The secret to increasing customer satisfaction


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Any of you who have ever visited a Home Depot on a regular basis may appreciate today’s insight. In the course of remodeling work and improvements in my home over the years, I have established a love-hate relationship with the Home Depot. In general terms, I love all of the stuff they have, but I’ve hated the service.

This isn’t a deep-seated emotional issue, but one that stems from an ongoing need for their products and the necessity of being at the mercy of their “system.” Classically, they have high volume traffic on weekends and seem to be under-staffed on the check-out side, resulting in long delays trying to pay for the items I need for whatever my current project is. This results in the customer nightmare of the “check-out line of death.”

So imagine my surprise how, on a recent Saturday visit, I was blown-away by the speed with which I was able to check out with lots of materials on my cart, at the height of their traffic peak.

How did they do it?

Home Depot’s check-out secret
It’s a new technology system which is, in effect, a wireless scanner. Here’s how it works: while folks are standing in line waiting to check out, an employee operates the wireless hand-scanner, and goes from customer to customer scanning all of their products. When everything is scanned for a customer, they download-scan the information onto the equivalent of a gift card, and then hand the “gift card” to the customer. As the customer comes up to the cash register, they simply hand the card to the checker who then scans the information into the cash register, where it lists out all of the items, just as if they had been scanned at the checkout. Then it’s just a matter of paying for the purchase; simple and quick!

Making the most of the customers’ time
The elegance of the system is that it simply takes the time spent waiting in line, and puts it to good use by essentially moving a checker down the line, rather than waiting for the people to come to the checker. This has an incredible effect on speeding up the process, and also allows the “portable” checker to have a lot more interaction with the customers in a positive fashion. This also creates more flexibility with the process, since the “portable” checker only has to be in place when the lines are long; otherwise, they can be gainfully employed at some other task as needed without having to shut down a whole cash register point. Brilliant and efficient!

Everyone wants to have the feeling that their time is valuable…because it is. This is the “secret” of satisfying customers, because nothing says “you are not important to our business” more loudly than to have a customer wait in line or feel like they are wasting time unnecessarily. The more ways you can find to make the most of the customers’ time, they will be more likely to be back to spend more time with you purchasing your products.

In what ways can this principle be employed with your systems and processes? How can you “move the checker down the line,” so to speak, in your business? Creating efficiencies like these will have a positive impact on your customers, and their repeat business with you.

Okay, so for now, this new system has helped to turn my relationship with the Home Depot back into a positive one. And if it has this effect on someone as critical as me, think how positively it can impact some of your customers.

Heck, they may even love you for it…

Just for fun…

“Life is like a roll of toilet paper; hopefully long and useful, but it always ends at the wrong moment.” – Rudyh

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


  1. Hi Steve:

    I’m with you that high-volume retailers (e.g. Wallmart & Lowblaws Foods) penalize those customers who spend the most by making them wait the longest at checkout. This solution and the one that IBM is developing ( should help with the frustrating line-up paradox.

    Do you have any idea how Home Depot came to the decision to invest in such a system? Being a advocate of customer feedback, I’d like to think that the customers helped design the system. More likely they expressed a frustration and then Home Depot found a solution. I’d like to hear more about that process and the people who had the courage to move away from the status quo. Any possibility of a follow-on article about that?

  2. Hi Oliver-
    Thanks for your thoughts; that link for the smart shopping cart experience is kinda scary!
    I think it’s a great idea for a follow up article. I’ll do some more digging; I think it would make a great interview opportunity for someone at Home Depot, and I’ll either create another article or see if I can get a video interview to share.


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