Proof that M&S’ finger is firmly on the pulse.

Marks & Spencer have always trumpeted the fact that they are good at listening to their customers (although that seemed a rather obvious message for any company to adhere to, but anyway) but the fact that they are now also embracing social media, engaging with customers online and analysing their feedback to help make commercial decisions, proves that they are not only listening, they are moving with the times.

Before social media, customers would telephone, email and write to M&S with their complaints and views, but now just as many are voicing their opinions on the internet. In light of this new wave of customer bloggers M&S decided it wanted to play a bigger part in what was going on and wanted to develop a much more direct relationship with its customer.

They’re now analysing reviews about their top 10 returned products for clues as to what it is that makes customers bring them back, and have a weekly report on the product reviews and feature trend reporting that feeds into internal trading and merchandising meetings.

Crucially, Marks & Spencer are also taking public action in light of customer feedback, most recently, addressing an online campaign to end the price difference between its different sized bras – which initially would have been discussed in store between individual customers and staff members – but thanks to bloggers was subsequently highlighted as a much wider issue. As a result M&S scrapped its differential pricing and launched a “We boobed” campaign apologising to customers. (okay so the marketing was a tad cheesy, but you can’t fault them for taking note and acting on their customer feedback here).

Marks & Spencer say they are “moving into a phase of constant listening”, and  realise that customer complaints need responses from different people in the organisation (rather than just sit within marketing or customer services) and need to be hosted on an open forum that all of their customers can see. They have come to the conclusion that social media is “how everyone interacts now” (a la twitter, facebook et al) and is how it needs to do business.

Marks and Spencer are proving that they are not afraid to welcome honest customer feedback via the most public of mediums – the internet. They realise that far from harming their reputation, the correct response and action in light of negative feedback, particularly in the public eye, will only strengthen their image.

Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd, November 2009

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