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."
KB Home debuts new energy storage solutions
KB Home is launching a pilot program for a set of new energy storage solutions, developed in collaboration with SunPower Corp., in its Irvine, El Dorado Hills and San Diego markets.
The new high-efficiency solar power systems store solar energy by day and offer an alternative energy source for use during power outages or other situations.
These latest developments come after KB Home and SunPower installed a 3-kilowatt high-efficiency photovoltaic system in its communities in Arizona. High-efficiency solar power systems are already available in thousands of houses built by KB Home.
The eventual vision? To roll out the technology in more communities soon, as well as provide similar battery storage technology to charge electric cars, according to the company.
With HD as its platform, Quirky plays the smart home field
Quirky, the New York City-based start-up that stakes its claim on propelling everyday ideas into products, has set its sights on leveling the playing field within the burgeoning smart home industry.
According to a report in The New York Times, Quirky is launching a separate company, called Wink, in July, which will provide an integrated software solution to connect dozens of automated home products. Those products, in turn, will hit Home Depot shelves.
There will be one app to rule them all, so to speak — which is not dissimilar to Apple’s recent bid to introduce the "remote control" of smart home apps.
Companies on board with Wink include General Electric, Honeywell and Philips, as well as lesser-known start-ups in the field, according to the Times. The initial product assortment will total 60 Wink-enabled products, which will be displayed in nearly all Home Depot stores nationwide as of July 7.
Some of those products will be "Wink app ready," meaning they can be linked to an existing Internet router; some will be "Wink app compatible," which will require the purchase of a Wink hardware hub, to be sold in Home Depot stores and Amazon.com.
Quirky fields thousands of product submissions every week, which it whittles down to three using a participatory voting process. It then takes those products and brings them to fruition, ultimately marketing them through major retailers and putting profits in the hands of small-time inventors. When more and more ideas starting coming in for smart home products, the natural next step was to invest more resources in this market opportunity.