Home Depot Mobile: Great, Unless You Have To Use It, Associates Say

Written by Frank Hayes
March 3rd, 2011

Home Depot’s mobile point-of-sale device looks like a big success: The First Phone was used for almost a million POS transactions in the last quarter of 2010, the company told investors on February 22. But store associates complain about First Phone shortages, bulky hardware, buggy software and lack of training—and the fact that IT either can’t or won’t fix problems with the devices, even when associates take the trouble to send descriptions of device problems up the chain of command.

Their consensus: The First Phone works, but it still has a long way to go. That’s what you’d expect from a first try at a mobile POS device, though, and that first draft won’t get better without lots of listening on the part of IT. The comments of the Home Depot associates go a long way to point out the challenges mobile POS faces as it rolls out at Home Depot, Nordstrom and other retailers.

In the Home Depot investor’s call last week, it was all good news about the First Phone rollout. “This device gives the associate real-time data on sales, gross margin and inventory,” said Marvin Ellison, executive vice president of U.S. stores for the chain. It “simplifies the in-stock process, which is big for us.

“But one thing that’s been a pleasant surprise is checkout. We had almost one million transactions in the fourth quarter on the First Phone in checking customers out at point-of-sale. So a mobile point-of-sale checkout is big for us, because we have a huge focus this year on speed of checkout. And the results and the feedback have been terrific.”

Well, maybe not universally terrific, at least according to associates who post their opinions on Internet forums that aren’t under the retailer’s control. (In the case of Home Depot, we found one called “The Orange Blood Bank”—orange like the Home Depot logo, get it?—where employees can compare notes, compliment and complain anonymously.)

To be sure, there are plenty of positive comments—most of these associates genuinely like at least some parts of the First Phone. “It’s a great piece of electronics, so much to learn, but all info is a push button away,” one associated posted. Wrote another, “The best thing is the fact that they speed up customer service. You can get all the info on a given SKU without walking away from a customer.”


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