business news in context, analysis with attitude has been hosting a lot of discussion – much of it generated by what it describes as thousands of email messages - lately about the lousy service offered by Home Depot in recent years…and remarkably, one of the people paying attention was the retailer’s new CEO, Frank Blake.

Perhaps more remarkably, Blake decided to respond. Following are excerpts:

“I'm Frank Blake, the new CEO for The Home Depot. I've read a number of the postings on the MSN message board (unfortunately, there were a lot of them), and we've dispatched a dedicated task force -- working directly with me -- that is ready and willing to address each and every issue raised on this board. Please give us the chance.

“There's no way I can express how sorry I am for all of the stories you shared. I recognize that many of you were loyal and dedicated shoppers of The Home Depot . . . and we let you down. That's unacceptable. Customers are our company's lifeblood – and the sole reason we have been able to build such a successful company is because of your support. The only way we're going to continue to be successful is by regaining your trust and confidence . . . and we will do that.

“We've already taken steps to cure many of the ills discussed on this message board:

• “We will be and already are increasing our staffing in the stores.

• “We're also in the early stages of launching a nationwide program to recruit and hire skilled master tradespeople to staff our stores so that our customers receive the kind of service and expertise that made The Home Depot great.

• “We're investing significantly in the appearance of our stores to make them an easier and more fun place to shop.

• “And we're making it clear to all our associates that nothing is more important than you, the customer. Every associate knows that his or her number one job is to make you smile and to help you solve your home improvement problem … no matter how big or how small.

“But the real judge of all of these changes we’re making is you. All I ask is that you please give us the opportunity to win you back. When you enter our stores, you should receive a personal greeting. After that, you should encounter a helpful associate who will walk you to find the tools, material or service you need. If you don’t, please let us know…”

Blake also thanked “the many people who posted comments on this board. We want them. We need them . . . to enable us to keep getting better. We're committed to being the company that helped set the standard for customer service excellence in home improvement. Please continue to hold us accountable.

“Finally, message boards of this type do not allow us to respond directly to each poster, so please give us the chance to fix the many issues discussed on this board by writing to You have my personal assurance that every effort will be made to address your concerns.

“The Home Depot was built on great customer service, and we hope to rebuild your trust on that same tradition -- just give us the chance!”
KC's View:
That is one of the most extraordinary efforts at communication that we’ve ever seen come from a retailing CEO.

Too often, when a retailer is in trouble, the men and women at the top do a lot of posturing, and we get the sense that they mostly are playing to the board of directors and the investors, and not to the people who really matter – the customers and the employees.

Not Blake. He knows that he may hold the title ‘CEO,’ but the real power rests with the people who spend money – or don’t – at Home Depot. And that’s who he is going to talk to. And, more importantly, listen to.

Smart man.

How do you rebuild a reputation? One customer at a time.