IN CITY AFTER CITY ACROSS AMERICA, established department stores have braced with fear: When Nordstrom's comes to town, standards of service have to go up. "Oh, my God," competitors think, "now we gotta smile at customers and write silly thank-you notes, or they'll walk across the mall to Nordies."
But the secrets of Nordstrom Inc.'s success go much deeper, as Women's Wear Daily reporter Robert Spector and Nordstrom menswear salesman Patrick D. McCarthy explain in The Nordstrom Way: The Inside Story of America's #1 Service Company (Wiley, $24.95)--No.4 on this month's best-seller list. Despite the unassuming "we're just shoe guys" attitude of the family members at the top, Nordstrom sparks performance by paying salespeople high commissions, giving them decision-making power, and pushing them to act like entrepreneurs. The resulting environment is too Darwinian for some--a 1990 labor battle brought to the surface a number of employee complaints, to which the Nordstroms respond here.
Don't look to The Nordstrom Way for a balanced account of the company's successes and failures. But for anyone looking to understand customer service at its best, this book bubbles with insights.
HARDCOVER BUSINESS BOOKS
1 THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema (Addison-Wesley $25)
Consultants diagnose what successful companies do.
2 FIRST THINGS FIRST by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill (Simon & Schuster $23)
Managing your time by balancing your life.
3 THE BEARDSTOWN LADIES' COMMON-SENSE INVESTMENT GUIDE by the Beardstown Ladies Investment Club with Leslie Whitaker (Hyperion $19.95)
Recipes for Four-Bean Salad, Five-Hour Stew--and 23% returns.
4 THE NORDSTROM WAY by Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy (Wiley $24.95)
A top company salesman describes the retailer's customer-service culture.
5 BUILT TO LAST by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (HarperBusiness $25)
How 3M, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and others became standouts.
6 EVERYONE'S A COACH by Don Shula and Ken Blanchard (HarperBusiness $22)
Go, fight, win, says the coach.
7 THE WARREN BUFFETT WAY by Robert G. Hagstrom Jr. (Wiley $24.95)
A useful analysis of how Buffett does it.
8 JESUS CEO by Laurie Beth Jones (Hyperion $16.95)
Applying the teachings of the Bible to business problems.
9 THE HP WAY by David Packard (HarperBusiness $17)
Hewlett-Packard's co-founder tells how the giant grew from its humble origins in a Palo Alto garage.
10 RAVING FANS by Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Sheldon Bowles (Morrow $20)
How to turn customers into your biggest boosters.
11 REENGINEERING MANAGEMENT by James Champy (HarperBusiness $25)
"Reengineering the Corporation" co-author re-evaluates.
12 TRANSFORMING THE ORGANIZATION by Francis J. Gouillart and James N. Kelly (McGraw-Hill $24.95)
Two gurus' guide to shaping a company's evolution.
13 COMPETING FOR THE FUTURE by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad (Harvard Business School $24.95)
For healthy growth, anticipate the future--and how to dominate it.
14 SOROS by Robert Slater (Irwin $25)
The life and investment tactics of "the world's greatest money manager."
15 WHY GOOD GIRLS DON'T GET AHEAD...BUT GUTSY GIRLS DO by Kate White (Warner $21.95)
Career strategies from a former "goodie two-shoes" who got wise.
PAPERBACK BUSINESS BOOKS
1 THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey (Fireside $12)
2 1001 WAYS TO REWARD EMPLOYEES by Bob Nelson (Workman $8.95)
Give 'em a champagne brunch, a casual-dress day--or plain old cash.
3 THE 1995 WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? by Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed Press $14.95)
The enduring job-search bible.
4 THE REENGINEERING REVOLUTION by Michael Hammer and Steven A. Stanton (HarperBusiness $15)
Roads to reengineering success.
5 REENGINEERING THE CORPORATION by Michael Hammer and James Champy (HarperBusiness $13)
Using information technology to redesign business processes.
6 THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE by Peter Senge (Currency $18.50)
Creating the "learning organization."
7 GETTING TO YES by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton (Penguin $11.95)
A Harvard team's step-by-step guide to conflict resolution.
8 THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING MONEY AND INVESTING by Kenneth M. Morris and Alan M. Siegel (Fireside $13.95)
Concise explanations enriched with graphics.
9 ZAPP! by William C. Byham PhD with Jeff Cox (Fawcett $10)
How "empowerment" revved up employees at the fictional Normal Co.
10 THE GOAL by Eliyahu M. Goldratt (North River Press $19.95)
Bringing your strategies in line with your No.1 purpose: making money.
11 THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE FIELDBOOK by Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, and Bryan J. Smith (Currency $29.95)
Exercises, tools, and stories relating to the "learning organization."
12 KNOCK 'EM DEAD by Martin Yate (Adams $9.95)
A job-seeker's handbook.
13 THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER by Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Spencer Johnson M.D. (Berkley $9.95)
Three management techniques, conveyed in brief story form.
14 PERSONAL FINANCE FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson (IDG Books $16.95)
15 THE PURSUIT OF WOW! by Tom Peters (Vintage $14)
Irreverent tips on keeping products, organizations, and people from going stale.
Reporting stores: Barnes & Noble Inc. (including Barnes & Noble, Bookstop, Bookstar, B. Dalton, Doubleday, and Scribner's); Baxter's (Minneapolis); Benjamin Books World Trade Center (New York); Borders (32 states); Business Savvy Inc. (Chicago); Classic Bookshop (New York); Harvard Coop (Cambridge, Mass.); Library Ltd. (St. Louis); McGraw-Hill Bookstore (New York); Oxford Book Stores (Atlanta); Powell's (Portland, Ore.); Reiter's (Washington); Rizzoli World Financial Center (New York); San Diego Technical Books; Schwartz Business Books (Milwaukee); Sidney Kramer (Washington); Stacey's Bookstores (San Francisco); Stanford University Bookstore (Stanford, Calif.); Tattered Cover (Denver); Taylors Ltd. (Dallas-Ft. Worth); University Book Store (Seattle); Waterstone's (Boston, Chicago); WordsWorth (Cambridge, Mass.). Represented are approximately 1,090 retail outlets. Rankings based on a weighted analysis of unit sales in June.