The Battle: Nordstrom Customer Service Vs. Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store

Nordstrom on Tuesday (May 20) said they would support buy-online-pick-up-in-store for the first time. This e-commerce cross-channel classic has been popular for several years, but Nordstrom--with its stronger than average commitment to customer service--has resisted until now.

The chain is initially testing it with Women's apparel, Men's apparel, Women's Shoes and Cosmetics, with Nordstrom saying that it "plans to offer this service for all merchandise categories by September."

The biggest complaint with this feature for other retailers has been customer-service related, with customers waiting longer than promised to be given their items. Nordstrom is promising that it will "typically send customers a confirmation E-mail within one hour of receiving the online order during normal business hours."

It will be interesting to see how the chain's legendary customer service handles it. The expectations of a Nordstrom's customer will be much higher than the customers for most chains that have tried buy-online-pick-up-in-store.

Nordstrom's focus on customer service has allowed them to justify a much higher associate-to-customer ratio, as well as allowing those floor associates more time to spend with each customer.

This more leisurely approach could also improve one of the original goals of this service, which was to push upsells. But a frustrated customer who has been kept waiting usually wants nothing more than to run out of the store after such an experience. Will Nordstrom ironically find this service more profitable than others?

The nature of a more hands-on high-end approach is typically seen as running counter to self-service offerings, such as kiosks, self-checkout and even some parts of the Web. If this trial works, will it open other non-traditional doors?