Nordstrom's Customer Service Is The Definition of Above & Beyond

A Guy Walks into a Nordstrom…

Have you heard the story about the guy who walked into a Nordstrom store to return four snow tires?

Disclaimer: Don’t worry, this isn’t a story where we set you up for a punchline like one of those tired “three guys walked into a bar” jokes.

In 1975, a man returned to a store with four snow tires in the bed of his truck. He bought the tires at a tire shop several weeks before, and he needed to return them. But as he pulled up to the supposed-to-be tire shop where he purchased his tires, he discovered the tire shop was closed, and a Nordstrom was in its place.

Download Now: Learn more about which key trends are shaping today’s interactions for a better customer and employee experience. 

Most of us would assume the guy chucked his tires into the back of his truck and sped off into the distance. He probably drove away disappointed and frustrated about losing his money on a set of faulty tires. But, nope. That’s not what happened.

We’ll cut to the chase: after explaining his situation to a sales clerk, Nordstrom (a store that doesn’t sell tires, mind you) allowed him to return the tires, AND they refunded his money.

You might wince at the thought of refunding such an expensive purchase, especially for items that can’t be resold, but let’s remove the small financial blow from the equation. When we do, we’re left with one amazing truth: 43 years later, people are still telling this story. A lot of people, actually.

If you Google ‘Nordstrom tires,’ you get roughly 3,380,000 results. There are blog posts, forum threads, and news articles dedicated to the story. That single, phenomenal customer service experience gave Nordstrom decades of free publicity and word-of-mouth advertising. It’s a legendary customer service story, and it’s Nordstrom‘s to tell.

(If you’re skeptical that it’s true, several Nordstrom officials – and a book about Nordstrom – say, it is.)

Nordstrom’s Customer Service Heroes

Nordstrom has several policies to fasten capes to their representatives’ backs so they can be customer service heroes.

But why dig into those strategies with a slew of words when John Nordstrom said it best in one short statement?

“Our commitment is 100% to customer service. We are not committed to financial markets, we are not committed to real estate markets, we are not committed to a certain amount of profit. We are only committed to customer service. If we make a profit, that’s great. But customer service is first. If I’m a salesperson on the floor and I know that the people who own this place are committed to customer service, then I am free to find new ways to give great customer service. I know that I won’t be criticized for taking care of a customer. I will only be criticized if I don’t take care of a customer.
— John Nordstrom

Nordstrom is a towering testimony to the importance of empowering employees and supporting the policies that empower them to do what’s best for customers.

Nordstrom employees have the wiggle room they need to make snap decisions that benefit their customers. And they can unapologetically make those decisions without feeling like stepping outside the lines will earn them a pink slip from supervisors.

Check out some of the ways employee empowerment can make all the difference in delivering excellent customer service.

Going above and beyond to take care of customers is expected, encouraged, and praised above all else.

Nordstrom uses the power of fantastic customer service to remain a strong competitor in the retail space. And, they listen to their customers and use customer data to inform decisions about their service and better their customer experience. (More on that, over here).

People shop there because they can count on the service.

They’re known to have items that are even a bit pricey, too, yet people are willing to pay the premium for the incredible, consistent customer service experience they get.

With all the hype around Nordstrom’s customer service, you might wonder if it’s all talk and no walk. I mean, what does it take to have customer service that is truly legendary? Does empowering your employees really make that big of a difference?

We were curious, too, so we scoured review sites for examples of Nordstrom employees going above and beyond for customers.

Here are the top 5 reviews we found and what they taught us about good customer service.

Nordstrom demonstrating exceptional customer service


What we learned:

When you take responsibility for customer issues and get rid of their pain, it pays off. In fact, the Temkin Group found that 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors.

If you make sure the negative experience your customer had the first time around isn’t repeated, odds are you’ll get a leg up on your competitors.

Positive customer experiences earn customers for life

What we learned:

Customers remember the ease of their experience. Some 52% of users say a bad digital experience makes them less likely to do business with a company. And, according to Forrester, making it easy to navigate through a website increases conversion rates by up to 200%. The same goes for the ease of your customer experience and navigating through your service channels. Your policies and technology need to be user and customer-centric. When you focus on customer experience, you’ll grow your customer base.

Start with the technology in your contact center to support the best customer service experience, on every channel.

Watch this webinar on omnichannel service to see how you can build user-friendly omnichannel experiences in your contact center.


Nordstrom's customer service is consistently top notch

What we learned:

If your customer service experience is consistently fantastic, you’ll have customers who are endlessly loyal and think of your company above all others. A whopping 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. And, when they’re loyal, they’ll pay more for the quality.

Construct a better customer experience using data you already have in your contact center!

Nordstrom's customer service outpaces competitors'

What we learned:

Customers who have a great experience with you will tell their friends, neighbors, and anyone else willing to listen about their experience. And, customers who have a great experience are 5x more likely to purchase again and 4x more likely to refer a friend to the company.

Go above and beyond expectations to drive customer loyalty

What we learned:

Surprise and delight customers, and customers will be thrilled to share their memorable experiences. This customer was surprised by Nordstrom’s fast speed and better price compared to a competitor. Personalized customer service paves the path for positive, long-term customer relationships.

To back that with some stats, 80% of customers say they’re more likely to do business with a company who offers personalized experiences. Offering up professional tailoring in a tight timeframe for one of your loyal customers makes them feel valued and recognized. Customers who have a personalized experience will come back again and again.

Learn how to keep customers happy in a world with the highest expectations. 


A Legacy of Legendary Service

Nordstrom’s phenomenal customer service is simply legendary. They live employee empowerment and are dedicated to true customer happiness.

Are your customers walking away with a positive story to tell? It’s time to pick up the pen, and write the version you want people to share. Then, all your customers have to do is rave about it.

Learn what trends are shaping the contact center and today’s customer experience, so you can adopt them for better service. Hear it from Frost & Sullivan in their Buyers Guide.