Where the Customer Is Still King

A gallery of U.S. companies that prosper by aiming to please

Amid growing anger over the decline of American service, many U.S. companies defy the trend and flourish handsomely because of the care they lavish on customers. A sampling:

Nordstrom. In the low-margin, highly competitive world of department-store sales, Seattle-based Nordstrom has turned exacting standards of customer service into a billion-dollar annual business. The rapidly expanding chain, which has 45 stores in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana and Utah, has drilled its staff incessantly with the venerable dogma that the customer is always right. Result: the chain's sales, 73% derived from women's retailing, passed the $1 billion mark for the first time...