Helping deliver positive business outcomes: Walking in your customer’s shoes

A collage of smiling people in Marks and Spencer grocery storeAt Microsoft, I work with commercial businesses such as Marks and Spencer (M&S) to transform their operations with technology and deliver positive business outcomes.

To succeed in my role to empower M&S and their colleagues to achieve more, it’s really important to ‘walk in their shoes’ to truly understand about their business and their challenges from a day-to-day perspective. For that reason, myself and three Microsoft teammates spent the day in M&S Kingston store food hall on the crazy run up to Christmas.

On arrival, we split ourselves up, joining the M&S store colleagues in four busy areas: sandwiches, cakes, vegan/gluten-free/celeriac etc, and meat. I spent my time in the hectic aisles of meat with turkey, stuffing, gravy, and pigs in blankets. As you can imagine, these were flying off the shelves as people stocked up for their Christmas celebrations.

We took on standard tasks like initial checks for past use and sell by dates. Damaged items were removed and we pulled forward items to fill shelves. We also replenished empty shelves with new stock arrivals. There is a great customer first mentality at M&S, so helping customers is prioritised over these tasks and a positive part of our day.

The day was a great experience and you felt part of the team. We even felt almost proficient helping customers find Christmas specials like ‘pigs in blankets’, stollen cake, and snow globe gin!

Our experience brought a further respect for how a retail store has to operate to meet their customers’ expectations. Especially at such a busy time. It also gave us some great live examples of where technology could transform a store operation. It can help by streamlining tasks and increase customer focus time.

How to improve customer experiences

We saw how M&S achieved great customer experiences using technology in a few areas.

M&S are deploying Microsoft Teams to all stores in the first half of 2020. Colleagues access this via Honeywell Android handsets and managers use Surface Go devices.

This allows staff to easily communicate and collaborate together. It doesn’t matter where they are in the store or if they are at head office, or in another location. Staff know that in Teams they have everything they need and can easily reach someone if they need more information.

M&S is embracing digital automation by replacing manual and paper-based tasks.

An image of a blonde woman talking to the camera

Building intelligent store operations

Microsoft and M&S have partnered up on Dynamics 365 Connected Store to capture key information with Azure Computer Vision and IoT to gain actionable insight to drive efficient store operations.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store empowers staff to improve in-store performance using real-time observational data. Everything from customer movement to the status of products and devices is tracked to help M&S optimise store operations, protect inventory, and increase profitability.

Picture of a London street with Marks and Spencer building in focus.

Improving employee and customer experience

Two smiling women stocking boxes of Christmas cards in a storeThese add up to a proactive intelligent operation that increases the balance of time store colleagues have with customers versus store tasks.

Spending time in our customer’s shoes at M&S Kingston was a great fun experience. It provided a hands on view to a retail store operation, which helped us understand how we can provide the right technological solutions to M&S to increase customer experience and help employees be more collaborative, communicative, and productive.

It is clear that transformation with technology can improve the core focus to a customer first retail operation.

Find out more

Creating the future of retail: 3 ways to transform your customer experience

Watch the session from Future Decoded: Delivering a connected commerce experience

Insights for the savvy retail leader

Set your teams up for success: The Art of Teamwork guide

About the author

David RodgerDavid is the CTO for Commercial Enterprises at Microsoft UK, which includes leading a community of Technology Strategist working with the UK’s largest commercial businesses. Additionally, he is aligned with Marks & Spencer.  In this role,  David partners with M&S Tech leadership to deliver positive business outcomes through their digital transformation program – as a trusted advisor – helping to inform their plans and decisions by orchestrating the right Microsoft information/resource/investment at this right time.

Previously David studied Chemistry at University, then worked for Shell for 10 years. He joined Microsoft nearly 15 years ago. He worked in strategy and marketing roles before focusing on technology and transformation in last four years.