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?

CLEO 2012 (Optical Society of America)

May 9, 2012 (San Jose, CA)

Speaking | “Femtosecond Technology Comes of Age in Ophthalmology”

During the past decade, the femtosecond laser has emerged to become widely used in refractive surgery.  This process began with LASIK and now continues with cataract surgery, the two most widely performed surgical procedures (elective surgery and traditional surgery, respectively) in the US and likely worldwide.  This talk will review the history of commercialization of this technology.

Panel Description:

The introduction of femtosecond lasers to improve vision has revolutionized refractive correction. At first, the laser was only being used to create the flap for LASIK.  However, present systems cut the flap and perform the refractive correction. The most exciting development this year is the FDA approval of femtosecond lasers capable in aiding the treatment of cataracts, which requires much deeper incisions. This session will host the pioneers that have made these advances possible, discuss needed technological improvements and provide a sense of future innovations.

More details at:


In The Media:

[learn_more caption=” City Recognizes CLEO Conference For Major Economic Benefit To San Jose”]

Conference will generate over $15.5 million in visitor spending through 2014

3 May, 2012 23:58 CET | NEWS RELEASE

SAN JOSE, CA (May 3, 2012) –The City of San Jose is declaring May 7-13 “CLEO: 2012 Week” in recognition of the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) show. The convention brings a welcomed annual $5.2 million shot in the arm for the local economy. CLEO will return to San Jose in 2013 and 2014 attracting approximately 5,000 attendees annually, which Team San Jose estimates will generate 20,417 room nights, 15,000 visitors to San Jose and $15.5M visitor spending over three years…

CLEO: 2012 will deliver exclusive programming for attendees, including 146 presentations from

California researchers, presenters and companies including:

  • Steven DenBaars of the University of California, Santa Barbara is a featured keynote speaker at the Plenary Session Tuesday, May 8.
  • Eli Yablonovitch and Owen Miller of the University of California, Berkeley, will present their work on a new record for solar cell efficiency Friday, May 11 at 10:30 a.m. See: “The Solar Cell that Also Shines: Luminescent ‘LED-type’ Design Breaks Efficiency Record, Illuminates 50-Year Mystery.”
  • Yuji Zhao of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center at the University of California Santa Barbara will present on “Conquering LED Efficiency Droops: Overcoming Mysterious Phenomenon Could Lead to Affordable LED Lighting,” Thursday, May 10 at 5 p.m.
  • Shareef Mahdavi of SM2 Strategic in Pleasanton, Calif. will speak at the Market Focus program on Tuesday, May 8 on the history and commercialization of femtosecond lasers for ophthalmology applications.
  • Mark Kasevich of Stanford University will be a keynote speaker at the Technology Transfer Program on Thursday, May 10, where he will address the evolution of atom de Broglie wave interferometers, which are used in geodesy, security, and navigation. Aydogan Ozcan of UCLA will also speak at the Technology Transfer Program on telemedicine applications.
  • Stanford University’s Robert Byer, Joseph Goodman, Steven Harris, James Harris, Thomas M. Baer, and Caltech’s Amnon Yariv will be presenting on Sunday, May 6 at the Anthony E. Siegman Memorial Symposium and Reception.
  • CLEO will feature other speakers from California universities and companies, including the Stanford PULSE Institute, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, Caltech, Alcatel-Lucent, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
  • Participating California exhibitors in the CLEO: Expo Technology Playground include BNC Scientific, Calmar Laser, Coherent, CVI Melles Griot, Newport Corp., and more.

Read more here: [/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”CLEO:2012: Femto is fierce for cataract surgery”] May 8, 2012 10:18 PM by Lee Mather — At CLEO:2012, happening this week in San Jose, CA, one of the show’s Market Focus talks focused on the future offemtosecond lasers in cataract surgery, led by moderator Marcos Dantus (BioPhotonic Solutions; MI), whose company’sfemtoAdaptiv femtosecond laser won this year’s CLEO/Laser Focus World Innovation Award; Arturo Chayet, MD, of the Codet Vision Institute (Mexico)–the first to ever perform all-laser LASIK surgery; Wayne Knox of the University of Rochester (NY); and Shareef Mahdavi of SM2 Strategic (CA).

Mahdavi stated in his portion of the talk that out of the 70% of procedures that use lasers, 30-40% use femtosecond lasers. As of 12/31/11, 46 of these lasers have been installed in the U.S., with more than 50% of them being used in the clinical space–a pretty powerful statistic to prove that this technology is becoming more and more accessible. What’s more, 92% of those who use it recommend it, says Mahdavi.

Read more here: [/learn_more]


Book Shareef Mahdavi To Speak

Laser Cataract Surgery: the Next New Thing in Ophthalmology

Laser Cataract Surgery: the Next New Thing in Ophthalmology


Mainstream consumers’ experiences foster more rapid adoption across the spectrum of technological innovation, including what you have to offer as an eye surgeon.

Consumer trends, as well as ophthalmology’s own experience with elective procedures, strongly suggest that surgeons should get involved. The question is, when? Now is the right time to begin thinking and planning, as manufacturers are building their capacity to deliver the devices. Eventually, this technology will make its way into everyone’s community. There are still many questions, such as which laser platform is the best, how much will it cost, where will the surgery be performed, which patients qualify, and how much should patients be charged? This is an emerging field; answers will become clear in the coming months, and they will evolve as we learn more about how best to integrate this technology into the practice. The earliest customers will pave the way, and their experiences will help all interested surgeons plan accordingly.

Date: February 2011 – Length | 6:30 minutes

Book Shareef Mahdavi To Speak

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.

Download the full article


Ideas In Action: Pianos, Ice Cream and You

April 2007

Pianos, Ice Cream and You

The big “E”

The Fine Print


You might not have put this together, but Steinway (the legendary piano maker) and Cold Stone (the fast growing ice cream chain) have a lot more in common than many realize. Both have some unique approaches to satisfying customers and building their business brands. Both have built their reputations without advertising (one over the past 150 years, the during the past 5).


Pianos, Ice Cream and You

When you buy a Steinway, one of the benefits is that the company arranges a concert by a pianist in your home. You pick the date, give them the guest list, and they take care of the rest. You enjoy a neat experience and get to impress your guests. And you know who ends up becoming a future Steinway customer? The guests! Now, that’s clever marketing!

When you go to Cold Stone, an ice cream cone easily runs five bucks or more. Flavor sampling is encouraged, and you get to customize your order with goodies that get mixed in before your eyes on a cold slab of granite. The teenage scoopers sing for tips. It’s a brief performance dubbed “eatertainment” that has people standing in long lines on hot nights. Again, very clever marketing.

What these two examples have in common is something we should all pay attention to, namely the customer experience. Whether we’re dealing in high-end pianos or passion fruit sorbet, the path to differentiating our offering and commanding premium prices is through the delivery of over-the-top experiences to our customers.


The big “E”

Welcome to debut of Ideas in Action, a newsletter designed to stimulate your thinking and help you continuously improve the experience you offer your customers. The inspiration for doing this comes from 20 years of marketing and sales experience with medical technology, specifically ones that are so good that customers (meaning the doctor’s patients) are willing to pay for them with their own money rather than wait for somebody else (meaning insurance) to pick up the tab.

My firm, SM2 Consulting, works with leading manufacturers and providers in ophthalmic, dental, and cosmetic/aesthetic specialties. During the past 5 years, we have published numerous articles and reports (available in the Library of our just-launched website), most of which apply across the board to the effort involved the business and marketing of elective procedures. What I’ve learned while doing the research and writing is that when it comes to the marketing of services, the ultimate form of marketing occurs when the service you deliver exceeds the expectations in such a way that your customer feels compelled to tell everyone they know about it and continue doing so for a long time. We have passed by the era in marketing when you could create the right “mix” of traditional concepts – positioning, promotion, pricing, packaging, and all the other “P”s – in order to be successful.Those “P”s are still around, but they are taking a back seat to the big “E” of marketing called experience.

My goal is to discover and highlight for you great role models of products, services and companies that know how to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

We’ve got some good things planned going forward, so stay tuned. I’ll be discussing pricing (you won’t believe how much a buttocks lift actually costs!), a whole new approach to the sales of cell phones, and an interview with The Experience Economy author Jim Gilmore. In the meantime, I have finally published the long- awaited Top Ten Marketing Mistakes made by refractive surgeons, which is now available for you to download at the SM2 website. It should be a good conversation starter at your next staff meeting. For those of you who got this “magically”, I was the magician who added you from my rolodex. I hope you will let your friends and colleagues know about the newsletter and the site.

Summer starts today. That means swimming, BBQ, and, of course, Cold Stone. Enjoy!


The Fine Print

I call this a “newsletter” but it’s really more of a “fire starter,” intended to spark thoughts and ideas for readers to more creatively solve their own marketing challenges. It is intended to be more raw and “straight from the gut” (thank you Jack Welch) than what happens in my monthly column in CRSToday. I’ll do my best to issue this newsletter when I have something to say which I think adds value to your efforts to improve the level of customer experience in your practice or business.

We won’t sell or rent your e-mail address or name. If you are bored and don’t want to receive this, you check out at anytime. I hope the opposite happens and that this is good enough stuff that you will forward to your friends and colleagues so they can join in. Feedback is good! If you want to comment on something here, send a note to me at the address below.


Shareef Mahdavi
President, SM2 Consulting

Download the full blog