Top brandFocus on the customer: Nordstrom
When mythic stories circulate about your company's awesome customer service, you know you're doing something right. That's the hallmark of this upscale department store, which is rumored to have once graciously accepted the return of a set of tires, even though the store has never sold tires.
"Nordstrom is all about the power of delivering exceptional customer service that goes above and beyond a typical service experience," Northwestern's Calkins says.
Nordstrom scored strongly among respondents for concern for the customer, as well as for the quality of the products in its nearly 230 stores. Attentive service--which includes a liberal return policy, e-mailing digital photos of new items to regular customers and sending thank-you notes after purchases--frees the Seattle-based retailer from having to focus on competitive pricing, which helps keeps profit margins higher.
"They don't pretend to have the lowest prices, but they don't have to," Calkins says. "When people go there they know they may pay a little more, but the service is so good that it makes it worthwhile."
Respondents criticized Nordstrom for not providing consumers with much information about its corporate decision-making policies, but Calkins contends that when building a brand identity, it's OK for your proposition to focus on one principal element, as long as you do it right.
"What makes this brand tick is the service experience, not the approach," he says. "Nordstrom has never focused on its company or its people; all of that positive energy is directed at the customer and the retail experience, and it's the secret to their success."
Cincinnati-based Paula Andruss has written for USA Today, Woman's Day and numerous marketing publications.
About the survey:The Values Institute, which conducted the study, identified five values that influence trust in a brand: ability (company performance); concern (care for consumers, employees and community); connection (sharing consumers' values); consistency (dependability of products/services); and sincerity (openness and honesty).
A total of 1,220 U.S. consumers were asked to rate each trust value on a five-point scale, from "very unimportant" to "very important." Additionally, five consumer perceptions were measured for each value; these included statements such as "They respond to feedback about their products and services," and "They value my business and reward me for the loyalty." Each respondent rated two randomly selected brands; those who felt strongly were also asked to provide individual comments. The result is the "Trust Index," a composite score that indicates the level of trust respondents had with each individual brand in relation to the other studied brands.