Customer Before Company: Revolutionizing Your Business The Nordstrom Way


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The Nordstrom department store is legendary for exemplary customer service: from the earliest beginnings of Nordstrom, a sign hung from the ceiling that read, “If We Sell You Well, Tell Others. If Not, Tell Us.” Well known for putting customer over company, Nordstrom salespeople are empowered from above to always make it right for the customer. With lessons that can be useful for solo agents, team leaders, and brokers alike, Nordstrom’s business philosophies easily translate into the real estate industry. By taking a page out of the Nordstrom book, from practical translation of the Nordstrom way into customer relationships to incorporating the Nordstrom beliefs into our personal values systems, we can revolutionize our businesses and our industry. Take a closer look at how to:

- Put Nordstrom’s ”customer before company” philosophy into practice – in a written mission statement and/or company policy (personal and/or brokerage) – to maximize the customer experience, focusing on service rather than commission.
- Strive to nurture the long-term relationship. Nordstrom’s top salespeople don’t go straight for the sale: one sale equals one commission; one relationship equals a lifetime of business.
- Recognize the importance of follow-through and incorporate it into your daily routine.
- Decipher the Nordstrom mystique and make it work for your real estate business.

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  • How much do you think about the customer experience when YOU are the customer?
  • As usual, when I create a course or a workshop like this one, I like to turn to my friends – many of whom are CRSs and are here at SAB. When I asked for examples of things they do that put the customer first, I expected a list of things they do every day – such as get a clients’ music preferences and create a playlist or find a satellite radio station that matched for a long day of househunting or finding out the restaurant preferences of an out-of-town client and creating a list of restaurants they may like while in town for their househunting trip. But when they answered, I found some pretty inspiring stories, what Nordstrom would refer to as “heroics”.
  • Nordstrom recognizes its employees “Heroics” through a Weekly V.I.P. Club and Employee of the Month. Heroics are described as employees who go above and beyond for the customer – not just for employee sales performance and commission earning. EXAMPLES. However, for us, as mostly independent contractors who frequently work alone or on small teams (at least much smaller than a giant department store), when do we have opportunities for heroics?
  • Of course, every opportunities for “Heroics” are probably few and far between. And thankfully so. However, every client and every transaction has room for “simple pleasures,” those unique touches you can add to really set your service apart from others’.
  • Beginning in the late 1970s, Nordstrom began renovating their stores to create a more inviting experience. They widened the aisles, changed the lighting, designed departments based on the lifestyles of those who shopped there and gave those departments their own unique décor and feel, added coffee shops and restaurants, made fitting rooms larger and improved the lighting, even featured the works of local artists, live music, and The goal was a feeling of utmost convenience and openness, to attract the customer to linger longer and, therefore, buy more.
  • Customer Before Company: Revolutionizing Your Business The Nordstrom Way

    1. 1. Customer Before CompanyRevolutionizing Your Business the Nordstrom WayMaura Neill, CRS, ABR, CDPE, e-PRO, REALTOR® @MauraNeill
    2. 2. On Twitter?Tweet along… @MauraNeill @CRSConnect #SAB13 @MauraNeill
    3. 3. Customer Before CompanyWHAT IT MEANS @MauraNeill
    4. 4. “The only thing we have going for us is the way we take care of our customers.” ~ John Nordstrom, on what sets Nordstrom apart from the competition
    5. 5. Nordstrom Employee Handbook5” by 8” card that reads: WELCOME TO NORDSTROM We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
    6. 6. Nordstrom Employees: In Their Words “If it’s not nailed down, I’ll find it for a customer. I don’t make commission on [everything], but it’s part of the service I provide.” “I’m a customer-oriented service person. You’re looking for something, and I’m determined I’m going to find it.” “Never judge a book by its cover. If you treat the kid who is buying a $19.95 belt the same as a businessman buying a $1,995 Oxford suit, you will be successful. That kid might become a customer for life.”
    7. 7. Consider This:WHEN YOU’RE THE CUSTOMER @MauraNeill
    8. 8. Flying the Friendly Skies? My flight to Sell-a-Bration: Flight attendant #1: “I don’t know. Why don’t you check the back of the plane?” Flight attendant #2: “Come with me. I think I have a place for your bag up in first class.” “My goal is to make you happy.”Photo credit: “Lady with Luggage” by digitalart on
    9. 9. Would you like being your own client?
    10. 10. Be Your Own Client What would be important to you if you were on the other side of the client relationship? When is attention to your personal needs/personality most important to you? What expectations would you have at every step in the process? Do you fulfill those items for your own clients, every transaction, every time?
    11. 11. ACTION ITEMThink back over your last closed transaction:What would you say about yourself, if you were theclient giving feedback or writing a testimonial.Be honest – what would you say?Based on the experience you gave that client…would you refer YOU?
    12. 12. HEROICS @MauraNeill
    13. 13. Nordstrom: Heroics  Weekly V.I.P. Club and Employee of the Month – recognizes sales AND going above and beyond  Examples:  warming up a customer’s car in winter  taking an order over the phone and bringing merchandise to the curb when customer arrives  driving a customer’s airline tickets to them at the airport when they left them behind at the store  Employees encouraged to “report” the heroics of others – circulated in a weekly printed heroics listPhoto credit: “Rubber Stamp with VIP Word” by Stuart Miles on
    14. 14. Leigh Brown, CRS“I took an IOU on a commission on ahouse last year to keep the dealtogether and to keep my client fromhaving to short sell. Strikingly enough,she paid me 11 months later. The other agentwas flabbergasted.”
    15. 15. Dawn Thomas, CRS“Last month, one of our buyersbrought in their own lender.Needless to say, a pretty straight-forward transaction on a jumbo loan wentsideways and several delays, to the point thehusband had to cancel his trip to Europe eventhough his wife was going to spend Christmas withfamily. I hate the idea of anyone being aloneduring the holidays, so I invited him to our house fora crab feast on Christmas Eve and movies the nextday.”
    16. 16. Shannon Williams King“We flew a client from Australia onour dime prior to closing to makesure she liked the home - and was inperson to sign her closing docs.”Note: this price point was $400,000.
    17. 17. Sasha Farmer, CRS“For the past 4 years I have kept a “sunshinefund” – at the end of each month I take1% of my commission checks and put theminto a separate small checking account.Inevitably, one of my clients will call a month or two afterclosing asking for a recommendation for a plumberbecause they have a sink leaking, or an electricianbecause theyve blown a fuse, or HVAC because suddenlythe AC isnt kicking in, or something unexpected haspopped up. I have that extra little cushion of account that Ican use at my discretion to offer some towards helping.”
    18. 18. Nobu Hata“I drove five hours for four signatureson a $125K relo deal for the nicestcouple in the world. Incidentally,that same couple sent me a $15millioncommercial buyer.”Note: Nobu had to give away that $15millioncommercial buyer – referral fee-free – because he hadalready taken his new position at NAR.
    19. 19. Julie Beall, CRS“The house of a client burneddown. They had just moved. Theycalled me from the emergency room.They were new in town and knew no one. They onlyknew their REALTOR®. I offered them a place to stay.They lived with us for four months. I rememberlaying in bed the first night they were there thinkingwhat the hell had I done to myself and my family.These people are now special friends in our lives.”
    20. 20. Jeremy Hart, Future CRS “Next time Im feeling like real estate is full of arrogant a**holes, Im coming back to read this post again. Full of awesome stuff.”
    21. 21. SMALL GESTURES @MauraNeill
    22. 22. Some Examples of Small Gestures Creating playlists that match your clients’ music preferences for a day of househunting in the car Research restaurants that fit an out-of-town client’s favorites while in town (especially for clients with special dietary needs!) Make your closing gifts personal, instead of “one-size-fits-all” Creating video previews of homes at the top of your out-of-town clients’ lists – OR – visiting a property to FaceTime with a client on their lunchbreak
    23. 23. Some Examples of Small Gestures Creating a private Facebook group for each transaction to share updates/reminders with that client “Giving away the milk for free” – giving consumers the information they want to build trust and credibility Being flexible
    24. 24. ACTION ITEMS Make a list of things you already do that truly set you apart from other agents in your market What are three things you can add to your list to make each client’s experience with you exemplary? What questions can you ask in your buyer and seller initial consultations to glean more information to help you personalize your service?
    25. 25. CREATING THE EXPERIENCE @MauraNeill
    26. 26. The Nordstrom Experience Carefully choreographed customer experience Ease of navigation Improved comfort and familiarity One-stop shopping Local feelingIn short: They listened to the customer.
    27. 27. The “We” Experience “The more information I have…the better I can serve the customer…This isn’t just my deal. It’s not an “I” experience; it’s a “we” experience.~ Patrick McCarthy – top Nordstrom sales associate, 15 consecutive years
    28. 28. Buyer/Seller Questionnaires
    29. 29. ACTION ITEM: Create the ExperienceBeyond your market knowledge and your realestate experience, the client experience is yourvalue proposition.Outline your client experience, from beginning toend, for every type of client.Design the experience to match your personality –and the type of client you serve.Create buyer and seller questionnaires online –have them filled out before your appointment
    30. 30. Client-centricGOAL SETTING @MauraNeill
    31. 31. What Do Your Goals Look Like?What does your business plan measure?TransactionsVolumeCommissionsListings taken/listings soldWhere is the client here?
    32. 32. Incorporate Client-centric Goals Happily Closed Clients Incoming Testimonials Referrals from Past Clients*Doesn’t have to be warm & fuzzy, but focusing on these things can help you stay focused more on your clients and less on yourself.
    33. 33. CommissionEARNING YOUR WORTH @MauraNeill
    34. 34. Proving the Difference Nordstrom considers its culture to be the key element that separates them from the competition:  Employee autonomy  Customer first mentality  Lack of rules limiting employees’ ability to serve Salespeople take a true interest in the customer Money-back guarantee/return policy – truly sets them apart
    35. 35. You vs. Them What’s your value proposition? Do you even know? What’s your “money-back guarantee”?  Easy-exit listing agreement  Easy-exit buyer brokerage agreement  How else do you offer a guarantee?
    36. 36. ACTION ITEMS Write down what sets you apart from others. Be specific. On which items do you focus when meeting with buyers? Sellers? How do you communicate those items that set you apart so that the potential client becomes a client?  In the initial Buyer Consultation?  In the Listing Appointment?  Throughout the process?
    37. 37. Taking a Page From theHOSPITALITY INDUSTRY @MauraNeill
    38. 38. Hospitality vs. Service“Service is the technical delivery of a product.Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makesits recipient feel. Service is a monologue – wedecide how we want to do things and set our ownstandards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand,is a dialogue. [It] requires thoughtful listening to theother person, and follow-up with a thoughtful,gracious, appropriate response. It takes both greatservice and great hospitality to rise to the top.” ~ Danny Meyer, restaurantuer
    39. 39. Turning Over the Rocks Think like a fly fisherman Look for the story behind the story Collect the dots Give your clients a feeling of “shared ownership”
    40. 40. What Do You Know AboutYour Clients?Raziel Ungar, CRSCreate space in your CRM -OR- aspreadsheet where you can fileinformation/jot notes about your clientsWhere can you find information/details?  Facebook  Your questionnaires  Your notesNotes, articles of interest, birthday/anniversarycards, phone calls, conversation starters
    41. 41. Keeping Client Records Expand your database – vertically not horizontally  Add details about your current/past clients instead of cold leads  Depth and details instead of volume Take notes – after meetings, during phone calls, as you think of them Facebook Graph Search
    42. 42. Facebook Graph Search
    43. 43. INSPIRING LOYALTY @MauraNeill
    44. 44. Follow-Through Thank You Note: “Even if it’s the tenth time I’ve waited on that customer, I don’t thank him for his business; I thank him for his loyalty.”  Nordstrom provides its employees with free thank you notes – plus address labels, postage, etc. – and encourages them to use them daily! Follow-Up Call: “Ninety percent of the time, they’re so stunned that you called, they remember you.”
    45. 45. NAR’s 2012 Profile Said… 87% of clients were satisfied with their REALTOR® and would refer them again BUT Only 10% did. Why?
    46. 46. WHY IT ALL MATTERS @MauraNeill
    47. 47. Why Does It Matter? People. We’re in the business of helping people The “depressed market” didn’t weed out the bad agents, it just forced them into hibernation It’s about more than just commissions
    48. 48. Final Thought: “If We Sell You Well, Tell Others. If Not, Tell Us.”
    49. 49. Recommended ReadingThe Nordstrom WayThe Inside Story of America’s#1 Customer ServiceCompanyBy Robert Spector and Patrick D.McCarthy
    50. 50. Recommended ReadingSetting the TableThe Transforming Power ofHospitality in BusinessBy Danny Meyer
    51. 51. Find This Presentation Online credit: “Computer mouse, mousepad, hand” by Si1veryon
    52. 52. Connect With Me