Now to my point about the Tucson Tamale Company. Every store, at all times will run to perfection. How can this be? Doesn't Home Depot want the same thing? Of course they do. So how can we ensure it when they live on smoke screens?
#1 - We're not going to big for 'bigs' sake. We will grow responsibly. This, by the way, is the new way of doing business in the 21st century. Business is changing and we're going to be on the forefront of the thought and execution leadership.
#2 - Every employee will see this blog post and a video (or personal visit) from me, talking about their responsibility to call out imperfection when it happens. Now, lots of arguments can be made at this point about the how, why would they, you'll be like every other business, etc. I know every system has gaps. What I also know is that it is my personal and business goal to make sure we don't run a business full of smoke screens. I will make our business different.


Anonymous said...

See, history repeats itself! 20 years ago customer service not only existed but was commonplace. Then the "big box" stores arrived, at first we all thought wow.. isn't this great! I remember when Home Depot came to my town in northern NM. Those first few weeks I shopped there often. Not only did they have everything you were looking for but they were there to 'help' you! It was actually fun to go there. The 'honeymoon' ended after a couple of months! I headed back to the local Big Jo Hardware store. I was always greeted, asked how they could help me. I was welcome there. Once in a while I had to go back to home depot, Big Jo offered to order the item but I needed it today. I knew HD had it and I had the time that day to search their massive store until I finally found what I needed vowing all the while I'll plan ahead and order it from the store that wants my business. After a year or so Lowes opened.. I knew it would be great for a few weeks.. and it was!. Back to Big Jo Hardware. Same story with Office Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. We all feared we'd loose Big Jo with these big monsters who came to town. That was 10 years ago. Big Jo is still there and doing very well. So well they added an addition and enlarged their parking lot. They are always voted "Best of Santa Fe" year after year by public vote in the newspaper. Tucson Tamale in right on track for monumental success! How refreshing!

Cosmo said...

Todd, I appreciated that you shared your experience and teachable point of view. As business owners we are both challenged with growing our businesses in a manner that empowers our employees to consistently provide exceptional customer interactions that keep customers happy and loyal over time. There are two key behaviors I intend to incorporate in my business; one to always celebrate employee decisions, and two take time to learn from both the good decisions and the poor ones.

Cosmo's Espresso Coffee & Tea LLC