Nordstrom is positioned to cater to customers’ individual needs. It comes down to service. According to Nordstrom.com: “The company’s philosophy has remained unchanged for more than 100 years since its establishment by John W. Nordstrom in 1901: offer the customer the best possible service.” Anyone who has visited Nordstrom can attest to the palpable difference.
But is it wise for other companies to claim service as their number one differentiator? It’s a tricky bet.
When a friend’s Hobo brand wallet became tattered, she called the company and they immediately sent her a replacement, no questions asked. Yet a quick visit to Hobo.com makes it clear that they position themselves as experts in design, not necessarily service. That makes great service an added bonus.
A colleague’s recent meal at Ted’s Montana Grill went uncharacteristically wrong: the meal she wanted had been eighty-sixed then her second choice of dinner showed up cold. Without hesitation, the manager comped the bill and told her, “There are no excuses. We messed up, and we are sorry.”
Here is a great case of sticking to the corporate brand promise. Ted’s hangs its hat on “authenticity.” On Tedsmontanagrill.com, the copy opens with this statement: “At Ted’s Montana Grill, above all we are authentic. Real food. Real people.”
In the end, my colleague experienced that authenticity in the manager’s no-bull apology and compensation. Had Ted’s claimed service as their top differentiator, they would have failed when it counted most.
The fact is we’re human. Mistakes happen. An organization like Nordstrom is powerful enough to implement fierce quality control, but few other businesses have the kind of resources to ensure great service every time. Plus, the concept of service is watered down since so many companies claim it but don’t deliver it.
Don’t get me wrong. All business owners, including me, need to offer a high level of service in every way possible, simply because the people we work with deserve the best. Once your company pinpoints its top differentiator, great service may prove to be a strong supporting point. Think FedEx: they offer “fast delivery” first and foremost, but their service is pretty darn good, too. And that equates to true customer satisfaction.