1: Among the paperwork new Nordstrom associates receive on their first day of work is a single notecard entitled “Employee Handbook.”

“Our One Rule: Use good judgment in all situations.”

That’s it.  That’s the handbook.  

“This simple, straightforward directive is the foundation upon which The Nordstrom Way is built because it removes the roadblocks to taking care of the customer,” write Robert Spector and breAnne Reeves in their book, The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Service Culture.

“The minute you come up with a rule, you give an employee a reason to say no to a customer.  That’s the reason we hate rules.  We don’t want to give an employee a reason to say no to a customer.  Our people are judged on performance, not on obedience to orders,” said former Nordstrom co-chairman Jim Nordstrom.

2: Step one: Hire the right people.  Step two: Empower them.

Nordstrom believes in empowering its associates to use good judgment to solve the customer’s issue.  Right then.  Right now.  

Great customer service does not come from a list of policies, rules, and procedures.  Instead, Nordstrom believes excellence in customer service is built on empowerment and trust.  “We have a great chance of succeeding if everyone feels that they are in an environment that trusts them,” said former co-president Blake Nordstrom.

In his Harvard Business Review article “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Paul Zak found associates in high‐trust organizations are more productive, have more energy, collaborate better, and are more loyal to their employers.
High‐trust companies hold their associates accountable and treat them like responsible adults.  “Managers always stress to new hires the importance of trusting their customer, and that if they are ever in doubt, they are empowered to err on the side of the customer,” note Robert and breAnne.  “Slipups, blunders, or errors are not fatal at Nordstrom, where they believe that mistakes can be transformed into opportunities.”

3: The key to making this work?  Promptly admitting mistakes and quickly rectifying them.  Doing so strengthens and deepens our relationships.

Nordstrom “continues to prove that an approach and philosophy that constantly emphasizes, recognizes, illustrates, and rewards the value of trust has created a foundation for loyalty and longevity,” write Robert and breAnne.  “Trust is not a strategy.  Trust is how and why we live our lives—both personally and professionally,”

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Are the rules in your organization getting in the way of how you interact with your customers?

Action: Revisit those rules to see if they are still relevant and essential to how our organization functions.

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