Ace Hardware: Calling the Right Play for Each Customer
When the Ace Hardware store in Cape Coral, Fla., gets hectic, Linda Gillard takes on the role of customer coordinator, known around the $3.8 billion hardware cooperative as a "customer quarterback."
This new position, which Ace has started adding to all of its 4,600 U.S. stores this year, only comes into play when traffic is heavy, and it has just one goal: helping customers. Gillard talks to incoming shoppers, analyzes their body language, and decides whether each one is a browser, a mission shopper with no time for small talk, or someone gearing up for a project. Then she calls the play. Using an earpiece, she radios ahead so the right expert is waiting when the customer gets to the aisle. Just looking? The team gets a warning: "We have a browser who doesn't need any assistance. Give them 5 or 10 minutes before you ask if they need help."
The new strategy was hatched by 12 Ace staffers who spent a year analyzing how to increase the time employees spend helping customers without adding extra bodies. If there's an influx of shoppers, the coordinator alerts sales associates to drop everything and focus on customers. Like any good quarterback, they know when to call a new play.
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