Nordstrom last week eliminated 106 customer care jobs, cutting 30 positions in Seattle, 18 in Cedar Rapids, IA and 58 work-from-home roles across the country, a spokesperson told Retail Dive on Monday. The employees in these roles, who support customers through email, online chat and by phone, will be paid through April 1.
“We've made a number of investments across our business to make shopping easier and more convenient for our customers. One of the results of that has been a decrease in the number of customers who reach out to Customer Care for support, which has put us in the position of being overstaffed on that team,” Nordstrom said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “We've tried different solutions to address the problem, but ultimately decided to reduce roles. Though these kinds of decisions are never easy, we believe this change will position us to best meet the long-term needs of our business.”
Nordstrom also announced that Brent Beabout, formerly an e-commerce supply chain executive at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, will join the department store retailer as EVP, Supply Chain, according to an internal memo from co-president Erik Nordstrom to employees. Beabout also previously worked in supply chain operations at Office Depot, DHL Express and Amazon.
Nordstrom is among retailers first out of the gate with many tech innovations, and its shopper-friendly approach to e-commerce — highlighted by free shipping and returns on all orders, and the ability to return full-line purchases to its off-price Rack stores — has given the company some distinct competitive advantages. But Nordstrom, like many others, is still faced with the peculiarities of rapidly evolving consumer behavior, like the rise of mobile shopping in stores and the stubborn costs of e-commerce.
To address such issues, Nordstrom last year made clear that it would alter its logistics and be more exacting in what it sells online, and last fall it began to shake up its e-commerce executive ranks. The path hasn’t been entirely smooth: Nordstrom Chief Technology Officer Kumar Srinivasan, who was hired to "reduce complexity while optimizing engineering and software productivity and effectiveness across four Nordstrom Technology teams,” left in January after less than a year on the job. Chief Information Officer Dan Little left shortly after that, after three years in the CIO role and 15 total years at the company.
Stellar customer service is a signature element of the Nordstrom brand, of course, so any cuts to roles in that area need to be carefully considered, experts have told Retail Dive.
“Cost-cutting and luxury department store experiences don’t often mix very well,” retail futurist Doug Stephens has told Retail Dive. “The first thing you do is cut people because it's a huge [expense]. Nordstrom has this old fashioned, very personalized, great level of service for which they’ve become notorious. The moment you start cutting into that, and you have one salesperson working in two departments, it becomes a horrible downward spiral. My adage is: 'Don’t spend your effort trying to cost less — spend your effort trying to bring even more value to customers, and make yourselves even more indispensable to them.’”