How Kendra Scott Crafted a Remarkably Wholesome Customer Service Philosophy

Illustration by Grey Thornberry.

Scott’s first retail experiences led to the creation of ‘the Sister Rule,’ a policy that’s still going strong across 130 retail stores.

Kendra Scott had no interest in opening a store. Having worked in retail since she was 14, she’d amassed a long list of frustrations with the brick-and-mortar experience. Plus, she had already tried her hand at it once, opening, and then closing, a shop selling headwear for cancer patients.

In 2008, her eponymous wholesale jewelry business was gaining traction, but the recession was hammering her small-business partners. As boutiques closed and buyers retreated, Scott realized it was the individual customer she needed to connect with. “The only way that I could do that is if I had that direct communication with her,” Scott tells Inc.’s What I Know podcast. She’d been achieving that by doing pop-ups and events in retail stores. As those opportunities evaporated, she realized she was going to have to “take that risk of opening retail again.”

She opened her first Kendra Scott jewelry store in downtown Austin that year. Today, she’s grown the brand to more than 130 retail locations across the U.S. and more than 2,500 employees. She credits that growth to listening to customers and having built a company that aspires to treat customers like family. That was partly because actual family was involved. Scott had recently had a baby who she’d often bring to work. Some of her employees did the same. “We’d be passing babies around!” Scott recalls, adding that employees would often urge each other to get out the door for family obligations, like soccer games.

“It was this village–this community of love and support–that we started in those very early days of Kendra Scott that have just continued to grow,” she says. It even inspired a refreshingly wholesome customer-service policy called the Sister Rule. Scott explains: “It’s ‘what would you do for your sister?'” Each retail employee is empowered to make decisions based on that rule. If a customer comes in with a broken earring, they can fix it without finding a manager, or replace it, or offer the customer half off on a new pair.

Scott says the Sister Rule started in her first Austin store, as she sought to remedy “all the things that drove me crazy” about traditional retail, like giant binder-sized returns policies, or hearing “let me talk to my manager and I’ll get back to you.”

“I wanted to change that in our stores,” she says. “For me, it made it simple.”

To hear my full interview with Kendra Scott, including how her brand repeatedly goes viral on TikTok, click on the player above, or find What I Know in Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to audio.