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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nordstrom, Round 2


Beth got the wrong item at Nordstrom Saturday and returned to exchange it. (see previous post).

A formal swooping arrangement exists among Nordstrom help. Someone stopping to look at something triggers a salesperson to approach and offer help. It can be a trick to manage, I imagine, showing the customer space but being ready to help. I saw a salesperson target us and come over.

Beth explained the problem. No hassle with the return. The salesperson efficiently made the switch. Beth had further skin care questions. The salesperson showed less interest in this.

She suggested a product for Beth to sample. Beth did not want to use the open sample containers because while the sales staff uses gloves passersby do not. This was a sanitary concern. Though little product remained in the jar, the salesperson said she could not open a new one. Beth preferred not to try the sample. The salesperson said, There is nothing I can do for you, and walked away.

I was not fully involved in the conversation but saw no flashpoint to cause the salesperson to walk off like that. Being blown off shocked us. It made no sense. If it were really impossible to open a new sample for Beth, the salesperson could do something, like offer literature, speak to her manager, anything but leave a customer like that.

We stood there for a moment wondering what happened when another salesperson offered help. Beth felt that the good feeling that we had from Saturday’s visit was gone, and wanted to leave, but she explained to this salesperson what happened. This one apologized and persisted in trying to help Beth, to which Beth finally acceded.

She located samples that Beth could take—why couldn’t the first one do this?—and asked if Beth wanted to speak to the manager. Beth did not. It is embarrassing to complain. You end up feeling like you are to blame. Customers should never feel that way.

Beth has been a Nordstrom customer for a long time but with the bad feeling of this one incident she wondered if she should go elsewhere. Why should you ever feel bad about the store at which you shop? Such are the terms here.

The salesperson asked again if she should have her manager speak with Beth. Beth asked, Why don’t you? The salesperson replied that the manager would be mad at her for letting Beth go unappeased. High marks to this salesperson for not letting the problem be pushed under the carpet. I offered that Beth should speak with the manager and Beth agreed.

The manager listened, apologized, and made the right sounds. Customers want a sense of being heard. Corporations have their own dismaying bureaucracy that often leave us feeling helpless. I assume the manager acted upon this incident, and spoke with the first salesperson. Nordstrom clearly trains its staff carefully.

My immediate reaction, as party of the first part and not the manager, would be that the first salesperson should be fired. Her disinterest is problematic, and her touchiness makes her a bad choice for the job. Flouncing off as she did, and at so little provocation, is an issue. Customers do not need to deal with someone who has a weed up the ass, which is how we felt that she acted.

Takeaway this: the necessity of full presence in the job as it swirls around you. Hear the customer’s concerns and let go of the inconvenience that you feel you suffer. The job is about serving the customer and maintaining the company’s integrity. The situation here only got out of hand because the salesperson walked away. It takes less than that to lose a customer.

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