John Nordstrom came to America at the age of 16, and after travels across the country, fortuitously found himself the co-owner of a shoe company in 1901. Three of his sons, Everett, Elmer, and Lloyd joined their father in the family business. The store experienced great success and growth over the years and eventually added apparel to their offerings in 1963 and debuted on the stock exchange in 1971. This meteoric rise from a small shoe store to a standard bearer of department stores was fueled by an intense focus on the customer experience.
In the early days of the Wallin & Nordstrom shoe store, this focus meant providing sizes to fit any and every customer. Today, this focus has evolved beyond providing quality shopping opportunities to the pursuit of providing the quintessential customer experience.
Hire the smile
Nordstrom’s first step in attaining this high level of service excellence is choosing employees whose personalities are in line with its goals. The saying “hire the smile, train the skill” is a telling guideline within the hiring process because the capacity to provide excellent service is not something every would-be employee will possess. Great value is also placed on choosing applicants that are comfortably themselves and exude sincerity.
Our people don’t have one look, one background, one culture. The common thread is they are themselves. They are genuine.” —Erik Nordstrom
For many years, Nordstrom employees were guided by a single principle: “Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations.” While the employee handbook has grown over the years to include more mundane policies, Nordstrom still expects each and every one of its employees to conduct themselves with this tenet in mind and gives its employees the freedom to act upon their own best judgement when caring for Nordstrom customers.
Encourage the entrepreneur
Nordstrom takes the approach that each of its employees is, in effect, an entrepreneur. Their interactions with their customers must be self-motivated by a desire to succeed not just on behalf of Nordstrom, but for their own betterment and the satisfaction of their customers. Through this mindset, Nordstrom employees are empowered to take ownership of their customers’ experiences.
We believe in an inverted pyramid where management is on the bottom and salespeople and customers are on the top.” —Blake Nordstrom
Without this dedication to customer service and the careful cultivation of an environment that fosters the natural abilities of its employees, Nordstrom would not be the great American success story that it is. From the bottom to the top — no matter which way the pyramid is laying — Nordstrom is filled with like-minded people who believe that the customer experience should be spectacular.