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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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Hosni Mubarak was an Influencer!

Posted on : 17-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media


Okay, I know the headline was to catch attention, but it still brings up an interesting point. I am constantly hearing about influencers, and I thought it was a topic we should further discuss. By all definitions, Hosni Mubarek, former President of Egypt, was an influencer. He held control over much of the media, and in some ways, the internet. Yet the overwhelming voice of the people were able to change that. Simply by banning together, and connecting on the web and offline.

I meet people who are probably smarter than me when it comes to marketing, or even social media, but they focus so much on the influencer. Many want to give product to the influencer, in hopes they will speak well of it and add to sales. This always makes me wonder if influencers always started to hawk these products, how long will they retain their influence? I know for myself, I would want to turn them off. I like to connect with people for their intellectual ability not selling abilities.

Every time I think of influence, I always remember a conference in Atlanta where a telecom marketing person spoke about how she rewards people for saying nice things about her brand. As soon as she said it, I immediately thought ‘thank you for telling me that, now I do not believe good things said about that brand. Now I do not kid myself, I know that companies have policies for press and others so they can use product for reviews or articles. But for the most part press tend to work on ethical rules regarding gifts and free product. Companies also have similar rules limiting what they offer. There are also rules for disclosure for bloggers which should be enforced by the blogger, as well as the company who provided the product.

My favorite is when people start talking about giving preferential treatment to influencers when they need Customer Service. I personally feel everyone is an influencer and would be happy to share examples where negative or positive experiences by everyday people who have shared the experience and the content became influential. I know many will say companies provide preferential treatment to those who buy a lot of product or take advantage of multiple services. That is true and to me that makes sense. They create the revenue for the company and are very dedicated to the company based on their actions. Companies may provide them a dedicated team, or even other discounts. I think many understand that. I should point out that my first management role was in one of these service departments for the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies. My opinion is if you start to treat those with high Klout scores with preferential treatment, you run a number of risks. First if I regularly buy your product, have a lower score and find out, I will be irritated that you do not value me and you may lose me as a Customer. You are sending a message to other Customers that they are not as special as an influencer. The opposite can also cause trouble. People love to know they receive preferential treatment, but what happens if they feel a ‘regular’ person received a better Customer experience? Could they be loud regarding what they perceive as their poor treatment?

I also think this type of trouble could cause us to we see another Mubarak moment directed at the brand providing this ‘special treatment.’ I can see ‘regular’ Customers banning together and becoming the major brand influencer in a major negative way. Personally I would like to see brands realize every Customer can be an influencer and treat them in a way the builds them as advocates. What do you think about special treatment of influencers?

Twitter is Not Your Answer to Service

Posted on : 15-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media

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Fortune Magazine has an interesting piece by Anne Vandermey comparing Customer Service by channel, including phone, website, and Twitter.  They provided the same question to each channel and measured accuracy and speed of response.  What they found from most of the interactions was phone was still the best way to receive service.  I was not surprised by the findings, but there are a few other key points that should be made.  Here are a few:

1)   Customer Preferred Communication Style – Not everyone is going to prefer Twitter, the same way not everyone prefers phone or email.  My preference is email when I do not need an immediate response or I know a proper response will require research by the company.  If I have an immediate need, I will still call, although that is not my preferred means of communication.  Someone requesting a response via Twitter may not care if it takes a few hours to obtain the information.  They simply may like the fact that the answer will come to them in the place they are already hanging out.

2)   Customer’s Now Own Your Brand Message – Not just with Twitter, but also Facebook, YouTube, blogs, forums, user reviews and so many other social websites, the Customer now owns your message.  They can be very loud regarding a bad or good experience with a product or service.  They take this message to any of the websites they can.

3)   Speed of Information – Depending on the nature of your business, Twitter can highlight an area of concern faster than other internal communications.  The reason for this is the way Twitter is designed.  Twitter asks a question: ‘What’s Happening?’  The answer to this question can provide insight prior to a Customer even calling.  Many times they state why they are calling a company before they even finishing dialing the number on the phone.  Ultimately listening is key, but I would say the same regarding all communications methods

Overall Twitter is not for everything.  It is difficult for many firms to discuss Customer private data in a public forum, so there are times conversations must shift to other communication methods.  The power of Twitter and other social media is the shift to the Customer.  It is raising the importance of Customer Service, and many companies are now scrambling to fix broken service departments, or ones focused on inaccurate goals.  In this new world order, the Customer is gaining the upper hand (and so is your front line employee), whether you are on Twitter or not.  Twitter is not the cause, nor is it the solution.  There has been a Customer revolution going on; are you ready for the evolution of your business?  To me this is the more interesting conversation instead of speed of response.  At the same time I enjoyed the article because it did show how some are focusing Twitter more on the PR side of service and not improving all channels.

Twitter Can Be A Natural Fit for Car Dealers, but…

Posted on : 07-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service

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I decided this week it was time to get a new car for my wife.  We have had the same Volvo for 9 years and it has served us well, but with upcoming inspection which would cost a lot, it was time to think of a new car.  We have done well with a station wagon and wanted to find something similar.  I debated a Volvo, but I wish they were still owned by Ford.  In reviewing the current offerings I decided it would be between a Toyota Venza or Audi A4 Avant.  I think both are nice cars with many features.  So I decided to contact a few dealers.  Audi of Willow Grove shocked me when Brett Pomerantz, their Internet Sales Manager responded to my email on a Sunday.  As many of you are aware, I believe a key part to service is speed of response.  We had a nice dialogue, even though the basic part of the response was a team member of his would contact me Monday.  We even discussed social media and car dealers.  So on Sunday I contacted 8 dealers and all sent auto responders with follow up calls today.  The funny thing about the calls, none recognized my preference is email, and no I do not want to come into the dealer if I can avoid it!  Old school sales techniques do not always work.  Contact me the way I prefer to be contacted.  My wife stopped by the dealer at lunch today, test drove the car and they assessed the trade.  I have yet to visit the dealer and we have a signed purchase order.  The sales manager called me with the numbers, and within a few minutes of conversation we had a deal.  I would bet it was inexpensive sale for them as well.  Of course I had numbers I was comfortable with prior to reaching out, so I do think the internet helps with the overall experience.  I still doubt we would be at this stage if I did not build a connection to Brett last night with a few email exchanged.  Simply put he earned trust which helped the dealer close the deal (even though he was away at a conference today).

This is not why I am writing this post, although it does fit in what I look for in Customer Service and sales. Last night I twittered out a question about what car I should get.  After doing so I had a number of car dealer accounts follow me.  This is a great way to possibly drum up sales, but then I looked at their feeds.  They basically twittered out info on the cars and deals.  They are really missing the boat.  Imagine if they had sales people out here?  Just like the speed of Brett’s email shocked me, they could have engaged in conversation.  With the right speed and approach they could have easily won me over.  It is not saying come buy from me, or following someone that matters.  They could easily engage in a helpful dialogue regarding the buying experience or even say something like ‘let me know if you need any help with the car buying process.’  The key is this comes better from actual people not the generic dealer twitter account.

Have you seen a car dealer take this approach?  I think this would be a good experience but other may disagree.  I look forward to your comments.