Now THAT’S Customer Service!

Last summer, my husband purchased a suit jacket at Nordstrom and he recently noticed that a seam was unraveling around the collar. Somehow, I managed to locate the receipt from six months ago and I headed to the store to see if they would consider altering the jacket. After I explained the issue, the Nordstrom’s representative filled out an alterations form and told me it would be ready tomorrow, without even glancing at my receipt (much to my dismay because I was very proud that I still had the receipt!). Shocked with quick turnaround, I asked what the charge would be – it was free.  

From its tiny beginnings as a single partnership shoe store, Nordstrom has grown into a retail and customer service dynasty. 

In Salem, Oregon, a customer called the Nordstrom store, “She has driven past the mall and had discovered when she got home that one of her hubcaps had fallen off.  ‘Was there anyone in Nordstrom,’ she asked, ‘who could check the road that ran past the mall to see if my hubcap was there?’  A Nordstrom employee did just that, found the hubcap, brought it back to the store, washed it, and notified the customer, who came in to pick it up.  ‘We love that story,’ said Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president of the company… ‘because it means people don’t just think of Nordstrom for buying things, they think of us as a place where they can find solutions.”  [The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence, Robert Spector and Patrick McCarthy]

The employee handbook of Nordstrom is reported to be a single notecard.  One side has a welcome message.  The other side states, “Our only rule: Use good judgment in all situations.”

If businesses are trying to become the “Nordstrom” of their industry, it begs the questions, who/what is the “Nordstrom” of local government?

In government, we do not have sales reports, commission checks, or quarterly investment reports that yield above 2%.  It is difficult to make the connection for the importance of customer service.  Do residents have another choice for a company to turn on their water?  No.  Do builders have another avenue for receiving a building permit?  No.  Does the lack of competition give leaders an excuse to not focus on customer service?  Perhaps. 

However, local government has the ability to deeply affect our customers on a daily basis.  The services that we provide are arguably the most important, basic services that a citizen receives – safety, water, sanitation, streets, codes, library, and recreation. 

It is our job to offer these services in the “Nordstrom” way – use good judgment and look for solutions. 

How is your organization operating in the “Nordstrom” way?



Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

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