Head of Customer Experience Paula McKillen explains how customer feedback helps shape RS’s business strategy

“There has always been a desire to serve our customers better at RS, but over the last two years there has been a shift in culture within the business to put customers at the heart of all our decisions.”
So says Paula McKillen, Head of Customer Experience at RS, summing up the attitude RS has towards its customers. This customer focus is directly linked to the company’s overall strategic goals for the future and key to improving the customer experience is listening to what customers need from an MRO supplier.
This is an approach that is likely to pay dividends according to Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service. “We know there is a clear correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business performance,” she says. “Where levels of staff engagement are low, customers notice, and more importantly this has an impact on their desire to buy from an organisation; with the result that they take their custom elsewhere.
" There is a clear correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business performance " Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
“Listening to your customers is key,” she adds. “Make sure you’re actively listening to feedback and using it to inspire change in your business – and where you do so, tell your customers what you’ve done as a result.”
This is something that McKillen feels is a particular strength of RS, and one of the key drivers for the companies ongoing improvement: “Customer feedback is crucial to delivering the best possible customer experience,” she explains. “It’s something from the top down, that RS is focused on as a business and the only way we can evaluate how we are doing and what more we can do is to get feedback from our customers.”
" Customer feedback is crucial to delivering the best possible customer experience " Paula McKillen, Head of Customer Experience, RS
In order to gain this feedback RS launched a global initiative in April 2015 called Voice of the Customer (VOC). It’s now live in 32 markets and, as McKillen explains, it allows RS to capture real-time customer feedback across all of its channels. “Effectively, the VOC programme gives us a ‘pulse check’ on how we are performing as a business and what our customers feel about us.”
So far there have been more than 200,000 responses. “As soon as a customer completes a feedback survey, the data is incorporated in a real-time dashboard so that colleagues across the business can look at what customers are saying and drive improvement in the areas that matter most” adds McKillen. “Through this insight we can clearly identify which areas are strengths for RS and which ones we need to improve.
" Almost all conversations around new strategies heavily focus on the impact and benefits for customers " Paula McKillen, Head of Customer Experience, RS
“As this data is available across our business, RS Local branches can look at areas that need improving in a practical way, while at a countrywide level the insight can help inform new strategies that will help us to deliver more for customers.”
McKillen sees her team’s role as helping to embed a customer-centric mindset in all areas of the business, so that decisions are always taken with the customer front of mind. “Our role is to partner and support colleagues in driving a better customer experience afterall, everyone in the business owns the customer experience – everyone can make use of our VOC data and make improvements to the customer experience in their own particular areas,” she explains. “My team’s role is to act as the customer conscience, encourage an outside in mind-set so that customers needs are always forefront of mind.”
RS uses Net Promoter Score to evaluate its effectiveness in meeting customer demands. “We’ve seen an already good NPS go up by around 8% since VOC was introduced,” says McKillen. “And we expect to see steady improvement in the coming years. We’re always looking to improve the customer experience, particularly across our digital channels, our website is where most customers interact with us.”
Colleagues in our digital teams are passionate about delivering the best possible digital experience and are constantly delivering improvements, from making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for, to improving the quality of our product pages, to helping customers buy from us through a mobile device. Sometimes, customers want extra help and our web chat team are on hand to provide that guidance.
“While many customers are confident using our website, others still want to talk to a person. We provide that choice for customers through our UK-based customer services and sales teams who pride themselves on delivering service excellence every single time.
Causon believes that giving customers more ways to interact with your organisation is a positive step. “Engagement through digital methods such as email, text, apps and webchat functions have all increased in the last year,” she says. “Customers are no longer happy with one-directional communication and expect to engage in conversations with the organisations they do business with. It’s all about choice and enabling the consumer to interact with the company in a way that they choose.”
McKillen believes that through continually asking customers to provide feedback, evaluating that feedback and putting measures in place to improve the customer experience, RS will be well equipped to meet new challenges. “It’s noticeable that almost all conversations around new strategies or business decisions heavily focus on the impact and benefits for customers, and that’s really exciting” she explains. “Everyone in RS is passionate about the customer and that’s why we’ll never stop looking for ways to improve”