>Operational efficiency can be the downfall of customer service.
Home Depot, with approximately $80 billion in sales is #22 on the Fortune 500. They are the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer with over 2200 retail stores, and after Wal-Mart, they are the second largest retailer in the U.S.
Yet, Home Depot has been on a slide, according to Fortune Magazine, 29 September 2008.
“Over the past several years a trip to the big orange box has so often ended in frustration that the company once famous for its helpful employees became fodder for late-night TV jokes and home to hundreds of blog rants about bad experiences and disengaged or scarce employees.”
How has this affected business?
“On the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, Home Depot fell eight points in seven years, to 67 at the end of 2007. It was the largest drop for any retailer in the index, while rival Lowe’s remained steady at 75…In this third year of decline, Home Depot’s same-store sales dropped 7.9% in 2008 second fiscal quarter; rival Lowe’s posted a 5.3% drop.”
What went wrong at Home Depot?
In 2000, Robert Nardelli of GE took over as CEO, acquired 30 companies and nearly doubled revenues, but he also imposed the rigorous GE style “systems- and data-culture, to help centralize purchasing and merchandising…[focusing] on growth and efficiency” and assessing store managers on 30 metrics, but “none related to customer service.”
Can you believe that Home Depot used 30 measures and NOT ONE had to do with customer service???
Unfortunately, says Ken Langone, one of the founders of Home Depot, Nardelli “didn’t appreciate the importance of a kid on the floor with an apron on.”
“The focus was on the metrics below the sales line, but not sales itself,” says a regional manager. “Stores became dirty, employees, surely or scarce. The result a company that looked better on paper, felt much unhappier in person. And in the retail business, where the customer experience is what matters most, that unhappiness eventually showed up at the cash register.”
Back to customer basics:
Now, under new CEO Frank Blake, Home Depot is returning to its customer-driven roots, and as a result they are closing the same-store sales gap with Lowes and stopping the slide in customer satisfaction. But regaining the trust of their customers will certainly be a challenge and a road to recovery.
As I read this story in Fortune about Home Depot and internalized it, I came to appreciate more than ever the duality and criticality of User-centric Enterprise Architecture (UCEA).
UCEA is not just developing the enterprise architecture with our users in mind (i.e. providing critical strategic information and governance services to the executive decision makers, line of business program and project managers, and IT professionals)—that is only one part. Perhaps the more critical element of User-centric EA is focusing the enterprise’s architecture on its customers. The way to continuously move the organization into the future is to always to focus and refocus on the organizations’ customers—on their needs, tastes, and continuous satisfaction.
The key is to align the business and technical architecture with customer needs. The organization will only succeed if its users are getting what they need and that is the architecture that must be developed and refined over time.