Skip to content

How Nordstrom Uses Unexpected Stories đź“– to Teach New Hires


0_2 (4)

Nordstrom is known for outstanding customer service. Their challenge is to transform frontline workers into customer service zealots. Because they don’t walk in the door that way. 

The people that they hire are used to working customer service in other places, and they’ve heard all of the “our mission statement is to provide the best customer service in the industry” before. That sounds like everyone else, so their new hires think they should behave the same way as they have in all of their other customer service jobs.

So Nordstrom uses the power of stories to really show what they mean when they say these words. And the stories show something unexpected, that violates the schema that these people are used to.

Stories such as:

  • The Nordstrom employee (aka Nordie) who warmed customer’s cars in the winter while they finished shopping. 
  • The Nordie who cheerfully gift wrapped products someone bought at Macy’s.
  • The Nordie who refunded money for a set of tire chains, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tire chains. 

Nordstrom uses these stories in new hire training, to show them – this is what we mean when we say “best customer service in the industry”. This is how we want you to act, and if you take a risk and do something like this, you won’t be punished - you will be celebrated. 

The stories take the vague and abstract and make it concrete and memorable. And they give guidance to people on how to act when they encounter certain situations. This story was highlighted in Made to Stick, one of the holy trinity of books from my favorite authors the Heath Brothers (the others being The Power of Moments and Switch). 


If your group is working through vision/mission, or values, or operating agreements, or anything else that is abstract, ask yourself - what kind of behaviors do we want to see? How will this help our people make decisions on their own? We've created custom Funmentum trainings for big companies to bring these abstract concepts into the concrete, day to day work employees experience -  so that they can feel the power of the language, remember it, and ultimately act differently. Because that's the goal right? 

Devin McNulty

Co-Founder of Funmentum Labs

P.S. If you want help with bringing the abstract to the concrete at your company, book me for 30 minutes--you'll be shocked to learn that I LOVE to talk about it, and have ideas for you.