Nordstrom: Focusing on a Culture of Service|Human Resource|Organization Behavior|Case Study|Case Studies

Nordstrom: Focusing on a Culture of Service

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : HROB159 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Customer Service/ Organizational Culture
Case Length : 17 Pages
Period : 1901-2012
Organization : Nordstrom Inc.
Pub Date : 2013
Teaching Note : Not Available
Countries : USA
Industry : Specialty Retail


Seattle, US-based specialty fashion retailer Nordstrom Inc. (Nordstrom) was renowned for its exceptional customer service. Since its inception in 1901, the company’s customer service philosophy had focused on doing everything to satisfy a customer. This was supported by the culture in the company that empowered its employees. The employees were asked to function like entrepreneurs and were free to go out of their way to provide the customers with the best service. It was not only direct interaction with the sales personnel but also the exteriors and interiors of the stores that reflected the company’s philosophy of making the customer comfortable. The well lit, wide aisled stores were laid out in such a way that the customers could move across the stores comfortably.

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Different departments were partitioned with low placed furniture, so that the customer could see the different departments at one glance. The stores also had comfortable rest rooms and dressing rooms. All the stores had spas and restaurants attached with them. Nordstrom stocked a wide range of merchandise to ensure that no customer left the store without finding the item he/she was looking for.

The sales associates helped the customers in selecting the merchandize. The associates accompanied the customers to different departments till they had completed their shopping. The sales associates helped the customers in selecting the merchandise, designing a look, choosing the accessories, and even in billing for the items purchased. They built up a long-term association with the customers and kept in touch with them to let them know about discounts, sales, new stock, etc. The sales associates were free to discount the prices of items as and when required. The company had a generous return policy, and customers could return even used goods.

To provide such high levels of customer service, the company empowered the employees, who were guided by the simple rule that they should use good judgment in all situations. With not many rules to follow, the employees could concentrate on providing the best service to the customers. The employees were rewarded generously in the form of commissions. Cases of exceptional customer service were recognized and rewarded.

As Nordstrom completed a century of existence and entered a new era, it faced a different kind of challenge. With the advent of e-commerce, the role of customer service was minimized. However, Nordstrom continued to maintain that even in the digital era, customer service was still relevant.


Understand the importance of customer service, particularly in the retail industry.
Examine the quality customer service provided by Nordstrom.
Understand Nordstrom’s culture of customer service excellence.
Understand how the customer-centric policies and practices contributed to the success of Nordstrom.
Study the positive elements in the company’s culture and how it had contributed to creating high levels of customer service.
Analyze the challenges Nordstrom is likely to face with the growing popularity of e-commerce.


  Page No.
Happy Employees - Happier Customers 1
Background Note 2
The Nordstrom Experience 4
Appealing Stores & Attractive Displays 4
Wide Range of Products 6
Customer Service and Nordstrom 6
The Right People 9
Empowered Employees 10
Motivating Employees 12
Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Era 13
Exhibits 14

Key Words:

Nordstrom, customer service excellence, culture, liberal return policy, ambiance, unique clothing, empowered employees, delighting customers, merchandise, store design, restaurants, direct-to-customer, entrepreneurial spirit

Happy Employees - Happier Customers - Next Pages >>


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