Thinking customer, first second and third…
I joined M&S just over 4 and a half years ago, as a bit of a change of scenery. When the agency I was with gave me a call about M&S, I was excited to have the chance to work for such a prestigious company, and it’s always been a shop my family have shopped in.
I started as an adviser talking to our customers on the phone, in emails and in letters. I then moved onto some of our more complex cases, before becoming a senior adviser, helping colleagues to resolve issues.
This career path made me ideally suited to joining the Customer Experience Improvement team, where I’ve been for almost three years now. As my job title suggests, we work very closely with all the other departments to provide insight and feedback directly from our customers.
These customers get in touch with every possible question, query and piece of feedback you can imagine. M&S customers are GREAT at telling us what they want. My team’s role is to make sure the customer’s voice is heard, and ensure we act on it where possible.
I think my biggest achievement has to be the development of our Conversations M&S Style initiative. It really helped us to remove the robotic contact centre speak, enabling our advisers to have human, natural conversations. Having this experience has changed the way we speak to our customers across all of our contacts, and it’s given us a great basis for the Virtual Assistant on our website.
I’m also proud to have helped make a change to our product line. When I was a senior adviser, we had a customer get in touch to ask about our sleep-vests with poppers. The customer found them great, but we only went up to a certain age with them – but this customer’s grandson was older and needed them for a feeding tube he had.
My colleague ended up getting in touch with our buying team to let them know that customers had been struggling to get hold of these sleepsuits for older children (and how much other companies charge for them). With everyone’s help and effort, we now sell sleepsuits for older children. This really stands out as an example of the changes we can make if we listen to what our customers want.
I’d say the opportunities I’ve had in the Contact Centre have been great, especially the last few years with the Customer Experience Improvement team. It’s surprising just how many areas of our business are looking for customer insight. My knowledge of the business and where we’re taking it has come on no end.
To search and apply for opportunities in our Chester Contact Centre click here.Inside M&S
Looking ahead to keep customers happy
Suzannah is an Employee Services Operations Manager at our Manchester office. This means she runs the teams that make sure all of our in-store colleagues have the right contractual data, relating to things such as hours and pay.
“We’re one big team, so we often support each other. It’s a great collective effort - almost everyone’s trained in more than one area, so we can be really flexible to ensure we put our customers’ needs first. We genuinely care about our employees and customers.”
It’s a far cry from her first job at an M&S store in 2006, when she joined as a university graduate. Since then, she’s had a number of different roles across the business. “Each one’s been a new challenge and has enabled me to learn different skills. It always surprises me that, although I’ve worked in the business for a long time, I still learn new things about it every day.”
Taking on so many different roles could have been daunting, but she says she always had support from her line managers, particularly when she had to take on new tasks. Now, in her current role, she appreciates the opportunity to return the favour by supporting colleagues across the business.
“I work with a team that’s really passionate about the brand and serving our colleagues,” Suzannah says. “We understand that even though we aren’t customer facing, everyone we deal with is. By having a positive impact on every employee, we can help customers, too.”
She also enjoys the positive effect M&S can have on local communities. As she explains, when we recently opened a new store, it wasn’t just the M&S team who were buzzing about it. “People in the area were stopping and looking as the store was being built, and on the first day we had so many locals through the door.”
Supporting customers and communities like this is one of the main aspects of life at M&S that stands out for Suzannah. “There have been so many instances where colleagues have gone above and beyond to support communities and individuals going through difficult times. It really makes me proud to be part of M&S.”Inside M&S
When ambition can’t wait, the only way is the Business Placement Programme
Today Richard is Head of Region, working at M&S. He’s based in Dublin and his main responsibility is overseeing trading and operations for the soon-to-be 18 stores in the Republic of Ireland. It’s a big job - but what’s even bigger is the path that led Richard to this role and the one placement that launched his career on a massive upward trajectory.
“I did Information Management and Business Studies at Loughborough University. As part of this, I had to complete a Business Placement Programme. I decided to give Retail a try, so I applied to M&S, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s. In the end, I chose to work at M&S because the company completely surpassed all my expectations.”
Richard has enjoyed a varied career at M&S, having done seven roles in 11 years, including Commercial and Store Management ones.
“After six years out in stores, learning and really immersing myself in the business, I became a Clothing & Home Trader for the Southeast. This role taught me a lot about M&S, after which I moved on to be the Head of Retail Trading for Clothing & Home. And after two years doing that, I was appointed in to my current role. It has been exciting and very rewarding but if you ask me, it was only possible thanks to the Business Placement I did.
I loved my placement year and I couldn’t wait to get back to M&S once I’d finished my degree. I learned so much in just that time, I met and worked with great people and developed new skills. It gave me focus, knowledge and prepared me for my future. It’s only now really that I realise how important that placement was and how much M&S supported me during that time. I feel one big piece of advice I can give students is to seriously consider this programme.”
Find out more about the Business Placement Programme by clicking here. Change your life and shape your future.Inside M&S
TAKING A CHARITY CREATION TO CUSTOMER CAFÉS
“I’ve been baking since I’ve been walking,” says Beth, fresh from winning the M&S Great Bake Off. She cheerfully admits to ruining many a family diet or fitness regime with her baking at home and her love for food grew in her previous job.
“Before I joined M&S, I was sailing the high seas as a hydrographic surveyor on board a global fleet. I was often in the galley with Indonesian and Malaysian Michelin-starred chefs, loving the exotic flavours they were using. Baking also brought relief from homesickness and a good cake put a smile on my shipmates’ faces.”
Little did Beth know how that would pay off a few years down the line. All our Head Office colleagues are eligible to enter Bake Off and the creations are showcased at a Macmillan coffee morning to raise money for a wonderful charity. After a mass tasting, the star bakers go through to a final bake off judged by Directors and a Product Developer who is an experienced patisserie chef. “No pressure, then,’ Beth laughs, “but fortunately the winner is announced there and then; my nerves couldn’t take any waiting.”
So what exactly was her winning creation? “Beth’s Bramble Crumble Cake – try saying that three times quickly! It’s essentially a warm comfort food for winter evenings… in a cake. How would I describe it? Fresh, seasonal apple and blackberries bursting through a moist, spiced sponge cake, with the contrasting texture of a sweet crunchy crumble!”
The ruined diets have been forgotten by her family. According to Beth, her mum is ‘buzzing’ and her grandma has told the whole of Dorset, after trying seven versions of the cake. And they weren’t the only ones rooting for her. “The whole of the Central Forecasting Hub turned up for the finale. They brought laptops with them so they could stay for the whole afternoon. I’m quite new to Head Office and the welcome I’ve received has been something else. I suppose the support I was given was typical of them, but I was really touched – thank you, guys!”
But it doesn’t end there. Beth’s prize is to work with our Product Development team to recreate her cake as an offering in M&S Cafés. “I’ll travel to our cakes supplier and watch as my little crumble creation is transformed into a fully-fledged commercial product that will be eaten by real customers; I can’t wait to take my grandma along and share the first slice. And the cherry on top of the cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that a proportion of the profits from sales will go to Macmillan.”
As Beth mentioned, she’s a relative newcomer to Head Office but she had her first taste of M&S as a 16-year-old Christmas temp and became fascinated with retail. After university and her life on the ocean waves, she worked in store where she took pride in going the extra mile and making a real difference to someone’s day.
Now, as a Central Forecast & Inventory Planner for Global Meals, she’s responsible for estimating sales of our favourite food products, working with teams ranging from Supplier Relationship to Analytics. “We all know that M&S food stands out, but it can be tricky getting the balance right between product availability and waste. There are so many variables that affect customer behaviour – like the weather; as winter sets in, it’s a fine art making sure we order in enough pies for our pie- lovers!”
Beth is now a dedicated foodie. “My office is next to the tasting kitchens and the smells remind us why we’re here. I understand the research behind each bite. And I’m proud to say I work for M&S. My gym instructor saw my M&S lanyard the other day and said ‘OMG, you work for M&S, I absolutely love their food…’ I hadn’t even mentioned I work in foods!”Inside M&S
Congratulations to our very own beauty hero
Earlier this month, the annual Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Member's Achiever Awards took place. CEW is a not-for-profit professional organisation, with more than 1,000 members across the industry. The black tie award ceremony celebrated it's 25th year anniversary, with over 300 people in attendance to celebrate CEW’s important milestone, as well as paying recognition to the incredible talent across the beauty industry.
Rebecca, our Beauty Brands and Education Manager was awarded the 2017 Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Member's Achiever Award. This award is a very special accolade, as it awknowledges peer admiration in the beauty industry through fellow CEW members. Trinny Woodall awarded Rebecca as the chosen winner on the night.
President of CEW Caroline Neville said, “A CEW Achiever is someone who has worked hard throughout their career and been successful in their professional life, but more than this, they will have exhibited a high degree of willingness to help others and above all conducted themselves as a role model.”
Rebecca said on the win, "I just love Beauty! From a young age there was no other subject that excited me more. I'm a Beauty Therapist and make-up artist by trade, starting as Beauty Advisor over 17 years ago in a leading beauty retailer. I then carved out a career that saw roles in cruise liner spas, salons, in-store sales support and professional wholesale, leading to my role now as Beauty Brands and Education Manager. I'm so lucky to have been exposed to so many parts of the beauty industry with every position building knowledge and experience. M&S being the biggest and most rewarding so far."
Congratulations on the win, Rebecca!
Photograph curtesy of cosmeticsbusiness.comInside M&S
There’s so much more to logistics than just transporting products!
Mark is on our Logistics & Supply Chain graduate scheme, which involves six month placements across different areas of the business. He’s worked in Foods Supply Chain, Clothing & Home Logistics Development and is now a Team Manager at our Castle Donington Distribution Centre. So, what attracted him to the role?
“The retail industry is changing now more than ever and this means more challenges and more opportunities – that was what appealed to me. Why M&S? Simple, the consistently positive response I get when I tell people I work for them usually accompanied by “I love M&S”. Our customers are so passionate.
“It wasn’t just that, the ambitious Plan A commitments the company made really impressed me. After doing some research I discovered the graduate scheme and compared it to what other retailers were offering. Not only did M&S offer the best, it also struck me as a place which inspired passion in both its customers and employees.
“At my current role in the Dispatch team at Castle Donington, we are looking to get up to 300k orders packed and on the right trailers, on time and in full. We’re striving for our 0% target of missed promise for our customers. This involves a lot of people pulling together in a tight time window. The scale of work behind the scenes that’s required to get the right product to the right location at the right time is something you can never really appreciate until you start here.
“The people here are absolutely lovely and always supportive. The work can be challenging but ultimately it’s extremely rewarding. It’s absolutely exceeded all my expectations and I can’t begin to tell you how much more I’m learning here and now. I feel that this is the heart of the M&S business because here we make sure our M&S customers get what they want, when they want it.”
If this sounds attractive, you could join Mark on this exciting opportunity in Logistics. Apply now.Inside M&S
Bringing M&S food to Guisborough
When plans for a new retail park in Guisborough were unveiled, M&S were at the front of the queue to open a store there. Cleveland Gate Retail Park is a brand new development in a great location near the centre of Guisborough. This gives us the chance to offer customers in the area the full range of quality M&S food produce in a large Food store.
As well as enjoying freshly-based products from the In-Store Bakery, customers will also be able to choose from a large selection of wines and pick up a bottle to go with their food.
Julie, the new store manager, is really looking forward to welcoming the first customers through the doors when the store is completed. “I’ve worked for M&S for 29 years and have had various roles in that time,” she says. “But one of my favourites has to be managing a Food Hall.”
She’s been closely involved in setting up the store and has already been talking to future customers in Guisborough about what will be on offer. She says that, from these conversations, it is clear that M&S will be greeted warmly in the area.
“Through talking to customers, it is evident that opening a Food Hall in Guisborough is a fantastic opportunity and M&S will be very welcome to the town. I’m looking forward to being part of a customer focused team whose main objective is to make every shopping moment special for our customers.”
We’re recruiting that team at the moment, which means we have several opportunities for people who share the M&S values and can give our customers exceptional service. We’re looking for Salesfloor Customer Assistants, Operations Customer Assistants, In-Store Bakery Customer Assistants, a Fire Health and Safety Officer and an Admin Assistant.
The store will be open from 6am to 9pm, so there will be plenty of different shift starting times available, allowing you to work around your personal commitments.
To find out more about our new opportunities at Guisborough M&S, please register your interest here.Inside M&S
Take a walk in my shoes. Carl, Head of Region – Essex
Let me tell you about a day in my life as Head of Region at M&S for the area of Essex. I could be considered something of a subject matter expert since I happen to be Carl. Why am I doing this, you might ask? Because M&S is booming and it’s an exciting place to work and I hope reading about my day might inspire others.
I spent seven years with a leading supermarket brand before discovering that M&S is where I felt at home. Our innovation and focus on nurturing and rewarding our people is what makes us special. I make it my business to connect to my team and provide coaching support and feedback at any opportunity that presents itself. To me and I believe the wider business, we take great pride in ensuring colleagues aren’t seen as anonymous individuals on a corporate payroll.
But I digress! Here’s what a day in my life looks like...
I like to start my day in the gym! I firmly believe that I am the best I can be at work when I’m in top form myself. Sport is a big part of my life, I’ve even been known to play rugby with two world cup winners! I like to start my days with a healthy mind and healthy body!
I drive to work while I listen to one of several podcasts I enjoy. People count on me to be a leader and make informed decisions, so I take every chance I get to learn new things.
I start off by analysing the regional data. For example, the commercial data provides me with information that I then base our planning decisions on, the customer data tells me what our customers are saying about my stores and the colleague data tells me how we are leading our teams. This is the information I’ll then take away and use when planning future decisions.
Time to visit one of the many stores I look after and review the products, operations and performance with the team there. My teams tell me what the customer is saying, buying, enjoying or getting frustrated with and this, again, gives me great insight into how we can shape the future offering for both the region and the business. This is definitely the best part of my job, spending time with my teams!
Once a month, I meet with my peers to review our talent. We make this as one of our key priorities because talent progression is essentially the future of our company and remains very close to my heart!
I meet with my immediate team, to review the performance of their respective business units. We talk through business priorities, focus areas and forward planning. They offer a key support function to me across the region, both forward-looking and also from a performance analysis point of view.
Another meeting, this time with a new store team who are about to open the only new store on our region this year in a few weeks. Here I introduce myself and give them some background on the company, the region and myself, hopefully inspiring them along the way too!
I spend my drive home returning calls and making calls to my team or various other stakeholders. This allows me to review the day or week in my own thoughts.
I’m fortunate that my role really makes every day unique. At M&S, we are constantly growing as a business and we have many exciting opportunities available for passionate and hard-working people. Why not check out some of the roles available at the moment?
Who knows what a day in your life will be like?Inside M&S
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