In a world plagued with “Alternative Facts,” sometimes it’s hard to know what is true and what is fiction. It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to take everything we read with a grain of salt, but a healthy dose of cynicism can be helpful when trying to weed out true stories versus anecdotes made up for PR or branding purposes.
One of my favorite customer service stories that may or may not be true, is the old tale of a man who was successful in his attempt to return used snow tires to a Nordstrom retail store in Anchorage, Alaska. There are versions of the story that have been verified by numerous sources, but the gist of it is that a man came into a Nordstrom store, placed some tires on a counter, and asked the customer service representative to give him cash back for his return. Without hesitation, the Nordstrom representative looked at the price tag on the tire and gave him cash back for an item that was clearly not from the high-end department store. There are many conflicting accounts of this tale, noted in this article on Snopes, though the main fiber of the story seems to hold true.
Why did the cashier give this man money for something that could not have possibly come from the store? Perhaps that employee, using foresight, thought it would be best to make the short-term investment in order to secure this man’s future patronage of their store. In fact, when Nordstrom hires a new employee, the individual is given a handbook. Rather than going on for pages of rules and best practices, the handbook simply and concisely instructs the employee to “Use good judgment in all situations.”
The Ritz Carlton, one of the world’s most premier luxury hotel chains, empowers every one of their employees to spend what they need in order to please their guests. If something goes wrong with the guest’s stay, or the employee overhears how the guest forgot something at home, any employee (from the doorman to the housekeeper to the concierges) can make purchases in order to turn that guest’s experience around.
What this achieves for the Ritz Carlton (and Nordstrom, and any other customer-centric business) is that every employee feels empowered to solve any issue, and they don’t have to jump through hoops to have requests approved by management. Effectively, this empowerment allows issues to be resolved much more quickly. Consumers and clients see and appreciate this, increasing the likelihood that they will continue to shop at Nordstrom, or stay at the Ritz. At JayMarc Homes, one of our core values is to always “Deliver the Extraordinary,” so that we can follow in the footsteps of great companies like Nordstrom and one day have a reputation for being the most customer-centric home builder around.
So, whether the story about the man returning snow tires at Nordstrom is true or another Urban Myth, the principle holds true: Nordstrom, The Ritz, and many other great companies are wholly dedicated to pleasing their customers, regardless of the circumstance. And that dedication is what keeps customers coming back for years to come.