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NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...


Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...


Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...


Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...


Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...


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What will Drive Organizational Change Toward Service?

Posted on : 04-02-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media


Many in the social media community feel that the Customer is gaining much more control over brands, and this alone will drive change.  I do not disagree, but I feel there are a number of factors that will drive this organizational shift.  Today I heard an interview with Larry O’Donnell, COO and President of Waste Management.  He was discussing a new show premiering on CBS after the Super Bowl on Sunday called Undercover Boss.  Here is the preview for the show:

I watched the preview, and all of a sudden I was proud to have Waste Management as my trash service.  Mainly because I felt a connection to both the employees and to Larry.  I have written many times before that most of us struggle managing upward, which means most leaders do not know the reality faced by our most important assets, our front line employee.  For years we have made cuts, implemented dumb policies and procedures, yet no one ever told us of the problem.  Not due to this show, but I think many factors will cause the “boss” to want to find out more directly from the front line.

A week or so ago I heard a company’s earning announcement.  It was not good, missing on many important metrics that the investment community looks for.  I remember hearing the news reports (yes I am an investment news junkie), and thinking how the CEO must have reacted to the numbers as they were presented to him.  Most of us that have worked in management can probably tell the story.  He went to the CFO and said why are the numbers missing.  The CFO would respond with even more metrics as the cause.  This is the way the business world has been for a long time, all about the numbers.  But in this case I pictured the CEO growing more frustrated and continuing to travel down each level of the organization asking why.  Finally he gets to a service/sales person.  The person responds with every frustration they hear from Customers, including fees, poor service, etc.  All of a sudden the CEO is enlightened with the true picture.  This is one way the top levels will see the benefit of having connection directly to the Customer.  It is a key part of their advisory staff, unfortunately in many cases non-existant at this time.

I also believe there will be other leaders that will be enlightened in other ways.  The struggle with many companies is the front line does not feel empowered, but they are very passionate about the Customer and driving change.  I believe there will be many lower level employees who decide they will bring about change and take the steps to be heard by the leadership team.  This has happened before, and unfortunately not always with positive results.  Many companies speak of open door policies, but human nature takes over and it is seen by others in the work chart path that get upset by this and take action against the employee.  Even with this negative, there will be some that get the story through and make a big difference in their company and industry.

The other way change will happen is through social media.  There will be a few different aspects that will drive the change.  First is what many of us see each day, the Customer has a bull horn and is happy to use it.  Companies are listening and you will see improvements this drives.  I also believe employees (current and former) are talking in social media, and companies are listening to them.  Companies are also implementing internal social media tools, a little slower than some of us would prefer, but it is happening.  These tools will help flatten the organization and the views will be easily noted and companies will implement changes based on what they hear.  The biggest barrier in implementing these tools is not usually the senior leaders, but instead it is the middle layer of management.  This is because in many cases there weakness will be more noticeable and it will highlight needed changes.

So let’s recap the drivers toward changing organizational culture to be about service:

  1. Enlightened CEO/President or other senior leader – They will take the time to learn from the frontline what is really happening.  Thank you Larry for being a part of this show and demonstrating this benefit for other senior leaders
  2. As Seth calls it, the Linchpin – This is the “factory worker” who rises up to show the senior leaders what needs to be changed
  3. The Customer (or lack there of) – The most important number for any company is not cash flow, as many in the investment community would argue, it is actually the Customers that create the potential for that cash flow.  This economy is a big driver for change.
  4. Social Media – Your Customer and employees are talking, are you listening?  Do you like what you hear?

The Customer, not the Company Defines How Products are Used

Posted on : 03-02-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Marketing


I have a lot of respect for Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi.  She has done a lot to help the brand and grow the business of Pepsi.  The video above was on CNBC the other day.  It was a feel good story of the introduction of the Pepsi Refresh Project.  This is a social giving initiative in which Pepsi is putting up $20 million dollars and allowing everyone to vote on which initiatives will receive a cut of the money.  It is a great idea and I am sure the money will assist many charities in need.  I know I plan to vote each month.  But the interview took an interesting turn that I think is a learning experience for many of us.  Here is what happened:

At 2:00 minutes the CNBC host, Mark Haines asks if Pepsi will always be in second place to Coke.  Ms. Nooyi gives a good response regarding the diverse nature of the Pepsi brand, including Frito Lay, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Tropicana, etc.  This leads to a conversation about the recent rebranding of Gatorade, basically moving back to what it was founded on, a sports drink.  This is where it gets interesting to me.  She then points out that Gatorade is a drink for the “athlete to be used in active thirst.”  She  states for a period of time people defined active thirst as sitting on the couch watching TV because they loved the taste of Gatorade.  She went on to explain that when the economy took the down turn, those casual drinkers could not afford the brand.  After stating this she said in an emphatic way, ‘Thank God.”  They are now taking Gatorade back to the core user and innovating the product for the active user.  Mark Haines goes on to ask if they are going to post guards to prevent couch potatoes from buying the brand.  Ms. Nooyi responded that couch potatoes are welcome to buy the brand provided they get out and exercise, then they can have the drink.

Now I wish I was more active, but I tend to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, working or watching the kids.  I am sorry Ms. Nooyi would not welcome me as a Customer.  I was a good one, especially with the large powdered Gatorade I have in my pantry (I wonder if Ms. Nooyi would refund the cost since she does not want me to have it?)  My original point for this post was to show how easy it is for someone to accidentally say something that could upset long time Customers.  I have been a long time drinker of Gatorade, in what seems like a galaxy far far away, I played tennis with my best friend Jason.  After a few matches I would really enjoy a large Gatorade (Jason, we should do that again in the spring!).  But I think there is a larger point in that the Customer is really the one who defines that brand, not marketing research, CEO or anyone else.  If a Customer likes the product, the company should just be grateful to have them.

I am sorry Ms. Nooyi if you do not want me to be a Customer of Gatorade.  Actually I am sure she does, and this was more poor word choice, but you can see how that impression can be created.

From the Pantry

From the Pantry

Marketing is Smart, Customer Service is Submissive

Posted on : 02-02-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service


I have been doing a lot of thought about the convergence of PR, Marketing, and Customer Service. I think, as Esteban Kolsky has pointed out, it is more the organization coming together in a more social way. A flattening of the overall organization. Marketing will still be marketing, PR will still be PR and Customer Service will be Customer Service.  In my mind the theory of converging marketing, PR and Customer Service, is really just another way that shows how smart marketing people are. I used to work with a guy who believed the more you controlled the more important you are to the company. He loved to gain responsibility of more areas, even if he did not understand them, because it made him more indispensable to the company. As I thought about him I started to envision marketers worrying about losing control or status as they watched the ineffectiveness of campaigns and the increase to word of mouth advertising.  I can picture one of them saying, “the world has changed, and we are going to change with it…Customer Service must be part of marketing so we can navigate this new world order properly.”

Customer Service by its very nature tries to appease their Customers. The trouble is sometimes their Customers may vary dramatically. We all know and understand the external Customer, but what we often do not discuss the internal Customer, and their impact on the external Customer. Customer service usually services every area of an organization. Research comes to them to learn more about the Customers needs, marketing seeks help in improving effectiveness of marketing material, finance is always looking for a savings. You probably have heard Customer Service called a “Cost Center” or some like to think of it more as a “Sales Center.” Again this is Customer service bowing to others thoughts about the costs of service, or a means to justify the existence. It is time we put our foot down, we are a “Service Center.” It is our goal to help our external Customers get the most out of our products and create an experience that builds Customer loyalty and dedication.

Marketing grabbed the seat at the table with the Chief Marketing Officer, a position I understand and respect. Marketing is an important part of any organization. At the same time, Customer Service is ultimately the most important part. But service has never really pushed for the seat at the table. They never pushed back on policies, processes, or other things that were pushed down creating a bad experience for those external Customers. Service organizations worked to get more efficient at the request of the financial folks, and in many cases became ineffective at serving the external Customers properly.

It is time for Customer Service to say “no more.”

  • ‘No more’ agreeing to goals that take away from the Customer experience
  • ‘No more’ allowing policies and procedures to be dictated down without proper discussion of the impact they will have
  • ‘No more’ trying to justify the existence of the Customer Service organization; the Customer has already justified it for you

Its time for Customer Service to:

  • Make the Customer story central to decision making; every leader must understand the impact of their decisions on the Customer
  • We have to define our goals and strategies to the leaders of the company
  • Recognize that the Customer Service Agent is an integral part of the success of the company; inspire them to be successful and not a cog in the wheel
  • Share ideas, feedback and calls upward
  • Identify the right measurements for your service organization, one that sets the tone to get it right for your Customers.
  • Learn to say ‘No’ to internal Customers when no value is derived for the external Customer

It is time for Customer Service to show a new attitude.  Many want it, but Customers demand it.