Having supplies on hand, pricing them competitively and using the latest AI technology are essential to get a multifamily apartment building constructed or remodeled but so is having a trained staff available for professional customers.
At a time when more wonder whether people are irrelevant to drive cars, provide online advice, write articles or wait on customers, The Home Depot is making greater effort to prove their continued importance. Its strategy is to keep training and professionalizing its staff wherever and whenever customers reach out--in stores, online, at distribution centers and off job sites.
One way it’s doing so is to help its highly valued professional contractor customers who are focused on the large multifamily apartment industry. The country has 21.3 million apartment homes, and many more are needed yearly to meet the serious housing shortage. Not only are supplies essential to construct them but also to maintain them at the front door for curb appeal and inside for fresh looking interior and exterior amenity spaces and apartment units.
Many professional contractors regularly visit their local Home Depot store or shop online for their “urgent” or unplanned supplies, items they forgot to order, didn’t realize they needed or didn’t receive for varied reasons. The Atlanta-based retailer, in business since 1978, realized as its own business has grown that the professionals it serves have also seen their businesses and projects expand. Many have needed more help when it came to their “complex” purchases, too, which might involve thousands of units from different departments. And many would prefer to shop with a single supplier—a local Home Depot store--rather than working with 10, 15 or more different wholesale distributors.
To give these professional customers additional dedicated sales support beyond the ProDesk has long been available in stores and to also help customers take greater advantage of the company’s Pro Xtra Loyalty Program, introduced more than a decade ago. The company is expanding how it works with those who do a deep level of business with it. To make the transition smooth, it brought on board Justin Powell as Vice President of Outside Sales, whose background involved years of working for different building suppliers and who understood the building and remodeling process intimately from its own work on homes.
These Pro customers now have access to a Pro Account Manager and Pro Account Expeditor who gets to know their businesses and needs, says Powell. “We can provide it better service through this enhanced eco-system, including our sales team, delivery assets and capabilities of working together,” he says. Some may still need just a phone call or some extra help in a store, but others may need a visit to their site or for the company to tap into its expertise with one of its supplier partners, Powell says.
To date, three different types of multifamily apartment customers represent the bulk of those seeking its help: property investors engaged in capital improvements for an entire property or a handful of units that may be turning; remodelers who are undertaking similar capital improvements jobs or upgrading common areas or units; and builders constructing new multifamily communities, a newer focus for The Home Depot.
Because of the continuing challenge of finding skilled labor, which existed even before the pandemic, The Home Depot is expanding its Path to Pro program, which started in 2021 to bridge the gap between the growing demand for trades jobs and shortage of this kind of talent, an example of the company listening and following up on what its Pro customers want. The program offers free introductory trades training in English and Spanish and on-demand content that helps participants find entry-level positions in fields such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drywall and painting. The Home Depot recently pumped in $6 million to partner with other outside sources for this endeavor.
The goal of all its new and greater efforts to work well with its Pro customers is to build stronger, longer-term relationships and maximize every customer’s net operating income, Powell says.