June 4, 2010, 10:21 AM

Home Depot builds out its online customer service

Shoppers now have access to live chat and quicker response times.

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Just prior to the long Memorial Day weekend, Home Depot, No. 39 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, rolled out a redesigned HomeDepot.com that features easier navigation, better imagery and deeper “how to” content for do-it-yourselfers, contractors and others.

 The updated HomeDepot.com also now includes new customer service upgrades including live chat, longer contact center hours and better store-based options. Before the redesign, Home Depot customer service representatives manned the phones and the e-mail in-box daily from 8 am to 10 pm eastern standard time. But with the new design, call center hours have been expanded to 7 am to 1 am eastern. The response time to a customer’s e-mail message also has been shortened from 24 hours to one hour or less. “We’ve been ramping for this,” says Home Depot president of online Hal Lawton. “We’ve expanded the time by which customers can reach us, made the toll-free numbers more prominent on our web pages and added other enhancements.”

The expansion in online customer service also includes a new live chat application and eventually a buy online pickup in store option. Web shoppers already can return items purchased at HomeDepot.com to a nearby location.

 Home Depot, which generated web sales of $500 million in 2009, is building out its web-based customer service initiatives and redesigning its web site in an effort to attract new segments of online shoppers, including do-it-yourselfers who want help in planning and purchasing the necessary items for a home improvement project and first-time home buyers.

 “In the last three years we noticed that 17% of all visits to home improvement e-commerce sites were from visitors researching a ‘how-to’ project and now that figure is about 40%,” says Lawton. “The new redesign and expanded customer service reflects better ways to help customers solve problems, research projects and find what they want quickly and easily.”

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