John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


You can make the argument that in business, achieving Zero Risk is as important as consistently achieving delivery of your non-negotiable service standards. Zero Risk addresses an intimidating array of issues such as service defects, lack of concern about the customer’s experience, and incidents or emergencies that aren’t a company’s fault.

“These all produce unhappy customers.”

But what does Zero Risk look like from the consumer side? As a customer, Zero Risk means you have a sense of security knowing that when you deal with a company, if something goes wrong, that company will make it right. There’s no risk (Zero Risk) on the customer’s part to deal with that company or business.

How many Zero Risk companies do you deal with? The following scenario happens every day.ย  You are unhappy with your experience as a customer. You express your displeasure to a front-line employee who looks at you like a deer in your headlights. At best, that employee may say “Sorry” — but that’s it. The employee isn’t allowed, or required, or trained to fix the problem. It’s obvious that nobody at the company cares whether you are disappointed, and you realize it is a waste of time and energy to try to do anything about it. So you just stop reporting your displeasure, and more importantly, you stop going back. Dealing with a company like that is High Risk and the opposite of Zero Risk.

Today, we expect very little from companies. We feel it is a waste of time to complain because companies will be defensive and will not take responsibility for the problem. By now you probably have heard the urban legend about a customer who returned tires to a Nordstrom store and Nordstrom refunded the money even though it has never sold tires. It doesn’t matter whether or not the story is true.ย  What does matter is that Nordstrom has an almost mythical status for its “no-hassle” customer service.

I admit that I love to shop at Nordstrom. They have made price irrelevant for me because they provide great service, and I know they are a Zero Risk company. I don’t have to worry about returning an item within 30 days or saving my receipt because Nordstrom just doesn’t haggle over these details.

I have a personal “tire experience” story with Nordstrom. One day, as I put on a nice pair of shoes, I noticed that the tongue was damaged in one of them. At first I thought nothing could be done about the situation because the shoes were nearly a year old. But then I remembered that my wife had purchased them at Nordstrom.ย  I decided to put Nordstrom’s reputation to the test. I took the shoes to my Nordstrom in Beachwood, Ohio, and asked for the general manager.ย  Fran Broda introduced herself to me as the general manager and asked how she could assist me.

“My wife purchased these shoes here nearly a year ago, and one of them is now defective.” Fran looked at the shoe. “I don’t believe Nordstrom has ever sold this brand of shoes.” I firmly disagreed.ย  “I am pretty confident my wife purchased these here. She buys all my shoes from Nordstrom.”

“Regardless, let me see what we can do. We should be able to repair it. Can you leave it with us for a few hours?” she replied.ย  I have to admit that I was a little surprised.

At first I felt that she was trying to get out of fixing the shoe. (Maybe the tire story really was a myth.) Could their customer service be overrated? I was sure I would have to pay for the repair, especially as Fran wasn’t admitting to having sold them in the first place. A few hours later, I returned to Nordstrom. The shoe was fixed and as good as new.ย  Better yet, to my great surprise, at no charge!

Driving home, I thought, “That was Zero Risk. They stood behind their product and fixed it, even though my shoes were nearly a year old.” I gave them a 9 on a scale of 10, losing 1 point because Fran tried to say Nordstrom’s hadn’t sold the shoes to me. When I got home, I told my wife the story. She immediately told me that Fran Broda was right! My wife remembered buying the shoes someplace else. So Nordstrom scored a perfect 10. At no charge they had repaired a used shoe that they hadn’t even sold!

“Nordstrom is truly a Zero Risk company.”

~John DiJulius best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the CVO of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. John DiJulius is the innovator of a methodology called Secret Service a customer service system which consistently enables organizations to deliver World-Class Customer Experiences. Find out more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, the #1 National Customer Service Conference.

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