Customer Service - How to Become the Next Nordstrom in 4 Simple Steps


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Ralphs is one of the largest grocery store chains in Southern California, and perhaps, in the entire country.

It has always been a middle-of-the-road operation. When I was a kid, I use to buy my Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia volumes there.

Recently, it has been transforming itself, at least that is, some of its units, into what it calls “Fresh Fare” stores. As the name suggests, there are more trendy and tasty eat-and-run items such as salad bar offerings, crab pasta, and a few exotic options as well.

To usher in the latest converted unit, Ralphs has been running some fetching specials in its circulars. Barbecue weather is around the corner, so I have been stocking up on great meat deals, and as I have I’ve noticed all of the clerks are attempting to be extra nice to customers.

But, as with any sudden rash of kindness that breaks out, it makes you wonder, especially if you are a customer service speaker, trainer, and consultant, as I am.

When the banners come down, and the specials are over, how long will Ralphs be able to maintain its cheery demeanor?

That is the secret, really, MAINTAINING the higher service levels that you have achieved long after the newness of a store or a business or a special sale or emerging product has worn off.

Just yesterday, I was speaking to a colleague at a semi-rural campus of California State University. She mentioned that locals think nothing of driving in their cars an hour or an hour and a half to reach a Nordstrom store because, as she put it with all the confidence in the world, “They know they’re going to be treated right. ”

That’s Nordstrom’s reputation: An enduring commitment to achieving customer satisfaction.

What would it take for Ralphs, or any other company, to join Nordstrom’s league?

We need to do four essential things:

(1) Monitor service behaviors and their impacts continuously. Detect when customers are treated right and leave happy.

(2) Measure carefully and objectively. Use video to replay the “nonverbal” elements of transactions, noting smiles, grimaces, and other “tells” on customers’ and employees’ faces.

(3) Manage service as an end in itself, not as a “nice” thing to deliver, but as the essential thing you’re delivering.

(4) Reward employees differentially based on their service efforts and impacts.

I can’t tell you whether Nordstrom is doing all of these things, and frankly I doubt it.

But if you want to elevate your reputation to theirs, follow these steps!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books and more than a thousand articles. His seminars and training programs are sponsored internationally and he is a top-rated faculty member at more than 40 universities. Dynamic, experienced, and lots of fun, Gary brings more than two decades of solid management and consulting experience to the table, along with the best academic preparation and credentials in the speaking and training industry. Holder of five degrees, including a Ph. D. from the Annenberg School For Communication at USC, an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and a law degree from Loyola, his clients include several Fortune 1000 companies along with successful family owned and operated firms across America. Much more than a “talking head, ” Gary is a top mind that you'll enjoy working with and putting to use. He can be reached at:


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