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ebenhams has long seen the value in gaining insight into its customers and operations, but felt that its

previous mystery shopper programme had limitations. “The mystery shop programme was more of an ‘auditing’ exercise, which each store either passed or failed,” explained Kate Parkinson, Debenhams strategy manager. “It only provided a snap shot in time on limited areas instore and, since there was a long time delay in receiving the information, staff were not able to act on the results in a timely manner. Essentially, the programme was of limited value in terms of understanding the customer experience.”

Debenhams therefore selected Empathica as its partner, to work on a customer experience management programme across the whole store estate. Using invitations printed on all till

receipts, staff encourage customers to give feedback online, answering questions on the product range, value for money, quality of service and other customer experience related questions. To encourage responses, shoppers also get a chance to win prizes. The survey recognises when a customer responds negatively to a number of questions. These customers are given the option of being contacted by the store to help resolve their issue – an initiative

called ‘Customer Rescue’. Research shows that ‘rescued’ customers are more likely to become loyal customers than if an issue never occurred. Similarly, if customers indicate a staff member went above and beyond expectations, an email is sent directly to the store so they can be congratulated. This initiative is known as the ‘Customer WOW’ programme. All feedback is collected and analysed

by Empathica and available to Debenhams online 24 hours a day. Debenhams has received over 380,000 pieces of feedback, translating into over 25 million data points – an average of over 1,000 responses per store annually and, crucially, from real customers. Using social media, the retailer has also acquired more than 22,000 brand advocates, who in turn have made 2.2 million recommendations to friends and followers via GoRecommend. Debenhams’ continual focus on

improvement has resulted in its overall customer satisfaction level (customers scoring Debenhams a perfect 5 out of 5) increasing by 9% in the fi rst year alone. It has since reached 71%.

Satisfaction with all areas of the customer experience has increased, with particular improvements in till point availability (34% increase), product

availability (33% increase), the overall dressing room experience (25% increase), and satisfaction with Debenhams staff and service reaching over 80%. Parkinson concluded: “The project with Empathica has given the company a new passion for customer service and a focus on what’s most important to them. Rather than sales advisors learning how to ‘pass’ a set of criteria covered in the mystery shop, the focus is now squarely on the customer; it’s now about meeting and exceeding the customer’s expectations each time they are in the store and making sure that the customer is extremely satisfi ed with each visit.”


A new Marks & Spencer (M&S) online outlet store – M&S Outlet ( – launched at the end of February on Amazon Webstore, Amazon’s standalone e- commerce platform. “Amazon were a natural partner for

us as we have been working together for many years developing an award winning e-commerce presence,” said David Walmsley, Marks & Spencer director of multichannel development. The Amazon Webstore e-commerce platform allows sellers, from small

businesses to internationally renowned retailers, to build a custom-branded e-

commerce site using Amazon technology while maintaining control over brand identity and customer shopping experience.

M&S has combined Amazon Webstore with the provider’s Fulfi lment by Amazon (FBA) service to build the outlet business with no upfront infrastructure investment. With Amazon’s Webstore, sellers

have the option to integrate with FBA to have products stored, picked, packed and delivered by They can also use Amazon’s payment processing and fraud protection.


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