19 October, 2017


Delivering a great customer experience in store starts well away from the public eye. Backstage, there’s a team of people checking deliveries; ensuring fire, health & safety requirements are met; looking after food operations; making sure the store is spick and span; dealing with routine maintenance – and more – to make every moment special.

Neil leads a team of 17 doing these vital tasks at our Pantheon store. He joined us as a 16-year-old part-timer and he’s still with us an amazing 33 years later. After working at several stores in roles including Food Section Manager, Neil’s now in his ideal job. “I’m happy to be at the level I’ve reached,” he says. “But I still get real satisfaction seeing people I’ve trained climb the M&S career ladder.”

It’s a 7am start for Neil, checking on the status of deliveries having been alerted to any serious issues that have cropped up. ”I’ll look at the breakdown productivity and make sure all vehicle scanning has been completed. Then I’ll check the runners on food – are we flowing the delivery out as required?” Neil’s team is spread out over nine floors, so he liaises with his Section Coordinator to make sure that everyone has clear instructions on what they’re supposed to do, and looks ahead to the day’s requirements such as store visits.

Preparation in this first hour is crucial: the Food floor opens at 8am, Clothing & Home at 9pm. There are a number of entrances to the Pantheon store and Neil casts an eagle eye over everything to make sure customers won’t be kept waiting. Then there are the facilities to monitor – perhaps there’s a till issue that needs resolving. He makes sure the emergency team and first aid rotas are completed and joins in the team huddle.

Hardly time for a quick bun and coffee before the WhatsApp group is buzzing with questions for Neil from colleagues. His experience is valued across M&S and he was instrumental in delivering our Backstage Excellence project at Pantheon. “I was proud of the way the project immediately resulted in an increase in productivity and availability for customers. Backstage Excellence was then communicated to other stores and our best practices have led to improvements elsewhere.”

Neil’s ‘management’ role is anything but office-based. He walks the backstage areas, talking to team members, finding out whether there’s anything on their minds and pointing out areas (such as cleaning) that need addressing. “Engaging with my team is vital. It’s important to know what makes people tick, and you have to be accessible and approachable.”

At noon, the store goes into what Neil calls ‘power hours’ and he makes sure we can provide the best possible service to customers. “I deal with all sorts of questions. Have top-up orders been completed? Are the tills working perfectly? Have we met our SLAs for binning? If a lift has broken down – is there adequate signage to help customers?”

Neil’s involved as the morning operations team hands over to the evening team. But there’s still plenty do after a well-deserved bite to eat. A self-assessment on premises security, cleaning audits, staffing models, an email from the Chairman about a customer incident to respond to – anything.

4pm and time to head off. Fortunately, there’s still some of the day left for Neil to indulge in his hobbies. He relaxes by tinkering with motorcycles – “I currently have a 1954 Triumph speed twin in pieces which I’m restoring.” Or Neil will catch up with the most important thing in his life: his 22-year-old son.

Learn more about Section Manager opportunities available here

Inside M&S