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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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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...

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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...

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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...

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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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Social Media is Part of the Solution to #OccupyWallSt

Posted on : 21-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Leadership, Social Media

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Over the past month the #occupywallstreet fever has been sweeping the country. There have been a few different thoughts surrounding the movement and I feel it is time for me to share some of my own. The movement has confused many because there is no clear leadership to express their views. It also has created challenges in responding to them. First there is frustration with the economy, politicians, and business. From the movement I have heard many different thoughts from wanting a world without money to environmental concerns. The movement is not all that different that revolutions we have watched around the globe and even quieter ones taking place right before our eyes (I will be writing about this in my book @YourService coming out from Wiley Spring 2012). Social media provides a voice to everyone and it allows those with like views to connect. That is what we are seeing take place. As I have analyzed the social conversations taking place, I am seeing set themes. First is a lack of trust of government, business and leaders. Trust is earned and it is imperative that we start to do that. This is done with more human interactions than business or government is ready for. They better get ready! There is a frustration with profits on Wall Street and CEO pay. I think these have been issues for many for a long time, especially when there is a lack of jobs. In reviewing the online dialogue, in my view we need to discuss job. The other frustration I am seeing is centered on student loan debt, which to me centers on the cost of education, societal pressures, and the lack of jobs when one graduates. We have always placed a strong emphasis on education with the notion that one would be rewarded. In many ways I wonder if ease of student loans helped create an education bubble and universities to raise tuition rates, similar to what occurred in housing costs an mortgages. I agree that these are important points for society to strive to address.

The challenge is not the lack of leadership on the #occupywallstreet side, it is on the other side. Social media provides us the opportunity to have a dialogue on issues like these at a scalable level to include everyone. It requires someone to step forward and say how are we going to come together to find solutions that move America and the World forward. We need positive leadership to do this, yet I have not seen that anywhere. I find that very frustrating. How can we improve education? What are the best ways to create jobs? How can we create this private/public partnership? I love America and business. We have to lead the way. What are your thoughts?

This post was done on my iPhone so please excuse typos, etc

You’ve Got Mail! How Fast Does Your Business Evolve?

Posted on : 12-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Leadership

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‘You’ve Got Mail,’ a term we all loved to hear in the mid 90′s but when was the last time you heard it?  Actually for me it was about a month or two ago.  Do you remember the Tom Hank’s, Meg Ryan movie of the same name?  Yes, I watched it.  That movie started me thinking about the evolution of business.  Although AOL still exists it is a vastly different, smaller company today.  Last week I received an email from Barnes & Noble regarding their purchase of the Customer list from Borders.  Here is an image of the email:

I loved the human tone of the email, particularly this quote from Barnes & Noble CEO, William Lynch:

“First of all let me say Barnes & Noble uniquely appreciates the importance bookstores play within local communities, and we’re very sorry your Borders store closed.”

This brings me back to the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail.’  If you remember the movie, the character played by Meg Ryan owned a small book shop called ‘The Shop Around the Corner.”  Tom Hank’s character, along with his family, controlled the Fox Book Superstore, moving in around the corner.  Fox Books would remind you of any Barnes and Noble or Borders location.  It was very open, featuring a wide range of books, other media, and, of course, the all important coffee bar.  Although the two characters fell in love, ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ does go out of business.  The model changed and the little shop was not able to change with the times.  Now today we see the model changing again.  First Amazon made a strong competitor with their internet book business.  They further pushed the model with the introduction of the well loved Kindle.   The iPad and Apple furthered this evolution, as did Google and their Android devices.

Business models are changing all the time, and the most nimble businesses can bring success to this.  ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and Borders may not have been able to make it, but companies like Barnes and Noble are trying.  Amazon has proven to be a disrupter to the typical business model.  How nimble is your business?  Do you see change before it is too late?


It is interesting, when taken into context of yesterday’s Netflix post.  Evolution is imperative but timing can be very difficult.

It is Not Just CRM or Social CRM; It’s Still Leadership & Vision

Posted on : 11-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Leadership, Uncategorized

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Over the years Social CRM has continued to be a hot topic of online conversation and debate, yet I am not sure we still have a clear understanding of SCRM versus a Customer experience culture! Two different aspects that both play into the successful organization in todays connected world. What started my thinking for this post was a Facebook post I noticed today indicating that Netflix was in a ‘CRM crisis.’  The Facebook post linked to this blog post by Harish Kotadia, Ph.D titled ‘Netflix’s Self Made CRM Crisis and How Social CRM Can Help.’  I found this interesting, given my views regarding social CRM. Now let me be clear the debate regarding this topic will not end here, just like it did not end when Paul Greenberg put his stake in the ground. In that post Paul offered the following short definition for SCRM:

“CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

I love his definition, but I do wonder if it is too broad.  I firmly believe that the social Customer owns your brand and a change in the way we conduct business is an imperative.  We will take a close look at my view of the Netflix issues in recent months.  Before going into that, lets take a look at CRM.  Wikipedia defines CRM as:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support.  The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.  Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments.  Measuring and valuing customer relationships is critical to implementing this strategy.

CRM, although part of a broader culture, starts with technology to better understand Customers, interactions, and build relationships.  CRM tools help us know our Customers and the interactions they have with us.  When you add the social component, you do gain a few other aspects.  First and foremost, you now gain the ability to know more about the Customer, or at least what they want known by the general public.  You can learn what is important to them, whether about your product or not.  Great way to further interactions with Customer and prospects!

Now let’s get into the Netflix conversation!  First let me say I personally love Netflix streaming and have been a subscriber for a while.  I tried Netflix by DVD years ago, but I never fully got into it.  I also have been fascinated by the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, for his ability to be a disrupter to varies business models over the years.  Netflix first stirred the pot back in July when it increased subscriber fees.  Basically DVD rentals used to be $2 a month more for streaming subscribers.  This of course caused a firestorm, because this was a rate increase from $9.99 a month to $15.98 a month, a 60% increase for many subscribers.  As a percentage, the increase was substantial, and in many views, unwarranted.  Based on financial discussions during quarterly calls, it is safe to assume that Netflix knew that they would see a backlash and some subscriber defections.  Of course later discussions make me think this was much greater than they anticipated.  As pointed out in this CNN article  on the topic, Netflix lost one million or more in subscribers.  Then on September 18, Reed Hastings and the Netflix team offered an explanation, and introduced ‘Qwikster.’  In the post I think there is a strong glimpse into Reed Hastings with this quote:

“Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly”

For those of us who paid close attention as the scenario played out, you know that the blog post seemed rushed.  Even the Qwikster domain was still pointing to another web property.  At the same time, the quote above still holds true that the decision to split could have been the thought all along.  The big question then becomes why not discuss it when the fee changes were made?  Now comes the recent news that they will not be switching to the Qwikster model due to feedback from Consumers.  Basically the feedback was very negative because increase cost and then the perceived difficulty of consumers if they have to manage their Netflix accounts from multiple websites.  Now the overall situation reflects flip flopping, as pointed out by this CNN article.  You can also make the case that there appears to be overly managing to the perception and not the business.  In my view Netflix is a great service, with strong leadership, but there are causes to this trouble, long before the price increase.  First the model was obviously priced to gain market share, which Netflix did in a tremendous fashion.  During the time they helped change the model for renting movies, including seeing major rental chains going out of business or severely downsizing.  There brand was also mentioned regularly when anyone discussed cord cutting from cable.  They were changing many business models.  The challenge I have always seen was price.  It used to cost $3-$5 a night to rent movies (okay $2 when rentals started), and they shifted that to about $8 for as many as you could get.  As a Consumer, I love that, but as a business person I have to question sustainability.  Even in there streaming business, they offered a lot of content, much of which came from Starz, yet it cost less than Starz on a monthly basis.  I could not see Starz keeping that up, which, as it looks like now, they will not be as of early next year.  This to me can be partially a breakdown of SCRM, specifically over thinking business decisions and making quick decisions based on negative feedback.  Ultimately if you had a strong business plan, you would not be jumping around like this.  This is more reflective of leadership, as opposed to SCRM.  There are going to be times tough decisions by business have to be made.  If the fees were a key component, then they should have discussed the business realities on day 1.  If the plan was to split the business all along, then they should have done that from day 1.  I would guess the real plan was to increase the price, allow the falloff of Customers then slowly shift to an all streaming model.  I am not sure we will ever know the real reasons for decisions, but I want to see the disruptive leadership in Reed Hastings step out further.  What I have seen is handling that is reminiscent of so many other, more mature firms instead of what I have come to expect.

Key lessens is listen, as it would appear Netflix is doing, but SCRM will not always help every situation.  In this case this was a business that was well trusted.  The trust is eroding not due to SCRM but what appears to be missing focus, speculation by others (even myself within this post) and a vision not yet articulated.  My advice to leaders is

  • Know your business and the future you envision
  • Focus on the needs of the Customer
  • Do not be afraid to make tough decisions, but be honest to what they are
  • Be cautious of wavering, because it does erode trust (sometime you must, and then just be open to why)
The business model is changing, and these are part of the growing pains we experience.  Social media is not the only aspect to this, nor would social CRM be the saving grace.  The fact is this is more about leadership and vision.  Sometimes tough decisions are made, but they may be good for the longevity of the business.  Do not be afraid to say so; do not be afraid to lead.

Steve Jobs Changed the World but that Same Power is in You!

Posted on : 08-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational, Leadership

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Over the past few days we have been hearing many words to describe Steve Jobs, such as visionary, genius, maverick, friend, etc.  To me he was a hero, and that will continue throughout my lifetime.  As I look back on his life I do not get the sense that he was motivated by money or fame.  Steve was an extraordinarily passionate about ‘changing the world.’  He lived that passion in everything he did.  Steve seemed to live by certain ideals and concentrated on those.  I love that about him and hope I too can live up to my passions with such unyielding power.

Many leaders look at Apple, and Steve in particular as an innovator.  I believe it is due to the work of the Apple team that innovation has become such an overused word in business.  The funny thing is I have not seen any company innovate in the way Apple has, but I think they could learn from Steve regarding that.  Steve did not focus on the Customer or even metrics.  In fact Steve was frustrated by the whims of Wall Street.  Although he was Customer focused, he instead encouraged the team to focus on their dreams and desires in creating great products.  Through innovations, including the Macintosh, iMac, iPhone, iPad, and although not as much a commercial success, the Apple TV (I have 3 and love them), Steve did change the world, and I am willing to bet the biggest changes are yet to come from Steve.  The Apple success story after his return will be studied by management courses for years to come and I am willing to bet that we will someday see similar leaders driven to do something like ‘changing the world.’

Most days I read a variety of news stories, usually starting with either Google News or Yahoo News.  Thursday was no different.  Late that night I came across a few well-done pieces on the Christian Science Monitor.  The first, called ‘The Apple Effect: How Steve Jobs and Co. Won Over the World,’ was written prior to his passing and featured in their August issue.  The second is really what started me rethinking this blog post.  The article, “America Could Use Another Steve Jobs,’ was an interesting look at the late seventies, early eighties, and compared the times to now.  It then highlighted how a group of entrepreneurs, including Steve and Bill Gates, helped America regain confidence.  At the time many were worried about the economic power of Japan, similar to the way today many are worried about China.  The seventies also included a ten-year period with many economic and political challenges.  At the time, these ‘kids’ helped bring America to the top again, especially regarding technology.

Steve, like all of us, was a product of his history.  He grew up in the changing times of the sixties and seventies.  This most likely brought him the power to question status quo.   At the time when Apple started, he and Steve Wozniak were artists, bringing the Apple to life.  Steve and Woz could see how the computer could, and would change the lives for all of us.  As time went on Apple saw a few failures, but then came the Macintosh.  Apple must have felt like a dream to him!  Then then some tough challenges leading to his departure from the company he loved.  He then gained other interesting experiences that could continue to help shape him, including the development and eventual sale of NeXT to Apple.  He also invested in Pixar, which eventually came out with some movies many of us love to this day.  Pixar sold to Disney, making Steve Jobs its largest shareholder.  These experiences guided his artistic passion and vision.  He learned what he liked within different corporate cultures and what did not work for him or the companies he was involved with. He then returned to a damaged Apple.  Many thought Apple would soon be extinct, but Steve and the Apple team proved them wrong.  It was a rebellion.   His experiences all came together to create the Apple we know today.   Steve made tough choices, some of which alienated Apple from others.  He was tough regarding software that would be on the Apple computers, and even stopped allowing others to create Apple clones.  When he did not like the way companies sold his products, he simply changed the model, which eventually led to the Apple store being born.  Steve, based on his own likes and dislikes (not focus groups) would guide product design.  He had an instinct to what the masses would like.  He did not strive to meet everyone’s needs, just everyday people.  At times this frustrated people, especially when they felt Apple was controlling it.  The best example was the Apple App store, which limited what apps would be available for the iPhone and iTouch.  Steve was really controlling the user experience.  I will admit I was even frustrated by this once or twice, but after using similar devices, I can understand the importance of having a good experience with a device.

Anyway, as I look through Steve’s amazing career, I see a human being who was shaped by experiences.  Steve was an amazingly passionate person with a mission to ‘change the world.’  We may want to hold him up on a pedestal, but Steve simply embodied what is in many of us, but we choose to hold back.  Every one of us has a passion and, many times a mission.  As I read through the article about ‘America Could Use Another Steve Jobs,’ I have two thoughts.  First Steve was unique as all of us are.  My second thought is more in the lines of a song from the Lion King, the Musical.  The song is ‘He lives in You.’  The fact is many of Steve’s attributes, such as passion and mission is within all of us, it is just more a question of our own drive to live up to our passion.  You may not want to change the world, but you can create a very strong mission.  My personal mission is to change the Customer Service world.  In honor of Steve, I am going to make sure I have a much stronger focus on that.  I know I can change a small part of the world, as Steve has proven that one person can and has ‘changed the world’

Social Media Customer Service is a Failure!

Posted on : 06-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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I know I have been quiet for a while, but I am back with a vengence.  Today’s post is over at Brian Solis’ blog, so check it out here! http://www.briansolis.com/2011/10/social-media-customer-service-is-a-failure/