The Home Depot, Inc.
Home Depot popularized the concept of "do-it-yourself" for customers eager to build, repair, and improve their own homes. Home Depot stores were stocked with a wide range of home-improvement goods and had knowledgeable employees ready to help customers choose the right products, tools, and materials and even explain how to use them. To some extent, Home Depot store managers "did it themselves" as well. For its first 20 years, Home Depot was known for its entrepreneurial spirit and was run rather informally. Store managers, who tended to be experts in home improvement, made their own merchandise-planning decisions and had considerable autonomy in running their stores. Purchasing was also decentralized. As it grew in size, many in the company believed that a more disciplined approach to operations would be important for further growth. In 2000, the company hired Bob Nardelli, a former GE senior executive, to lead the change. As chairman and CEO, Nardelli centralized merchandising and purchasing and brought process discipline to store operations, simplifying and standardizing store processes and introducing Six Sigma quality methodology. Nardelli's changes led to higher profitability. Nevertheless, Home Depot's stock price remained nearly unchanged during his tenure and certain aspects of customer service suffered significantly. These results raise an important question not only for Home Depot, but also for other companies in which employees perform both routine production-related activities and nonroutine customer-service activities: Is there a trade-off between process discipline and customer service? If so, what aspects of customer service?