Customer Service at Marks and Spencer

1 January 2017

Marks and Spencer is one of the UK’s leading retailer business organisations. They have 21 million people visiting their stores each week. They sell clothing, home products, as well as food, responsibly sourced from around 2,000 suppliers globally. Their clothing and home ware sales account for 49% of their business while their food sales account for 51%. Now more than ever, they are also known for their green credentials as a result of their five-year eco plan, Plan A, which will see them, amongst other things, become carbon neutral and send no waste to landfill by 2012.

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This assignment requires me to compile a customer service training manual for Marks and Spencer. It will include a background to the company, their mission statement and their charter. I will then design the training manual, define quality service, discuss standards of excellence and codes of practice. I will then discuss the current legislation in terms of Customer Service. I will provide a conclusion and a detailed bibliography at the end of the assignment. Company Background: Marks and Spencer was founded by a partnership between Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer.

On his arrival in England, Marks worked for a company in Leeds, called Barran, which employed refugees. In 1884 he met Isaac Dewhurst, the owner of a Leeds warehouse, which resulted in him opening his own stall on Kirkgate Market, in Leeds. The next few years saw Michael Marks open market stalls in many locations around the North West of England. In 1894, Thomas Spencer invested in Marks’ activities and they opened their first store, in partnership, at 20, Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester.

Marks and Spencer made its reputation in the early 20th century on a policy of only selling British-made goods (a policy eventually discontinued in 2002). It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold clothes and food under the “St Michael” brand, that was introduced 1928. The “St Michael” honours Michael Marks. It also accepted the return of unwanted items, giving full cash refunds if the receipt was shown, no matter how long ago the product was purchased, which was unusual for the time.

It adopted a 90-day returns policy in 2005 but on 12 April 2009, the refund policy changed once again to 35 days. By 1950, virtually all goods were sold under the “St Michael” label. M&S lingerie, women’s clothes and girls’ school uniforms were branded under the “St Margaret” label until the whole range of general merchandise became “St Michael”. Simon Marks, son of Michael Marks, died in 1964. Israel Sieff took over as Chairman and in 1968; John Salisse became the company Director. The company put its main emphasis on quality, including a 1957 stocking size measuring system.

But for most of its history it also had a reputation for offering fair value for money. When this reputation began to waver, it encountered serious difficulties. Arguably, M&S has historically been an iconic retailer of ‘British Quality Goods’. The uncompromising attitude towards customer relations was summarised by the 1953 slogan: “The customer is always and completely right! ” All international shops are operated under franchise, with the exception of those in the Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong which remain in company ownership.

Marks & Spencer’s profits peaked in financial year 1997/1998. At the time it was seen as a continuing success story, but with hindsight it is considered that during Sir Richard Greenbury’s tenure as head of the company, profit margins were pushed to untenable levels, and the loyalty of its customers was seriously eroded. The rising cost of using British suppliers was also a burden, as rival retailers increasingly imported their goods from low-cost countries, but Marks & Spencer’s belated switch to overseas suppliers undermined a core part of its appeal to the public.

Another factor was the company’s refusal until 2001 to accept any credit cards except its own charge card. These factors combined to plunge Marks & Spencer into a sudden slump, which took the company, its shareholders, who included hundreds of thousands of small investors, and nearly all retail analysts and business journalists, by surprise. The company’s share price fell by more than two thirds, and its profits fell from more than a billion pounds in 1997 and 1998 to ? 145 million in the year ended 31 March 2001.

Marks & Spencer launched an online shopping service in 1999. In 2001, with changes in its business focus such as accepting credit cards, the introduction of the “Per Una” clothing range designed by George Davies, accompanied by a redesign of its underlying business model, profits recovered somewhat and Marks & Spencer recovered some of its market share, but it was soon evident that problems remained. In 2004, Marks & Spencer was in the throes of an attempted takeover by Arcadia Group & BHS boss, Philip Green.

On 12 July a recovery plan was announced which would involve selling off the financial services business to HSBC Bank plc, buying control of the Per Una range, closing the Gateshead Lifestore and stopping the expansion of its Simply Food line of shops. Philip Green withdrew his takeover bid after failing to get sufficient backing from shareholders. M&S is currently ranked 21 in The Times’ “Top 100 Graduate Employers 2010–11” Competitors Marks and Spencer’s main clothing competitors are brand name stores like TopShop, Debenhams and Next.

These retailers offer more of the fashionable and trendier designs in clothing which appeal to the younger audience. Younger people especially, prefer purchasing brand labels. Marks and Spencer at the moment have less competitive advantage as they are restricted to their own brand label in all of their departments, whereas, other competitors sell products not only from their own brands but other well-known promoted brands which gives them the competitive advantage.

Although Marks and Spencer’s performance in the food sector is a strength, ood chains such as Tesco and Dunnes Stores accelerated their competition a long time ago by enabling customers to shop from home through the Internet and, hence, food shopping is conveniently delivered to your home. Marks and Spencer have only started doing this in recent times. Due to the recession, people are also looking for the cheaper option, like Aldi and Lidl. By integrating a set of values into its business practices, Marks & Spencer has been able to build its reputation as a responsible retailer.

They have built their reputation on a policy of selling high quality goods. High quality is a major strength that makes Marks and Spencer successful. Customers always find high quality goods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and other superior goods in Marks and Spencer. The company grasps the consumers’ need and stock high quality goods along with food products, such as baby products and women’s underwear. Marks and Spencer also think one of the most important methods to make a good relationship between customers and M&S is to focus on Customer Service.

They have a code of ethics and behaviours that provides a guide to the values, behaviours and ways of working which are at the core of the business and which each employee is responsible for upholding. Customers are becoming more and more aware of health issues and their attitudes are constantly changing so Marks and Spencer have adapted to these changing times by introducing low fat options and organic products. Mission Statement: Marks and Spencer’s mission statement reflects the basic function of their company. It shows us how they wish to be seen by their customers. The following is their logo and a summary of their mission statement:

Their Vision: To be the standard against which all others are measured. Their Mission: To make aspirational quality accessible to all. Their Values: Quality, value, service, innovation and trust. Marks and Spencer’s customers expect the best from M&S products. Therefore, M&S work closely with their suppliers and pride themselves on developing high quality and innovative products that are only available at M&S. In any season, around 80% of their General Merchandise and 30% of their Food products will be new, ensuring they meet their customers’ needs with appealing, superior quality products at attractive prices.

This will develop M&S into an international multi-channel retailer, making the M&S brand more accessible to more customers around the world. Stores Marks and Spencer know that their customers can find their stores difficult to shop. They will address this by segmenting their stores better, for example by region or local demographics and by creating a more inspiring in-store environment. They will improve in-store navigation and present a more consistent packaging architecture across Food, Clothing and Home. They will also focus on more cross selling – migrating more of their customers between Food, Clothing and Home.

Brand Marks and Spencer plan to increase the role of the Marks and Spencer brand so it becomes a brand destination of choice in its own right. They will continue to build on their outstanding quality and make improvements to their core ranges as well as improving their style and fashion credentials. Clothing In clothing they will improve their core Marks and Spencer ranges so that the unique quality, style and fashion of the Marks and Spencer brand will stand out for their customers. They will also move their sub-brands from labels to real brands, giving them more distinctive identities.

They will introduce dedicated brand managers in order to manage the brands individually and provide clear support and targeted market strategies. Home Only 20% of Marks and Spencer customers shop the Home department, representing a real opportunity to grow this part of the business. Marks and Spencer will do this by extending their choice of products and making them more accessible in their largest stores and on-line. They will segment the Home department into 3 sub-departments – classic, contemporary and design. Marks and Spencer will focus on departments such as Kitchenware, bedding and personal care.

Food Marks and Spencer want to build on and establish a clear market position as a specialist high quality food retailer, focussing on freshness, speciality and convenience branded foods that will play a role only where the business cannot develop their own best in class Marks and Spencer alternatives. They plan to introduce 100 distinctive international brands exclusively available at Marks and Spencer. They also plan to make better use of their food department space which will allow them to bring in new products, increasing their range, therefore, offering their customers greater choice.

Marks and Spencer will continue to provide great value by improving the quality without increasing the price. The Training Manual: How to deal with complaints In order to improve our service year on year, we aim to set the standard for treating every complaint quickly and fairly (Source: www. marksandspencer. com). Complaints offer businesses an opportunity to correct immediate problems. They are also an opportunity to impress your customers with your commitment to your customers (Source: Customer Service by Suzanne Twomey, page 12).

In addition, they frequently provide onstructive ideas for improving products, adapting marketing practices, upgrading services, or modifying promotional material and product information. Recognizing the importance of responding fairly and efficiently to buyer disappointment in the marketplace, many businesses have established effective and innovative systems for resolving consumer complaints. The following are general guide lines for handling complaints: 1. Listen to the complaint 2. Respond to the complaint 3. Express regret and empathize 4. Advise 5. Describe 6. Thank them 7. Report. Listen

When a customer is complaining about a product or service, you should always make sure that you listen well, pay attention to what they are saying with an open mind. Do not interrupt them while they are speaking. Take notes if you have to. You should ask for as many details as possible. Establish whether the problem has to do with service or problems with the product offered. Respond Consider your response carefully. Do not reply with excuses or say that it is the customers fault as this will make them more irate. Make eye contact and responses to let customers know you care about what they have to say.

Repeat back to them what the complaint was to make sure that you got the right facts about the complaint and that you understand what they are complaining about. Don’t get defensive. Remember that the customer is not attacking you personally; he or she is merely describing a problem and hoping you can solve it. Ask the customer how they were using the product, and what they had hoped would have happened. Just like the situation when you are selling a product and asking questions, you will find that each answer from the customer gives you vital information in solving the problem.

These questions also help to soothe the customer. As the customer now has to think for an answer, you begin to remove some of the anger or disappointment. Express regret and empathize Sincerely convey to the customer your apology for the way the situation has made them feel. This is not the time for preachy reasons, justifications or excuses; you must apologize. You are not admitting liability; you are simply saying you are sorry that the customer has had a bad experience. Advice Determine what the customer is seeking as a solution.

Ask them; often they’ll surprise you for asking for less than you initially thought you’d have to give – especially when they perceive your apology and intention is genuinely sincere. Advise them on what their options are. This will vary on the situation and the culpability of the organisation. Describe Tell them the steps you are going to take to help them with their grievance. Seek to agree on the solution that will resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Your best intentions can miss the mark completely if you still fail to deliver what the customer wants. Thank them

Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. You can’t resolve something you aren’t completely aware of, or may be making faulty assumptions about. By complaining, the customer has helped ensure that another customer doesn’t have the same unfortunate experience. Report Follow-up to ensure the customer is completely satisfied, especially when you have had to enlist the help of others for the solution delivery. Everything up to this point will be for naught if the customer feels that “out of sight is out of mind. ” Even if you fail to resolve the problem in the way in which you promised, let them know.

Then they will know that you sincerely did your best to help them. How to deal with awkward customers If you sell almost any type of product, then you already know that despite your best efforts at managing service and inventory, clients will be displeased from time to time. But don’t simply accept on going dissatisfaction as an inevitable part of doing business. Instead, work at improving how you deal with customers whose experience has been less than satisfactory. It could mean the difference between losing customers permanently or keeping them satisfied — maybe even more committed to doing business with you.

Here are some skills you can apply: * Get in early. If a customer has been kept waiting, apologize to them for keeping them waiting. This shows you have sympathy for your customers. Always acknowledge the customer’s problem. Say something like, “I’m sorry for the trouble you have gone through—I would be upset, too. ” * Ask the customer what you can do to make him/her feel better. * Be honest. Admit it if you or your company made a mistake. Customers appreciate honesty. After all no one is perfect. * Watch your body language. Don’t stand with your arms folded and a surly expression on your face.

This will antagonize the customer even further. * If the customer has been getting the run-around, and you are still not the person who has the answer, tell the customer that you will find out and call her back. Also give the customer an idea of when you will return with the answer. If you can, provide the customer with your name and contact number so that he may call you in the future if issues arise. People love to have a name and phone number on file; it makes them feel in control. * Explain the situation to the customer. Do not assume that the customer is familiar with the company.

The more a customer knows about your procedures the more in control they will feel in the future. * If they need advice, give it. If you work in a business, then you should know as much about the product as possible. Your advice will therefore reassure the customers and help solve problems more easily. How to deal with customers with specific needs The Equal Status Act 2000 makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of disability (Source: Customer Service by Suzanne Twomey, page 165). If you are providing a service for the general public, you must make it accessible to people with disabilities.

The aim is to figure out practical solutions that allow you to communicate with customers who have disabilities. For relatively simple and straightforward transactions: * You can speak or read information to a customer who is blind or has low vision. For people who are blind or have low vision, printed information can be provided in large print, in Braille, on a computer disk, or in an audio format (such as an audio CD or MP3 player), depending on what is usable for the particular customer. A magnifying glass can also help a person with low vision to read printed materials.

You can use facial or body gestures that express information, point to information, or write notes to communicate with a customer who is deaf or hard of hearing. * You can read notes written by a customer who has a speech disability, or read or listen to the words communicated by the customer’s “communication board. ” * Customers who are blind may also need assistance in finding an item or in manoeuvring through your business’s space. Six Steps for Making Your Customers with Disabilities Welcome: 1. Can People with Disabilities Get into Your Building?

Can someone with a disability get into your facility? Are there clearly marked accessible parking spaces close to your building? Are there steps at your main entrance? Are your doors too heavy for someone with limited physical ability to open? If the main entrance is not accessible, is there another entrance that is at ground level? If so, post a sign pointing to the accessible entrance. If your building is inaccessible but other branches are accessible, post a sign next to the steps letting potential customers know where they can get access.

You may also want to include information about how they can access your services online or by phone. 2. Can Your Customers Interact Easily with Tellers and Other Staff? It’s hard to communicate if you can’t see each other—or make a deposit if you can’t reach the counter. Some financial institutions have a lowered counter (not higher than 36 inches) that allows them to serve customers who use wheelchairs. Others have signs directing customers with disabilities to their customer service desks. 3. Can Your Staff Communicate Clearly with Customers with Disabilities?

Your staff needs to know how to communicate effectively with people who have disabilities. If someone brings a sign language interpreter or a personal assistant, staff should talk directly to the person with a disability, not to the sign language interpreter or assistant. People who have hearing, speech or visual disabilities may require may require extra time or a quiet area to talk with staff or extra attention to understand what is being said. People who have low vision may require materials in alternate formats such as large print.

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