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Thankful for so Much

Posted on : 26-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Personal


This year has been filled with mixed emotions for many of us.  The poor economy has really brought a sense of reality to many of us this past year.  As I look back I see many great things too and today is the time to remember them.  If life has shown me anything, everything is relative, and you can always find the bright side if you look hard enough.  For me the bright side has been how much closer I feel today to many old and new friends that I have connected with through places like Facebook and Twitter.  The world has become smaller and I love the ability to connect with these friends.

I am so thankful for my supportive family that has put up with me traveling and spending way too much time on the computer.  I am also thankful for all the supportive people that I have had the opportunity to work with, including the Customers that make my job even possible.  My team has been extremely incredible at creating a new way of interacting and learning from Customers, I love the opportunity to work with them every day.  I am still in shock over some of the attention we have received, and we will do everything we can to live up to our Customers who bestowed that one us.  I look forward to furthering the cause of Customers to all companies I interact with.

I want to wish all you and your families and incredible Thanksgiving!  Today is a day to spend with family and friends and celebrate all we have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Twitter Noise Factor

Posted on : 24-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Social Media


Brian Solis always has thought provoking posts, and today “The Twitter Star: Nova or SuperNova” was no different.  It really provoked some thoughts from me regarding Twitter.  In the post Brian points out some of the declines in visitors to Twitter.com over the past 3 months.  He also points to an April study by Nielsen Online that shows 60 percent of new users do not return.


I know many will point out that these measures do not include all the Twitter tools and the open API, and I will concede this point.  Of course Nielsen did not concede that point and in this post they took the study a step further and proved the decline, even when you consider applications.

Over the past few months I have noticed less conversations and a lot more noise which makes it very difficult for new users, and I am sure frustrating to users that have been in the space for a long time.  Twitter has been making strides to make things easier, including creating lists which make it easier to follow people that are important to you.  They also make a great entry point for people to start following groups of people.  Many users have been doing this via tools like peoplebrowsr for a long time.  It is great that Twitter is catching up, but is it enough?

I like looking at things as a Customer eyes, even in situations like this.  So first lets look at the new Customer experience for Twitter.  They hear about Twitter on a news story or from a friend.  Based on this info they go to Twitter.com.  The new home page has search front and center.  I think this is a great step, but as a new user, I am not sure they would know what they want to search for and why.  One thing that comes to mind is they may search the word ‘Twitter’ and this is what it looks like:

For a long time we have all seen the benefits of Twitter trending.  This has been a tool that has told us news from happenings in Iran to natural disasters to the death of famous people.  Today most of the trending topics tend to be filled with spam messages that really do not add value to any of our lives.  Here is the top ten as I am writing this (click on any to view the tweets):

Trending Topics:

Google Wave
New Moon
Adam Lambert
Black Friday

The most exciting part for a new user is the first people that follow them.  Of course they immediate follow back and most likely get an odd DM welcome message.  I auto follow back, which causes me to get a lot of spam, but a new user would not know this and will receive similar.  Here is a look at DM’s I have received over the past few hours (names and links have been removed since some are caused by malicious code):

  • Do you get paid for your tweets? 2 minutes ago
  • Hi and thank u! about 1 hour ago
  • Hey Frank, I just took “Which Lady GaGa song r u?” and got: Paparazzi ! Try it: about 3 hours ago
  • Hey Frank, I just took “Are you really team edward or team jacob? well you may know who you wa…” and got: You love Jake! Try it: about 3 hours ago
  • Hey Frank, I just took “How Funny Are You?” and got: Not Bad! Try it: about 3 hours ago
  • Hey Frank, I just took “Are you stupid?” and got: Ur ok! Try it: about 3 hours ago
  • Hey Cap’n – “Thanks for following!” Don’t fret, you can get all your (Google) Wave news and info at – check it out! about 5 hours ago
  • I appreciate your interest in following me. I hope to remain a Twitter friend for a long time. Here is to many pleasant tweets ! about 5 hours ago
  • Just for you! $5 off 2 T-Shirts or more! Use code: SALEJUSTFORU at about 7 hours ago
  • Lieb von dir, dass du mir folgst – das freut mich riesig. Auf bald, deine Andrea about 8 hours ago
  • As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. God bless! about 8 hours ago
  • Hello and thanks for the follow. It would be a BLAST to connect on Facebook?(Check it out and tell me what you think) about 9 hours ago
  • Just take a moment and see that you can make money with this. A lot of people are doing it now.

I have said for a long time this is a community, and in many ways the community must define what the future of Twitter looks like.  If we want it to be relevant long into the future, what would you do?  Have you noticed a change in Twitter?

Just Fix Customer Service…

Posted on : 23-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media


Sometimes people will challenge the thought of Customer Service in social media.  The belief is if Customer Service was excellent there would be no need for Customer Service involvement in social media.  I think these beliefs are shortsighted, but for a few different reasons.  Let me start off with stating that I believe Customer Service must improve for all companies, and a big cause is social media.  The Customer is gaining the upper hand, and I think that is great.  As a Customer Service person I love that this is becoming more of a focus for companies and their Customers.

Many argue that companies should take money being invested in social media and invest the same into traditional Customer Service functions.  I think this is a misconception since overall cost to listening in social media is negligible.  How much does it cost to do a Twitter search or Google blogsearch?  I have been doing similar searches for every company I have worked for over the past 15 years.  As a service person it provided me the pulse for the Customer thoughts on the companies I worked for.  This argument is made many times by social media “experts.”  Many of these experts have an understanding of social spaces, but not always of the Customer or Customer Service operations.  I wanted to take a moment to share thoughts on each of the spaces Customers may be in and how they may be used:

  • Blogs, You Tube, Live Journal, Facebook pages (not status updates) – These spaces, and others like it, are Customers stories of things that already happened. Great way to learn from Customer from the good to the bad and even the ugly.
  • Technical Forums (for Comcast these would include our help forums, Broadband Reports, AVS Forums, High Def Forums and many others) – These are spaces that can help enhance existing knowledge databases for Customer Service since they often discuss highly technical issues and find resolutions.  The resolution can then be used to be added to internal resources for Customer Service representatives to be used.  There are other issues that can only be fixed by the company but in many cases the Customer turned to the forum first.  We can then offer assistance where they already are, bypassing the need to call
  • Twitter, Facebook status updates (when made public) and other microblogs – These are great spaces to learn things before any other means of communication.  On Twitter people are answering “Whats Happening?  The answer may be I am calling XYZ company because…  So now you know reason for the call before they even connect to an agent.  This information in a centralized space can add tremendous value because as a business leader I can know more before things are identified through calls or other forms of contact.  This can save companies tremendous money and provide great cost savings leading to a better experience because sometime we can even use Twitter to find the answer and supply to agents before the call came in.

I can see tremendous value for all interactions by listening in every one of these spaces.  Using the crowd sourced information, such as what can be found in forums, will lead to cost benefits and a great way to engage your most passionate Customers.  In many businesses, such as the cable industry, so many variable impact performance and technical forums can help find solutions to the most difficult of problems.  So if someone is having trouble with XYZ router, the call center may not have the answer since it is impossible to know every router ever created, but the answer may be quickly found in a forum.  It is crowd sourcing at its best.  Now that can lead to huge cost benefits!

The other notion that is implied in many of these conversations is excellent service will lead to positive information in social media.  This is incorrect.  There are a number of companies that I follow because of how much I love the service they provide to their Customers.  These companies encounter many negative conversations, in fact I even did a blog post regarding one of them.  I still feel guilty, since the vast majority of my interactions with the company were perfect.

In the end, I think listening to your Customer anywhere will lead to improved Customer experience and cost benefits for the entire company.  Social media is not the holy grail in any way, but it is one piece of a listening strategy.  There are great tools that can help you listen to calls, or other communications with Customers.  I also recommend providing your Customer an easy way to share their feedback through other channels that may not be as public.  It is all part of a cohesive listening plan that, in my opinion, all companies should be looking at.

The key is remembering the Customer is part of the solution, and social media is a great way to involve them!

Twitter is the Pangaea, but it is Not Nirvana

Posted on : 19-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media

Tags: ,


Pangaea Image Courtesy of Solstation.com

I am in Las Vegas right now attenting the WOMMA Summit.  Last night I had dinner with a good friend, Pete Blackshaw.  Much of the conversation was about a piece that was in USA Today on Wednesday titled “Social Media, like Twitter, Change Customer Service.”  Needless to say when I read the opening discussing a missed opportunity for my team I was a little upset.  But this really started me thinking about Twitter and businesses that use it.  Expectations have been high as this new engagement tool has been developed for businesses.  I am proud to be one of the people that have really shown how it can be done.  At the same time I think there is a divergence between the expectations and the realities.

USA Today Picture Taken By Eileen Blass

USA Today Picture Taken By Eileen Blass

I have heard businesses and individuals discuss the space as nirvana for communications.  I do not believe it has achieved, or will ever achieve that level for anyone.  Nirvana is way too high of a threshold for a tool to such as this to achieve.  There are faults, like most means of communication, such as a fail whale once in a while (although much improved) or a tweet not coming through to the many tools that use the Twitter API.  Besides the technical things that can happen,  let’s face facts, we are human and at times we make mistakes. 

So if this space is not nirvana, what is it and how can companies use it?  Well have you ever heard of the theory of Pangaea (sometime spelled Pangea)?  This is the theory that at one time all the world’s continents were together as one; the continent of Pangea.  Twitter has proven to bring the world together for numerous events around the world, the most discussed probably the protests in Iran.  I have always seen the benefit to Twitter as a way of meeting new friends (Facebook being the space for the friends I already know).  Through Twitter search we can learn almost anything and connect with people that  have the knowledge we are looking for or the thoughts we want to connect with.  For businesses, it is not the space to force one sided conversations, as many people have sought.  First and foremost it is a space that is worth listening to in an effort to learn and obtain information faster.  Search is the key.  Through this your organization will transform into a smaller place because you are connected directly to the Customers thoughts.  In business it is impossible for every executive to review every interaction, but reviewing 140 characters will provide you the same information in a much easier manner to digest.  One of the keys to this is this is not a metric or number, but instead the Customer’s view in their own words.  Nothing is more powerful than that.

It can also be used to have actual dialogue with your Customers allowing them to be part of business solutions. Customers and employees of all levels have wanted a say in business operations for years, but there were no easy ways to do this, and in many cases it was not welcomed by individual leaders.  The dictator style of leadership. Well social media has killed that syle and today it is involving others.  It is a great way to do it because it creates immediate buy in.  Those involved also have a vested interest in success.  Twiter is an easy tool to involve your Customers.  As you build a following, you can ask questions, even provide business problems and the crowd will help provide answers.  This to me is probably the most enjoyable aspect to Twitter.  I know some will say not every Customer is on Twitter, and that is a fair statement.  At the same time there is no cost effective means to do this like in the same manner to all Customers. 

Twitter is bringing the world together, even in business.  Embrace this fact and strive to do the right things and your business will be successful.

Business Has Always Been About Personal Connections!

Posted on : 13-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


So I just got home from the New Tee Vee Live conference in San Francisco.  I had a great time meeting friends that I have spoken with many times via Twitter.  This was not my typical conference, since normally I have the opportunity to go to conferences more centered on social media or Customer service.  I did not have the opportunity to stay in San Francisco long (just about 30 hours), but even though it was quick I did leave with a reinvigorated spirit and deeper friendships.  One of those friendships is with Om Malik, who I found to be simply a nice guy.  It is funny, because I have seen the fear he can instill in so many people based on his frank and honest writing style.  Instead I found a honest, quiet man that is open to laughing at himself.

I enjoyed the dinner the evening before the event.   At dinners like this there is always a few speeches and toasts, this was no different.   When Om Malik got up he thanked many that contribute to the success at night.  Among those that he acknowledged were many members from Comcast, my employer and the main sponsor for the event.  In his acknowledgement he went a step further to discuss the great connections he was making with the Comcast team members that were there.  I am not sure what he was expecting, but you can tell there was a genuine like on both sides.  This was not a surprise, because I know I work with a lot of great people.  I was not surprised at the public acknowledgements; let’s face it, that is the nature of these type of events.  What did surprise me was the deeper personal conversations I had with Om and members of his team at Gigaom.com.   These included advice and honest conversations that were very touching.  This was the personal connection that really mattered.

While I was at the event , CBS News played a piece based on an interview we did months ago (A copy of the story is below this post).  The piece was regarding the trouble companies have allowing there employees to use social media while at work.  To me, as I pointed out in my last post, it is similar to the debate I am sure happened when phones came into the office setting and I know the same exact debate happened when employees were provided access to email.  One of my friends, Beth Harte, likes to share a picture of a golfer when she discusses social media with senior executives.  She is making the point that social media is the new golf outing to attract clients.  I agree in many ways.  Of course social media is a little cheaper.  For those who point out that social media has a negative impact on productivity, I would ask how long a status update takes on Facebook?  How about 140 characters on Twitter?  Another question I would ask companies is if they expect their employees to answer their blackberry during off hours?  I think that is why they provide them in the first place, so why can’t a little bit of home be brought to the office?  Seems to me to be double standard.

If you are a business, social media is a great way to humanize your brand.  The only way to humanize your brand is through your employees.  They are the most valuable asset to any company and in many ways actually define your brand.  Teach them social media, help them engage in it, and create an environment that encourages it.  This has been proven to be successful, just look at Zappos.   So whether it is in social media, at a business function, conference, or meeting a Customer at a local store, it is all about building and maintaining relationships.  Your employees are the biggest company cheerleaders, so please let them go cheer!

I apologize if this post seemed to go in a few directions.  While I was writing it I was having a conversation with someone that believes that companies should block social media websites and forbid employees from speaking about the brand.  It caused me to go in a little different of a conversation, but, like that individual, there are many people that do not understand the potential positive outcomes by building a social business.  Of course the conversation with that person was on Twitter!  Some do not see the benefits in gaining Customers, or how this new communication can really help businesses find new solutions and answers.  The social web has a lot of potential if a company decides to fully tap into it.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The Social Media Fire, Will It Change Corporate Culture?

Posted on : 07-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, In the News, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This is the third attempt for me writing this post.  This morning I woke up and read my email like I do every morning.  One of the emails was a Google alert with a reference to this San Francisco Chronicle article about “Social Media Going Corporate.”  In the article it stated the following:

At Comcast, employee Frank Eliason took the initiative last year to use his own Twitter account to contact customers who were tweeting about service problems. Now known as “Famous Frank,” Eliason has been credited with almost single-handedly turning around Comcast’s reputation. He heads a staff of 11 who monitor social networks and offer help to customers.

During a question-and-answer session at last month’s Web 2.0 conference, Comcast’s Roberts said the Twitter strategy has played a big part in changing the corporate culture “from inside the organization, not just the top down.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/07/BU341ACLD3.DTL#ixzz0WE9gWzSR

In my opinion the change in culture was due to so many people inside and outside the organization.  Some of the people I work with I give huge credit to the change, including my team, Rich Roberts (my former boss, now VP of Customer Care in Atlanta), Tina Waters (SVP and my boss), Rick Germano (SVP of National Customer Service), Jenn Khoury, (VP, Corporate Communications), and D’Arcy Rudnay (SVP, Corporate Communications).  But it was so many more than these individuals.  Team members throughout the organization, from techs, Customer Service representatives, managers, directors, and VPs from all area contributed.  Our Customers, who are very passionate about our products, and simply want a great experience to go with it.  As Rick likes to say “They are cheering us on, because they want us to get  it right.”  In dealing with so many, I can say Rick is correct, they do love our products and they want the opportunity to cheer for us, we just need to make sure we deliver on that.  This post is not about Comcast, but for those that do not know, I agree our culture has changed.  I have been seeing first hand, including changes in reporting structure, new systems, the implementation of the Customer Guarantee and the overall attitude of the company has shifted to be about the Customer experience.  In fact the new corporate credo is:

“We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day.  Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer friendly and reliable service in the market”

I am sure some will say they have not experienced this fully yet, but I will tell you a lot is being done to ensure you do.  You will be cheering!  Internally the conversation is always about the Customer experience and how to make sure we get it right.  I see a much different place than when I started 2 years ago.  I do not believe it was due to me, but a lot of the discussions in various spaces that started to come together at the same time.  Many of the discussions supported greater transparency, Customer focus, and an environment that questioned how things were being done.  As this took shape, the culture of the company changed.

So I wrote this post numerous times I kept singing in my head the following lyrics:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Aren’t these words so fitting regarding social media and corporate America?  Now I was not around when the phone joined the business world, but I can imagine someone saying they do not need a phone on their desk.  Yet today, many of us carry our work phone wherever we are.  I would imagine in the marketing space similar discussions happened with the transition from newspaper to radio to TV.  I remember email coming out and much debate over providing email access to all employees.  Today, I have work email 24/7 on my iPhone.  Even funnier was the reaction to using email for Customer Service.  Today who would not think to email a company for service?  Same was true regarding allowing employees having internet access on their desk.  This was done, but then many site were blocked due to productivity.  Of course I work on email at night and weekends, why would their be a problem if I updated Facebook at work?  So lets allow the song to continue:

Telephone, radio’s playing, newspapers, TV’s talking,
email, googling, paying bills, Pandora playing
Facebook Mafia wars, Blog updates galore
Following more Twitter stars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Social media is about relationships, and ultimately relationships are good for businesses and employees.  Will social media change corporate culture?  Well have other forms of communication?  I believe phone, email and the internet have already changed the culture for everyone, especially businesses.  With each new form of communication we gain efficiency and we find new ways to speak with Customers.  Can you imagine someone typing and copying memos?  Ugh, I would hate that.  For those that say Twitter and Facebook take away from the efficiency of the workers, the same was said about email and internet access.  I bet it was also said about phone too (oh no, a family member better not call).  Social media has made the world a smaller place (there are numerous examples of this) and I know it can make the business world smaller too.