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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...


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An Apology Can Overcome the Most Difficult Mistakes

Posted on : 30-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service


Last week while I was in Chicago I received a call from my wife regarding an explanation of benefits (EOB) insurance form she received in the mail.  This is not something normally discussed over the phone when a spouse is away, but this was a unique experience.  The form was not addressed to me as the subscriber, nor was it addressed to her.  The subscriber was listed as Gianna R. Eliason, our daughter who passed away in 2004.  This was upsetting, especially since we had no clue how they could have had her name.  In fact, Gia never even saw a dentist!  This policy was effective in 2007, three years after Gia’s passing.  Neither of us recalled ever having the insurance company with any prior employer.  Here is the EOB (with the name of the insurance company removed, our address and other identifiable information removed):

Needless to say this prompted an immediate phone call to the company by my wife.  When she called the agent could not see the paper EOB and had to search for the error that was clearly visible on the EOB in both the mailing address and the header.  The representative stressed repeatedly that the claim was paid.  Unfortunately, this was not the point!  The agent was eventually able to see the EOB and the error.  Sadly all she could assure my wife was that the glitch would be reported.  Because the representative did not know how the error occurred, she could not guarantee that it would be corrected.  I found this unsettling and opted to send an email later that evening.  I asked for them to let me know how this type of error could even happen.  The next day I received multiple voicemail messages.  The first acknowledging this horrid mistake and a promise to get into the details of it.  The second was asking me to call back to discuss the findings.  I was offered a cell phone and asked to call, even in the evening.  I thought that was above and beyond.  I called back when my flight landed around 7:00 PM.  The nice gentleman promptly answered, knew the details of the case off the top of his head, and was very willing to share the cause of the mistake.  He let me know that through 2 prior employers I had coverage with them as they managed the dental portion of my medical plan.  The claim queued up for underwriting review, it was processed and approved but the agent somehow selected the incorrect field from a 2002 plan for the 2010 EOB that would be sent to us.  He was very professional and apologetic through the short conversation.

The next day I received an email from the president of the company apologizing for the error and promising to look into the cause.  The following day I received a very detailed letter shipped overnight via Fedex outlining the cause.   I did not scan the letter due to all the personal information, but it was one of the most sincere letters I have ever read.  It starts off with the following:

“I want to personally express my sincere apology to you and your entire family for the tremendously insensitive error that occurred on the Explanation of Benefitss (EOB) document that your wife, Carolyn, received.  As a husband and a father myself, I cannot begin to comprehend the feelings evoked by our unacceptable mistake.”

The letter then goes into detail of the cause as well as the steps being taken to avoid this in the future.  Steps included training for the staff as well as safeguards within their systems.  There was also the attached personal note:

I am not writing this post to blast the company involved, in fact I would like to congratulate them.  I think we would have all loved to see the mistake not happen in the first place, but it did.  Mistakes do happen.  The reason I want to congratulate them is too many people are afraid to simply apologize.  I have spoken to service people who were either taught, or believed that any apology would open the door to legal liability.  For some reason, and maybe it is due to the litigious society we are in, companies and people are afraid to apologize for a mistake.  To me it means more than anything else that could be offered.  The apology here was truly heartfelt and I am very appreciative of the handling by this company.

This is why it is so important to be genuine with a Customer.

Inspiring New Thoughts

Posted on : 29-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Inspirational, Personal, Social Media


I have not been posting as much as I like. This usually happens when I am in deep thought regarding some things, and I do not feel it is best to share publicly. I have always found this to be tough because I try to be as transparent as I can be, but it is necessary. I always feel bad when that happens, because I do not want to let people down. I also feel that I am missing out on really good advice that I can receive from my friends in social media. Ultimately I always strive to do what is best for myself, my friends and most importantly my family.

So recently I was at my first SxSW (for those not used to the abbreviation, it is South By Southwest, an Interactive, Film and Music event in Austin, TX). It was an experience. I was excited at the opportunity to see some friends I have developed over the past few years, but I did not realize how overwhelming the events would be. I saw so many people, but it is funny, at the same time I feel I saw no one at all. Everyone was rushing from one event to another. There was not much time to slow down. When I finally returned home, I think I needed sleep for a week (I am still not sure I have my energy back). I did return to work the day after coming home, so that may explain the lack of energy. Anyway it was still a lot of fun and I loved seeing some old friends and many new friends.

While I was in Austin, I spoke on 2 different panels and at an event for Dachis Group. One of the panels was for the book launch for Brian Solis’ new book Engage. It was fun to be a part of that. The other was a panel for support in a 140 character world with Jeremiah Owyang, Caroline McCarthy, Lois Townsend and Toby Richards. It is always a pleasure to speak with so many knowledgeable people. My favorite moment at SxSW was not in a panel, or other presentation. It was not at a party, or at a dinner (all though many were fun, especially going to Salt Lick), it was the unlikely private time with just a few people. On my final night in Austin I was heading to a dinner I was invited to. When I arrived I ran into Brian Solis (Follow these links to connect with him on Twitter and his Blog) outside the restaurant. We started chatting, ran into a few others, and shared some champagne (for those that know Brian, that is not shocking). We then realized the dinner we were supposed to be attending was happening without us, so we stopped by. We did not stay too long due to other commitments Brian had. We then strolled through the streets of Austin on our way to his other event. After that appearance we connected again, this time strolling through the now rainy streets looking for a nice quiet place for dinner. Brian was his usual inspiring self. We were chatting about life paths, and selections we all make along the way. Brian was filled with stories from his own life, as well as people like Chris Brogan. At the time I thought my plans were set, but I walked away rethinking my thoughts and the inspiration in my heart. This is really what social media is about, connecting with people who can change our lives. We do it each day but it is moments like that where it is so truly defined. Thanks Brian.

So in my absence I have had so many different things I wanted to chat about. First and foremost was how I have been rethinking CRM (for those that do not know, this is Customer Relationship Management). This is a way of using technology to understand your Customer and bring the Customer into every aspect of the business. This led to my post today on The Social Customer website. If you have the chance, check it out. The post is the beginning of a conversation on redefining the tools necessary and the culture required for Customer Service, now and in the future.  It is time for us to stop looking at past concepts and build new ones based on the reality of today.

During my absence from posts there was an interesting social media case study developing regarding Nestlé and GreenPeace.  I am not going to rehash all the details, but if you want, read about it on Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategist blog.  It was also in today’s Wall Street Journal in an article titled “Nestlé Takes a Beating on Social-Media Sites.”  As I read the article this morning, I was caught by the end where Jermiah did not support removing it, while Ian Schafer did support it.  I can see both sides, although I think removing it might cause Nestle to even prolong it more (I am taking my ball and going home).  But it also caused me to rethink how companies should utilize Facebook.  So many are rushing to create fan pages, often because others told them they had to, or success they have seen for other companies.  Experts will tell you, as Jeremiah points out in his blog post, you must have an action plan to deal with brand attacks that may occur.  It is the reason to think these things through thoroughly.  But as I have read through the Nestlé experience, I wonder if there was a better way in the first place.  I know those not connected to social media may not realize, but there have been other events in the past for this company that also played out in social media.  My favorite story regarding Facebook fan pages is how the Coca Cola fan page started.  It was not started by the company, but instead by fans.  I am not convinced it is the best interest for companies to say how much they are loved by creating their own fan page.  It seems so much more genuine when it is created by fans.  I then think about the Nestlé experience, and wonder how would it have changed if the fans were the ones that started the page?  Would Greenpeace have still attacked the page?

Everyday we are filled with ideas that change our direction, or inspire us to do more.  I hope to always be inspired each day and continually challenge the status quo.

So Why is @ComcastCares Also @TimetobeFrank?

Posted on : 20-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Personal


For those that have known me over the past few years, they were surprised when I added a second Twitter name, @TimetobeFrank.  I have been asked by a number of people the reason for the change, and I felt I would explain it here.  I have always spoken about the need to personalize business in a space like Twitter.  That is one of the many reasons my team at Comcast has their own Twitter user names.  It is also why you see my picture and blog information on my @ComcastCares Twitter account.  I have also said many times that if I had another account, I would still be representing my employer, so there was no reason to make the change.  So what happened?  A number of things, but most prevalent was discussions with people that wanted to hear my thoughts, but because they were not Comcast Customers, they were not interested in following @ComcastCares.  This is an easy way to accommodate that.  There have also been times where I was not in a position to assist Customers (such as being out) but I wanted to tweet something interesting.  I can now do that.

This in no way changes my view that social media is a relationship driven medium that is about personal connections.  This change is really a means to further that.  There will be many times I will tweet the same personal thoughts through both Twitter accounts.

It has been an interesting experience.  The opportunity to see the process as a new Twitter user was much improved since the last time I went through that.  I was able to see more efforts to prevent spam then I thought were happening.  It was good to see.  It is fun reviewing the stream of tweets from fewer people I am following.  This is something I have not done in a long time due to the sheer quantity.  At the same time I would like to build my followers up on this account so I can have even broader conversations about Customer Service in business today and into the future.  I have also realized it is hard to manage multiple Twitter accounts, even with the tools that are currently available.  It will take some getting used to.  I hope this provides clarification.

See you on Twitter!

Social Media Business Evolution Part 1: Culture

Posted on : 10-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

Tags: , ,


Tomorrow I will be speaking at the Social Business Summit in Austin, TX.  This pre-event for SxSW, which starts on Friday, is being presented by Dachis Group.  Dachis is a great example of a company striving to work in this new transparent environment.  Have you ever checked out the Dachis website?  They strive to be so transparent that they have developed a scroll on their website that shows exactly what they are doing.  For example if a member of the team tweets a message, it will show up.  It will even say when they are emailing someone and the domain they are emailing (not the name or full email address).  I am looking forward to this event, because the topic is fun, culture change within businesses.  I am also looking forward to seeing people like Charlene Li, who I have never met in person.  Her book Open Leadership is about to come out, and I know it will be great.

Anyway, over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of reading, probably one of the causes for not posting as much as I would like.  I hope to start putting a lot of these pent up thoughts into posts over the next few weeks.  One of the things I have realized is their are a lot of diverse thoughts on all aspects of social media and how companies will incorporate it.  First these varying opinions are great discussion points and will help define this going forward.  At the same time, I believe many are putting the cart before the horse.  People within social media tend to love the speed of information, transparency, personal control, and the ability to see their thoughts take off.  Also those of us in social media tend to see how these benefits can impact the world.  Many see it as an revolutionary transformation, as it has been for themselves.  For businesses though, it still needs to be more of an evolutionary change, otherwise many of the positive benefits will be lost.  This change will take place at different rates of speed, and most likely in different ways based on the organization (and the people that make up that organization, including Customers).

I have read in a number of sources that businesses should not be involved in social media until they have the right culture.  This typically is centered around the free flow of information as well as trust in employees that is required in the space.  I this spirit I should admit I have sometimes been in this camp too.  Here is a funny, true story.  I have spoken to numerous organizations about social media and how I have used the space.  There is only 1 company that I did not help when requested.  The reason for this was before they were willing to chat, they wanted me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that was very lengthy.  I really did not want to read through the entire thing, and I personally felt if they were requiring that from an unpaid consultant such as myself they probably were not ready for the space.

The more I have learned about social media, I have realized the culture change that people reference is starting to happen, but it does not have to be fully embraced for a company to begin in social media.  First employees, just based on the numbers, are already participating in social media through Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter and so the list goes on.  Don’t kid yourself, they are already representing the brand and generating their own culture change.  They are also taking on more say over the brand due to this.  This is why I sometimes refer to social media as the “disorganized labor movement.”  Customers are within social media discussing your products, how they use them and their thoughts on your business, this is commonly referred to as the Groundswell.  This can be positive or negative, but they are talking (I will have an upcoming post that discusses this).  Customer are also forcing this culture change.

Companies are going to move in different ways to embrace social media.  From my perspective I have seen the first efforts to be within marketing or public relations/communications.  What has happened as companies have done this, they were forced to evolve strategies to effectively meet the demands from Customer and employees.  This has meant a shift to more transparent discussions and more areas of the business being involved, such as Customer Service and senior leadership.  Most of these companies did not have the transparent culture prior to this happening, but it was forced upon them.  So for those that say right culture is required first, should observe these evolutionary patterns and understand that culture change will happen because of social media, but it is not required as a point of entry.

Here is what is really required.  First it requires visionaries that can see benefits within social media.  It really does not matter from which silo it comes from.  This also does not require full support from everyone, but it will require at least one high level supporter.  The reason you need support from one high level person is because as this evolves, some of the old school leaders will be scared and may try to cause the organization to take steps back.  Fear of something new is natural, and the reason some leaders fear it, is because they lose some sense of control.  It will also highlight deficiencies within the organization, and it may even involve their area of expertise.  As time goes on, more and more people within the organization will embrace it.  I always joke that all senior leaders are from Missouri, the “show me” state.  They need to be able to touch and feel things.  I know many have struggled with “metrics” within this space, but that is not the best way to touch and feel things.  The true benefit is you can easily show leaders what is happening in the space, reaction and what, as an organization you are learning.  The fact is they can be shown Twitter search, Google Blogsearch, Facebook search, or other easy to use tools.  They can touch and feel it themselves.

As part of this discussion of culture change, some also say the entire organization must have a strong Customer focus before entering this space.  I disagree with this too.  The reason I disagree, is this space will assist companies on their focus on the Customer.  It is difficult for senior leaders to listen to every call, or view every email, but as I mentioned above they can easily follow the discussion regarding the brand.  As we know this is a space controlled by the Customer, and they will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly.  The difference is anyone can easily search this information and learn from it.  I have never met a senior leader who wanted to create a bad experience for a Customer.  Before it is pointed out by others, I do recognize there are sometimes natural conflicts, such as price, but they never wanted anyone to not be helped when help is required.   This space will create the change within any company just by simply listening.

I applaud any company for being involved in social media.  Even if they may not be taking the best direction, I recognize that this space will force their evolution and they will become stronger participants because of it.  So my feedback to the experts in the space, just give it time; your  visions will be recognized by many companies.