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The Associate Mate

For empowered employees.

Challenge

Design a service innovation that creates value for the Home Depot and its customers.

Outcome

An employee-facing mobile app that gives store associates the tools they need to be customer advocates.

My Role

Team

User research

UX/UI Design

Prototyping

Sian Sheu

Laura Howard

Sartak Sharma

Roy Hsu

Timeline

8 weeks

Pain points

02.

Define

1. Discover

Our research methods included guerilla research, guided storytelling, and market research. ​ In our discovery, we asked the following questions:​

  • Who is the Home Depot's customer base?

  • How are associates interacting with customers?

  • How are customers leveraging different shopping platforms (app, website, brick & mortar)?

Market research

We plotted out innovative spaces within the home improvement industry, keeping in mind emerging trends caused by COVID-19. We found that DIY-ers are a rapidly growing customer base. These customers have disposable income and less familiarity with the Home Depot stores.

Personas

Based on our research and interviews, we created personas to understand the motivations of our intended users, including employees (which the Home Depot refers to "Associates") and customers.

Insights

We found that the quality of interactions with Associates is the most significant determinant of a customer's shopping experience.

 

Probing further, we discovered high turnover rates for Associate positions. Many Associates are disempowered, and feeling as though they do not have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

2. Define

Following our initial discovery, our design question became:

How might we empower store Associates to create better experiences for the Home Depot customers?

3. Ideate

We sketched out dozens of service ideas that responded to our design question before narrowing down to three proposals to present.

Of the ideas, the Home Depot team was most excited about the Associate Mate, an employee-facing portal through the Home Depot mobile app that would give employees the ability to access real-time store information and report customer insights.

The client was enthused by our approach to build upon an existing product, saving on implementation and maintenance costs. Additionally, nearly every Home Depot Associate already uses the app when assisting customers on the floor, making the portal seamless for their workflow. 

Customer Journey Map

Mapping out the in-store customer journey helped us to identify and communicate major customer pain point and opportunities for intervention.

Service blueprint

After gathering client feedback, we narrowed down features and functionality for the Associate Mate. Creating a service blueprint allowed us to visualize where new features would be situated into existing service offerings, and where value would be created for the customer and the company.

4. Develop

We built an interface that is familiar, fun to use, and require little training. The apron on the sign-in page is an homage to the Associates' iconic orange aprons. The typeface Helvetica Neue and its variants, staying consistent with the Home Depot branding.

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Value Created

For customers, The Associate Mate provides:

  • Better in-store shopping experiences powered by excellent service.

  • Reliability, convenience, and ease of navigating store ecosystems.​

For associates, The Associate Mate provides:

  • A convenient and efficient way to access vital information.

  • Increased job satisfaction, and knowledge that their inputs are valued.

For the Home Depot, The Associate Mate provides:

  • Long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Previously missed insights into customer behavior and opportunities.

  • Empowered employees and reduced turnover.

5. Deliver

For our final presentation, we created a video explaining the service to users and delivered a pitch to the Home Depot design team.

The Home Depot team was impressed by our proposal, particularly the blending of mobile technologies and in-person experiences. If selected to move forward, key next steps will include user testing and working through back-end processes.

6. Reflect

This project was a great opportunity to work on a real-world problem

and I learned a great deal about research methods, collaborating with non-designers, and product management including agile frameworks.

 

Due to the constraints of time and the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted our research to remote methods. Next time, I would better strategize research opportunities to replicate the depth and breadth of in-person methods.

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