Enhancing the service ecosystem through customer competency

Service Design
The Home Depot
Nehal Gupta
Phoebe Soong
Fangzheng Zhu
my roles
Service Designer
Guerilla Research
Ethnographic Research
Field Interviewing
User Observation

The Home Depot offers a plethora of home improvement services in parallel with its retail business. Their native mobile app provides a way to provide support features to enhance the shopping experience in stores. The Self-Help Kiosk leverages customer competency to bring shoppers closer to those services.

What good are Goods, without good Service?

Our team aimed to create a new service within the current Home Depot Product Service Ecosystem by conducting user-centered research to reveal unidentified needs for stakeholders such as employees, customers, partners.

Through guerilla research, service blueprinting, ideation cycles, and engagement with Home Depot's UX and Experience Innovation teams, we constructed a cost-effective, easily deployable service that creates the most value.


The designed solution leverages customer competency to bring parallel support features of the Home Depot mobile app closer to shoppers. We developed a smooth integration of visible physical artifacts onto the storefront where customers can overcome traditional obstacles to service accessibility.

Through The Self-Help Kiosk, which provides greater access to key functionalities, Home Depot can handle each customer's need based on complexity, reduce turnaround, and foster more meaningful interactions between customer and associate. In other words, we can let simple questions be self-answered and divert complex needs to associates.

Learning the Lay of the Land

Due to the pandemic, Home Depot has experienced an influx of demand from homeowners who are looking to utilize the increased time spent at home to undergo various projects. Home Depot's retail stores have undergone a shift in the atmosphere due to ever-changing safety regulations and concerns amid increased traffic. To that end, our team endeavored to find a way to bring value to the interactions that occur within the physical store.

Guerilla Research
Service Blueprint


Mind The App

Customers look to in-store associates for help despite the app, while associates frequently refer to the app when stuck helping a customer


Waiting in line

Customers often wait long periods of time to speak with an in-store associate while the associate is helping another customer


But How to Choose?

Customers spend a lot of time researching in order to choose the specific products out of the available options


Back Again

Customers make repeat trips in order to fill in unexpected needs or to buy items they had not thought about

Our conversations and interviews with customers, in-store associates, service providers, and store managers revealed the daily dynamics between intra-personal interactions as customers aim to have their needs met. A big reveal was that although most needs that would fulfill expectations exist within the service ecosystem of Home Depot, and the mobile app is not fully utilized.

Despite efforts to drive traffic to the mobile app, a significant portion of customers does not account for the app in their usual shopping routine. They prefer the more traditional interactions with associates to get their needs met, simple and complex alike. This, in addition to the fact that associates often refer to the app themselves to answer simple questions, and customers often must wait to engage with busy associates, resulting in an unnecessarily high turnaround time.

Opportunities to exchange value

Our team used personas and service blueprints to ideated around the revealed opportunity space. Our team presented the following three ideas to the Home Depot team to generate feedback and leverage their expertise.

Rapid Ideation
The Smart Shelf

This solution aims to alleviate the demand for expert knowledge by adding a mode of information access to customers that leads to information on the product on shelves. Such information could be instructions for use, related products, even AR videos. This stems from the finding that there is a need for customers to find autonomy when they have need of information within a shortage of supply of associates.

The Crowdsourced Assistant

It was evident from the research that customers often need help with product choice and usage, the two being some of the more common points of interaction between customers and associates. Bypassing associate shortages and possible lack of expert knowledge, this solution leverages a community of experts to help customers with more complex needs.

The Kiosk Associate

It was clear that the Home Depot mobile app could fulfill many of the customer needs that are brought to associates within the physical stores. Many of these needs are simple and require reference to the app by associates in order to answer. By making the app more accessible in-store, Home Depot could facilitate a faster customer shopping experience.


Presenting our ideas and findings to the Home Depot Team, they brought up some points of consideration.

- What are the business constraints of deploying the services?
- How can the service be sustainable for Home depot?
- What factors inhibit customers from using public digital assets?

From the discussions, we found a key nugget from Home Depot,

"We've been able to deploy iPad mounts with Google Mini integrated as a proof-of-concept recently for wayfinding"

customer journey map

We delved deeper into possible value creation for both Home Depot as well as the in-store associates and customers. We found that facilitating a means for more meaningful interaction between customers and associates while reducing turnaround time in a simple, easily deployable way is most valuable for the service ecosystem.

the self-help kiosk
quick information, meaningful interactions

Our solution leverages customer competency to place the app in front of the customer. By pushing certain functionalities of the app onto the forefront within the store, we can more appropriately handle each need based on their complexity, and thereby reduce turnaround.

Our Self-Help Kiosk allows customers to perform simple mobile app tasks such as searching or comparing product info and locating items within the store by themselves. It also connects customers with an appropriate associate if their needs warrant it.

value for the Customer

- Customers can spend less time in-store due to unnecessary waiting for the right associate to become available
- There is now a decreased dependency on associates to get the needed information on products. The increased accessibility also makes this search more efficient for customers
- With more needs being fulfilled by the kiosk, the availability of associates increases, leading to more meaningful interactions with customers who need a more personal touch

value for the Home Depot

- One of the main pain points for Home Depot that was mentioned during interviews with higher management was the high turnaround time. Smarter handling of simple and complex needs decreases customer turnaround time in a big way
- Associates find more fulfillment in interacting with customers who are looking for personal expertise and advice. More time can now be spent on meaningful interactions by freeing up associates
- Home Depot can now easily drive traffic to the mobile app through the introduction of the kiosk, which fulfills a long-term business goal of Home Depot
- Increased collection of data on issues commonly faced by homeowners.

QR code encourages use of app in the future
Products can be found by category and word search
Products can be compared with each other
Connecting with an associate will signal an associate based on expertise and availability
Use what is already there

Like how no design lives in a vacuum, neither will the designed solution. Understanding the service ecosystem ensures the proposed solution will have real-world value.

Simple answer, easy deployment

Even the simplest answer could unexpectedly turn into a complex problem upon deployment. An effective and efficient solution must not only bring clear values to the stakeholders but also ensure there is little resistance in deployment.

Leverage the client's expertise

The client's time is valuable. It's important to learn as much as we can within the limited time we have with them. This includes their understanding of the problem space and what success looks like to them.