Marks and Spencer is one of the leading retail organizations in UK which sell stylish, quality and great value clothing and home products , also quality food. They are one of the most popular brand among people not only in UK but globally. They have more than 600 stores in UK and constantly increasing many more around the world. It was founded when in 1884, Michael Marks opened a stall at Leeds Kirkgate Market. In 1901, its first registered store was located at Derby street, Manchester. By 1924 they started expanding and the head office moved from Manchester to London. Implementation of new policies and maintenance of services and value kept on adding to the success of Marks and Spencer. In 1998, it became the first retailer to earn a profit of £1 billion. The organisation commonly called as M&S has always followed the principles of Quality, Value, Service, Innovation and Trust since its founded. This is the reason why it has been successful, distinguished and popular among people.
Need of the Information System: Integrated Customer Ordering Service (ICOS)
M&S was facing several backlogs in order processing and complaints were increasing day by day. The company had invested a lot to move ahead in this competitive business environment but was unable to overcome this problem. The need of the hour was to have an customer service ordering information system implemented which can accurately and assuredly keep away these problems which were an obstacle in the success of a great retail organisation.
The retail market is immensely competitive and keep on upgrading their information system to meet the requirements of services. M&S started using up-to-date information system in its ordering system which made it stand different from other rival organisations. On 19 April, 2005 Marks and Spencer signed an alliance with Amazon Services Europe. In this agreement, Amazon Services Europe will host and provide with synchronized information system to M&S websites, telephone ordering systems and in store ordering systems. ICOS was launched in 2006 and was based on Microsoft Windows NT Server and Oracle 10g databases. It also comprises various intelligence tools using DOS applications and is called as Rumba Server in M&S. This system enables ease of access of data and information across all stores and offices of the organisation. The system is efficient in dealing with the orders, vendors, manage information across the organisation, control the supply of incoming and outgoing products through a common database which gives solution to all problems related to above categories.
The business process improvement team has not only developed this application but has also installed it in all stores where in store ordering is available. The information system had to meet challenges like connecting all stores to common database so that all product related information and management related information could be shared across. It was not easy to interrelate thousands of product data and ordering information on websites, in stores and in offices. The system application must be in a way that the data is easily accessible through all channels and can be used through company intranet without paying heed to its location. The system included taking orders, order processing, order dispatch, order location, stock control and order prices. This helped M&S to expand their business systematically.
Working and Benefits of Integrated Customer Ordering Services
ICOS is an information system application used by M&S employees for various in store functions. This information system comprises data of all products like food, clothing, home ware etc. Each product of M&S has a unique identification code called as UPC number which is used in ordering. In a situation where customer wants a certain product for e.g. a TV, and that product is either unavailable or is a special requirement that has to be made or is not displayed in the store, that is when this system plays its role.
Every user or employee as its unique ID or access code and a password which makes this system highly secured and prevents it from unauthorized access. An employee assigned to take orders enters his ID and password to find out any information or to take any orders. When a customer orders certain product the agent enters its product code and the whole information from product details to availability and prices is displayed which can be conveyed to the customer. There is a tool bar which consists of different options available for the agent to save information from customer like name and address. This tool bar also has information about billing and lead-time of all products. Some products might not be displayed in the store while some can only be delivered like furniture. The system also proposes extension in delivery time to any date. As and when the agent enters customer name and details, a customer profile is created and a customer code is also generated and saved in his/her profile. The next step is payment. Once all required information from the customer is saved their is an option of payment on the tool bar. When that option is clicked several payment methods are made available on the screen like cash , visa card, credit card or cheque. The agent asks the customer and select the option that is told by the customer. Once all this information is submitted and payment is taken the customer is handed over with a printed receipt of product and money transaction details along with the unique customer code.
If the customer wants to enquire about the order in future he/she just need to give his unique code to the employee. Once the code is entered on an option of enquiry on the tool bar the detailed information about the product is retrieved. This information states the status of dispatch or progress in order and also status notes entered by the manufacturing department. This information can further be stated to the customer. If required a receipt of the order confirmation can also be provided to the customer.
Order Upgrading or Editing:
This option on the tool bar enables an agent to add or cancel certain products from the order. This option is also used to edit customer details like address or shipping date or further payments. When an alteration or amendment is to be made, the agent enters the customer code and the information related to the order pops up on the screen. This states if a particular order can be cancelled or not e.g. certain product is a special manufacture order already in process.
Many times there are special offers available with certain products like buy one get 25% off on other. All these offers are already saved in this information system and is updated from time to time. Not that there are so many employees working in M&S and all employees need to be informed, so a hasslefree alternate is that ICOS already comprises these schemes and offers. There is an option of diary where these details are stored. As the agent enters his code to acquires access , he/ she can review the promotions and sales for the whole day and also take a printout if required.
The orders taken throughout the day are stored in the system and can be retrieved as a whole or product category wise. If an agent or manager wants to know what all is sold or how many orders were taken throughout the day, they need to enter their ID and click on reports. The data is immediately available. If they just want to get report of the number of TVs sold they can get separate report as well. In this way the whole day report or report till a particular time can be seen in a summarized manner.
Order Display Availability:
If an agent in one store wants to know the availability or display of a product in any other M&S store he/she can just use the tool bar for display search or update search. This possible because as mentioned earlier all store are networked and data of all products in all stores are available to each store.
ICOS helps M&S employees to provide hassle free information to the customers and also helps taking quick orders leading to save time both of employee and customer. It also plays a very important role in uplifting customer loyalty.
ICOS proved to be boon to the organisations. It replaced the old fashion of ordering through fax or telephone across the units which involved manually entering data. The old process was highly time consuming as well as error prone. The new ordering system entered as an effectual way of providing high customer service, more number of customers handling, quicker response to customer queries, faster processing of orders, and above all having competitive advantage. Integrated Customer Ordering System as set up information flow across all M&S outlets and offices to give quality services.
M&S understood its competitive advantage and focused on exclusive strategy to sustain in the corporate market. Their sales and advancements have achieved higher levels among competitors. Customers are satisfied by the quick order process, be it in the store or home delivery. Marks and Spencer’s evaluated utilization of maximum resources and importance of competitive advantage. Implementation of ICOS helped everybody right from employer to employee to customers.
The sharing of data across all units of M&S made the work so easily accessible that it could manage very effectively and efficiently. M&S has now focussed on development and research for expansion which has come into practice because their information system has made them free from most of the hassles. Now they can tactfully just look forward towards expanding of business.
The investments turned out to raise huge profits leading to increase in productivity and also reducing costs. ICOS has proved to be and information system which has given new heights to the company and an ultimate transformation to quality. The investment raised huge profits from this system and it was a transformation to the organisational working and approach.