Home Depot talks 'multidimensional' customer service

Marvin Ellison, EVP U.S. stores for Home Depot, took the mic at the Oppenheimer Consumer Conference Wednesday, where he dedicated his time to discussing the retailer's approach to ever-evolving customer service needs.

Drawing on a three-legged stool analogy, Ellison outlined the fundamental aspects of Home Depot's market position: "We start out with what we're passionate about, which is customer service," he said. "What we want to be best in the world at, and that is product authority for home improvement. And what drives our economic engine, and that's disciplined capital allocation, and productivity and efficiency. And everything is tied together with what we call interconnected retail."

Interconnectedness, as well as a certain multidimensionality that makes the former a necessity, was a big theme during Ellison's speech. Customer service is more complicated than it once was, given the rise of new technologies and shopping channels. And yet, there's never been a greater need to simplify and streamline.

"We have an inherently complex business, because if we don't keep the business simple, we can't provide efficiency, payroll leverage -- we can't deliver on our shareholder principles, and most importantly, we can't serve our customers," he said.

As part of its efforts to achieve this, Home Depot has reduced store reports by 40%, decreased store manager emails by 20%, and eliminated unnecessary meetings and conference calls.

With more resources to turn to customer service, Home Depot is going after the pro market. Part of that means providing unique resources, such as its Pro Xtra platform. Another part of that is understanding the changing face of the pro customer, who, as Ellison said, "is uniquely different than they were 10 years ago."

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