What do Starbucks, Intuit, and Nordstrom Have in Common? Employee Empowerment

July 6, 2017 Amanda L. Nelson

Robert Spector talks to John Hernandez on a recent Leading Edge webcast

According to customer care expert and author of The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Culture, Robert Spector says, “If you’re going to empower somebody to do a good job, you have to be in a position to support them.” However, this goes beyond supporting your employees. Successful companies are supporting and empowering their teams in ways that transform their business and transcend their industry. Shared in a recent Leading Edge webcast with Robert Spector, here’s a look at how some majorly successful companies are doing this.

Starbucks: Employees go above and beyond

Successful employees go above and beyond what needs to be done, because that’s part of the culture. For Starbucks, whether you go to the storefront in San Francisco or Singapore, it is essentially the same experience. Robert recently spoke to Howard Behar, retired Starbucks President, and Howard shared that, “It doesn’t matter where we are, or where we go. We find people who want to give that kind of service. It transcends language, and it transcends culture.”

Intuit TurboTax: Employees get customer face time

Happy agents and happy employees understand the company vision, and can project that as they interact with their customers. This is top of mind for many of the customers, for instance, John Hernandez, COO and SVP of Service Cloud at Salesforce, spoke to TurboTax, as they revealed that their customers didn’t just want to talk to somebody; they wanted to see them, and interact with them. (We’re talking about financial decisions and tax situations!) By simply embedding the ability to have video concierge service, TurboTax saw their employees rise up and request those face-to-face conversations. Not only did the organization see their Net Promoters Score rise, but their revenue did as well. In addition, average talk time decreased, because they were having a strong, detailed, context-aware conversation. Their employees are aligned with their customers.

Intuit TurboTax has empowered employees on the front line. That promotes loyalty on both the customer and employee sides, and isn’t loyalty why we’re all in business? “It’s why we’re doing this. It’s not just a one-time thing. If you answered my question, or you helped me through a difficult period of time, and I liked the way you did it, why should I want to go to somebody else?” asks Robert.

Nordstrom: Employees are true to the core values

Nordstrom has been around for 116 years. They’ve gone through World Wars, The Great Depression, recessions, and more. They’re in the fashion business, which is changeable by definition. But, as Robert shares, Nordstrom has certain non-negotiable core principles. “Nordstrom stays true to their core values including trust, respect, communication, loyalty, empathy, and humility. And part of value is adaptation and innovation. That’s why they’ve been able to succeed in a very competitive business,” says Robert.

According to Robert, Nordstrom’s internal structure is an inverted pyramid. (So, think of a pyramid flipped on its head.) At the very top of the pyramid — the widest part — is the customers. The next layer is the front-line employees including sales and support, and all the way down is the lowly board of directors. “It’s a very symbolic structure. If I’m the manager at Nordstrom, I’m not saying that people work for me. I’m here to serve them. It’s servant leadership,” states Robert, “If you want to be a great leader, you need to serve the people who are working for you.”

Amazon: Customer-centric employees

Why is Amazon so successful? “Because Jeff Bezos, from day one, said, ‘we are going to be the most customer-centric company on the planet.’ And while you have no personal interaction with a human at Amazon, everybody would say that they give amazing service,” notes Robert.

Employee empowerment comes in many forms, but as long as employees feel that they’re in a supportive atmosphere, you’re doing it right. Find your way to do it. Nordstrom has only one rule: Use good judgment in all situations. Find the right people who live by your culture, but constantly cite great examples of customer service and hold those people up as stars.

Customer service includes your colleagues. It includes everybody in the organization, whether they interface with the customer or not. All employees ultimately have an impact on your company’s reputation for customer experience. Successful companies know that by taking care of the employee, you’re taking care of the customer. Watch the webcast to learn more.

What do Starbucks, Intuit, and Nordstrom Have in Common? Employee Empowerment was originally published in Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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