Nordstrom is a publicly traded high-end retailer, known for excellent service, with revenues of about $9 billion a year.
Nordstrom’s employee handbook is so short and simple it can fit on an index card. It states:
“Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no other rules.”
Nordstrom salespeople are free to make their own decisions, although Nordstrom’s strong culture of putting the customer first provides a guiding light for all to steer by.
That customer-service culture is at the core of Nordstrom’s success. The entire system is organized in order to support that salesperson on the Nordstrom floor to help them deliver the best possible customer service. If Nordstrom stocks something, they will make every effort to stock it in every size available – they don’t want to disappoint a customer by not having something in their size.
Salespeople aren’t chained to a department like they are in other stores. If a salesperson wants to walk through the whole store to help her customer pick out clothes, shoes, cologne, and anything else, she can do that. A Nordstrom salesperson might stay in touch with customers by Twitter, email, or whatever else is convenient. The message to customers is: however you want to buy it, however you want to interact with us, we can do it that way.
Customers are encouraged to take things home and try them, and bring them back at any time. If you ask, “How long can I bring it back?” the answer you will hear is “forever.” And they mean it.
One Nordstrom customer said “What I love about Nordstrom is that if I want to browse by myself that’s fine, and if I want help people are there and happy to assist me.”
As you can imagine, customers love it.
“Nordstrom has the faith and trust in its frontline people to push decision-making responsibilities down to the sales floor, the Nordstrom shopping experience is “as close to working with the owner of a small business as a customer can get,” said Harry Mullikin, chairman emeritus of Westin Hotels. Nordstrom salespeople “can make any decision that needs to be made. It’s like dealing with a one-person shop.” From The Nordstrom Way: The Insider Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company by Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy.
Nordstrom culture demands that the employee put the customer before company or profit in all decisions. Nordstrom provides a platform, the store, and each employee is treated as an entrepreneur who can set up a business on the platform. With commissions, Nordstrom salespeople can make six figures yearly on a base wage as low as $11 an hour. One worker stated:
“The way I saw it, the Nordstroms were taking all of the risks and providing all of the ingredients-the nice stores, the ambiance, the high-quality merchandise-to make it work. All I had to do was arrive every morning prepared to give an honest day’s work, and to value and honor the customer.”
Nordstrom employees can offer the best service in the industry because every Nordstrom salesperson operates a business within the business, backed by the full support and resources of a Fortune 500 company.