M&S is not a dinosaur in customer service

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Customer service is one of the intrinsic elements of retail that often causes both shoppers and retailers to groan. Every so often though, a glimmer of personality shines through a corporation’s approach to customer service that deserves a little cheer.

That glimmer of personality has this time come from Marks & Spencer, in the form of a smiley dinosaur cartoon.

A customer wrote to M&S after being overcharged for a sandwich. He was promised a gift card as an act of goodwill and recompense for its mistake.

When it didn’t arrive, said customer, who happens to be Bill Bennett of the blog Loony Letters, wrote again. This time, requesting a drawing of a smiley dinosaur as compensation. For whatever reason, Steve Jones the M&S customer service rep acquiesced, and produced a hand drawn smiley dinosaur along with a note that was sent to the customer along with a £5 gift card.

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Not entirely conventional, but it has generated a healthy dose of positive PR for M&S.

M&S is in the news for a host of strategy moves this week – not least a preview of the store and brand strategy it is investing £600m in and a new flagship store opening in the Westfield Stratford City mall.

But it has also been getting a lot of attention for the smiley dinosaur, which was picked up by The Daily Mail and The Guardian and has become a hit on Twitter.

It also demonstrates that at the same time as its CEO Marc Bolland is revealing the progress of his business overhaul, signing up Hollywood A-listers to star in its ad campaigns and forging ahead with its Plan A sustainability strategy, it also has a sense of humour and employs real people to interact with its customers.

Customers like that, and there is no better way to break down barriers between the corporation and the customer that to show that it is staffed by real people.

This is another example of how getting good people in your customer service team, and trusting them to be led by their personality and intuition is the only way to get consumers to trust and like your brand.

Gone are the days when a standard reply is good enough. Customers do not fit into fixed boxes and neither should the retailer’s response.

There is nothing more frustrating for customers, or damaging for a brand, than to contact a company and be met by a wall of robots working in a call centre who not only know nothing about the business, but don’t know how to talk to people.

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