The customer is always Nordstrom’s |

The customer is always Nordstrom’s

Robert Spector will kick off the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau's "View from the Top" series with his address at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Vilar Center.

VAIL ” At Nordstrom, they figure you’re going to do stuff right and they leave you alone to do it.

As a corporate philosophy it’s not complicated, but it’s not easy either.

Best-selling author Robert Spector will be in town Wednesday to explain it when he kicks off the “View from the Top” educational series, sponsored by the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau.

Spector is a speaker and author of The Nordstrom Way, which breaks down the Nordstrom philosophy of customer service and details how the approach can be applied to virtually every type of organization.

View from the Top is a new VVCTB event series, which will continue throughout 2007, featuring topics of national and international interest.

Nordstrom employs around 50,000 people and finding them is not easy.

“Retail is a passionate business,” Jammie Baugh, vice president of human resources at Nordstrom, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Baugh has been with Nordstrom for three decades and still gets teary-eyed when a new store opens. That generally doesn’t happen with Wal-Mart.

People have written books about Nordstom’s service, people like Spector.

Workshops and lectures tout Nordstrom’s customer service, but it wasn’t always that way.

In his early days, Bruce Nordstrom regularly locked horns with customers who he thought were unreasonable. Obviously, that changed.

Most of it’s simple. Customers are escorted to the fitting rooms instead of being pointed in the general direction. After something is purchased, the bag is brought around to the customer and handed to them, instead of being pushed across a counter. Telephones are answered within three rings.

They send thank-you notes, they call customers when sought-after items arrive.

Nordstrom salespeople are paid on a draw and commission and are trusted to do what is right. The Nordstrom brothers said the best way to attract and retain self-starters was by paying them according to their ability.

Nordstrom believes that people will work hard when they are given the freedom to do their job the way they think it should be done, and when they can treat customers they way they like to be treated. Rules are bad, paperwork is worse and strict channels of communication are shackles.

“Without those shackles, Nordstrom people can operate like entrepreneurial shopkeepers,” Spector said.

People on the sales floor deal directly with the customers Nordstrom is trying to attract and keep. Sales people are free to accept returned merchandise, the most obvious illustration of the Nordstrom culture because it directly effects the public.

“Nordstrom’s unconditional money-back guarantee is designed for the 98 percent of customers who are honest,” said Spector.

While all this exceptional customer service is good for Nordstrom, the company lives under two basic tenets: 1. You are who you hire, 2. You take care of the people who take care of you.

Nordstrom’s employee profit-sharing retirement plan inspires motivation and encourages loyalty, Spector said. Because contributions are made to the plan directly from the company’s net earnings, employees have an incentive to be productive and cost-conscious.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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