Improving Member Service: Hire the Smile, Train the Skill

Kristen Christian, Speaker & Consultant, Founder of Bank Transfer Dayby: Kristen Christian, Speaker & Consultant, Founder of Bank Transfer Day

Nordstrom has become synonymous with customer service in a way no other chain of stores has.  The famous “tire refund” legend has certainly played a role in perpetuating Nordstrom’s legacy of service.  John Nordstrom recounts in 1975 a salesman at a Fairbanks store was confronted with a confused customer who wanted a refund on a tire he’d purchased from the building’s former tenant, a tire shop.  The salesman offered the customer the requested $25 refund before thanking him for coming in and inviting him to return.

One of the greatest benefits available to Nordstrom employees is that they are basically hired to be nice to people and then are given the tools, resources and support to do just that.  In business terms, being nice means providing outstanding customer service, anticipating and meeting people’s needs, and creating an exceptional workplace.

Considering that Nordstrom is working within the same employment pool as competitors, how have they cultivated an unparalleled reputation for positive customer interaction?  As Bruce Nordstrom likes to say, “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.” By the company’s own account, job seekers flock to openings within the organization to feel valued and as if they are a part of something greater than themselves.

Having spoken with credit union employees from varying levels, I’ve observed a striking similarity in the motivation behind their desire to work within the cooperative movement.  No matter their title or responsibilities, they believe wholeheartedly in the credit union mission of “people helping people.”

Water and Power Community Credit Union in Los AngelesA shining example of this sentiment hangs in the lobby of Water and Power Community Credit Union in Los Angeles, in the form of a handmade poster.

As credit unions hire additional staff to serve the influx of new members and work toward improving member service experiences, I would urge upper management to consider the adage “hire the smile, train the skill.”


Kristen is a Los Angeles based entrepreneur and the founder of the Bank Transfer Day movement. With a perspective based in activism, she was raised with an understanding that cooperation and respect are crucial for communities to thrive. From serving their members to serving the communities they are a part of, credit unions follow a similar path. Social media offered the opportunity for a global platform, which resulted in more than 600,000 new credit union members nationwide in the month leading up to November 5th.  www.kristenchristian.com

Kristen Christian

Kristen Christian

Kristen is a Los Angeles based entrepreneur and the founder of the Bank Transfer Day movement. With a perspective based in activism, she was raised with an understanding that cooperation ... Web: kristenchristian.com Details

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