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Associate Mate

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

Role

Team

Interaction Design

Motion Design

Conceptual Design

Sian Sheu

Laura Howard

Sarthak Sharma

Roy Hsu

Client

Timeline

The Home Depot

7 weeks

The Challenge

Our challenge was to design a service innovation that creates value for the Home Depot and its customers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Home Depot has seen a boom in sales. Their team was looking for service innovations that leverage their existing service ecosystem.

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The Outcome

The Associate Mate, a portal for Home Depot employees accessible through the existing Home Depot app, acts as a central place for employees to find and report key store information.

 

Features such as notifications, real-time stock updates, and data logs empower employees be active participants in creating positive customer experiences. 

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?

Market Research

We plotted out spaces for innovation 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, preferring the in-store shopping experience.

Discovery

Personas

Based on our research and interviews, we created personas to understand the motivations of our intended users, the Home Depot employees and customers. In doing so, we aligned our team and the client on a shared understanding of needs, goals, and pain points of our primary audience. 

Pain Points

We found that the quality of service is the most significant determinant of a customer's shopping experience and whether or not they will choose to return to a location.

 

Probing further, we discovered high turnover rates for Associate positions despite competitive pay and benefits. Dissatisfaction ran deeper; associates feel disempowered and under-appreciated.

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

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; the original pitch centered on providing Associates an avenue to report key customer interactions and insights back to the store, to be aggregated and used for improving the customer experience.

Journey Map

The Home Depot team encouraged us to find additional features that could be integrated into the Associate Mate; 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. A service blueprint helped us visualize where new features would be situated into existing service offerings, and where value would be created for the customer and the company.

Ideation

Associate Mate

Accessible from any mobile device, the Associate Mate is a Home Depot employee's pocket toolbox. Associates can amplify their voices and be active, engaged, and appreciated curators of the Home Depot experience.

Value Created

For customers:

Better service and

a continuously improving store experience.

For Associates:

Increased job satisfaction and a channel of participation.

For the Home Depot:

Insights into customer behavior and increased employee satisfaction.

Highlighted Features

Easy Access

Integration with the customer-facing Home Depot app makes it convenient to switch between modes.

Data-powered Experiences

Employees can report customer trends, complaints, or general feedback to be aggregated and used to improve the in-store experience.

Knowledge at the Fingertips

Live-time inventory search enables to access stock and supply chain details in-aisle.

Live-time Service

Push notifications alert nearby associate when a customer requires assistance.

Impact & Learnings

The Home Depot design team was impressed by the thoughtful blending of mobile technologies and in-person experiences. They were excited by the possibilities of leveraging data and employee knowledge to improve customer experiences. Key next steps will include user testing, building out the prototype, and working through back-end processes.

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.