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The Nordstrom Way

By Robert Spector & Breanne O. Reeves

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2022 by Michael C. Gray

Nordstrom has certainly built a reputation for customer service.

One of the famous Nordstrom stories is when a customer in Alaska got a refund for tires that weren't for sale by Nordstrom. Many readers might not be aware that the customer bought the tires from a company that Nordstrom acquired, so it was a form of "in-store" purchase.

Robert Spector and Breanne Reeves tell how Nordstrom promotes customer service and "servant leadership" in its business in their book, The Nordstrom Way To Customer Experience Excellence.

Nordstrom's employee handbook consists of one rule - "Use Good Judgement In All Situations."

The company philosophy is the employee experience determines the customer experience. No one is supposed to get in trouble if an error is made provided it's to make a customer happy. Thanks to this philosophy, Nordstrom is proud of its record of high employee retention.

The "servant leadership" ideal at Nordstrom is presented as an "inverted pyramid." At the top of the pyramid are customers, then sales and support people. At the bottom of the pyramid are the executive team (corporate management) and the board of directors. This means the purpose of the business is to serve customers and the purpose of corporate management is to mentor and be a resource for employees who are serving customers.

Nordstrom salespeople develop strong relationships with many of their customers, including sending thank you notes and telling them about new merchandise received they might like. Customers return the expressions of caring and appreciation by returning often for their purchases.

The book is full of inspirational extraordinary customer service stories.

I wonder if Nordstrom might have made a mistake with its Nordstrom Rack outlets. They can't maintain the same refund and customer satisfaction standard in a clearance center, yet it still has the Nordstrom name. These stores seem incongruent with Nordstrom's customer service image.

Whenever a business is held up as a shining ideal, feet of sand do show up. I did some online research and found some horror stories of customers and an employee who were disappointed with experiences with Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack. When a company has such an idealized reputation, these complaints are a threat to tear down what could be a house of cards. The old saying is a satisfied customer might tell three friends, while an unhappy customer will tell 20 friends. Today, unhappy customers post their terrible experiences on social media.

Succeeding in business today requires providing extraordinary experiences for customers and happy, enthusiastic employees to serve them. The Nordstrom Way is a worthwhile guidebook to adapt for your own business's philosophy.

Buy it at Amazon: The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Service Culture, 3rd Edition.

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