Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why Akemi Gaines doesn't care for Nordstrom's customer service

When discussing whether to take a broad look at a business, or to perform a detailed examination on one particular part of the business, two terms that are often used are "forest" and "trees." Well, there are a lot of forests and trees in the Pacific Northwest, which is where Nordstrom is based. Many people, including Guy Kawasaki, have made glowing comments about Nordstrom's exceptional customer service.

Akemi Gaines is not among them.

When referring to the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Gaines referenced two examples of Nordstrom's customer service:

The Nordie who cheerfully gift wrapped products a customer bought at Macy’s

The Nordie who refunded money for a set of tire chains – although Nordstrom doesn’t sell tire chains

(In case you didn't figure it out, "Nordie" is the word that is used internally to refer to Nordstrom employees. As an ex-Motorolan, I can appreciate the internal use of silly terms.)

From the tree perspective, this is great, and perhaps these two customers would actually purchase things at Nordstrom in the future. But Gaines took a forest view, and was concerned.

Why does Nordstrom refund money for something it didn’t sell? Is it because this customer makes other lots of purchases? Or is it because he made a fuss? Do they do this to anyone who wants money for unwanted tire chains?

And where does that money come from? From other customers, of course. So Nordstrom is spending their profit made off from honest customers and making dishonest customers happy. Is this really an example of outstanding customer service?

In my opinion, this is the case of unreasonable customer demand.

How about gift wrapping Macy’s products? This is less of a problem . . . wrapping paper cost is pretty negligible. Still, Nordstrom is using their employee time to do this. And their paycheck comes from – again, from the money customers pay. I think this is a borderline demand that is very close to being unreasonable.

I previously said that Gaines was concerned. Actually, Gaines was VERY concerned.

I like Nordstrom, but after reading this story, I was baffled. And I think twice when I buy anything there.

Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
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