My Own Personal Nordstrom Story

Most of you have heard the legendary story about how someone returned a set of tires to Nordstrom, which they took back no questions asked.   It’s part of their legacy for legendary service and taking care of the customer.

A few months ago, I went to pick up two pairs of suit pants that were needed for a business trip starting the following day.  After 20 minutes, he asked if they could deliver them to my home later that evening, so I left the store and headed back to my office.  Around 5 pm, I received a phone call from Justin, the now exasperated (and embarrassed) manager who said they have searched everywhere, cannot find the pants, and asked if I could come in by 6 pm to be fitted for two new suits to replace the items they lost.   It was the last thing I needed that day, but what choice did I really have?


I got there at 6 pm and several suits were already in place for me to try on.  The store manager came over and apologized profusely, giving me her card and asking me to have dinner at the café on her.  “But I have ten children and they’re all hungry,” I exclaimed (note:  I was kidding).   “That’s fine, bring ‘em all,” she replied without missing a beat.   I left the store a short while later with two beautiful suits in hand;  they did not charge me for these suits and Justin exclaimed, “this is on us.”


In one sense, I was blown away.  I didn’t ask for or expect to be treated this way.  Yet this is how I would have handled it if in their situation.  And it only served to reinforce to me what is called The Nordstrom Way.  I now had my own personal “can you believe what Nordstrom did” story.


My appreciation for how Justin handled this only got greater when I had two other weird mishaps in the next few weeks.   The Ritz Carlton nearest us in Half Moon Bay is known for their Mothers Day Brunch.  It’s a buffet meant for people who don’t ever go to buffets.  The food was great, but the service was terrible.   And the Ritz Carlton is known for their service.    The manager politely said he would take care of the problem, but it took almost a week to hear back from his boss and get it resolved.     And I won’t go into great detail about Best Buy and the effort it took to get a remote control replaced that was under warrantly.  It took three trips to the store, two visits from the Geek Squad, and over two weeks.

In the hyperfast world of today, how fast you respond to a situation matters just as much as responding in the first place.  The lesson here for each of us is simple.  When something goes wrong for the customer, don’t just fix it.  Fix it fast.


Handled well, a customer’s issue can bond them even more to you and your business.   Handled slowly, a customer’s issue can bubble up into a bunch of negative feelings that forever affect how they perceive your business.


PS.  Justin called several days later to tell me they had found the suit pants and asked when I could come by to pick them up.   “Now you have four suits, and we are again so sorry for the inconvenience.”    Where do you think I’ll be buying clothes from now on?

PREMIUM PRACTICE TODAY: Avoiding Analysis Paralysis: How to Choose an EHR System


Selecting an EHR system is complicated for all of the same reasons it is beneficial: it affects every level of the practice.

For far too long, the health care industry has found itself exempt from the norms of customer service that are found across most other businesses. Electronic health records (EHRs) have the potential to help medical practices close the gap in this area by converting their paper records to digital charts. This month’s Premium Practice Today highlights several offices that have made the switch and offers their perspectives…


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Dad, what’s an Album?”

Dad what's an albumMy son, who received an iPOD last Christmas, innocently blurted this question as I was searching for specific music to load onto the device. Wow, how fast the world has changed! Indeed, it was a bit sobering for me to explain how recorded music has shifted from LP (long play) records to cassette tapes and now CDs. It was a mini-history lesson that was probably lost on him but really hit home with me. Today’s kids and young adults have never known a world without a personal computer, cell phone, DVDs, video games and even the iPOD (at least for the 7 year-olds like my son). They absorb technology like no generation before them; my kids routinely beat me on the Wii, and my daughter effortlessly set up my new MacBook laptop. I’m sure it’s the same for many of you as well.

As great as all this technology and gadgetry is, there’s a hidden cost emerging among all the podcasting and texting and video gaming that’s going on around us. It’s creating a lack of interaction skills where people actually talk and listen to other people. And it’s being felt throughout retailing and in any environment that requires customer service. Let me explain. According to Customer Service authority John DiJulius, today we have 1/20th the human interaction we had just twenty years ago. Think about it: we used to go to the movies, now we use Netflix. Full service gas stations have been replaced by pay-at-the-pump. Bookstores are being supplanted by, and bank tellers have given way to ATMs and online banking.

DiJulius summarizes it this way: twenty years ago we had workers with excellent people skills using marginal technology. Today we have workers with marginal people skills using excellent technology.

The problem results in an interesting dilemma. Today, we can’t automatically expect younger workers to know what it means to give world class customer service because they’ve never been trained in the “software” skills required to deliver it. They may understand the “hardware” (e.g., how to take an order) but lack the basic communication skills required to truly elevate the experience for the customer. Our kids may not know what a record album is (or was), but they and all younger workers need help developing the knowledge and talent to be able to provide world class service in their jobs and careers.

DiJulius’ latest book, “What’s the Secret? To Providing a World Class Customer Experience,” is an best seller and worth the read to learn how he addresses this problem with clients and in his own top-ranked salons. It’s an eye-opening account of the crisis in customer service and the revolution taking place among world-class companies to expand customer loyalty.

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Change, Anyone?

Change, Anyone?Making changes is a difficult task, especially if you go it alone.

For nearly 2 years, I’ve had the privilege of offering commentary on the changes in marketing and customer service that providers must make in order for refractive surgery to gain mainstream acceptance. As refractive technology reaches a new peak with fully customized solutions, the focus of physicians’ efforts should increasingly shift toward marketing…

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