Will a new staffing model improve Lowe’s customer service?
Lowe’s Home Improvement recently announced layoffs as a part of an effort to “overhaul its staffing model.” The cuts, which will constitute less than one percent of the total staff, come in the context of a reshuffling of responsibilities, which a source told the Charlotte Observer is meant to provide an increase in “face time with customers.”
Some of the additional changes include moving around responsibilities between roles and the elimination of the department manager title, a later Observer article reported. But Lowe’s is also eyeing expansion. Lowe’s plans to open 15 to 20 stores annually over the next three years, which the chain said will create 4,000 new store-level jobs.
And despite the cutbacks, Lowe’s continues to add staff as necessary to meet seasonal demands. A press release indicated that the store plans to hire more than 45,000 seasonal employees.
Given Lowe’s recent history of customer-facing technological innovations, the idea of increasing human-to-human face time may seem inconsistent. The chain, for instance, debuted a pilot of its in-store customer service robot, OSHBot, in 2014, intended to take care of many tasks generally managed by human staff.
In late 2016, the one-store OSHBot pilot expanded into the release of a branded “LoweBot.” Slated to be rolled out in 11 Lowe’s locations in the San Francisco Bay area over seven months, the LoweBot can, like its predecessor, find products, answer simple customer questions and help manage inventory.
Source: Lowe’s Innovation Labs
The Lowe’s Innovation Labs website positions LoweBot as a way to free up staff so that the they can offer customers specialized knowledge and expertise. With that in mind, Lowe’s may be anticipating a future in which robots do the heavy lifting and real-live humans help customers with the higher-level tasks. It has not been announced if or when Lowe’s robotic helper will appear in stores beyond the San Francisco area.
While Lowe’s has experienced positive same-store sales for 14 quarters in a row, the retailer is still playing second fiddle to Home Depot in the home improvement world, according to CNBC. Lowe’s shares have dropped 2.5 percent in the past year while Home Depot’s have increased 5.9 percent.
- Lowe’s plans layoffs as it changes store staffing model – Charlotte Observer
- Lowe’s cutting 2,400 full-time jobs as part of staffing overhaul – Charlotte Observer
- Lowe’s new sales help seems a little robotic – RetailWire
- LoweBot – Lowe’s Innovation Labs
- Lowe’s preps for layoffs as it shifts to new store staffing model – CNBC
- Lowe’s Hiring More Than 45,000 Customer-Facing Roles – PRNewswire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are staffing changes key to Lowe’s future success? What steps should Lowe’s take to make sure store staff has more face time with customers? How prominently do you think robotics and automation will play into Lowe’s staffing model in the coming years?