Ever since Forrester began conducting its Customer Experience Index study, retailers have topped all other industries. They not only have the highest average scores (as rated by their own customers), they comprise the majority of the companies in the “excellent” category. In fact, the only other industry that comes close to retailers is hotels.

That’s one reason why we’re delighted to have Jo Moran, head of customer service for iconic retailer Marks and Spencer, speak at our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th.

The other reason is that Jo has been on a journey to boost Marks and Spencer to a higher level of customer experience maturity — which is exactly what our forum is about.

In the run-up to the event, Jo graciously agreed to answer our questions about what she’s done so far and what she’d do differently if she had it to do over again. Her answers appear below.

I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!

Q. When Marks and Spencer (M&S) first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

A. M&S has had service as one of its core brand values ever since the business started in 1886. Service played a key part in the success of M&S right up until the late 60s/70s and then it’s fair to say we took our eye off the ball. I was appointed as head of customer service in 2004 as part of Stuart Rose’s recovery plan — which very simply stated that we needed to deliver better product, a better shopping environment, and better service — the three ingredients of a great customer experience.

Q. What were the first steps your firm took to improve customer experience? Why did you choose to start that way? 

A. The first thing we did was really listen to our customers. We asked them what they were missing from M&S. From a service perspective, they were clear — they wanted friendly, helpful, knowledgeable advice. Why start there? We simply had to deliver what our customers wanted.

Q. What if anything is different about what you're doing now to improve customer experience versus what you did when you were starting out? 

A. The key change over the last nine years has been the integration of all our points of customer contact — we started with our in-store customer (it’s our biggest channel), but my remit now covers all points of contact: customer service centers; social media; franchise operations . . . we have to be wherever our customers are, recognizing their different needs and missions.

Q. If you had it to do over again, what would you do the same? Differently? Why? 

A. I’d still start in the retail store environment, but I’d move faster on driving customer feedback into the back-office colleagues to drive a better customer experience. Why? Change has to come from everywhere in the business, not just the frontline.