1: The woman who appeared in the Nordstrom shoe department had an unusual request. Would they sell her one shoe?  

She was on crutches because her left leg had been amputated from the knee down. She had been to other department stores, and the answer had always been no. 

“That request made them nervous and ill at ease,” she shares with Robert Spector and breAnne Reeves in The Nordstrom Way. “They would apologetically tell me that they could not do that. It was against the rules!”

This time the answer was different, “Absolutely,” said the Nordstrom saleswoman, charging her half the price.  

2: “When it comes to exploring new ways of improving its service and results, Nordstrom asks itself one simple but profound question: What would the customer want?” write Robert and breAnne.

“Nordstrom does not follow a strategy built around price, process, brand, technology, or any other corporate tactic or buzzword,” the authors note. “Everything Nordstrom does is viewed through the lens of the customer—and how it can improve the customer experience.”

“Selling clothes isn’t what we do,” says a retired Nordstrom executive. “It’s filling people’s needs and making them feel better emotionally.”

The story of selling one shoe is not only a great customer service story. It’s also a great long-term probability story. Assume the shoes in question cost $150. So, instead of a $150 sale, it was a $75 sale. So, Nordstrom is out $75.  

But, the woman has told her story to all her friends and family. Was that gesture worth $75 in advertising? Absolutely. Most importantly, the store has earned another long-term, loyal shopper. “I’ll always give Nordstrom my business,” says the woman on crutches.

“That’s why [Nordstrom] empowers its salespeople to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer,” write Robert and breAnne.

3: The question Nordstrom salespeople are encouraged to ask is: “Does this request pass the test of reasonableness,” says Chief Innovation Officer Geevy Thomas. “When viewed from the customer with one leg’s point of view, a request for one shoe at half price is a reasonable request!”

Nordstrom brings its “customer first” strategy to life through countless acts, large and small. Its annual report to shareholders always opens with this salutation: “Dear Customers, Employees, and Shareholders.” Note the order of importance.

Nordstrom officially opens at 10am. But, for years, the retailer has opened its doors at 9:50. Why? Because it wants to show customers, they value their time. “That small gesture satisfies an unexpressed need,” Robert and breAnne write, “After all, retail is detail.”  

Other examples? Nordstrom is continually speeding up its process of accepting returns. And respect for customers also applies to small children. “When working with a child who’s trying on footwear, a top salesperson advises, “Talk directly to the kid. Make the kid feel good. Don’t talk to the parent. The parent wants you to show respect to their kid. If we do a good job of making that kid feel good, it translates into so many other things, mainly sales.”

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Does my organization start every initiative and every discussion with the question: What would the customer want? If not, why not?

Action: Discuss my team or with a colleague.

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