What the Grocery Industry Can Learn from Nordstrom About Customer Service

It’s no secret that Nordstrom is synonymous with customer service. We’ve all heard the age-old story of a customer returning tires to a Nordstrom and getting a refund even though the high-end fashion retailer doesn’t sell tires. Whether it’s an urban legend or a lesson on the legacy that a good customer service story can leave on our minds, Nordstrom’s customer service can teach more than the fashion industry something about customer care and satisfaction.

Nordstrom’s famous customer service can be broken down into two categories: their detailed care of the customer from the moment they walk into the door to days after their purchase, and the way they empower their employees.

In a 2014 Quora post, former Nordstrom employee Ambra Benjamin cited many examples of customer service excellence that helped Nordstrom stand out in the crowd, including that associates are encouraged to walk customers to the items they’re looking for instead of telling them where to find them, walking their purchase to the customer instead of handing it to them over the counter, and providing a one to one service model. These little details and experiences add a touch of luxury to the shopping experience and leave a lasting impression on the minds of the customers, even if they don’t realize it in the moment. If you’ve ever been to a Nordstrom, you’ll be able to recall the camaraderie of the shopping experience just as easily as you’ll be able to remember the purchase.

Sales associates are even known to go above and beyond outside of the store. One Black Friday, an intern passed out hot chocolate, coffee, and doughnuts to the growing crowd outside in an effort to keep them calm, comfortable, and congenial going into their mad-house shopping spree.

Shoppers aren’t the only ones being taken care of – Nordstrom has landed a spot on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For for 20 consecutive years. Employees cite the extensive training and educational opportunities within the company as their top reasons for loving where they work. Nordstrom also does a great job of hiring employees they can trust, emphasizing their famous “use your best judgment” mantra that’s almost as well known as the tire story. The company is also passionate about embracing the “Nordstrom Family” mindset. In a 2018 Business Insider article with former employee Aaron Valentic, Valentic said one of his favorite parts of working at Nordstrom was the company morale and culture.

“Sales associates were regarded at times as higher than managers, and if you were a minority you were seen as an asset. As someone who was gay, I never once felt that I was not welcomed or not an important part of the ‘Nordstrom Family.'”

While Nordstrom leads the fashion industry in customer satisfaction, grocers can learn from Nordstrom’s examples to recreate that specialized, intimate experience with a food-focused spin.

While it isn’t always efficient for baggers to bring each bag around to the customer like Nordstrom does, grocery employees can still step up their game with how they assist the customer with their purchases. Like Publix, other grocers can implement initiatives for employees to walk customer’s purchases to their car and help them unload and return the cart. While it takes the customer the same amount of time and roughly the same amount of energy to walk to the car and get situated for their drive home, eliminating one round of the heavy-lifting adds a luxurious touch to their grocery shopping experience.

The grocery industry is no stranger to creating comfortable environments in-store. With coffee shops, banks, and even childcare being offered in some stores, grocers are personalizing micro-experiences to their shoppers and their needs. Micro-experiences, whether being a specialist in-store to educate shoppers about a new dish they can recreate in their home or events like shop n’ sip, ensure that time spent grocery shopping is eagerly anticipated and not dreaded. Especially with online ordering and delivery at its peak, creating a comfortable environment for shoppers should be at the forefront of customer service initiatives in order to get customers back through the door.

Beyond the customer, grocers can encourage their employees to provide top notch customer service by treating them with the same respect and care. In a 2019 Investopedia article about the best grocery companies to work for, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Publix top the list because of their competitive salaries, enchanting work environments and stock opportunities for employees.

Even with automation at the forefront of grocery innovation, people will always need to get groceries and there will always be room to personalize the grocery-shopping experience. Enchanting shoppers with hyper-focused assistance and and  relaxing experiences, and providing employers with incentives to further their involvement in the company are just a few examples of what the grocery industry can learn from Nordstrom. With these tips, any grocer can become synonymous with customer service too!