Nordstrom Has It, Others Don't
Nordstrom is opening its very first standalone men’s store in Manhattan, which will open in April, on Broadway, between West 57th and West 58th Streets. The fashion retailer, known for its fine attention to customer experience (CX), just announced that it is planning to hire 250 employees for this store, for which it is currently accepting applications.
When you’re a retailer, if you’re doing things right, you’re thinking about your salespeople not only as salespeople, but also as your customers. Yes, you heard that right. They are your customers, and not just because they might possibly shop in your store. You want them to buy in to your brand emotionally. You want them to be excited about working for you. You want them to be happy! Why? Because if your sales people are happy, it’s more likely your customers will be, too. A recent survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) revealed that 74 percent of Millennials will switch to a different retailer if they receive poor customer service.
Nordstrom knows this. It’s employing fun marketing tactics for employee recruitment. The retailer wrapped the exterior of the men’s store with larger-than-life “Help Wanted” banners that feature clever job descriptions such as “Desperately Seeking Sock Svengali,” “Now Hiring: Sneaker Obsessives,” and “People People Wanted.” The recruiting campaign also includes digital and social media placements.
Yes. That’s right. People People Wanted. That’s what every retailer should want, but it’s not what every retailer recruits. I was reminded of this last week when I went snow-tubing with my family in Beech Mountain, North Carolina (Eastern America’s highest town!). It was nine degrees. That’s cold. We drove up for one night, and we brought warm clothes, but we really weren’t prepared for that level of chill, particularly not while sliding down a mountain on a tube, which none of us had done before. It was to be a new experience.
About an hour before our sliding session we went into the resort’s ski shop. We were chilled to the bone just walking from our car to the store. Toes and hands and faces turning white. There were a lot of customers in the shop all in the same boat – not quite equipped for the adventure they’d set out upon. People were roaming around, trying to get warm and trying to figure out what they really needed to minimize the discomfort. People were asking questions of the sales associates, who presumably had good knowledge on the topic.
But rather than use their knowledge to assist their customers, the sales staff wielded it like a bludgeon, in multiple ways. These are the behaviors I experienced personally and also witnessed toward other customers, and they read like a list of what not to do to encourage sales and win customers.
1. The sales associates did not in any way make the first move in trying to assist customers.
2. When asked a question, the sales associates treated customers as if they were stupid for not knowing the answer. The attitude was, “You should have known what you needed before you came in here.”
3. The sales associates answered questions in as few words as possible, with attitude, without offering any additional or helpful information about the product, it’s use, options, etc.
4. Despite not offering any help, the sales associates conveyed the idea that if you did not have every type of protective clothing and gear available, you were doomed to a miserable and unworkable experience on the slopes. It was sales pressure without even the added value of helpful information.
5. When I brought a pair of boots to the sales associate asking if there was another pair in the same size, because the little plastic mechanism that you slide to tighten the laces was broken, he said, in a huff, that he could sell me the boots for 20 percent off and I could just “tie them like regular laces.” He acted as if my request was ridiculous. When I asked if it was possible to move a lace from another boot to the one I wanted, he said no. He did not try to help in any way.
6. When I did purchase two pair of boots the sales associates kept up a steady patter of conversation amongst themselves, ignoring me the entire time, and did not thank me for my purchase. (Under normal circumstances, I would have abandoned the store long before making a purchase, but I was buying under duress – time constraints and no other retail options).
I could go on, and I bet many of you have some miserable, as well as some fantastic shopping experiences from the recent holiday season you could share. I bet, too, that you’ll be going back to the places where your experience was positive, and not returning to the stores (brick-and-mortar or digital), where your experience was not. It’s possible I will return to the resort in Beech Mountain for a day of skiing or snow tubing in the future, but I can assure you I will not be returning to the ski shop.
Providing a good customer experience is how you build loyalty. Some retailers seem to instinctively know this, and some don’t. Vicki Cantrell, Retail Transformation Officer at Aptos, predicts that this year will find retailers shifting their organizations to be truly customer centric. “How a retailer is perceived by consumers and the experience that consumers have in stores and online, is critical to success, and retailers must include empathy and emotion to correctly measure the overall customer experience.” Amen. That can’t happen soon enough.
Customer loyalty requires excellent product and technology that can support great processes and lots of customer data, and it also requires “people work,” she says. Retailing begins and ends with people.
This is a tough time for most retailers, but I have a feeling that there are a Sneaker Obsessive and a Sock Svengali out there right now who will soon have loyal fans, and I think Nordstrom knows it, too.