Customer Before Company: Revolutionizing Your Real Estate 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 Real Estate Business the Nordstrom Way

    1. 1. Customer Before Company Revolutionizing Your Business the Nordstrom Way Maura Neill, CRS, ABR, CDPE, e-PRO, REALTOR®
    2. 2. WHAT IT MEANS Customer Before Company
    3. 3. “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
    4. 4. The Best Policy Ever!
    5. 5. The Best Policy Ever!
    6. 6. Nordstrom Employees: In Their Words “I’m a customer-oriented service person. You’re looking for something, and I’m determined I’m going to find it.”
    7. 7. 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.”
    8. 8. Nordstrom Employees: In Their Words “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.”
    9. 9. WHEN YOU’RE THE CUSTOMER Consider This:
    10. 10. Flying the Friendly Skies?  “My goal is to make you happy.” Photo credit: “Lady with Luggage” by digitalart on
    11. 11. Would you like being your own client?
    12. 12. {GROUP ACTION ITEM} Be the client.
    13. 13. 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?
    14. 14. {ACTION ITEM} Your last transaction.
    15. 15. HEROICS
    16. 16. 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 list Photo credit: “Rubber Stamp with VIP Word” by Stuart Miles on
    17. 17. Leigh Brown, CRS “I took an IOU on a commission on a house last year to keep the deal together and to keep my client from having to short sell. Strikingly enough, she paid me 11 months later. The other agent was flabbergasted.”
    18. 18. Dawn Thomas, CRS “Last month, one of our buyers brought in their own lender. Needless to say, a pretty straight- forward transaction on a jumbo loan went sideways and several delays, to the point the husband had to cancel his trip to Europe even though his wife was going to spend Christmas with family. I hate the idea of anyone being alone during the holidays, so I invited him to our house for a crab feast on Christmas Eve and movies the next day.”
    19. 19. Shannon Williams King “We flew a client from Australia on our dime prior to closing to make sure she liked the home - and was in person to sign her closing docs.” Note: this price point was $400,000.
    20. 20. Sasha Farmer, CRS “For the past 4 years I have kept a “sunshine fund” – at the end of each month I take 1% of my commission checks and put them into a separate small checking account. Inevitably, one of my clients will call a month or two after closing asking for a recommendation for a plumber because they have a sink leaking, or an electrician because they've blown a fuse, or HVAC because suddenly the AC isn't kicking in, or something unexpected has popped up. I have that extra little cushion of account that I can use at my discretion to offer some towards helping.”
    21. 21. Nobu Hata “I drove five hours for four signatures on a $125K relo deal for the nicest couple in the world. Incidentally, that same couple sent me a $15million commercial buyer.” Note: Nobu had to give away that $15million commercial buyer – referral fee-free – because he had already taken his new position at NAR.
    22. 22. Julie Beall, CRS “The house of a client burned down. They had just moved. They called me from the emergency room. They were new in town and knew no one. They only knew their REALTOR®. I offered them a place to stay. They lived with us for four months. I remember laying in bed the first night they were there thinking what the hell had I done to myself and my family. These people are now special friends in our lives.”
    23. 23. Jeremy Hart “Next time I'm feeling like real estate is full of arrogant a**holes, I'm coming back to read this post again. Full of awesome stuff.”
    24. 24. SMALL GESTURES
    25. 25. 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
    26. 26. 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  Simply being flexible
    28. 28. The Nordstrom Experience  Carefully choreographed customer experience  Ease of navigation  Improved comfort and familiarity  One-stop shopping  Local feeling In short:  They listened to the customer.
    29. 29. 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. Photo credit: “Multi Ethnic Team Indoors” by ambro on ~ Patrick McCarthy – top Nordstrom sales associate, 15 consecutive years
    30. 30. {GROUP ACTION ITEM} Create the experience.
    31. 31. Buyer/Seller Questionnaires
    32. 32. GOAL SETTING Client-centric
    33. 33. What Do Your Goals Look Like? What does your business plan measure? Transactions Volume Commissions Listings taken/listings sold Where is the client here?
    34. 34. 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.
    35. 35. {ACTION ITEM} Measurement.
    36. 36. Customer service redefined Social Media
    37. 37. The Personal Contract-to-Closing Facebook Group  Secret Facebook group for you and your client  Post video messages and reminders every step of the way  Better than a phone call because they can replay  Great with more than one person in the transaction – they each get the same message
    38. 38. The Personal Contract-to-Closing Facebook Group
    39. 39. Video: Face-to-Face Redefined Image courtesy of Ambro at • How are you already using video? • Where can you use video? • How can you make it personal?
    40. 40. Consumers and Video  Increase length of time they’re on your site  Increase your likelihood of being found  Build trust and credibility  Help potential clients feel like they know you
    41. 41. Consumers and Video  Increase length of time they’re on your site  Increase your likelihood of being found  Build trust and credibility  Help potential clients feel like they know you
    42. 42. What Do These Messages Say?  “I’m out of listings! Who wants to sell?”  “I’m in LOVE with my new listing!”  “Just wrote contracts today for 3 lucky buyers!”
    43. 43. How can your blog give better customer service?
    44. 44. Can Social Media = better customer service?
    45. 45. EARNING YOUR WORTH Commission
    46. 46. 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
    47. 47. 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?
    48. 48. What sets you apart?
    49. 49. HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY Taking a Page From the
    50. 50. Hospitality vs. Service “Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. [It] requires thoughtful listening to the other person, and follow-up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.” ~ Danny Meyer, restaurantuer
    51. 51. Turning Over the Rocks Photo credit: “Fly Fisherman Casting” by joe1642 on
    52. 52. 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”
    53. 53. What Do You Know About Your Clients? Raziel Ungar, CRS Create space in your CRM -OR- a spreadsheet where you can file information/jot notes about your clients Where can you find information/details?  Facebook  Your questionnaires  Your notes Notes, articles of interest, birthday/anniversary cards, phone calls, conversation starters
    54. 54. 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
    55. 55. Facebook Graph Search More about Graph Search:
    56. 56. What are they saying?
    57. 57. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. ~ Bill Gates
    58. 58. Client Reviews and Testimonials  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.”
    59. 59. Third-Party Review Sites
    61. 61. 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.”
    62. 62. Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. ~ Ross Perot
    63. 63. NAR’s 2012 Profile Said… 87% of clients were satisfied with their REALTOR® and would refer them again BUT Only 10% did. Why?
    64. 64. CO-OP(ERATION)
    65. 65. Is It Cooperation or Competition?  DO make it a win-win – you’re in this for the same reasons  DON’T make it personal  DO return calls, answer feedback requests, be available to answer questions,  DON’T be condescending, rude or otherwise embarrass yourself  DO remember that the way you interact with other agents can affect your clients’ outcome
    66. 66. Impact on the transaction? ...And future transactions?
    67. 67. WHY IT ALL MATTERS
    68. 68. Why Does It Matter?  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 People.
    69. 69. Final Thought: “If We Sell You Well, Tell Others. If Not, Tell Us.”
    70. 70. The Nordstrom Way The Inside Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company By Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy Recommended Reading
    71. 71. Setting the Table The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business By Danny Meyer Recommended Reading
    72. 72. Four Seasons The Story of a Business Philosophy By Isadore Sharp Recommended Reading
    73. 73. The New Gold Standard The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company By Joseph A. Michelli Recommended Reading
    74. 74. Photo credit: “Computer mouse, mousepad, hand” by Si1veryon Find This Presentation Online
    75. 75. Connect With Me