What’s the real difference between Lowe’s and Home Depot?
And what in the world does this have to do with running your dental practice? I’ll get to that later…
Back to my question: What’s the difference? They are both home improvement “superstores” that sell virtually the same stuff. They also have “professional” desks and services for contractors and the like.
Costs at each are relatively similar.
Aesthetically speaking, Lowe’s has the edge. Their stores appear more “consumer friendly” and “nice.” Prettier floors, shelves, signage, etc.
So, you would think if they are one and the same that consumers would choose Lowes – on looks/appearance alone.
But that’s not the case.
From a valuation perspective, Home Depot’s market capitalization (value of all shares of stock) is worth twice what Lowe’s is worth ($160+ Billion versus $72 Billion).
Whenever the topic comes up amongst friends, I find that, one for one, they all lean towards using Home Depot.
As a matter of fact, while in the middle of writing this article I thought I’d survey a few MGE staff on the subject to see what they thought. The answer: Home Depot won out.
Why? What I heard the most was: “I get the help I need at Home Depot,” Or “The Lowe’s staff never helps me,” or “I always find what I need at Home Depot.”
This is borne out in my own personal experience. I, for the most part go to Home Depot. And obviously so does most of the American public.
So, what’s the reason people pick Home Depot?
Without getting into corporate strategic objectives and whatnot, I’ll give you my personal assessment based on anecdotal evidence.
Two weeks ago, my wife was in the process of prettying up the house for the arrival of her father from the Netherlands. She was looking for a few plants and I needed a few odds and ends. We went to Lowe’s (I know…after what I just wrote). What happened?
The people in the nursery were generally indifferent and not helpful. I saw this and decided to get what I needed from inside while Sabri made her way through the Nursery.
I began by asking employees where something might be (I was looking for a screen door hinge and some painting equipment). The first guy looked annoyed that I asked a question and interrupted him from walking down the aisle. He went on to tell me that they didn’t have much of what I was looking for (they actually did, by the way). The next fellow was nice enough but clueless. He apologized for his cluelessness and I went on my way.
Finally, I find some two employees behind the Windows & Doors desk. They’re working on typing something into the computer (one is guiding the other). They see me and say nothing. Always game for “human organizational/efficiency” experiments, I also say nothing.
Close to two minutes pass and I have to go, so I use the proverbial, “Excuse me, do you know where I can find…?” One gets up and acknowledges me (the other doesn’t) and directs me to what later turns out to be the wrong thing.
I finally find what I am looking for, for the most part on my own (with the exception of one item that another employee tells me where it might be but they probably don’t have any).
The visit ends with me going back in for one last item, asking for assistance and getting what I’d equate as a relatively “smart-ass” answer. All in all, I wasted approximately 10 minutes (if not more) talking to several employees just trying to find someone who could help me. As I got into the car, before I said a word, my wife commented on how terrible the service was. We were unimpressed, to say it nicely.
Why? The “stuff” was fine. The problem was with the people and their level of customer service.
And here’s where things get funny. In this article http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/070715/home-depot-vs-lowes-home-improvement-battle.asp from a year ago it states: .. Lowe’s has identified improving customer service as one of its principle objectives.”
Looks like someone forgot to give Lowe’s employees the memo…If anything the executive structure at Lowes needs a reality check.
Two days later I’m at Home Depot. Every aisle I walked down in which I saw a Home Depot employee, they a) acknowledged I was there (unless they were with another customer), said hello and if I looked like I didn’t know where to find something, asked me if I needed help.
When I arrived, I asked the first employee I saw where cabinet hardware was and he offered to walk me there! I got what I needed, and was in and out fast. When you think about it, I’m not looking at building lifelong relationships when I’m out shopping for closet hardware. In this instance being able to get in and out fast, be treated nicely and pay a fair price (which may or may not have been the same price at Lowe’s), is about the pinnacle of what I was looking for in this shopping experience. It fit the bill exactly.
So, these are both home improvement “superstores.” They have shelves and shelves of stuff. Much of it is the same. And cosmetically Lowe’s outshines Home Depot. So why do people pick Home Depot? THE PEOPLE AND THEIR WILLINGNESS TO PROVIDE REAL CUSTOMER SERVICE.
Which brings me to my point: There are a lot of dentists. Consumers/patients have choices. Beyond excellent clinical work and an acceptably clean/presentable office, what’s going to make a consumer a) Choose you, and more importantly b) STAY WITH YOU?
(Related: Customer Service and Patient Experience)
Customer Service Issues
Customer service is one of those “hot button” items of which numerous seminars, manuals and consultant visits are made. And dentistry represents a miniscule fraction of the industries that are looking to improve in this area. It’s a universal thing. Compounding this, I ran across a study done by Walker Research, which points out: “…Customer experience is going to become the driving factor by 2020, outstripping price as the main product differentiator by this time.”
A blog post on this study can be found here. http://sandsiv.com/blog/customer-experience-more-important-than-price-by-2020/
So, yeah, this is an area that needs to be a priority. And it’s going to become more important as we move into the future.
And it’s easy to say that the problem here is “Staff.” That’s too general. The problem is actually the ability to get staff that can and will provide excellent customer service – uniformly – not just when they are having a “good” day.
With that in mind, we’ve isolated the two primary issues that prevent excellent customer service from your staff, which I will cover in next week’s installment of this newsletter (Sorry….have to keep you coming back). Until then, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nest time: Overcoming the Barriers to Excellent Customer Service.