Building better customer service.

Since its early days as a small hardware store, Lowe’s has been in the business of helping homeowners achieve their dreams through do-it-yourself projects. Even though it currently operates in more than 1,725 locations throughout North America, the company has retained its neighborhood store feel, thanks to its hundreds of thousands of knowledgeable employees.

Every day, those employees are approached by customers who want to know “anything from how to start a project to how to think about it and what products to buy,” says Dennis Knowles, Senior Vice-President of Specialty Sales and Store Operations. With hundreds of thousands of products in-store and online, Lowe’s employees use iPhone to help customers find the right inspiration, materials, and tools so they can start and finish their dream projects.

Lowe’s developed three custom iPhone apps—two for employees, one for customers. The Lowe’s Employee app gives store staff access to key product information, while the Store Manager app allows managers to handle administrative tasks. And every iPhone for employees is encased in a custom solution that includes a bar code scanner, a credit card reader, and an additional battery.

Lowe’s free consumer app gives customers a wealth of home improvement information at their fingertips, including how-to videos, product prices and reviews, store locations, and gift card balances.

A customized solution

In the past, a Lowe’s employee needing to look up product availability or inventory had to walk to a fixed terminal in the store and possibly wait in line to use it. Now store staff can scan a product and immediately access vital information right on iPhone, including product pricing, inventory, and location in the store, without having to leave the customer’s side.

If a product is out of stock, the Employee app indicates when more will arrive and whether any nearby Lowe’s stores have it in their inventory. And employees will also soon be able to place an order for a product and use the credit card reader to process payment.

Lowe’s Executive Vice President and CIO Mike Brown relates a story about a customer who needed a large quantity of an out-of-stock product: “A store manager was able to look where the inventory was, order the product in 10 seconds, and solve the customer’s problem. The customer was absolutely blown away at the simplicity and how fast that could happen in a Lowe’s store.”

Before iPhone, Lowe’s managers used to find themselves trapped in the back office for hours at a time, pulling up reports on a terminal and printing out reams of data. Now they can access that information anywhere with the Store Manager app on iPhone, allowing them to spend more time with customers and employees. They can double-check the accuracy of price changes, view sales reports, see when new products are due to arrive, arrange product transfers between stores, view employee schedules, and also access corporate email and calendars. “With iPhone, our managers are able to keep their fingers on the pulse of the store because they’re out in the aisles,” says Knowles.

A robust ecosystem

“The iOS platform allows us to build simple but meaningful solutions for our customers,” says Kris Douglas, member of the Lowe’s IT Innovation Team. She notes that the iOS Software Development Kit “helped us create a seamless design experience,” with the iPhone Simulator enabling the design team to get immediate feedback from users.

“The iOS platform is a robust ecosystem where we can have a consistent development, deployment, and management process across multiple devices,” Douglas adds. Lowe’s currently has more than 42,000 iPhones for use by store employees, and managing the fleet at an enterprise level or device-by-device is no problem. “Using our mobile device management tool, we are able to push updates to the devices in our stores,” says Douglas.

“We look at deploying iPhone as the first step of hopefully many more to come,” she says. Brown adds, “iPhone, iPad, and the iOS platform are enterprise solutions that we can build on for the future. We’re very excited about what else we can do.”

The most impactful device

Lowe’s has seen many advances in technology during its several decades of existence, but iPhone rises above them in its ability to offer mobile access to key business and product information. The retailer understands that a nimble, well-informed workforce is crucial to top-notch customer service, which will drive future business success.

“In all of my 27 years at Lowe’s,” Brown says, “iPhone will go down in history as being the most impactful device we have ever put in our employees’ hands.”

Company Snapshot

  • Established in 1946
  • Based in North Carolina
  • 234,000 employees
  • Two custom iPhone apps for employees to access product and store information.
  • One custom iPhone app for customers to find the right inspiration, materials, and tools for home improvement projects.
  • www.lowes.com

“iPhone will go down in history as being the most impactful device we have ever put in our employees’ hands.”

Mike Brown
Executive Vice President
and Chief Information Officer, Lowe’s

“Our managers are able to keep their fingers on the pulse of the store because they’re out in the aisles.”

Dennis Knowles
Senior Vice President of Specialty Sales and Store Operations, Lowe’s