By Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant at Heinz Marketing

I don’t think of myself as one of those fussy, needy customers (you know the kind), but when I experience poor customer service, sometimes mild indignation rears up in me… and I blame it all on Nordstrom.

As a young teen I worked for a lady who when she picked me up for babysitting, was accessorized, perfumed, and dressed to the nines.  She was a senior “sales associate” in the jewelry department at Nordstrom.  I thought she was so fancy.  Eventually, when I was old enough, she got me on at Nordstrom– at first for after-hours inventory and eventually on the sales floor—much to the envy of my fellow high school friends.

Recently I came across the orientation folder I received from what must have been 1983.  Among other things it included my pay stub from 1984 and a little brown booklet called “Selling . . . with a personal touch*”











And the inside cover explains the asterisk….

Did you notice it refers to the customer as “her”?  In today’s world, such a narrow gender classification would raise eyebrows and concerns.  Funny how some things change.  Some things don’t.

What a great glimpse into a time I now think of as a key milestone in the formative years of my career.  As a sales associate we got great, “Nordstrom Best” customer service training.  Inside my white glossy folder with an ombre Nordstrom logo on front (seen below), were handouts about Nordstrom history and philosophy dated 1982 that looked like they had originally been typed on a typewriter and copied. It seems like yesterday and forever ago.  The content is priceless and timeless.

I have to say though, Nordstrom kind of ruined me for all others.  I was young when these principals were imprinted on me and so I thought every customer service experience should be like the one you’d get at Nordstrom.  Obviously that bubble burst early on in life, but I’m still amazed to this day when companies and leaders fail to place a high, high priority on excellent customer service.

Much has already been said about why Nordstrom is known for their customer service and What Any Business Can Learn From Nordstrom Customer Service.  And for marketers, SAILTHRU enumerated What Makes Nordstrom’s Marketing Strategy Different.

But what can we learn from this little retro keepsake booklet of mine?

I loved this ditty found next to the “thank you” image pictured above:

The most important part of any transaction is the eye contact you extend to your customers.  After you have carefully placed the merchandise in a bag and folded the top down neatly, look the customer in the eye, smile, and say thank  you with a personal touch.

I was taken by the “carefully” and “neatly” part of the bagging (now of course they use handled bags).  It sounds so old fashioned, but the best part is the “look the customer in the eye” and smile reminders.

I really believe the basic principles of good customer service are timeless— and don’t apply just to B2C and retail… however, how can we ever hope to apply a smile and eye contact to B2B or B2C especially in a digital age?  Larry M Elin, Founder and President of Palisades Hudson answers this question in his article, “A Personal Touch in an Online Era” where he says:

I like the personal touch, but I don’t much care whether it comes in an email, through a live chat interface or on the phone. The tools to provide it are better than ever, for businesses that choose to use them. If you pay attention, retailing is as personal now as it ever has been. I expect it to stay that way.

Another gem from my early 1980’s Nordstrom Selling booklet was this reminder:

Good salespeople aren’t born .… they develop through patience and skill, training and motivation, guidance and enthusiasm.

Being a “pro” is more an attitude than an accumulation of facts or years.

And it goes on to say how …

You can be a pro at 20 or at 80.   To be a “pro” you must:

    • Require of yourself self-respect.
    • Respect your fellow workers.
    • Give more than is expected of you.
    • Maintain an awareness of the world around you … not only your own sphere and age group.
    • Never promise anyone anything you cannot deliver when you say you will.
    • Pick up the buck when it’s your turn, or even when it isn’t your turn.
    • Most important, always be willing to listen and learn.
    • Last, but not least . . . Know your merchandise!

After some great tips on suggestive selling, approaching the customer, and keeping notes about my customers in my “personal trade book” the booklet ends with this advice:


    • Smile
    • Be Sincerely Complimentary
    • Be Interested in Their Needs
    • Never Argue
    • Respect Their Opinions
    • Be Honest About Your Opinion

Wow.  Imagine if we all took and acted on this advice professionally and personally!

When you boil it all down, it’s really all about being others focused first … not self or product focused, don’t you think?

If you wrote a booklet about customer service, what are some key points you would include? I’d love to hear them!