Many organisations have moved to focus a large part of their customer experience on digital. With growing anxiety around online platforms and trust in using them, should organisations still be placing so much emphasis on social media?


Integrity matters

Trust is integral to customer experience. Indeed, Integrity is one of The Six Pillars identified by KPMG Nunwood; these represent the universal characteristics of all great customer experiences, and have a clear link to advocacy and loyalty. Integrity itself has a 20% weighting on advocacy and a 17% weighting on loyalty, relative to the other pillars of Personalisation, Time and Effort, Expectations, Resolution and Empathy.

But for many social media platforms, trust has been tarnished over the years. The ubiquity of fake news, and the unfavourable stories of people’s data being mishandled, have fuelled feelings of unrest and suspicion. And for the large number of organisations that have an active presence on social media; they are caught up in the maelstrom. There is a real potential that people could now approach these brands with the same degree of caution as the platforms they’re hosted on.

In fact, some companies take these considerations very seriously. For example, the bank First Direct topped the UK Customer Experience Excellence rankings in 2018, meaning it scored highly across all of The Six Pillars – not least Integrity.

“…we updated our Privacy Notice to include information about how we share your data with social media platforms for marketing purposes,” the brand says to its customers. “If you do apply for a product with us then, as your bank, we'll obviously know each other pretty well - and while we don't mind you talking about us (as long as you say nice things), we won't share information about you with just anyone.”[1]

Meanwhile, another UK brand has deleted its social media channels altogether, as a protest (of sorts) against the way social media platforms are managed. It remains to be seen whether this is an isolated occurrence, or the first in a line of dominoes.


What does customer insight tell us?

However, it’s too early to say whether the paradigm has fully shifted. Certainly, KPMG Nunwood’s 9 years of ongoing research indicates an evolution in the way organisations are tackling customer experience. In this respect, social media is just one cog in the omnichannel engine – present, but not a guiding force.

The true bedrock is customer insight and the way it’s harnessed. The organisations with the strongest customer experience use a strong variety of data to learn about the people they’re serving. This allows them to tailor the overall experience to people’s specific needs and desires.

And undoubtedly, a social media presence may be essential, depending on the brand and the type of customer. Energy providers, for example, rely heavily on social media channels to report service disruptions – and indeed this is the first place many customers go when they’re seeking updates. Companies such as British Gas apply 8am – 10pm ‘office hours’ to their Twitter channels, allowing customers to tweet them with enquiries and service issues.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned First Direct is reachable on social media 24 hours a day. It understands that its customers want to deal with their finances promptly – particularly in pressing situations – and it staffs its social media channels even on Christmas Day. In this respect, the pillars of Time and Effort, Expectations and Resolution come to the fore, and they cannot be ignored.

That being said, the pillar of Integrity cannot be overlooked either. Some customers are already debating the ethicality of having a social media presence, and the latest research suggests that over a third of UK consumers don’t wish to be contacted via these platforms. So in this respect, it may serve a company to ‘take a stand’ and remove itself from these channels, if that’s what its customers want.


A sustainable future

Crucially, The Six Pillars provide a lens through which customer insight can be viewed. They allow organisations to ‘tune in’ to the voice of the customer, and identify the moments of pleasure and the moments of pain in their customer experience strategies.

It’s a voice that’s ever-changing, too. This piece asks if a paradigm shift is occurring with social media and customer experience. The truth is, it’s too soon to tell. For brands such as First Direct, social is integral to its customers’ expectations. For other organisations that move away from such focus the voice may sound a little different.

But it’s those organisations with their ears to the door – efficiently collecting real-time customer insight and acting on it – that will be the true winners, whatever the outcome.

As Willy Kruh, the Global Chair of Consumer and Retail at KPMG International, explains: “Where some see uncertainty, we see opportunity. Where some see the threat of change, we see new potential opening up across generations. The organisations that embrace these dynamic times and confront the big questions facing tomorrow’s consumer will likely be the ones best placed to build sustainable, value-creating relationships with a customer they know better than ever before.”[2]




[2] Me, My Life, My Wallet (Second Edition) – page 9