the Nordy Way

Trust & Loyalty

Trust is the foundation for loyalty and longevity—as well as every value in your organization’s culture. Every meaningful personal and business relationship is based on trust and loyalty, which can be gone in the blink of an eye. Organizations must earn the trust and loyalty of their stakeholders literally every day in as many ways as one can imagine.

         Employees are loyal when they feel that they are being held accountable, when they are making a meaningful contribution, when their achievements are recognized and rewarded, and when they are afforded opportunities to learn, grow and advance. That’s why Nordstrom views career development as a shared responsibility among managers, employees and the company in order to enable leaders to be the teachers as well as the developers of their people’s growth.

         Nordstrom highlights its trust to employees with its single rule: Use good judgment in all situations. Empowerment to do the right thing is the byproduct of trust. Nordstrom gives its people on the sales floor the freedom to make entrepreneurial decisions, and management backs them on those decisions. Everything else flows from that premise.

Customer loyalty is the coin of realm in business. Nordstrom salespeople generate that loyalty by taking ownership of the customer and the customer experience.

         Front-line people are empowered to establish relationships with customers and to find ways to take care of them, with a personal touch, as if you’re interacting with a trusted friend. A strong connection turns a happy customer into a brand ambassador.

It is axiomatic that people like to do business with people they like. If your product or service is similar to your competitor’s, and the price for that product or service is similar to that of your competitor, what will be the reason why you will get the business? The relationship you have with your customer and the trust you have built up over time. Once you’ve established and nurtured that relationship and never take it for granted, why should your customer go anywhere else?

         Trust is embodied in the Nordstrom return policy, which is a virtually unconditional, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. Empowering the people on the sales floor to accept returned merchandise is the most noticeable illustration of the Nordstrom culture because it is the one that most obviously affects the public.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the return policy works to the benefit of the best salespeople, who take back the returns with a smile, knowing that many of those customers will return because they were treated with respect.

Nordstrom is one of only five companies to make Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” and “Most Admired” every year those surveys have been taken.

You can rent employee loyalty, but you can’t buy it. Golden handcuffs are only an effective short-term solution. Many good people will sacrifice a few dollars for a place that values and trusts them.

Each year, all of the new and past winners of the John W. Nordstrom Award (the highest honor for an employee) attend a dinner in Seattle, hosted by the Nordstrom family. The company pays for the travel and lodging for the winners (and their guests)—even for past honorees no longer working for the company. Now that’s loyalty.

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