Customer Service Difference #1: Nordstrom

You can’t write a series about customer service making companies that would otherwise be ordinary extraordinary with mentioning Nordstrom.

Nordstrom was founded in Seattle more than 100 years ago and has embraced customer service pretty much since day 1. Price wise, the company is on par with Bloomingdales, but below Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Service wise, it is far above all three.

Customer service excellence is a major part of the company’s culture and a lot of leading customer service professionals are former Nordstrom employees (Maria at CustomersAreAlways worked at Nordmstrom for quite a while, I believe). Some of these people write books, blogs, newspaper articles, and everything else you can imagine and share their knowledge and insight about what good customer service is with others.

I don’t think I have read a book on customer service that hasn’t cited Nordstrom at least a few times and I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. In fact, I have one book that specifically talks about Nordstrom’s customer service and another one that is also exclusively about Nordstrom on my list of books to read.

Nordstrom is both directly responsible for great customer service (the service it provides in its retail stores) as well as indirectly responsible for a lot of great customer service found at other companies (from its former employees teaching, writing and talking about, etc. the subject).

So what does Nordstrom do to ensure great customer service? From what I can tell:

  • It is a major part of the company’s culture. Nordstrom revolves around customer service and they teach their employees to focus on it. Customer satisfaction is Nordstrom’s ultimate goal and they have subsequent been very successful.
  • They are humble. I called Nordstrom’s PR department for an interview. The lady politely declined saying that Nordstrom still had plenty of room to improve and doesn’t like to tell others what they do well when they aren’t done improving yet.
  • They empower employees. Nordstrom’s only rule to employees is to use good judgment. I can’t think of many companies that empower their employees to that extent.
  • They compete to be the best. Nordstrom promotes competition among employees. Employees are encouraged to try to be best and provide exceptional service to customers.
  • Their management cares. The management team at Nordstrom is as focused on customer service as the rest of the employees. This is extremely important to a company’s customer service efforts. If the management doesn’t care, the employees won’t have the resources to do anything and/or not care themselves.

These are things that you really have to invest time (not so much money in). Nordstrom has some more specific policies such as having operators answer the phones during business hours at their stores, a no-questions-asked return policy, wider aisles in stores, and countless other little things that collectively truly do make a big difference.

Nordstrom is an impressive customer service organization and one that company’s have a lot to learn from.

Upcoming posts on the same subject (in no particular order):
Headsets.com
Ritz Carlton
Chick-fil-A (inspired by Maria’s post)

Upcoming mini-posts on the same subject (again, in no particular order):
Printing for Less
Amazon.com
Starbucks

Do you have any companies you’d like featured? Suggest them in the comments.

3 Responses to “Customer Service Difference #1: Nordstrom”

  1. CustomersAreAlways said:

    Aug 30, 06 at 8:45 pm

    More Memories From Nordstrom…

    In retrospect, I look at that time in my life and know now that it was basically free business training. In fact, they paid me to learn from them….

  2. Jen said:

    Apr 30, 09 at 1:16 pm

    I agree. me too!!!!!!!!

  3. Hyatt’s Random Walk Down Service Street - Halverson Group said:

    Feb 08, 12 at 2:44 pm

    […] with a company due to a service lapse. It’s no coincidence that Nordstrom, with its legendary customer service, has recently trouncedcompetitors such as Macy’s and Saks in terms of sales and stock […]