The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence | Robert Spector

Summary of: The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook for Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry
By: Robert Spector


Welcome to the fascinating world of Nordstrom – a brand synonymous with unparalleled customer service. In ‘The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence’, Robert Spector explores the company’s secret sauce for winning the hearts of its customers. By giving employees the freedom to make decisions and embarking on a unique business structure, Nordstrom has fostered an environment that thrives on entrepreneurial spirit and high personal standards. As you dig into the book summary, you will uncover the unrivaled customer service, the inverted pyramid corporate structure, and how Nordstrom nurtures and rewards its employees, all while celebrating their ‘heroic acts’. Master the art of empowering employees and nurturing customer-centric values, and become the ‘Nordstrom’ of your industry.

The Nordstrom Culture

Nordstrom, a retail company differentiates itself from others by giving its employees the freedom to make decisions and the encouragement to provide unmatched customer service. The Nordstrom Employee Handbook reinforces this ethos through a single rule; “Use your good judgment in all situations.” With this attitude, Nordstrom fosters an entrepreneurial spirit among its staff and motivates them to perform heroic acts of customer service. The company’s liberal return policy, coupled with its decision to empower workers to accept merchandise returns and make independent decisions, contribute to its exceptional service. H owever, not everyone can perform at Nordstrom’s high standards, as employees must thrive in an unrestricted environment to succeed.

The Rise of Nordstrom

In 1901, John Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin opened a shoe store, stocking medium-sized shoes based on the advice of salesmen. But they soon realized that these shoes weren’t large enough for their Swedish friends and filled their inventory with a larger variety of styles and sizes. Today, Nordstrom is still known for packing its sales area with a high value of inventory per-square-foot. The store’s customer service culture puts its reputation at the top, with employees who prioritize customer satisfaction above company profits. In the words of the author, Nordstrom has become the standard by which other companies measure themselves.

Nordstrom’s Customer-Centric Culture

Nordstrom’s operational and bottom-line responsibility empowers its salespeople and managers to operate like entrepreneurial shopkeepers instead of minor players within a retailing giant. The sales floor staff is given the freedom to accept returned merchandise, even if the customer is at fault. The company’s inverted pyramid corporate structure prioritizes customers and employees, where the sales and support staff sits directly below customers. Nordstrom emphasizes its policy of never hiring managers from outside and salespeople are free to sell merchandise from any department in the store. These practices result in their customer-centric culture that favors the customer before the company and encourages going above and beyond for customer satisfaction.

Nordstrom’s Sales-Floor Policy

Nordstrom is known for its emphasis on customer service. The company’s sales-floor policy demonstrates how seriously it takes this. Every employee, including management, starts on the sales floor as a salesperson. The company values the salesperson’s role highly and recognizes its critical importance. Managers are responsible for ensuring that the sales team is adequately trained, coached, evaluated and that it serves customer needs. They spend much of their work time on the sales floor, inspiring the sales staff and leading by example. Micromanagement is discouraged, and frontline sales staff are considered lieutenants rather than foot soldiers when management sets the tone. Nordstrom managers prefer to manage expectations, not individuals, and encourage their staff to reach those expectations fully. Salespeople are expected to have extensive knowledge of the product. By treating sales staff as critical team members, Nordstrom has built a reputation for excellent customer service. The company’s leaders have succeeded in keeping the sales-floor policy alive for generations.

Nordstrom’s Decentralized Buying Structure

Nordstrom’s unique buying structure allows regional buyers to purchase merchandise that reflects local tastes, providing the company with the ability to take fashion-forward risks without compromising profitability. They receive feedback from salespeople and customers by spending time on the sales floor, allowing them to quickly adjust their merchandise choices. The company’s decentralized structure also gives smaller vendors a chance to break into the industry. Nordstrom empowers its employees to make decisions and offer an unconditional money-back guarantee to customers who are honest. While the system has been modified to limit costly mistakes, it remains an innovative model that prioritizes customer feedback and regional preferences.

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