Greetings. After a weekend of swim meets, kids' soccer games, and watching the World Cup, I sat down last night to plan a few more home improvement "projects." There are rooms and cabinets to paint, gardening to get done before the weeds and Washington's summer temperatures get the best of me, and the long-delayed effort to bring order, discipline, and a bit of feng shui to our garage. Which all means that I'm likely to make a return visit to see our "friends" at Home Depot or possibly drive the extra twenty miles to make new friends at Lowe's.
I mention this because it's been fun to see the continuing response to my posting on Home Depot a few weeks ago. This post has been the most widely read and forwarded story in the nine months that I've been blogging. The latest response is an interesting article by Ken Spencer Brown in Investor's Business Daily on the home improvement industry. It begins with my shocking account of the day I actually received great customer service at Home Depot and then continues with a thoughtful analysis of the relationship between improved service and the financial performance of businesses, especially in an economy where most people seem less inclined to spend money. The fact that this leading publication on the investment side of business chose to focus on the importance of service in the world of big-box retailers is encouraging as they probably have a bit more influence than I do.
But let's be perfectly clear, home improvement is one of many industries in which investment to create the right customer experiences can produce powerful bottom-line results. Because the more capable we can make our customers, the more likely they are to take on more projects with confidence. Especially when the only thing that separates them from success is a helping hand and a bit of guidance. Think about places like Best Buy where asking the right questions and driving the right "know-how" could unlock a lot more customer potential for electronics, entertainment, appliances, and personal fulfillment. Or businesses that have anything to do with food, or beverages, or fashion, or arts and crafts, or health and fitness, or hospitality, or education and training. Even the associates at IKEA could increase their top- and bottom-line results by making the customer smarter. All fertile ground for helping customers to learn, grow, purchase more, and live more complete lives.
So next time you're thinking about reducing your investment in customer service, think about whether it might be brilliant to do more to enable your customers to unlock their own genius.
We win in business when we unlock the real talents in those we serve. And, in the process, give them a sense of pride and possibilities. It's a simple lesson for companies like Home Depot and anyone else who believes in the potential of their customers.