Social media has offered a new way for businesses to interact with both current and potential customers. Sanda Belaire, a manager at Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle, knows firsthand how beneficial it is to form these online relationships. She has used her socially savvy skills to promote both the company she works for and herself professionally. Utilizing Twitter, Sanda has increased social media interactions for Nordstrom and grown her own following. Check out this 1:1 interview for an inside look at how one of the largest department stores in the country utilizes social media. Sanda lends useful advice on growing a Twitter following both as a company and personally, how to best use Twitter as a customer service tool and more.
Q: Sanda, can you tell us a little bit about your professional background including how you got into your current profession and how you began incorporating social media into your career?
Sanda: My Nordstrom career began 25 years ago and over that time I have worked at 5 Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores. I’m passionate about people and fashion, which falls directly in line with the Nordstrom culture. We are encouraged to be owners of our own business and social media has been a great way to listen to existing customers as well as connect with new customers.
In 2009 Nordstrom employees were given the opportunity to use social media professionally. I was already using Twitter in my personal life, but as a Personal Stylist Manager, I found it was an effective way to spread the message about Nordstrom’s complimentary Personal Styling service. It quickly became my way of connecting with customers on a day-to-day basis.
Today I use Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to share anything I’m excited about throughout the store and social media has become an integral part of my day. If a fabulous Christian Louboutin shoe or Alexander Wang dress comes in, I want to share it immediately and social media enables me to do that.
On a personal note, I find that Twitter is the most effective and timely way to receive information. As a working mom, reading my Twitter timeline is the best way to know what’s going on in the world. Twitter is the fastest way to get breaking news, from the people who are there as it’s happening in real time.
Q: In many cases, Twitter seems to be an extension of a company’s customer service department. In putting yourself out there as a representative for Nordstrom, how do you handle unhappy customers?
Sanda: At Nordstrom we are empowered to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. We listen to their problem, try to find a solution by using good judgment and respond in the best way we can.
We know that the definition of customer service is changing and today many want to be served through social media. Customers can tweet at Nordstrom or their salesperson anytime with their needs or questions. I try to respond as soon as I am able. In the past I’ve found merchandise, connected salespeople, suggested the right shoes and gifts through Twitter as well as met fabulous people.
Social media is continuing to redefine service and we are here to listen to our customers — happy or unhappy.
Q: You have successfully grown an impressive online presence for both Nordstrom Seattle and yourself. What are your top tips for best utilizing a personal Twitter profile versus a business profile? And do you feel like customers prefer interacting with one over the other?
Sanda: It really is a team effort. We are lucky to have Jesse Codling, our Flagship Social Media coordinator run the Nordstrom Seattle Twitter and Facebook page. I did it for a few months and found it was a lot to balance with managing a department. Additionally, we have engaged veteran salespeople at the Flagship such as @NordyPeggy in Designer Handbags, @NordstromBB in Designer Salon Shoes, @NordstromBryan in Women’s Shoes and @NordyErin in our Human Resources department. We all share a passion for taking care of customers and for working at Nordstrom.
In addition to working as a team with my co-workers, below are a few personal tips that I have learned through using Twitter:
1. My #1 tip is to respond to tweets quickly. People use Twitter to get real time information and it’s important to get back to questions and concerns in a timely manner.
2. Some Twitter users want to relate to a face or a person rather than a brand. I think the most compelling Twitter feeds offer more than just merchandise. I love sharing outfits, style tips and merchandise, but I also tweet about being a working mom.
3. I like to re-read tweets I have sent in the past to ensure that my tone stays consistent and I am always offering new, fresh advice.
4. Never forget with social media you’re “on stage.” Anyone, anywhere can see what you are tweeting.
5. Be thankful, humble and use the golden rule: Twitter is about engagement and connecting but listening is just as powerful as broadcasting.
Q: As a career coach, I’m always emphasizing the value and importance of mentorship in career development for women. Describe your most important mentor and how they helped you achieve success.
Sanda: I’ve been fortunate enough to have many mentors throughout my time at Nordstrom. It’s true that we work for a family and as a result are a big family. We all mentor each other and help one another grow, be better leaders and succeed. My mentors are my support group.
My special mentors are the other working mothers. We support each other’s daily balance of family and career by listening and offering not only career advice but mom advice.
My current store manager at Nordstrom Downtown Seattle, Todd Buntin is an inspirational leader and mentor. Every interaction with him ends with “How can I help you?” He’s a leader that puts people — customers and employees — first.
Photos: Courtesy of Sanda Belaire and Nordstrom