Customer Service Drives Ace Hardware's Success
Ace Hardware has more than 4,800 independently owned-and-operated stores. The stores’ owners are entrepreneurs who live close to where their stores are located, and because of this they're better able to serve the community, says Jeff Gooding, senior director of marketing and advertising for Ace Hardware.
This type of strong retailer/customer relationship is proving to be commonplace for Ace Hardware. In fact, Ace Hardware was recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for having the most satisfied shoppers among home improvement chains. This is the 10th straight year Ace Hardware has received this award.
“The vision statement is ‘the most helpful hardware store on the planet,’ explains Gooding. "You can’t have a vision statement like that and not back it up.”
In order to do that, Gooding says Ace provides employee training, drives consumers into local stores, and allows stores to participate in a mystery shopper program.
Gooding says one of the tools Ace provides its store owners is training.
“It’s deeply ingrained in how we go to market and how we operate here for our retailers.”
Employees are trained on everything from product knowledge to customer service. The training is continuous and constantly updated. Gooding notes that Ace tries to break the training into smaller bites so staff members can easily understand and implement what they're being taught.
The individual retailers are held accountable for making sure employees are trained.
Drive Traffic to Local Stores
Ace Hardware’s omnichannel experience is unique because its goal is to drive customers to their local brick-and-mortar store.
On Ace’s website, for example, visitors can find a local store and determine if the store has a product in stock. Gooding says to make things easier for shoppers, free in-store pickup was implemented about a year ago to help customers get their products faster.
Ace Hardware wants customers to shop in its stores because that’s “where the helpful service come to life person to person, retailer to customer,” according to Gooding.
Mystery Shopper Program
Each retail store can opt into a corporate-organized mystery shopper program. An assigned secret “customer” shops a store and scores it based on customer service, product selection, inventory, signage, among other variables.
The scores are all ranked and compared so the retailers know how they size up to other Ace Hardware locations.
“It’s one of the ways we know we're improving on customer service,” says Gooding.
Ace Hardware scored 810 on J.D. Power’s 1,000-point scale. The average customer satisfaction rating for home improvement retailers was 795.
Related story: Customer Service Message at Core of Ace Hardware's New Ad Campaign