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COVID-19’s impact on all businesses in Australia has been significant – not least of which has been how they engage with customers in this challenging and rapidly changing environment.


To get a sense of how Australian companies are faring in customer experience during the coronavirus COVID-19 immediate impacts, we selected Facebook as a core data set, and reviewed data pre-COVID-19 and again during COVID-19. This involved looking at a business’ Facebook 'wall', a known customer care channel, for data relevant to customer experience.

We then analysed this data through KPMG’s Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence across: Empathy, Expectations, Integrity, Personalisation, Resolution, and Time and Effort.
 


KPMG's Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence are defined as: 

  1. Empathy – show me that you understand me and that you care.
  2. Expectations – provide me with the product or service that I’m expecting.
  3. Integrity – be trustworthy, be transparent, put the good of customers first. 
  4. Personalisation – show me you know me and individualise my service. 
  5. Resolution – fix my issue with urgency.
  6. Time and Effort – make it easy for me and remove unnecessary obstacles and wait times.


Source: Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence

Overall, customer expectations and behaviour dramatically shifted during the COVID-19 crisis, with customers favouring a more 'back-to-basics' approach by businesses.

During the pandemic, our research showed there have been some significant changes to customer behaviour, with an increased focus on transparency, online channels and the reliability of delivery. At the same time there has been a decreased focus on the quality of goods and services, and personalised preferences in products, and lower expectations around corporate social responsibility.

Shift in the six pillars by industry from Facebook mentions
Shift in the six pillars by industry from Facebook mentions

* For more detailed definitions of the Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence view our report (PDF 795KB) 

Trends in customer experience across sectors

Grocery Retail

There have been higher expectations from customers that grocery retail brands demonstrate integrity, and that these brands act in the best interest of customers, by implementing health precautions, such as social distancing and hygiene in-stores. This replaced a previous focus on corporate citizenship – particularly in relation to the environment, with less concern expressed about plastic bags and packaging.

  • Time and Effort increased (from 26 percent to 38 percent) as customers struggled to access certain products, and the website and delivery process became more strained.
  • Specifically we saw mentions centre around:
    • Increased focus on opening hours, delivery options and availability of products (like toilet paper, hand towels and sanitiser).
    • Increased focus on social distancing and hygiene precautions in store.
    • Declines in focus on reducing waste and non-green materials, like plastic bags and plastic packaging.

Non-Grocery Retail

Customers returned to favouring functionality of products over personalisation of services, and encountered problems engaging with companies due to the high volume of enquiries coming through digital channels.

  • During the COVID-19 period, this sector saw mentions around Time and Effort increase significantly (from 11 percent to 49 percent) with these mentions mostly relating to digital platforms and customer service channels failing to satisfy the increase in customer demand.
  • There was an overall absence of Personalisation, with customers favouring a back-to-basics approach – concurrently, there was a decrease in Expectation as the quality of the product became less important to customers.

Telecommunications

As customers quickly became more reliant on telecommunications services during COVID-19, customer issues were magnified by difficulty accessing customer support services, and increased stress across digital platforms. Telecommunications services quickly became an ‘essential service’ during peak disruptions, and customers had a greater need for a seamless experience and quick resolution of issues. Complaints tended to be focused more on digital platforms than on data and internet speeds.

  • The Expectations pillar declined (from 48 percent to 20 percent) in COVID-19, as customers had fewer conversations about network coverage and enquires regarding outages.
  • Customers' inability to access support through customer service platforms, and particularly through digital channels, was amplified during this time with mentions reflected in the increase in the Time and Effort pillar (from 15 percent to 41 percent).

Airlines

Customers sought a more efficient experience and greater transparency in communications during the peak crisis. With the Time and Effort pillar the highest proportion of mentions both pre and during COVID-19. However, during COVID-19 there was a greater need for digital efficiency in resolving issues, such as refunds for cancelled flights.

  • Mentions of Personalisation declined, as did Expectation. Previously these pillars were driven by in-flight experiences – which customers weren’t having as much of during the COVID-19 peak.
  • Specifically we saw mentions centre around increased focus on digital platforms and resolution, increased focus on refunds for cancelled flights and increasing flight costs and declines in focus on in-flight service.

Financial Services

Trust, transparency, loyalty and security were consistently raised by customers, as they sought financial stability and support from financial providers during peak COVID-19 disruptions. There was an increase in conversations about hardship and consequently less focus on financial products. Time and Effort saw an increase (from 22 percent to 40 percent) and this was primarily related to call centre wait times.

  • The Integrity pillar increased (from 18 percent to 34 percent) mainly due to transparency, relaying information surrounding shifts in loan structures, financial instruments and fees.
  • The Expectation pillar decreased (from 34 percent to 14 percent) as there were fewer mentions about the products and services received, and conversation shifted to the wait times when trying to access customer help lines.

Quick Service Restaurants

Customers shifted from favouring a personalised experience, to wanting a consistent and reliable experience centred on trust.

  • Integrity has been a new core focus (increased from 8 percent to 31 percent) and conversations regarding the health precautions of stores and general public safety have been more prominent.
  • Expectation decreased as the quality of food became less of a focus. Specifically we saw an increased focus on social distancing and hygiene precautions in store and a decreases in focus on product quality, and new or future products.

What it means to businesses shifting to meet customer expectations

The COVID-19 disruptions have moved customer concerns to a more ‘back to basics’ approach – indicating personalised products, product variation (including luxury/expensive products), and corporate social responsibility measures (like conservationism and community engagement) are not strong considerations in a period of economic uncertainty.

Moving into a new normal, the heightened focus on digital channels will continue. Business should be prepared to upscale, and accordingly downscale, digital customer service capability to meet customer demands.

Social media channels should be considered as a core customer care channel, and integrated as a data source in a businesses’ customer relationship management (CRM) software – adding richness to customer data, and a source of customer information that senior leaders can leverage as a day-to-day tactical guide to address customer experience pain points, and improve customer experience.

* We took a sample of 300 mentions per industry to the Facebook wall, across three businesses that qualify per industry. 150 of those line mentions were from the Coronavirus period (randomly selected from 23 March to 20 April), and 150 were from the baseline period (randomly selected from 27 January to 23 February). 50 were contributed from each of the three qualifying businesses.

The analytics included in this article were conducted by KPMG’s Social Media Intelligence team.

 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this article and would like speak to someone from our team please contact us.

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