Competitive Adavantage

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Improving the Customer Experience at Home Depot

Rev. 12-2012

During 1990’s, the Home Depot was well renowned for its orange-blooded entrepreneurial culture and outstanding customer service. From the beginning, the retailer took a long-term approach by training its associates to form enduring customer relationships rather than push for incremental sales gains. As a result, the company grew very quickly becoming the fastest retailer in history to reach sales milestones of $30 billion, $40 billion, $50 billion, $60 billion and $70 billion in revenuesi. Despite this remarkable success, Marcus and Blank, the founders of the Home Depot, stepped down as leaders stating that continued growth required new leadership with fresh and innovative business approaches. Thus, in 2001, Robert Nardelli was named Chief Executive Office of the Home Depot. Nardelli introduced many new initiatives to the company such as, centralized buying, company-wide analytics and improved information systems, which were essential for the company to remain competitive. Many of his other changes, however, led to significant dissatisfaction, low morale, high turnover, reduced productivity, and general discontent among the associates that seriously derailed the company from the customer-centric approach that made the Home Depot such a success story during the Marcus and Blank era. The result was the most dramatic decrease in customer satisfaction in retailing history. In 2001, the Home Depot and Lowe’s both had customer satisfaction scores of 74 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). By 2005 however, customer satisfaction at the Home Depot fell to 67, becoming the worst performing retailer on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) that year.ii As Claus Fornell aptly stated: “Home Depot had devalued its most critical asset: the health of customer relationships”.iii In turn, this…...

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