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Retail Customer Experience

What Everyone Can Learn from Nordstrom’s Customer Experience?

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Executive Vice President

Have you ever heard the story about a guy who walked into a Nordstrom store to return four snow tires?

Nordstrom Customer Service Story

In 1975, a man returned to a store with four snow tires in the bed of his truck. He bought the tires at a tire shop several weeks before and needed to return them. But as he pulled up to the supposed-to-be-tire shop where he purchased his tires, he discovered the shop was closed, and a Nordstrom was in its place.

Most of us would assume the guy chucked his tires into the back of his truck and sped off into the distance.

He probably drove away disappointed and frustrated about losing his money on a set of faulty tires. But, nope. That’s not what happened.

We’ll cut to the chase: after explaining his situation to a sales clerk, Nordstrom (a store that doesn’t sell tires) allowed him to return the tires, and they refunded his money.

You might wince at the thought of refunding such an expensive purchase, especially for items that can’t be resold, but let’s remove the small financial blow from the equation.

When we do, we’re left with one amazing truth: 48 years later, people are still telling this story. A lot of people, actually.

If you Google “Nordstrom tires,” you get roughly 26,20,000 results. There are blog posts, forum threads, and news articles dedicated to the story. That single, phenomenal customer service experience gave Nordstrom decades of free publicity and word-of-mouth advertising.

It’s a legendary customer service story, and it’s Nordstrom’s to tell.

Please check our article on automotive customer experience.

The Nordstrom Way

Staying in business for over 100 years is rare. Thriving in business for more than 100 years – in a competitive field – is even more so. Seattle-based Nordstrom has managed to pull this off.

The big idea of Nordstrom is being ready to say “yes” to customers, regardless of the request. With this approach, not only will you care for your customers, they’ll care for you as well.

Here are a few things you should take away from the Nordstrom experience.

Empowered Employees

The underlying philosophy of customer service is captured succinctly in Nordstrom’s 12-page code of conduct with this line:

Use your best judgment in all situations.

Here empowerment is not an add-on but a part of their job. Make it clear to your employees that it is their job to take creative action, without asking permission, to think up the right solutions to issues that a predetermined set of policies couldn’t fully encapsulate.

Keep It Personal

Nordstrom is a clothing store, so it becomes easy for employees to recommend what you should and should not wear. What if you are in any other business?

A simple and easy way would be to send promotions from an email address that can be actually replied to, have actual employees handle your online chats, and allow employees to respond authentically to customers rather than following scripts.

Bring in Digital Parity

Nordstrom brings digital parity to everything they do. Here is a simple example.

They’re eliminating the need to wait in line to pay; with their mobile technology, you can pay wherever you are – for example, as you are trying on shoes – without queueing up.

You don’t have to wait in line when you’re online to pay, so why should you have to in the physical world?

You should also follow a similar experience both offline and online, as your customers are used to it.

Set the Standards, and Improve

Usually, when you set the standards, they can only go down, is the famous saying.

In the case of Nordstrom, they have set the standards and strive to go beyond the set standards. They keep moving their standards goalpost up every moment.

Everything is done for the benefit of the customers. Always err in favor of the customers should be your philosophy.

Never have I seen a company that is customer-focused doing badly. Everything you do to improve your customer experience will come back to you in terms of additional customers, revenue, and increased customer lifetime value.

You can either do it modestly the way Nordstrom does it or the pompous way Zappos does it. There is no right or wrong way of doing it as long it is done for the benefit of your customers.

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