What Nordstrom Can Teach

 Today’s Real Estate Professionals

Three Philosophies to Adopt from the Company that “Wrote the Book” on Customer Service

By Julie Escobar

Ever been to Nordstrom store? It’s truly like no retail experience you’ve ever had.  Why? Because customer service is NEVER an afterthought.  In fact – it’s the foundation and culture for their entire organization. And – it has a lot to teach us as real estate and sales professionals about success in today’s world.

In an economic time that has seen markets dramatically shift, competition get fierce and sales professionals who were either unwilling or unable to make the leap from “how it’s always been done” to “what works NOW” leave our industry, one thing is for sure, SERVICE has never been MORE important. Those agents and brokers, managers, team members and even folks like our organization that work to support sales professionals in their success are finding that today’s consumers expect more and deliver their business, interest, referrals and attention ONLY to those willing to DO MORE.

I’m not talking about just offering more SERVICES – but instead offering a better quality of CONNECTION.  A better EXPERIENCE.  An exceptional level of COMMUNICATION.  Nordstroms?  Oh yeah – that’s what they DELIVER.  And what you should too if you want to rise to the top and stay there.

If you get the chance to read the book The Nordstrom Way, do it.  It’s insightful and honest and may just give you a different perspective.  I loved the back story of the Nordstrom family, their humility and inspired approach to the relationships in their lives.  It’s hard to find the kind of commitment that has been fostered so passionately for generations anymore.  And it is a motivator to want to truly step up and take care of all the people that cross your path – both personally and professionally in an entirely new way.

There were three philosophies to their success I found particularly inspired for agents.  I hope you will as well.

1.      Value the nobility of good service.  NOBILITY.  Love that word – don’t you?  It really resonated with me because all too often – not just in this business – but across the board you find that when the ‘going gets tough’ – many people turn to the ‘short cuts’ – which almost never include high levels of service.  Truly caring for your customers.  Delivering what you say and more.  Putting their needs, wants and experience above your commissions, your daily obstacles or your desire to get to the next place or person FASTER really IS noble when you think about it.  And smart.  And effective.  And the root of creating a customer for life. 

2.      Finding and bonding with customers.  Ever been to a car lot or retail store where you felt swarmed by commissioned salespeople to the point of being uncomfortable or almost bullied into a sale by an overly-aggressive salesperson who CLEARLY was more interested in what they needed or wanted to get from the experience than what you wanted?  Unfortunately we see this in the real estate sector as well. 

Just this morning, I was reading a post on Facebook from an agent who successfully listed a home with a new client AFTER one of her competitors had met with the same folks and bad-mouthed not only this agent but other top agents in the market as well.  Listen, creating new relationships is a serious business, I know. And sometimes an agent wants or needs the next commission so much that it is the only thing they can focus on.  To the point that they forget – that in the moment it is NOT about them.  And frankly, it doesn’t have anything to do with their competition either.  In fact, I’d say running down the other agents in your area is probably a sure-fire way to present yourself as an agent who LACKS integrity, character and honesty.  Show up. (ON TIME!)  Create a great EXPERIENCE.  LISTEN.  Be RESPECTFUL.  And do your bust to work on ‘building your own house’ or business the right way – rather than tearing down what others do or what they’ve built.

The same goes for your marketing efforts.  Be it social media, direct mail, email, face-to-face or phone-to-phone – attracting customers and helping them get to know you, like you and trust you enough to do business with you takes finesse, it takes relationship skills, consistency, clarity and commitment.  No shortcuts.  Make it about them.

At Nordstrom, you won’t find pushy salespeople.  They won’t steer you to a higher ticket item for their own purposes.  They won’t bad mouth – at all – about anyone.  They make each customer their number one priority at that moment.  Smart.  Very smart.

3.      Serving and keeping customers.  Love the way Nordstrom professionals not only take care of their customers at the time – but their follow up skills are phenomenal. They get it.  They don’t want just customers RIGHT NOW, they want customers who will return time after time and ask for them specifically – and oh yeah – refer their friends.  ProspectsPLUS! President Jim Morton was sharing his recent experience with me and how impressed he was that Nordstrom’s team members not only are delivering great service – but they are stepping up their game in terms of connecting (and staying connected) with their customers in new ways with today’s technology.  He handed me his Nordstrom salesperson’s business card – complete with QR code containing her vCard information.   With a push of an app on his iPhone he now can reach her at a moment’s notice.  Again – very smart – very savvy and a great lesson for sales pros in any business. 

It reminds me of my friend and Realtor- extraordinaire Virginia Munden.  Even as a successful agent, business partner, coach and mother of three — she still sends hand-written thank you notes to clients, customers and fellow agents almost daily. She engages people via social media.  And her passion for what she does and the people she connects with is almost infectious! Don’t have the time?  Make it.  It really will make the difference between a spectacular career and a mediocre one.

Thank you Nordstrom for setting the customer service bar high and keeping it there and for creating an example for salespeople from every industry around the globe.  You truly do deliver the WOW factor!

If you haven’t read the book The Nordstrom Way, get your copy.  It’s a great read and packed with real world strategy.  If you need help connecting with customers consistently give us a shout at 866.4o5.3638 today.  We’re always ready to meet your needs and help to solve your marketing needs.  Oh – and if want to channel your inner Nordstrom associate and add your own QR code to your marketing postcards or business cards – we can help you with that too!

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Secret to Success: Free Ice Water

April 30, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Wall Drug was the quintessential struggling small businesses in a dieing small town in 1936, when it stepped back and examined its intrinsic resources and realized that its key to success was free ice water:

One hot Sunday in July, though, a great change swept us up. It started quietly, in the deadening heat of an early afternoon, when Dorothy said to me, “You don’t need me here, Ted. I’m going to put Billy and the baby down for a nap and maybe take one myself.”

I minded the empty store. I swatted flies with a rolled-up newspaper. I stood in the door, and no matter where I looked, there was no shade, because the sun was so high and fierce.

An hour later Dorothy came back.

“Too hot to sleep?” I asked.

“No, it wasn’t the heat that kept me awake,” Dorothy said. “It was all the cars going by on Route 16A. The jalopies just about shook the house to pieces.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

“No, because you know what, Ted? I think I finally saw how we can get all those travelers to come to our store.”

“And how’s that?” I asked.

“Well, now what is it that those travelers really want after driving across that hot prairie? They’re thirsty. They want water. Ice cold water! Now we’ve got plenty of ice and water. Why don’t we put up signs on the highway telling people to come here for free ice water? Listen, I even made up a few lines for the sign:

“Get a soda … Get a root beer … turn next corner … Just as near … To Highway 16 & 14… Free Ice Water… Wall Drug.”

It wasn’t Wordsworth, but I was willing to give it a try. During the next few days a high school boy and I put together some signs. We modeled them after the old Burma Shave highway signs. Each phrase of Dorothy’s little poem went on a 12 by 36 inch board. We’d space the boards out so the people could read them as they drove.

The next weekend the boy and I went out to the highway and put up our signs for free ice water. I must admit that I felt somewhat silly doing it, but by the time I got back to the store, people had already begun showing up for their ice water. Dorothy was running all around to keep up. I pitched in alongside her.

“Five glasses of ice water, please,” a father called out.

“May I have a glass for Grandma?” a boy asked. “She’s in the car.”

We ran through our supply of cracked ice. I began chiseling more off the block.

“Say, good sir,” one traveler said in a Scottish brogue, “we’re going all the way to Yellowstone Park. Would you mind filling this jug with your water?”

“Hey this free ice water is a great idea,” said a salesman, sidling up onto a stool. “How about selling me an ice cream cone?”

Step back, and find your free ice water!

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Family Second To Business

April 1, 2012 by Angela Shupe

NZ City:

Hard times mean families are coming second according to a study of small business owners.

MYOB has found almost three quarters of small business owners have to sacrifice time with their families in order to work longer hours so their business survives.

It’s also found 58 percent have cut back on family holidays.

This may be true for New Zealand entrepreneurs, but is this true for you?

Photo by Theodore Lee

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Businesses to Launch in 2012

April 1, 2012 by Angela Shupe and Gord Gerrie

Business News Daily has a short list of businesses you may want to consider launching in 2012.  Do you think they’re poised to take off this year?

Home Renovation

The real estate market has been in the toilet for three-and-a-half years now. Certainly not the case in most parts of Canada but in the US, we sure know that is the case. It’s hard to sell a house and if you can’t sell, you can’t buy. Furthermore, a lot of people just can’t get a mortgage. That’s good news for anyone in the renovation business. By the way, there is tons of work for renovators in Canada even though there is a more than bouyant housing economy.

Tree care

If you’ve tried to call a tree service lately, you probably already know there’s a big gap between supply and demand. Increasingly severe weather in all parts of the country is causing tree damage that only professionals can repair.

Commuting service

Car pooling saves money on gas and tolls and, in many places, gives commuters access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, saving lots of time on commuting. The problem is that organizing your own car pool can be very difficult. A car-pool service that provides commuters with easy access to a low-cost ride stands a great chance of making it for the long haul (so to speak).

Photo by Steven Depolo

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Are Tech Savvy Companies More Successful?

March 22, 2012 by Angela Shupe

What stands between you and success?  Could it be the technology you enlist to help you grow your business?  The Wall Street Journal thinks it might be.

Web-knowledgeable small and midsize firms in industries ranging from retail to manufacturing. They create twice as many jobs as companies that have limited Internet use, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study mentioned in the TCC report.

Another cited study, by researchers at Brandeis University, shows that technology-intensive service firms added jobs at a rate of 5.1% from 2001 to 2009, while employment overall shrank by .5%.

Technology makes young companies more competitive, TCC states in the report. For example, online crowdfunding channels like Kickstarter.com and IndieGoGo.com can help start-ups land financing to grow. And daily deal companies like Groupon Inc.  and LivingSocial Inc. can help small businesses connect with new customers.

Are you ready to make your business more tech friendly?

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Preventing Entrepreneurial Burnout

March 16, 2012 by Angela Shupe

The next time you begin to feel a little worn thin, keep in mind these tips from Forbes.

Schedule many regular micro-breaks.

Build 5, 5-minute breaks into every day. Stress accumulates in your body, your mind, and in your work. Taking care of your self also takes care of your work.

Give yourself permission to regroup.

The first obstacle is admitting or acknowledging that you are burnt out.  Burn out is very closely tied to permission.

Evaluate if you want to continue.

It can be very empowering to realize you always have a choice to continue or not continue.  If you are feeling very discouraged, something is likely not working.  Recognizing that you do not have to do something, can give you fresh perspective on your level of commitment and what could be different in your business and your way of working.

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Before You Sign That Lease

March 18, 2012 by Angela Shupe

Are you getting ready to lease property for your business?  There are a few things you should do before you sign.

While professional advice is a must, you should at least be aware of some of the key issues. To start, be sure the lease clearly states what the lease payment covers. Are utilities such as electricity, phone and water included? Will the landlord pay for regular janitorial services or any ongoing maintenance? Will you be expected to pay a share of the property taxes or insurance on the property? If these items are not built in, ask for a year’s worth of payment data so you’ll have a good idea of how much extra you would pay each month.

The lease should also indicate whether a deposit is required and requirements to get a deposit back when you vacate; the length of the lease; whether and when price increases can be imposed; when you and/or the landlord can terminate the lease and for what reasons; your options to renew; and ability to sublease.

Also look for a detailed description of the property. It should be more than just square footage; it should include available parking, other amenities, the physical condition of the property and improvements to be made before you move in.

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Buford, Wyoming for Sale

 

March 14, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Photo by eszter

Buford, Wyoming, population now 1, will be auctioned at noon April 5.

Don Sammons, the town’s sole resident, has put the town up for auction with Williams and Williams, an auction company based in Oklahoma City.

This will be the company’s first town to auction, said Amy Bates, the company’s chief marketing officer.

Buford sits 28 miles west of Cheyenne on Interstate 80. Located at 8,000 feet, it is the highest town on the I-80 route from California to New York.

The Buford, Wyoming auction represents a unique opportunity to acquire an entire town, along with the Buford Trading post, an income-producing convenience and fuel store. Included in the auction are 10+/- acres of land, five buildings, United States Post Office Boxes, inventory, furnishing, tools, plow and 3 vehicles. There is also a Union Wireless cellular tower with lease, and parking area previously used by an overnight shipping company for night time trailer switches.

The auction will be accessible on the internet at The Auction Network.

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Female Entrepreneurs …….

Wanted For Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program

March 13, 2012 by Angela Shupe

 

MarketWatch:

Ernst & Young LLP is calling for applications for its fifth annual Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program, a national competition and leadership program that identifies a select group of women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale – and then helps them do it.

“Women employ 16 percent of the US workforce and climbing – starting businesses at twice the rate of men. Yet they start with less capital and don’t grow as large,” noted Herb Engert, Americas Strategic Growth Markets Leader for Ernst & Young. “Our program helps successful women entrepreneurs propel their company’s growth, which benefits their businesses, creates jobs, and helps to boost the economy.”

In becoming part of Entrepreneurial Winning Women, women entrepreneurs join a long-term leadership development program that coaches the five crucial actions needed to scale their companies and introduces them to accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and advisors who can help them prepare for significant growth.

To apply for the program, applicants must fit the following criteria:

Founding woman CEO of a privately held US company

Company must have reported at least $1 million in sales within each of the last 2 years

Venture must be less than 10 years old

Entrepreneur must be able to attend an orientation and coaching session at Ernst & Young LLP’s headquarters in New York City on October 10-11, 2012, and the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, November 14-18, 2012, in Palm Springs, CA.

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Parenting Advice That Works In Business

February, 2012 by Angela Shupe

Who wants to learn the same lesson twice?  Forbes has a list of advice that works for parents and entrepreneurs alike.

Don’t lose sight of who you are.

The experience of owning and running a business can be all-consuming – and so too can having a child. But be careful; don’t relinquish all of your other passions in the process of raising your child or business.

Good manners are the cornerstone of happy families and profitable businesses.

Ambition is not evil, but disrespecting your customers, employees, or your mother and father is.

Having a great team makes your life easier.

It really does take a village to attend to all of your child’s needs – pediatricians, school teachers, babysitters, your partner, etc. You can’t micromanage how each person contributes to your child’s development, but you can assemble a great team that you trust to be an “expert” in their role. The same applies for growing your professional team.

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