Im Taking a Lesson From Nordstroms

written on August 11, 2008 by Jeanne Bluffstone

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It's all about the Customer!  I called Nordstrom's a few days ago, and as the phone rang I thought through my options: should I press the key for the item, the department, or the directory?  I wasn't sure.  Perhaps I will need to press "0" for the operator, I thought.

Nordstrom's answered and I waited for inevitable list of recorded options.  Silence.  Then the voice again, "This is Nordstrom's how may I help you?"  A voice?  A real voice?  A real live person?  I was shocked. My bank -who already has my money-- closed their drive-through window and replaced it with an ATM  to save the cost of an extra employee, and Nordstrom's, who doesn't have my money yet, pays a real person to answer their telephone.  That is telling, isn't it?  To the bank I'm a dollar sign, they don't care what I want or need.  To Nordstrom's I'm a person.

It did make me think.  Do we sometimes take our customers for granted?  Nordstrom's obviously doesn't.  They try to earn our business every single day. No doubt you have heard the store of the customer who returned his snow tires for a refund -- and got it, as the story goes -- although Nordstrom doesn't carry tires.  True or not, that is the perception of Nordstrom's, a place where customers come first.  I've never seen a sign on the wall saying, "Customer is King," but I know it by the way I am treated.

There's more to the story.  When I went to Nordstrom's to make my purchase the store was closing.  The doors to the mall were already locked and I was parked on the far side of the mall lot.  As she handed me my purchase the sales clerk asked, "Would you like security to bring a cart and drive you to your car?"  What?  A real person on the telephone and delivery service to my car?  Incredible!  I decided to walk, but the offer still lingers in my memory.   How special was that?

We, as small businesses have a real opportunity to exceed customer expectations.  We are, or should be, close to the marketplace, knowing our competitors and what they offer, and striving constantly to be ahead of the game. We can respond quickly and dramatically to meet customer needs and we can deliver personalized service.   That is our competitive advantage.

I try to keep that in mind constantly that it's about them, not me:

  • What are the goals of my customers today, and how will help them reach those goals?
  • What do they need now that they don't know they need?
  • Who are their competitors and can I do for my customers so their customers know they are different and better?
  • What will they need next and haven't thought about yet?

Regardless of whether you are a service business, a manufacturer, or a retailer, remembering IT'S ALL ABOUT THEM enables us to do what's best for our customers and ultimately ourselves.

I'll share a little story with you now - many years ago, when I was new in business, a potential new client questioned my higher rate and compared it to others in similar businesses which had lower rates.  Undaunted, (I have no idea where I got the courage) I retorted, "But, you get me, my experience, and my best efforts."  Enough said.  We worked together for many years.

When my clients buy my services, that's what they know they are getting - ME -- and I remind them of that by constantly searching for new ways to delight them with my efforts. 

As a service business, all I have to share is my expertise, experience and my drive.  If I don't give my clients my all, I have nothing of value to offer.

Suggested reading:           

The New Gold Standard:  5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Company

The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence:  A Handbook for Implementing Great Service in Your Organization