“Transforming your customers’ experience using technology and social media”

London Excellence CEO Forum – 28th February, 2012

This was another very topical subject and we heard insights from different sectors of business about technology and social media. “Social media can eat up resources – how do we measure the return?” and “what advice had the panel to help make sure that publically accountable organisations stay on the right side of the ‘information security’ legislation, whilst supporting the use of social media?” were two questions posed to the panel.


I had the privilege of Chairing the second Chief Executives’ Forum for 2012 organised by London Excellence on 28th February, 2012, at London Probation Trust. The three panellists were –

Rob Kerr (RK), Regional EMEA IT Director,  Gensler

Heather Munro (HM), Chief Executive, London Probation Trust

Bob Winnington (BW), Account Director, The Institute of Customer Service


The audience of about 50 people was a mix of CEOs, Directors and Managers from public, private, multi-national and SME organisations. The event was presented in the style of Question Time.

Key messages that came out from the session that I would like to share are itemised below.

HM representing a public sector organisation said there had been occasions when an IT system has been launched and it proved disastrous. There are high security challenges and internal staff are not allowed to access websites. Facebook and YouTube are now being used to promote the positive outcomes of the Probation Service and to create a greater understanding for the public as to what the Service does. Texts are now sent to offenders by staff to keep them informed and also to remind them about appointments.

RK informed the group that all employees in his organisation are given autonomy of social media usage which operates an inside out user base, where any social media communication, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, messages originate through the company’s platform and are then exported out. Although people have the freedom to use the various forms of IT communication they are internally branded, enabling the company to control unacceptable communication.

He also said that the boundaries of personal, social, and business media have become blurred. Globally people have various approaches to social media. Gensler has many communities and messaging platforms for exchanging views, ideas, and information; this is well used, including across specialist functions.

BW explained that extensive surveys showed that 50% of people use social media proactively to engage customers and 50% reactively to acquire information from customers, e.g. BT. Research has also shown that depending upon the sector of business you are in, customers vary their preferred way of being communicated with, i.e. retail customers – face to face contact or telephone conversations are more effective; in the Public, Banking and Building Society sectors people are not very effective in responding to customers in writing.

Someone asked where the social media workforce is coming from. The comment was made that ‘they are with us now’. This also stimulated a discussion on what we are using the social media for. A key message from this discussion was that we should focus not on the platforms that are being designed, or the latest designs, but rather on what one’s Marketing strategy is and how a social media platform can support that strategy.

To the suggestion that the introduction of social media platforms into an organisation can eat up resources, it was said “that it need not be costly if introduced in phases and being careful when selecting which service to use”. It was added that it can be of great benefit when measuring customer satisfaction ratings and measuring Return on Investment. Another delegate said that they received a 98% Twitter reply to a Twitter sent to people in the Gulf. This highlighted how different cultures Globally, as well as organisationally, vary the use of social media.

A show of hands from the audience of approximately 50, illustrated that everyone used Linkedin, about 60% were on Facebook, and about 25% use Twitter.



  1. Have a clear Social Media Policy and Strategy.
  2. Be clear about what your Marketing strategy is and how selected social media platforms can support the strategy.
  3. Although many new platforms are introduced, most of them have a similar function. Again, be selective about which one you decide on.
  4. Manage your social media platforms internally, with your organisation’s name/logo on all correspondence, before messages/communication are transmitted externally. This enables employees to utilise the selected platforms openly but also controls the type of communication sent; e.g. sensitive company information, abusive messages, via Twitter etc. can be filtered out and stopped.
  5. Focus first on why you use the platform not what platform to use.
  6. Social Media can be very beneficial for sharing interests, specialist groups, e.g. Architects, Surveyors.
  7. A question not fully answered was who would be legally responsible/liable for a Twitter/Facebook message sent out with the company name/logo and is deemed to be offensive once the individual responsible had left the company? Would the company or the individual be responsible? It was generally thought that the company would be responsible.