A Minor Customer Experience Fail by Nordstrom

A Minor Customer Experience Fail by Nordstrom
Update: Nordstrom responded to this post with a perfect example of service recovery.

Earlier this week my wife was trying to get some information about an online order she had placed with Nordstrom. She went to the live chat section of their site and started entering her question.

Nordstrom Live Chat

When she was finished explaining the circumstances regarding the order, she clicked the Send button and was greeted by this prompt:

Nordstrom Live Chat Message

This is User Experience 101 stuff. If you can only type a certain number of characters into a text field you have several options to help the user:

  1. Tell the user by simply stating the max number of characters somewhere on the form.
  2. Limit the number of allowable characters in the text box.
  3. Show a character counter (like twitter) to show how many characters you have left before you run out of space.
  4. Automatically truncate the field and confirm the submission with the user.

This really isn’t a big deal, except it’s Nordstrom. They pride themselves on remarkable customer service and experience. Every touchpoint matters, and it’s clear that this one hasn’t been closely examined.

It’s especially important to note that a customer is only coming here if they’re in need of assistance. That likely means there’s a problem. A bad user interface only amplifies the problem and enforces negative emotions about the brand. Shame on you Nordstrom, but I’ll let it slide just this once…especially since you were so helpful once we truncated our question to 250 characters.

Update: Nordstrom responded to this post with a perfect example of service recovery.


  1. 250 characters? Wow. That’s less than 2 tweets. And if I’m an angry customer, punctuation takes up half of those characters!!!!!!!

  2. Uh oh — it’s the end of Western civilization as we know it.

  3. Great post. Funny, I was about to write a similar post. For the last 5 years, I’ve been frequenting a local coffee shop for breakfast and java. And, for the last 5 years running, they bring my egg scramble to the table with no napkin or fork! They walk right past the station that holds both, yet fail to grab them for me. A little thing, yet a huge annoyance. I am finally going to the trouble to fill out a comment card…and a blog post :)

  4. Tim,

    Great example of service going south at the hands of a poorly designed/implemented technology. Don’t they have real end users test this stuff??!

    By the way – I also see another great example here – and that’s the value of “building up enough trust” to keep the customer, despite the mis-hap. You did say that you’ll “let it slide,” didn’t you? ;)

    – Jim

    • Nordstrom has definitely built trust with us. There’s no doubt they’re a leader when it comes to customer service…especially in retail.

      The interaction with the CSR was great; it was just the total lack of UI/UX testing that kind of shocked me.

  5. I wonder what goal was set to create this limit in the first place!? Nice post, Tim!

    • Yeah, I’m not sure either. I think it’s just one of those things that slipped through the cracks. Someone from Nordstrom contacted me with a great response; I’ll post an update tomorrow.

  6. Tim, I’m w/ you on all points made – esp. the point about having such a high “loyalty bank account” w/ a business that we’re able to overlook lapses such as this one. That said, I’m surprised that Nordstrom – with its impeccable service reputation – would let this live chat component resemble an average company.
    Great post! See you around Twitter.
    Steve @enthused

  7. Interesting post — I’ve often wondered if Nordstrom truly deserves its perception as a customer service leader or are there other factors at play? Your post at least confirms they may be mortal!


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