Mike Horn, head of Lowe's for Pros
Mike Horn, head of Lowe's for Pros

Lowe's is in the process of rolling out a series of changes designed to speed up and ease service to the customers it regards as pros--a group that accounts for 25% of the retailer's total revenue-- the head of the Lowe's for Pros program says.

Innovations added in the past year include adding a direct line for pro customers to reach a Pro Desk without going through an automated phone attendant as well as changing rules so that Pro Desk staff can reduce a pro's delivery fee to $20 without having to call in a manager to validate the reduced price, Mike Horn told REMODELING on Feb. 5 during the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas. 

More recently, Lowe's partnered with the Porch.com home improvement site to provide a service that helps Lowe's personnel locate nearby home improvement specialists who provide services other than what Lowe's own installers do. And this year, expect an upgraded Lowesforpros.com website that will feature improved e-commerce capabilities.

"The beautiful thing about the pro customer is that every day they need products," Horn said of the pros he's in charge of serving. "I'll never be happy until they buy only from Lowe's."

Lowe's defines a pro as someone who pursues construction, maintenance or repair as a job or way of life. Typically, these people shop at Lowe's virtually every day, and many of them frequent several Lowe's outlets in their area. Horn said this group of pros accounts for 25% of all revenue. By comparison, officials at The Home Depot routinely say that their pros--a group generally identified the same way Lowe's does--account for 30% of all sales.

Horn said Lowe's reaches out to pros via a Pro Desk in each of the company's stories, about 150 account executives who pursue opportunities in major markets (particularly from people who shop in multiple stores), and a national accounts team that work with "a couple hundred" companies.

The veteran Lowe's staffer said he has noticed that, during and since the housing market crash, many of Lowe's pro customers have become less specialized. "They're pursuing jobs that aren't their niche," he said. "They're relying on us to bring insight and wisdom. So we invite them to our stores," often to show them new products or techniques they should consider.

As for website improvements, Horn called the current Lowesforpros.com "soft." He said the company has been asking pros to name challenges they face so that Lowe's can think of solutions. One that's likely to be put on the upgraded website, he said, is a "punch-out process" in which items selected go straight into Lowe's order management system.