In an article written for Forbes, customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken discusses how Ace Hardware stores stay competitive in an industry glutted with big boxes.

The reasons he credits for Ace’s success are true of many independent home improvement stores, where customer service and problem solving are top reasons customers are loyal, regardless of a business’ distributor affiliation.

Hyken offers the following thoughts on how, in his words, Ace “takes on the big guy and wins.”

  • Ace Hardware mystery shops stores.  The stores are independently owned, yet they agree to be mystery shopped by the corporate cooperative that supplies their merchandise. 
  • The stores are easy to do business with. Driving through the parking lot is easier. Navigating through the store doesn’t mean a quarter-mile walk from one side of the store to the other. There seems to be more staff to help the customers than in the typical hardware or big box store. 
  • Store employees engage their customers when they enter the store. The Ace associates are taught to ask, “What can I help you find today?” And, when they find out, they don’t just point the customer in the right direction, they walk the customer to the item. 
  • The stores have knowledgeable staff. As they engage with customers and help them find the items they are seeking, they ask appropriate questions that give them the opportunity to help the customer by making suggestions that might make the project easier and even less expensive.
  • Ace stores don’t just give friendly service. Engaging the customer is friendly. But, Ace takes it a step further, always making suggestions that help the customer.