CUSTOMER REFUNDS & COMMERCIAL RETURNS – LIFE IN LOGISTICS
Rachel studied Chemistry and Maths at uni, but a career in the lab wasn’t for her. She enjoyed working in retail during her holidays and saw the M&S Supply Chain & Logistics graduate scheme as a great chance to use the analytical skills and logical ways of thinking she’d developed during her degree.
What really appealed to Rachel was the prospect of working in different areas within Logistics and gaining both operational and project-based experience, before deciding on her future career path. Six-month rotations saw her experience Operations Management in Food Logistics, Supply Chain Development in the International team and our Ecommerce warehouse. Her placement in Food Logistics particularly stands out:
“We launched a range of delicate Christmas chocolate products, which needed special handling throughout the distribution network,” she recalls. “I made sure the transport schedule was in place, stores knew when to expect the products and teams were briefed on how to handle the fragile products. I later saw the undamaged products on our shelves – it was cool to know I’d helped make it happen.”
On the scheme, Rachel also had the opportunity to manage her own warehouse team. “It was challenging but rewarding,” she says. “I was pushed out of my comfort zone but it was perfect for building my technical knowledge, growing my confidence and developing my people skills. These have proved invaluable in my current Head Office role.”
Rachel is now a Returns Analyst in Clothing & Home. Our online customers can return their purchases hassle-free by post if they’re not what they are expecting. Rachel is part of a team that makes sure that customers get their refund within the agreed timescales, and also makes sure that customers can access the right information about returns. “Unlike in a store, we can’t talk directly to the customer about the product or their experience. But we work hard behind the scenes to put in place the right processes to provide a great customer experience. We also work with Customer Service teams to investigate and resolve any issues.”
But honouring our customer promise is just one part of the equation. When goods are returned, Rachel is involved in moving them through the logistics network to a place where they’re needed. By doing this, we maximise availability for our customers and give ourselves the best chance to re-sell the goods, so enhancing our bottom line. “I make sure that we have reporting set-up to manage the whole process. It’s important that we understand returns from a logistics perspective so we can make improvements for our customers and deliver for the business.”
Rachel has found that she’s been able to shape her role and contribute to both short- and long-term projects and priorities. She’s also been able to drive her own development. “After taking part in a training programme, I’m now an Operational Excellence Champion, using Lean methodologies to solve problems we face within dotcom Logistics,” she says proudly.
Recognition is also important to Rachel and she recently received a special mention in a department update for her contribution. “It was a great feeling to receive positive feedback and I received a posh afternoon tea for two as a reward!”Inside M&S
TWO MEN, SHARING ONE JOB
Rob and Dougie both joined M&S full time in 2008.
Rob already had Retail Management experience in a toy shop concession and had previously worked as a part-time Sales Assistant at our Inverness store while at school. He was attracted to our Graduate Management scheme, seeing our professional training as the platform to become a better leader. Dougie, on the other hand, had a baptism of fire in Clothing & Home at our Gyle store, where we were holding a mega ‘20% off everything’ event, a major operation to shift stock and only five weeks before Christmas.
The years passed. Both stayed with M&S as promotions and the ongoing support of managers meant we continued to meet their career aspirations. But in recent times, both have taken on family responsibilities which have culminated in their now sharing the role of Commercial Manager in Clothing & Home at our Edinburgh Princes Street store.
“I’m primary carer for my one-year-old daughter, Lily,” Rob explains. “I wanted to continue in my role but also have the flexibility to look after her. People went out of their way to make things happen. I took a career break for seven months before being offered the job-share arrangement. I now have the exact work-life balance I wanted. I love my job, it’s a 20-minute walk from home and there are some great people here, but I can also spend quality time with my lovely girl.”
Dougie has a similar story to tell: “A couple of years ago, my wife and I became full-time guardians to our two young nieces. Two months ago, we became parents ourselves – so having gone from just being the two of us, we now have a family of five! The prospect of job sharing became increasingly attractive. My Store Manager knew my circumstances and was very receptive to the suggestion.”
Three months in, and the job sharing is working out, suiting both parties. Both would like to continue working on this basis for the time being, although reverting to full time may be on the cards when the children have completed primary school.
“It’s great that Rob and I had both done the job previously full time and a lot of people at Princes Street remembered Rob on his return,” says Dougie. “It’s nice to have someone doing the same role as you so you can bounce ideas off them and learn from their perspectives. I can go on holiday knowing that everything will run smoothly.”
Job sharing needs to be weighed up carefully by all concerned. As a business, we need to know we can accommodate the arrangement; potential job sharers need to consider the hit it will take on the pocket. Of course, it’s still the case that fewer men than women take up job sharing, but both Rob and Dougie think it’s an option well worth considering if available.
“Lily hasn’t had to join a nursery, which means she’s been able to form a closer relationship both with me and with her maternal grandparents who live nearby. In terms of nursery costs against lost salary, I’m only losing out slightly working part time,” says Rob.
Despite having home responsibilities both Rob and Dougie throw themselves into the M&S culture and want to achieve more. Rob’s proud to have recently created some videos and DVDs to celebrate store-specific and regional achievements; Dougie loves the buzz of the store and the interaction with different customers.
And, would you believe it, they both manage to put aside a bit of ‘me time’ – for a round of golf in Dougie’s case, or in Rob’s, adding to his collection of ‘Star Wars geekery’
M&S is proud to be able to support a range of flexible working options and we believe our people perform at their best when they are able to balance life at home and life at work.Inside M&S
Putting parents first
Meet Alex, one of our Programme Managers in Food IT. One of his favourite things about working at M&S is our People Policy. This was a major benefit when he and his wife were expecting their first child. He was working in central London, but their home was in Essex. As he explains: “when the due date got nearer, I was really concerned that my wife would go into labour and I’d be at least 80 miles away.”
Luckily, he already knew we offer a number of policies that aim to make life easier for both parents and expectant parents. On our intranet, M&S World, he had found details of our maternity and paternity leave policies and throughout the pregnancy, his line manager had also been very supportive. “I was encouraged to take the time to attend all the appointments, with no pressure of being at work,” he says.
Sharon, Alex’s line manager, said she is constantly working towards getting a better balance of diversity at work in M&S, so when Alex approached her about the opportunity of shared parental leave – she thought it was a great idea. “I talk to lots of women coming back from maternity leave and know how much of a challenge that can be and so to be able to support the move to making it okay to share parental leave is great - hopefully this will encourage more people to take the opportunity,” she says.
Leading up to his son’s birth, we enabled Alex to work from home. “That was a massive relief and took a lot of stress out of the situation,” he admits. It was easy to keep in touch with his line manager by text and this helped when he returned to work after his son was born – it only took a brief meeting with his manager to bring him back up to speed.
Since then, Alex has also benefited from our flexible working policies, which enables him to work where he needs to be. This has given Alex a much improved work life balance and he admits it also had an unexpected effect on his work. “My productivity has actually gone through the roof,” he says. “I get so much more done, because I’m not spending 15 hours a week going into an office to sit at a desk. I get to see my son in the morning and put him to bed at night.”
Towards the end of his wife’s maternity leave, Alex also decided he wanted to take a month’s shared parental leave. He found that his boss was very supportive, so this was quickly agreed and approved. It has allowed him and his wife to plan the trip of a lifetime to Australia – along with their son, of course.Inside M&S
A JOB IS NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS
Like many students, Peter needed a part-time job to have a bit of a life. He’d heard great things about M&S and joined us for the busy Christmas season. Now he’s a full-time member of the team, Christmas is still his favourite time in the M&S year.
“The atmosphere in the office is brilliant. We all dress down and have lots of Christmas jumper days.” Peter tells us that you can’t walk through the office at this time of year without hearing someone humming a festive tune – and when our Christmas advert comes out, the excitement reaches fever pitch. “My fondest memory of working at M&S over the seasonal period is Mrs Claus. I was helping out with the social media team and so we got to see the ad early. I just knew the lady in red was going to be such a big hit!”
Christmas was also the time of year when Peter made every moment special for one of our youngest customers. “A mum had bought her son a paw patrol advent calendar but the chocolates had melted. He was absolutely devastated and his mum asked for my help. I went out of my way to track down a new calendar and I also bought him a paw patrol puzzle book. I put in some of my favourite Percy Pigs, too. I wrote a letter and signed it off from Santa’s helpers. He was so happy and his mum sent me a picture of him holding all his things! It’s what Christmas is all about.”
Peter loved spending Christmas at M&S so much, he made getting a permanent job with us his number one goal. Since then, he’s been amazed at the range of opportunities and what people can achieve here. “I’ve been here, there and everywhere at M&S and loved it. From working on social media to being part of the Webchat team, it’s all been a great experience,” he says.
Peter now works in Retail Customer Services, talking to people on webchat to get their feedback and it’s always his aim to leave the chat happy. He acknowledges that there are some complaints but stresses that he also hears some heart-warming stories.
So if Peter looks after our customers, how have we looked after him? “I’ve learned so much at M&S. My creativity has improved and I feel I’ve become an all-round better person. You’re challenged to constantly improve yourself – not just to do your job but your attitude and actions outside the workplace too,” he says. “The culture of M&S is all about being positive and living the values. The company really cares about individuals; for example they are very open about mental health and wellbeing.”
Peter believes that fun, creative and positive people who can empathise and see things from the perspective of others thrive at M&S – and he works with people who fit the bill. “Customers don’t get to see how close we all work together. We’re not just colleagues, we’re friends too who spend time together outside work. My sister now works for M&S too, and she loves it!”
And he’s equally a fan of our products. “You can’t help falling in love with the amazing food M&S offers. And not just food either: just wait until you taste some of the wonderful gins we sell!”
Seems his 20% staff discount comes in handy.
Find out more about opportunities available here.Inside M&S
A HEART-WARMING CHRISTMAS TALE FOR ALL THE FAMILY
Jingle bells start jingling when M&S launches its Christmas ad. And this year’s festive campaign brings Paddington to the screen, our stores and online. But not only does the campaign help to create a magical and memorable Christmas experience for those who shop and work in our stores, it also helps some of the UK’s most vulnerable children.
Why the Paddington theme? Christmas is for all the family, so is M&S, and the bear is a treasured family favourite. There’s Paddington 2 hitting our cinemas (we’re showing a 90-second version of the ad before every screening of the film). And of course our Head Office is based in Paddington, west London.
It made perfect sense to Rob, our Director of Brand & Marketing. “We’d been talking about using our family credentials to leverage growth,” he says. “We loved the notion of two major British icons coming together and Paddington was the ultimate family character. We researched the idea of using Paddington very early this year and people said it was their second all-time favourite film. It set us off on a great track.”
Patrick, our Executive Director of Customer, Marketing & M&S.com, shares Rob’s enthusiasm: “At M&S our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we know they love spending Christmas with family and friends. We couldn’t turn down the chance to bring Paddington into the heart of our Christmas campaign this year.”
The ad is called ‘Paddington and the Christmas Visitor’. Without wishing to spoil it for you (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a charming story of heart-felt redemption), here’s a summary: Paddington wakes on Christmas Eve and stumbles across a burglar. Despite the burglar’s protest that he is ‘not Santa’, the innocent and good-natured bear helps him take the presents to where they belong. The burglar sees the error of his ways and a crisis is avoided for Paddington’s neighbours.
Rob describes our 2017 festive offering as “our most joined-up campaign ever”, and it’s easy to see why. There is a dedicated Paddington Shop in 78 M&S stores. These include selfie stations and house over 90 themed products, the majority in Kidswear – and naturally, Paddington’s favourite marmalade will be available in our foodhalls.
But the products also include the story of the advert priced at £3 and all profits from in-store and online sales will go to the NSPCC (there are also book-readings at selected stores). Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of the NSPCC’s Childline said: “For some vulnerable children and young people Christmas can be very difficult. We’re delighted to be partnering with M&S and Paddington to support Childline and raise awareness of the work we do. At only £3, the book is excellent value for money and the perfect Christmas gift.”
We’re also bringing Paddington to life in a fully integrated cross-channel campaign. The ad is being played on TV, social, in cinemas and on our own channels, and there is extra content on YouTube. And underpinning it all is social support encouraging customers to #LoveTheBear.
It’s going to be a Christmas to remember. So resist our mince pies for a minute – marmalade sandwich, anyone?Inside M&S
You can go from school leaver to inspiring leader
Henry believes that his biggest achievement so far is getting on to our school leaver scheme. “It’s competitive and has had some very inspiring leaders who have successfully progressed through the programme. To go through the same training as them and with M&S is a real privilege.”
He also says that it surpassed his expectations. While he was looking forward to a good foundation level of training, he had no idea how much coaching he would get, especially in how to drive, motivate and lead a team.
That’s turned out to be a motivator in itself. “Retailing appealed to me because every day is so different and you get to work with amazing people,” Henry tells us. “Learning how to coach, engage and support your own team’s development and success is a real motivator for me. With some of my family working in retail I had found out that M&S is one of the best to work for, with an excellent benefits package and great values.”
With three different commercial roles after the school leaver programme, Henry still hasn’t become accustomed to the variety. “Retail management at M&S is so much more than you may think. “There’s a lot of detail from analysing sales reports and patterns, to planning for future commercial events and opportunities, to managing and developing people.”
Luckily, Henry has a great role model in Steve Rowe, our CEO. “Steve stands out for me. He’s worked tirelessly all the way through the business from the bottom to the top, learning his trade and developing himself as a business leader.”
Hopefully Henry will follow in Steve’s footsteps – he tells us that he’d like to be a store manager in five years’ time. Just has he was inspired by one of our senior leaders figures and his own line managers, he wants to inspire and lead a large team himself. We’re sure he’ll get there.
Henry is one of our former school leavers who’s proving what you can learn and achieve at M&S. Find out more about the scheme here.Inside M&S
MARKS & SPENCER IS THE UK’S MOST AUTHENTIC BRAND
The findings come as the result of a study of 15,000 people worldwide carried out by Cohn & Wolfe. Customers were asked to arrange a list of seven attributes in order of importance, with data protection and privacy ranking as their main concern.
We nabbed the top spot ahead of competition from some leading retailers at a time when the handling of personal data is becoming ever more significant for brands. With stringent new rules under the General Data Protection Regulation coming in to force next May, companies and organisations risk significant fines for the mishandling of people’s personal data.
Other attributes by which customers judged the authenticity of a brand included treating customers well, delivering on promises and communicating honestly. Scores were collected out of 100 based on people’s perception of them.
Scott Wilson, Chief Executive of Cohn & Wolfe UK, said: "If people are convinced that you are authentic, our research shows they are more likely to listen, or purchase. Beyond that, they are more likely to recommend your brand to others – and to stick with you during times of crisis."
He added: "This shows that authenticity is a key driver of reputation. And to be authentic, a brand must be reliable, respectful and real. Brands should consider how authentic they are and what they can do to be more authentic – the business benefits will be very real."
Guy Johnson, Head of Data Governance at M&S said of the win: “Being transparent and trustworthy is part of our commitment to putting customers at the heart of everything we do. We’re delighted to receive recognition for something that we really value as a business.”Inside M&S
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VANDWICH 2017 IS COMING TO A CAMPUS NEAR YOU!
Back by popular demand! For the past year, our Vandwich competition has helped cure the stomach-rumblings of students at campuses across the UK – and we’re running the comp again this year.
It’s very simple how it works. Students from the chosen universities go to vandwich.co.uk and vote to win a van-load of delicious M&S sandwiches and crisps for their campus. Universities that are in close proximity will be pitched together head to head; for example, York will take on Leeds and Bath will be up against Bristol. Well, we thought there’s nothing like a bit of local rivalry to get students to hit the voting buttons! The paired uni with the most votes when the competition closes wins.
An M&S-branded chiller van will then turn up at the winning campuses over a two-week period to hand out 300 free sandwiches and crisps in branded goody bags, sparing students yet another beans-on-toast meal.
And that’s not all. Once again, Percy Pig will be making a guest appearance on the winning campuses. Students will be encouraged to socialise with Percy and take part in some fun mini-challenges – and those who enter into the spirit of the event will be treated to a bag of Percy Pigs to enjoy after their sandwich and crisps.
Last year, the Percy Pig-based challenges included Great Piggish Break Off, a dance off between Percy and students; and Pig Out, which involves eating as many Percy Pigs as possible in 20 seconds. Pig Out will certainly be featuring again this year and we’re also looking at a challenge in which Percy has to High Five as many students in a set time limit, or a similar challenge involving hugs.
Hardworking students will love the mouthwatering treats we bring to campus and each event will be a lot of fun. But Vandwich and Percy working in tandem also provides a great opportunity for us to get our careers message across. There will be a flyer inside the branded bags directing students to our careers website. Sending Percy on a UK road trip enables us to spread the word about our business placements and graduate careers, and we’ll also have our Brand Ambassadors on campus.
Once again, we’re capitalising on the power of social media. Last year, students posted videos or photos of themselves with Percy on Twitter; this year, we’re embracing Snapchat and there are some great prizes up for grabs. All students have to do is use their Snapchat geofilters to find Percy who’s hiding on campus and share an image on the dedicated Vandwich Snapchat page ‘findpercy’. Students submitting the most imaginative or original social content can win £250 worth of Virgin Experience Vouchers, an Amazon Echo or a £75 M&S Voucher.
Voting for the universities has now closed and the lucky winners of our sarnies will be announced in the coming weeks. Watch this space.Inside M&S
Managing a £9m business within three years
Katie didn’t know what she wanted to so after she graduated. And she says it wasn’t retail that appealed. “It was the lure of the brand. M&S has a heritage – it’s the sort of place that your granny has heard of. That’s become a rarity nowadays.”
Just three years after graduation, Katie now manages the Simply Food store in Skipton. “Although I’m personally accountable for a £9m business, my job is predominantly about people. It involves overseeing a team of 50+ and managing three section managers.”
She continues, “I knew the Graduate Scheme was a fast track into management, but I don’t think I fully understood that quite literally you’re in charge of your own segment of a multimillion-pound business.”
Katie discovered that retail management involves more than just retail management. Her regional manager has encouraged her in various other ventures. “Most recently, a colleague and I were challenged to create an 8-week internship for current university students. We did everything from pitching the scheme to a lecture theatre of students, to recruitment, devising the programme, engaging senior stakeholders and coaching the interns.”
There are more development projects on the way for Katie, so that she can understand how some of our amazing products come to fruition. “I’ve arranged to spend some time with different food departments at Head Office, and am really looking forward to meeting some of our product development teams. Who knows what that will inspire me to do next?”
Katie is impressed by our heritage, because she believes it shows how we’ve managed to remain relevant for over 100 years. “Lots of retailers talk about customer service, but I think M&S have gone a long way to redefine what this actually means for our business,” she begins. “Steve Rowe, our CEO, has said that in everything we do, we must put the customer at the heart of it. I believe we don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Even our recruitment process is heavily weighted towards the customer.”
Could you manage a £9m business within three years? On our graduate scheme and beyond, anything’s possible. Find out more here.Inside M&S