The Home Depot : Built from SCRATCH | Arthur Blank & Bernard Marcus
"Let's Take a Walk and We'll Find It Together"
When we opened our first stores, we had so few customers that if I saw someone leaving a store empty-handed, I took it personally. "What is it that we don't carry that you need ? Why didn't you buy something ?" I'd say, doggedly pursuing them to the parking lot. "I didn't find what I came in for," was usually the answer. "What is it that you need ?" I asked. And whatever the answer, I would say the same thing: "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry you didn't find it. We carry it, we just happened to be out. If you give me your name and address, I will deliver it to you." That's how I often expanded our merchandise selection. First I would run back inside and order it so we'd have it in the future. Then I would personally go buy whatever it was at West Building Supplies, Handy City, or a wholesale house and personally deliver it to the customer's home, carefully removing the other store's price sticker and charging the customer a lower price than I paid out of pocket.
When we were struggling to survive, we would do whatever it took to satisfy customers. As we became more successful, that became our customer service philosophy : "What ever it takes." There was nothing we wouldn't do for a customer.
The customer has a bill of rights of rights in our company. These six items are, we believe, the only things a customer wants to pay for at The Home Depot:
- The right assortment.
- The right quantities.
- The right price.
- Associates on the sales floor who want to take care of customers.
- Associates wha have been trained properly in terms of product knowledge.
- The expectation that our associates will be there when the customers need them.
Togheter, those six things represent excellent customer service.
In many retail stores, the people who work there view customers as a pain in the rear end. Customers bother you. They stop you from doing your chores. Theyare in your way. That is not the case at The Home Depot.
We would say to ou rassociates, "If your brother or your sister came into your store, how would treat them ?" And then we would say to them, "Your brother and sister have to shop here. Other people don't. you have to threat other customers, strangers, better than you do your brother or your sister."
Linda Khano, all of 18, was working our return desk when a woman brought in a product that she claimed was defective. Somehow, Khano decided the customer was lying through her teeth. When she turned away from the woman to get approval for the return from a manager, an indignant Khano found me standing behind her.
"I can't believe this woman is doing this!" she said under her breath.
"If it were me," I said, "I would give her her money back."
Khano did just that, smiled and gave her the money. But as the woman walked away, Khano was fuming. I Put an arm around her shoulders.
"I am going to teach you a lesson that you will remember for the rest of your life," I said. "sometimes, in this business, you have to accept things that you believe are totally wrong."
"Excuse me?" Khano said.
"Sometimes, in this business, you have to do distasteful things." I repeated.
"Just think about it, Linda,". I continued. "This woman, she brought this thing back even thought it is notdefective. Don't worry about it. Even if we have to eat cost of it or throw it away, it is no big deal, because from now on, she will have the confidence to come and buy here, and even if she goes home and tells everybody is going to come shop here and take advantage of us".
The key to our no-holds-barred return policy is that people talk about it. It gets them hooked; they know they can never make a bad purchase at The Home Depot, because we don't ever want to give them a reason not to come back. There are probably some dishonest people that will take advantage of us. But they are a tiny minority. We are not going to punish the honest folks who need to trust us.
Khano's first reaction to this customer was based upon on how she thought things should be, based on what she learned before she joined Home Depot's core customer service values of going the extra mile, doing what ever it take to build loyalty.