Ace Hardware, with nearly 4,500 stores nationwide, is the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the industry. Its motto, The Helpful Place, strives to make its outlets the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. This goal is fully embraced by Alec Bloem, owner of Ace Hardware Clairemont in San Diego, a 14,000 sq. ft. facility, he says is among the largest stores in the chain.
In maintaining the company’s reputation for service, he said:
“Our goal is to touch everyone that comes into the store. We want to talk with them, find out what they need and help them.”
Bloem was keen on exploring how Ace service could be even better. One area he focused on was how to ensure shoppers consistently receive prompt personal assistance when and where needed, even during leaner staffing hours.
This improvement came in the form of Indyme Smart Response Help Button solutions. The wireless Indyme buttons are placed in aisles, service desk, locked cabinets, and outdoor garden areas.
Before their installation, Bloem said,
“Customers sometimes would have to go looking around, trying to find an associate to help them. That stroll sometimes took time.” “The buttons”, he continued, “brings an associate to them.”
Bloem reported customers adapted quickly commenting, “other stores should get them.” He also observed positive staff reactions, primarily because the Indyme Smart Response technology instantly notifies their two-way radios. This enables the team to coordinate among themselves to respond promptly to requests.
In cutting down customer wait time, Bloem said,
“[Indyme Smart Response] is a substantial complement to the customer service that is the hallmark of Ace.”
It has also become a labor management and enhancement aid for the Bloem, who now, “doesn’t need staff in every place all the time.”
“It definitely makes me feel comfortable when I’m doing scheduling,” he continued, “for instance, mornings, when traffic generally is slow.”
Even though fewer associates are on hand, he knows he has a safety net that helps ensure prompt shopper assistance. As an example, he cited the service desk, where keys are cut.
“Key cutting is a big part of service in Ace stores,” Bloem, said, “but the desk generally is utilized only 50 percent of the time.” “With Smart Response,” he continued, “I don’t have to concern myself with having someone dedicated to hanging around the service desk, as we can have someone there in 30 seconds.” “To me,” he stated, “that’s huge.”
What would he tell other Ace franchisee, whatever the size of their stores?
“It’s a great tool if you are not manning every department all the time and have these at key places. It takes only seconds to know a customer’s there and respond appropriately.”