Saturday, May 12, 2012

Excelling in Service at Home Depot

I bought a new Honda lawn mower from Home Depot in August '11. That was not my first Honda I purchased although it was my first Honda lawnmower. What an improvement from my Scott’s push mower I used for a few seasons!  My new mower was used about 10 times – mostly in the fall to catch leaves and grass before it was stored it away for the winter. With a double-blade, this mower was fantastic!  I’m not into “keeping up with the Jones” but this mower was among the best in my neighborhood.

How do you winterize your mower?  I heard the “scoop” from the HD sales associate, I’ll call Bill. Bill had told my wife and I that these Honda mowers were easy to maintain -- just drain all the oil and gas at the end of the season and every year or two get your blade sharpened. Because Bill owned a Honda, we were speaking the same language.

Unforgettably, our March in Chicago produced temperatures about 10 degrees warmer than usual which forced me to mow one month earlier. How would I have imagined that the start of the new lawn season would crash and burn…After about 20 minutes into my first “cut,” the mower just stopped. It appeared that the engine "seized up" and quit!  I had an inclination the mower was “toast” but logically couldn’t fathom a new lawnmower just locking up. About one hour before, I had added new oil and gas for 2012 and being very careful, adding the oil slowly and carefully, gauging the level before it was acceptable.

Being quite nervous about the situation, I decided to “chill” for a few days. Eventually, I took it back to HD anxiously awaiting their evaluation. I met with Scott, whom I talked with over the phone earlier that day. Scott said it appeared to be low on oil which “seized the engine.”  I reiterated my conversation I had with Bill last year draining all oil and gas from the mower before winterizing. Scott corrected me and said you need to keep some oil in the engine to ensure it doesn’t dry out. He also said the manual states that too. He asked me if I put in enough oil and I explained my careful, slow approach of adding a little at a time to ensure I was at an acceptable level before mowing.

At this point, I was quite nervous about receiving a replacement, would he be a “stickler” and say I didn’t follow the manual guidelines, thereby violating my warranty regardless of what I had been told? Scott made some quick calls and research and about five minutes later, came back and offered a replacement.

I thanked him for his understanding and patience. Who knows how these things work out?

How would I thank Home Depot for their understanding? One week later; my wife purchased $150 in ceiling fans. About 2 weeks later, I spent about $250 on a new toilet and accessories and my wife spent about $100 on paint and yard supplies. We appreciate their understanding and service. Having spent thousands over the last 10 years or so at HD, we continue to primarily shop HD. They’re not perfect as I've had a few minor issues over the years but I sense their customer service has improved and they are much friendly towards customers. They could have "stuck it to me" and said it was my fault even though I had followed the advice from Bill. I’m glad HD put the entire story into context and didn’t just focus on the “letter of the law” and possibly alienating a really good customer. A customer who frequents one of their stores at least once a month if not more.

Look, it’s easy to write about negative service experiences but it’s important to share the positive too. I’m very happy and more than satisfied with their customer centric approach – enough to write about it.


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  2. Although I am not an advocate of buying servicable products from a box store, this might be one example of the advantage of doing so. Typically the specialty retailer will offer better service than the box store, but in this case, the box store has the leverage to send the mower (that you destroyed) back to Honda. The specialty retail would have had to eaten YOUR mistake.