Q&A With Kevin Peters, President, North America, Office Depot

Yesterday I wrote a post inspired by insight from Kevin Peters of Office Depot. Today we’re going to hear from the man himself!

My co-author (Kerry Bodine) and I were so impressed by what Kevin’s been doing to reinvent customer experience at his company that we open our upcoming book with a case study about him. We’re also fortunate to have him to speak at our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East in New York just a week from today (June 26th).

Whether you’re going to get a chance to hear Kevin speak next week or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the insight he provides in his answers to some questions we sent him. My favorite nugget: Depot Time!

So without further ado . . . heeeeeere’s Kevin!

1.  How would you describe the experience that you want Office Depot customers to have?

We care about providing solutions, not just selling products. At the end of the day, we need our customers more than they need us. That philosophy must guide everything that we do. Our customers must feel that their business is valuable to us. To that end:

  • They are greeted at the front door and feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Their success is our success.
  • Their problems are our challenges to be solved.
  • They are recognized and remembered when they return.

We work hard to create a shopping experience where our customers can get in, find what they need, and get back to business.

2.  What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?

  • Paperwork, systems, and process-driven and time-consuming tasks
  • Lack of confidence in product knowledge
  • Associates who don’t enjoy customer service! That’s why we are focused on retraining our store associates in a new customer service model.  

3.  What are a few of the most critical activities Office Depot performs that enable the delivery of a great customer experience?

  • We have repurposed how time and tasks are managed in the stores to enable associates to truly focus on each and every customer who walks in the door. Customers don’t have to find sales help. We are proactive: We find the customer, accompany the customer, hand off the customer to the next department, etc.
  • We instituted Depot Time: Drop Everything, People Over Tasks. This is a concentrated number of hours (usually 5) during peak selling time when everything is secondary to helping the customer and developing selling skills. 
  • We developed rapid mini-training units (quick-hit videos, huddle meetings, etc.) that are utilized during the day whenever customer traffic lessens, increasing the confidence and comfort level of associates.  
  • We developed a culture of celebration and fun in the stores to recognize wins and happy customers. It’s not unusual for customers to ask if they can announce over our radio headset system what a great shopping experience they enjoyed, leading to applause and happy smiles for everyone.   

4.  How do you align the culture at Office Depot so that it’s customer-centric?

We like to say our in-store customer experience began as an initiative (one of several), became a journey, and now is a new way of life.


I am a 30+ year business

I am a 30+ year business veteran from the tech industry up to CEO level and find myself working at a major retailer for the second time in five years. I am working on the sales floor in an area with a high volume of customer connection opportunity. I find Mr. Peters comments and plan good but flawed a bit.

I think most of the attention to have a good experience comes from 1) having associates who really do care about helping (tough to do with minimum wage and not all people are born to serve or can be taught to) 2) having in stock what people come to see you for (Apple stores are NEVER out of stock, even on announce day) 3) reward systems are seldom mentioned for provided for delivering an outstanding experience

I have been at the retailer I am at for 80 days and have helped move their survey results to very good where they have never been and I am just an associate. Not one management person in the store has asked me, 'what are you doing that is getting these results?' You would think if it works you would want to understand why and spread it across stores and departments.

Maybe I need to pivot my career into the 'customer experience direction. Thanks for the insightful post.

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