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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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Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents?

Posted on : 17-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media


Well, ready or not, here they come!  This topic has been on my mind for ages.  With Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book out and Chris mentioning on his blog, I thought today was the right day to do it.

While at a marketing conference as a guest on a panel regarding Customer Service through Social Media, I started thinking about trust agents.  We heard introductions from each person.  The last panelist was a marketing professional from a very well known online bank.  He seemed like a really good guy.  During his introduction he mentioned how it was all about the brand, and the discussion must center around the brand.  I have heard this so often, typically from marketing people that desire to control the message in social media.  The message is really a conversation.  I tend not to speak with a logo, but rather the person.  The reason why certain people and brands are successful in social media is because they recognize that fact.  Even brands like @Starbucks and @Jetblue let the personality and the person behind the tweets shine through.  We’re all learning about the brand through the people.

Here are six secrets to being a trust agent:

  1. Are you making your own game? (Are you following or writing the new path?)
  2. Are you one of us? In the trenches and engaged in conversation in Social Media for your brand.
  3. Do you understand the Archimedes Effect?  Do you understand how to take what youre doing in one instance and extend it out into something bigger or better elsewhere?
  4. Are you Agent Zero to several networks?
  5. Do you relate well to others?
  6. Are you ready to build armies? Working solo is easy. Do you share what you know to promote larger interactions?

Displaying some or all of these characteristics in social media suggests that you may be a Trust Agent.  This is not necessarily a role or title assigned by a company.  Nor can a company control the message of this person.  This is someone leading the way in this new medium call Social Media.  These are not the numerous self proclaimed experts, but truly the ones that are leading the way in thoughts and actions.

Chris has referred to me as a Trust Agent, but I can never even come close to some of those that lead the way.  I am not sure I will ever live up to the reputations of:

  • Robert Scoble formerly from Microsoft, now with Fast Company
  • Lionel Menchaca at Dell
  • Pam Finnie at HP
  • Matt Cutts at Google
  • Kathy Sierra

This brings me back to the point of the post, we are still at an age where various “brand” professionals are doing what they can to control the conversation and the message.  They are missing the point, but I am not sure why since it has been out there for a long time.  Right now I am reading Brian Solis’ latest book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.  When I look back at some of Brian’s earlier work he was predicting this loss of control, and the need for companies to enter the conversation from a very different perspective.  Beyond all the expert opinion, the Trust Agent may not always build up their reputation with the permission of the company they work for.  In fact many are in this space now having conversations.  They are becoming the leaders in this new version of marketing.

It is time for companies to step back, realize the conversation is happening, encourage employees to be a part of it, and provide tools to make sure the employees are successful.  This is the right social media plan that every business should have.

Who are some Trust Agents that you know?

The Long Lost Power of Lasting Advertising

Posted on : 16-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing

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With Mad Men starting tonight, I thought it would be fun to talk about vintage advertising.  Of course I did not realize a story would hit me while driving last night.  Do you remember the Spaghettio’s commercial?  “Uh Oh Spaghettio’s”

To help you remember here is a You Tube copy of one of the ads:

Today many companies strive to create commercials that get people talking, but this commercial was marketing basics;  an easy to remember jingle. I am not a marketing person, but really just an everyday consumer. I buy products all the time for a variety of reasons. When it come to kid’s meals I will admit that we purchase what our kids like. We also buy products that make life easy, including bulk purchases at Costco. Because of this, our usual kid’s pasta purchase is Chef Boyardee. But that brings me to the point of this post.

Last night we went to the Grange Fair in Wrightstown, PA. As we were driving home we hit a lot of traffic on the tight streets near the fair. When we saw all the car lights in front of us our 3 year old said “Uh-Oh.” This was followed by our 1 1/2 year old doing the same. With “Uh-Oh” echoing in the back seat I chimed in with “Uh Oh Spaghettios.” This caused Lily to repeat it numerous time, although she kept saying “Uh Oh the Spaghettios.” As we were driving we were helping Lily say “Uh Oh Spaghettios.” Of course this brought a question from her, “what are Spaghettios?” So we told her. On the way home we were stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few things. While we were there we picked up a few cans of Spaghettios. Well of course for lunch today, everyone can guess what Lily wanted. She had her first can of Spaghettios and Lily and Robyn loved it.

All this from a slogan I have not seen on TV in a long time. What other slogans can you think of with lasting power like that?

Advertiser vs Consumer

Posted on : 07-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business


I had other plans for posts this week, but things do get hectic at times.  Wednesday night I did a panel discussion and I was reminded of one of my favorite videos on You Tube, so I decided to share it here.  It cracks me up that it was created my Microsoft.  Enjoy!

Customers are Talking About Blank

Posted on : 29-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Social Media


I saw this video and had to share it. What is the right blank for you?

The Engagement of Zappos and Amazon

Posted on : 22-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, In the News

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In the past year I have built many friendships at Zappos, and I am proud to have learned from them.  One of the greatest experiences from a business perspective was the opportunity to tour Zappos in Las Vegas.  It was the most Customer centered place I have ever been.  During the visit I received their famous culture book and a bag.  I keep both on the top shelf in my office to remind me that it is all powered by service.  So when I heard the news that Amazon was purchasing Zappos and making it a subsidiary of Amazon, I will admit that initially I was concerned.  It is not that I have had a bad experience with Amazon, because the exact opposite is true.  Every interaction I have had there was very good.  One minor service concern was rectified really fast.  I knew the purchase was the best thing for the Zappos shareholders, but what about the culture that I have grown to love?

Tony addressed this in his letter to employees:

“Q: Will the Zappos culture change?

Our culture at Zappos is unique and always evolving and changing, because one of our core values is to Embrace and Drive Change. What happens to our culture is up to us, which has always been true. Just like before, we are in control of our destiny and how our culture evolves.

A big part of the reason why Amazon is interested in us is because they recognize the value of our culture, our people, and our brand. Their desire is for us to continue to grow and develop our culture (and perhaps even a little bit of our culture may rub off on them).

They are not looking to have their folks come in and run Zappos unless we ask them to. That being said, they have a lot of experience and expertise in a lot of areas, so we’re very excited about the opportunities to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and resources, especially on the technology side. This is about making the Zappos brand, culture, and business even stronger than it is today.”

I was still not convinced, but again not due to experience with Amazon, but rather seeing acquisitions in the past with other companies.  As I went down the letter, there was a video with Jeff Bezzos, CEO of Amazon.  I have heard good things about Jeff, but mainly due to investment performance and driving the results of the company.  The video shows a much different side, and one that I felt the need to share:

Maybe this will be a marriage made in heaven.  I wish all involved great success.

Sorry, But It’s Not All About Jeff Jarvis

Posted on : 20-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service

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Most of my readers know of Jeff Jarvis but for those that do not, he is author (latest is “What Would Google Do“), journalist, and a Customer evangelist (at least based on his Dell Hell example).  You can learn more about Jeff on Wikipedia.  I tend to agree with Jeff Jarvis on many things, and this will be another point that he and I will agree.  Yesterday on Twitter Jeff shared an experience he was having with his local cable provider (not Comcast!).  He followed it up with a post on his Buzz Machine blog.  During his experience with the cable company call center, a representative responded “I dont see you listed as a VIP.  Now I am not going to say something like companies do not have VIP Customer lists, because most I have ever worked for did.  When I worked for Vanguard investments I was a supervisor in their Voyager service, which was for household with $250,000 to $1 million invested (those levels may have changed today).  Since starting my work helping people in social media, someone inevitably steps in and says “you only helped them because they are an influencer.”  Even within Jeff’s comments Cody Brown stated the following:

“If I did this on my twitter, I dont think I would have gotten any response from Verizon or Comcast.

A big problem with going after corporate customer service with Twitter is that if you dont have the follower count, it often goes no where.

Its nepotism when you get better service because you are friends with the VP but what is it when you get better service for having 20K twitter followers?”

Well Cody, my belief is you are just as much an influencer as Jeff Jarvis, and so is every Customer a company interacts with.  I responded to Jeff, not because he is a VIP  Customer, in fact he is not a Customer of Comcast at all.  I responded because he directed a comment specifically to me, and it is only polite to respond.

Social media is making the world a smaller place and it is also providing a lot more control to Customers.  People are sharing their experiences to their new world within places like Facebook and Twitter.  Customers have always communicated bad experiences to others, but the scale is shifting.  The rule of thumb used to be a Customer with a bad experience will tell 10 others, but as Pete Blackshaw points out in the title of his book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000,”  the scale is getting much larger for everyone.  This is a new world order and the Customer is gaining the upper hand.

Now think of it from your own perspective, what happens when you have a bad experience?  You tell as many as you can.  How many of us are influenced about a product by reading a review on Amazon.com?  I know I have been.  Today there are many influential websites serving Customers, such as the Consumerist, Planet Feedback, Get Satisfaction and many more.  Any person can influence things like search results or the perception of the brand.  You can even look at your Facebook page as having dramatic influence.  Updating your status goes out to all your friends, then others start to comment on it opening it up the influence to their friends and so on.

This is why, in this new world, companies are going to have to improve the Customer experience through all communication channels.  If they do not, they may not have Jeff Jarvis going on a rampage, but it could be someone as simple as “John Smith.”  The person who brings it to light on the internet may not even be the Customer at all.  Instead “John Smith” may share his story and a friend decides to tell so many others.

I have reviewed numerous software for managing social media and discussions on the web.  A feature I always see is “influencer” ratings or rankings.  I believe any company that focuses on the highest rankings is really going the wrong direction.  They are usually working from a PR or marketing perspective and not really striving to listen or help their Customers.  I am not going to say I have not helped people that would be ranked as “influencers,” because I have.  I strive to help all Customers in the same manner.  If you have not seen the ABC story, check out the video on this link.  One of my favorite stories was when I help Michael Arrington, many said it was because of who he was, but within the comments there were comments like these:

Siobhan said “Actually, they monitor a lot of blogging tools and sites. I have a friend who uses LiveJournal who got an email within about 24 hours of complaining about her Comcast service from a legitimate customer service rep, and they sent a tech out to help within a day. So theyre doing it whether youre Michael Arrington or the average Joe on the street.”

Even Michael added a comment “based on twitter messages Im receiving, they are monitoring services in general, not specific influencers. http://twitter.com/angelcitybl…../784144918

Since the Michael Arrington story, I am sure many others will recognize that my team and I strive to assist everyone to the best of our ability.  Some will say that service is not the same through other communications channels with my company, but I will let everyone know that we are working hard to change that.  In fact the cool part about our efforts is we can learn so much that can then be utilized in other communications channels.  It took us time to get to the level we are at, and it will take time to show these improvements.  I look forward to getting to that point.

I think all of this is why Forrester’s Dr. Natalie Petouhoff wrote a post that I will be discussing later this week about Customer Service leading the way for companies in social media.  Check it out.

I will end this note with a tweet I sent to Jeff Jarvis last night:

Losing Trust Equity

Posted on : 14-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Personal

Tags: ,


Everyone has a brand that they trust fully.  For me, one of those brands is Crest.  In fact I trust all products by Proctor and Gamble.  So much that we bought stock in the company.  Over the years the performance of their products has gained a large trust equity for me.

The benefits of trust equity is I would never hesitate purchasing one of their products.  This can be such a big boost to a company.  It makes it much easier to introduce new products and develop interest.  In many ways it also allows you to price your products at a premium to the market.  But how easy is it to lose this equity?

Well yesterday Carolyn went to the dentist.  During the appointment she discussed some brown spots on her teeth.  They easily cleaned but there was a discussion about different teeth cleaning products.  The hygienist asked about Crest Pro Health Rinse.  We did have that recently.  My wife asked about Crest Pro Health toothpaste.  The hygienist did not hear of any trouble with the toothpaste but she did mention how they were no longer providing the samples of the rinse due to brown spots.

So today my wife immediately started searching the web regarding this issue.  She was surprised at what Google brought to her attention.  Here is a news report on the topic:

I strive to read the Consumerist everyday, and I missed some of their stories on the topic.  Here are a few of them:

A standard Google search reveals many more. It also revealed to me that there is a warning on the toothpaste that states “products containing stannous flouride may produce surface staining of the teeth.” I should clarify this is a “whitening” toothpaste that my produce surface staining? I never noticed that until this Google exercise. I think that has to do with the trust equity that this product has with me. I would have never even thought to look for a legal disclaimer. I also think we have all become immune to the legal mumbo jumbo that exists out there.

By the way here are the other warnings on the Crest Pro-Health toothpaste:

  • When using this product do not use for sensitivity longer than four weeks unless recommended by a dentist
  • Stop us and as a dentist if the sensitivity problem persists or worsens
  • Sensitive teeth may indicate a serious problem that may need prompt care
  • Keep out of reach of children
  • If more than used for brushing is accidently swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison control center right away

The actual warning is under “other information” and it does state adequate brushing may prevent these stains which are not harmful or permanent and may be removed by your dentist. The next bullet is “this Crest is specially formulated to help prevent staining.”  This brings about the question of why the warning?

For many products, before buying, I usually search Google, read review or discuss with friends, but some have a trust equity that do no require that.  This equity does build up, but can easily come down.  Now I will probably still buy standard Crest products because I have a strong experience with them, but it will take a long time to build the equity when it comes to trying new products for this company.  Do you have companies or products that have built such a large trust equity?

GM Leading the Way?

Posted on : 12-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


On Saturday I was reading the Wall Street Journal and in section B there was an article titled “GM Takes New Direction.”  As we all know GM exited bankruptcy protection on Friday.  It marked a new beginning for the company.  What caught my eye in the article was the 2nd paragraph which stated:

“The new company will put a premium on speed, accountability, and risk taking, and root out the layers of management that had hobbled decision making, he [Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, CEO of GM] said at a news conference.”

Wow, I wonder why they have not done this years ago?  In this time of social networks, and instant communication, speed is the name of the game.  For those on Twitter news is not measured in hours, but more like minutes or even seconds.  But how does this apply to big business?

Well businesses have been changing, even if it is not realized at the top.  With a new generation at the lowest levels, they are not like prior generations.  They want a direct say in the business.  They want to control their own destiny, and one of the ways they will do that is providing their ideas and insights.  It is imperative for organizations to include them in the discussion.  They will tell you everything, whether you want to hear it or not.  I would guess that their actions will force a flattening of the corporate structure, and hopefully the elimination of the typical corporate bureaucracy.

Customers too are now demanding speed and support.  They are tired of not have a personal connection with companies.  As part of this same article Mr. Henderson discussed having his team meet with dealer and consumers around the country.  Wow what a shocking concept.  Yet it took a lot of money, bankruptcy and almost going out of business to think that way.  Hopefully other companies realize this sooner.

The name of the management game is changing.  During my first interview for a management role I was asked what the most important thing for a manager was.  I responded listening.  Needless to say it was the incorrect answer based on the feedback from the interview, but I stand by it.  In the new world order, listening will be the most important attribute of leaders.  You will now have to listen to Customers and employees in a new manner.  Then you will have to further engage them to learn more and to find out if you completely understood.

Social media tools are a great way to consider doing that.  I wonder if GM has built social media tools internally for allowing all levels of the company to communicate with each other?  As we have seen with the uprisings in Iran, social media tools make the world a smaller place.  If used properly internally they can even make a place as large as GM, much smaller.  They can also be used as a means of communicating and listening to Customers.  I do want to emphasize that it is 1 part of what should be an overall plan to listen and engage with all Customers.

I wish GM well as they strive to reinvent themselves, I just hope other companies do not have to go through such drastic steps to realize what needs to be done in this new world.

The Google “Sucks” Index

Posted on : 08-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Social Media

Tags: ,


Back in February 2008 Business Week had a story by Jeff Jarvis called “Love the Customers Who Hate You.”  I loved the overall theme of the article.  At the time I just started in my position as the manager of digital care.  I saw the great potential to turn detractors into evangelist, but more importantly I recognized that we can learn a lot from these Customers and make the feedback actionable.  This article was the first to enlighten me that my new role was truly the convergence of PR, marketing and Customer Service.

The article also inspired me to do a quick graph of what I call the Google “Sucks” index.  I simply did a search of google for many companies and added the word sucks.  The first thing I noticed was a slight different in the numbers, specific to Wal-mart.  That was because I added together variations of company names, like Wal-Mart and Walmart.  Besides the slight difference, it was a fascinating way to look at where we stood as a business.

Well today we had a luncheon at work to award my team for all their hard work and success in creating the right experience for our Customers.  I am so proud of the work they have done.  This caused a little reminiscing  about what has happened over the past year and a half.  One thing led to another and we starting talking about the Google “Sucks” index.  I never thought I would use a word like sucks around executives as much as I have today.  Anyway, I decided after all the conversation to take a quick look at the index again.  I went and did a search for the different companies and added sucks to the end.  I then looked at the right side of Google and jotted down the number that came up.  I sent the graph around to those that were part of the conversation.  I included a similar caption to the original version with a link to the Jeff Jarvis article.  Everyone loved it, but the next question was can we compare the numbers to the report from February 2008 report I did.  So I went digging and actually found the original report.  So then I did the mathematics to determine the percentage change.  As I was putting together I had to try to remember the original searches to ensure apples to apples comparison of the numbers.

So what were the results?  Since that is work data, I will not publicly share all the information.  I will say only 1 company moved less (and tonight I realized why, it was not apples to apples comparison, the February 2008 version did not have cable in the search where today’s version did).  I would always expect the number to go up since you really can’t ungoogle something.  Ours went up less than 5% while all the others went up 15% to 472%.  Is this a measurement of my team’s success?  Company improvements?  I really do not know but it is a really easy and fun way to measure the movement of the needle.

And they say this space is difficult to measure!

How Do You Define Customer Service 4.0?

Posted on : 01-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service


I know using something like Customer Service 4.0 is so 90’s, but it was the best way to show how service has changed over the years.  As I have discussed many times, Customer Service will be changing in many ways in the coming years (For reference check out this post “The Future of Customer Service“).  I think service will return to the basics and finding ways to help.  This will be influenced by many factors, including social media, but also changes within the work force.  There are other influences, such as the current economic environment.  I believe companies, who in the past viewed Customer Service as a cost center, are starting to realize that Customer Service is really a differentiator from their competitors.  Ultimately this has a greater impact on sales and retention than most other aspects of the experience.  I also believe companies are going to have to know their Customers much better and use this intelligence to build the relationship further.  Let’s take a quick look at the history of service:

  • Customer Service 1.0 – The One on One Era
    • The origination of service, it was really about personal interactions and relationships.
  • Customer Service 2.0 – Expanding Reach
    • Mail completely changed the relationship between businesses and their Customer.  Now there was a way to build relationships with Customer much further away.  The only negative was the lack of speed
    • As time moved on and the phone was invented service gained the necessary speed.  This can be referred to as Customer Service 2.5.  This truly was the golden age for service.  Companies now had the ability to help Customers anywhere and at anytime.
  • Customer Service 3.0 – Efficiency Era of Service
    • Most people think this began with email or chat, but it really started with everyone’s favorite interaction point, the IVR.  IVR stands for interactive voice response, but you probably know it better as press 1 for x and 2 for y…
    • The next enhancement in this era was email, a great easy way to assist Customers and offer support.  When this first came out as an option many companies were resistant due to fear of scalability and in many cases, legal fears of having interactions in writing (for those that discuss social CRM, does this sound familiar?).  We can refer to this as Customer Service 3.1
    • The biggest leap in efficiency was the implementation of web self service.  For many business this was a great way to reduce calls by allowing Customers to do that work themselves.  This would have to be Customer Service 3.5.
    • The next items seemed to come at the same time.  Starting in the later part of the 1990’s we began to see a large increase in outsourcing and the implementation of chat.  Chat was helpful because of the speed of interaction it offered and it is lower cost.  It is easy for an agent to have a few chat sessions open at the same time.  Outsourcing occurred because companies had a deep view that Customer Service is a cost center and in many cases they could offer the same level of support for less money.  We can refer to these as Customer Service 3.7 and 3.8.
  • Customer Service 4.0 – I am thinking the name for this will be the Customer Strikes Back, but it is really not defined yet.  Here are a few thoughts:
    • The social web will start to define companies and the everyday Customer will have the same influence, or in many ways greater, just by communicating their thoughts on a company
    • The internal workforce will demand improvements in creating the right experience
    • Intelligence offered through tools will bring the Customer story directly to the ‘C suite.”  Remember executives are Customers too and they want their Customer to have a good experience in the same manner they would expect if they were to call a company for service.  Examples of these tools are
      • Speech analytics from call recordings that convert calls to searchable text (example is Impact 360 from Verint)
      • Social media tools will bring Customer discussions direct from the web to the top executives (example is Radian 6)
    • Customers will want less interactions with companies, but when they require them they will want it to be more personal and less scripted
    • Crowd sourcing will be a way to build knowledge for Customers and help when products and service cross between many companies

As a Customer of many different companies, how would you define Customer Service 4.0?  I am not looking for comments on specific companies, but rather the service field in general.  For inspiration below is a panel interview from the Rockstars of Social CRM event put on last week by Radian 6.  It is 45 minutes, but for a short video I posted yesterday has some of the same thoughts.