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This week is National Customer Service Week (NCSW) – a fantastic initiative run by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) to raise awareness of the vital role that customer service plays in successful business practice. 

We are promoting the initiative across all our UK stores and offices – using the week as an opportunity to encourage team conversations on how M&S can go the extra mile and share new ideas that will help us deliver an even better customer experience. 

Being in touch with our customers is at the heart of our business values.  Our Customer Insight Unit undertakes research with over 18,000 customers every week – and this, coupled with thousands of weekly customer contacts handled by our numerous Customer Contact Centres, really helps us understand what matters most to our customers and better anticipate how their needs might change in the future – so we can ensure our products and services remain relevant. 

An important part of my role is to ensure we don’t just listen to our customers but that we take action on their comments. Our in-depth customer satisfaction survey gathers the views of over 55,000 customers each month and measures us against the topics that matter to them – such as ‘quick to pay’ and ‘available to help’ – helping us drive continual improvement. 

Of course – it’s our employees that really bring to life the M&S experience for customers. We know customers are looking for friendly, helpful and knowledge people when they visit our stores. Through a combination of in-store learning and information sharing via channels such as Yammer – we’re equipping employees with the skills and insight to meet and exceed customer expectations. For example, our office buyers have recorded short videos that share the unique stories behind our products – be that our food innovations or the latest fashion trend. 

This approach makes commercial sense too. If an employee can help a customer shop the season’s latest look with confidence or engage them in a new exciting food trend – they’re likely to shop more of the M&S offer across all our channels. 

Great service, coupled with our innovative products, is what keeps our customer coming back and that’s why we created our recognition scheme – Spotlight. The programme includes instant star cards – providing on-the-spot prizes for examples of exceptional service – through to an Annual National Award. This week we’ve given every store an extra Spotlight award to reward stand out individuals. 

There is always more that can be done and we are restless in our aim to be innovative in our approach to customer experience. But we can also draw on our rich heritage of service – for example, following a visit to Company Archive we have reinstated our Chairman’s Cup,   which will be presented to a store that has delivered fantastic customer service for the quarter by our Chairman Robert Swannell. 

Providing above and beyond customer experience is a year-round goal for us, but as part of NCSW, we have the opportunity to shine an even greater spotlight on our service.