Required Reading: Nordstrom's Class of Service
The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence
, published in 1996, has consistently been one of the best-selling backlist books on customer service, with more than 100,000 copies sold. The latest edition describes how Nordstrom earned its legendary reputation and reveals the principles behind its phenomenal customer service. The book is written for customer service managers and trainers, and authors Robert Spector and Patrick McCarthy provide training exercises, hiring questionnaires, and customer service development tools. They not only explain the principles of the customer-focused company, but also help readers implement them in any organization. It's the Nordstrom way. CRM magazine's Colin Beasty spoke with Spector about the latest version of the book.
The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence is almost ten years old. What do you think is one of the reasons for its continued success?
I think the main reason is that after all is said and done, the company with the greatest reputation for customer service in the United States continues to be Nordstrom. Even though Nordstrom has experienced some ups and downs during this decade period, I think with the current management over the last four years they have really leveled the ship. But it goes beyond retail to any business. I do a lot of speaking. I speak with every group you can imagine and all around the world. Many of these groups or companies only have an inkling of what Nordstrom really is, yet they all say they want to be the Nordstrom of their industry. Nordstrom is still the gold standard for customer service and if people say they want to be the Nordstrom of their industry, everybody knows what that means.
The introduction of the book starts with what managers can do to create a Nordstrom-style service. What do you mean by that?
After you boil it down to its essence, it's all about thinking like the customer. It's empowering your front-line people to give great customer service. It's giving the people on the front line the freedom to make decisions, and management supports them in those decisions. That's the key. I mean, let's be honest, customer service is simple stuff. Every one of us is an expert on customer service. We all know how we expect to be treated; we know what's good service and bad service. We don't need somebody who works in customer service to explain it to us. So why is it so hard for companies to give great customer service? They don't think like the customer, they don't put themselves in the shoes of the customer. They're thinking more about their own organization, processes, and rule book the way it's always been done. Most companies want to make life easier for themselves as opposed to the customer.
What was changed in this edition from previous ones?
It's really in many ways a brand new book. This book is a combination of the original book, the Lessons From the Nordstrom Way book, and a lot of new material. The chapters aren't the same. It's essentially a hybrid of what we've done so far. It's a total reworking of the material. There are brand new chapters. The training activities are totally new. There are new interviews with the Nordstrom management.
What will readers find most interesting about this book?
Any organization can use this material to become the Nordstrom of their industry. What that takes is courage, dedication, and the fact that customer service isn't a strategy, but rather a way of life. A couple of years ago a company called me to speak to the organization because [that year] they were focusing on customer service. That [begs] the question: What were you emphasizing last year and what are you going to emphasize next year? At Nordstrom, it's a realization that they're not in the apparel business, shoe business, or cosmetic business, they're in the customer business.
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