Featured Posts

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...

Readmore

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...

Readmore

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...

Readmore

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...

Readmore

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...

Readmore

  • Prev
  • Next

Apple’s #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart

Posted on : 30-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, In the News, Social Media

0

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 just dropped my ipad on the ground and shattered two glass corners. What to do? Does one call Apple to come and pick it up or do I take it” -@MarthaStewart

This was followed by other Tweets including one stating that she was still waiting for an Apple rep to come pick up the broken iPad. She then switched gears joking that it was an entrepreneurial idea for Apple to offer same day delivery. The tweets culminated with a Tweet about Apple’s PR team response to her:

“I cannot believe that Apple’s Public Relations Team is mad at me for tweeting about my iPad and how to get it fixed! Steve Jobs gave it to me” -@MarthaStewart

Since that time it has been played off that the Tweets were a joke, similar to how Martha has Tweeted in the past. I will not make any judgements either way. I am sure over the next few weeks we will see many posts stating that Apple should provide Twitter Customer service, because it would have alleviated this trouble. The fact is it would not have because the damage to the Apple brand occurred with the first Tweet. This is also where Apple won without striving to do anything from their PR team.

The Twitter community, or at least the sub-sector of Apple Customers, responded immediately to Martha. This never required the PR team to be involved. They explained in some nice, many not so nice words, that she can simply take the broken iPad to the Apple store like any one of us.

I have spoken around the globe on this topic and written about it numerous times. If your consumer believes that you provide really good Customer Service, they will act as your PR team and respond in social media. Unfortunately what we have created instead is a belief that if I am loud in Social Media, a company will treat me dramatically differently than through ordinary channels. This in turn causes more to blast the brand in social media! Very circuitous. Apple has proven that a culture of service will encourage brand advocates to do the right thing!

In this case I am thrilled with Apple’s Customer service team for having a tradition of good Customer service, something I have experienced often. I am not as proud of the PR team in their handling of the situation. I can judge from Martha’s tweet that the PR team reached out to Martha or her people. In this case there was no need to do any of that.

If you followed the conversation or response to her Tweet, it is easily discovered that she was provided the appropriate response. Letting her know that you are mad is not going to solve anything, in fact it will only lead to responses like the one she tweeted. I would also guess that they also sent someone with a new iPad for her (if I find out that they did I will be really disappointed in them).

I am further disappointed in the Apple PR team for not commenting on any of the stories on the topic (there are many). This would have been the perfect opportunity to talk about the great service any Customer can receive just by making an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar. There was an opportunity to say we are here to help anyone in the same great manner whether they have 2.3 million followers or none.

We have to get better at all this, and I hope this situation provides a great learning experience for brands. It certainly was not the first, nor will it be the last. The fact is Customers now control your brand image whether you like it or not. In this case Apple’s Customers did an amazing job, but the traditional approach by the Apple PR team was a big #Fail.

Coming to an Agency Near You!

Posted on : 23-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology

0

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 live, especially how that factors into this social media filled world and business. Things around us are changing everyday and sometimes it is difficult to keep up. A few years ago the hot topics were “social media, “digital” and “mobile”, but in many ways we are seeing the hot topics shift to “sharing economy” and context. The business world is constantly evolving and it seems very difficult for any business to keep pace with the changes before us. Partially this is due to our own resistance but it is also because the future is often difficult to predict until it is right before your eyes. Yet we are starting to see the shift within marketing and PR agencies to help businesses lead the way.

I have seen agencies reduce the number of social media roles, but that is due to multiple factors. For some it is due to the talent moving directly to the business, but for others it is because the skill set is now available in multiple layers in the agency. It no longer required as a separate position. This seems to fit the same cycle we have seen in the past, and I expect we will see into the future. There seems to be a cycle that happens with each change impacting these agencies. The cycle starts with new firms being created usually by people from larger firms who see an opportunity that they can fulfill. This stage is followed by larger firms starting to hire for the skill, then businesses bringing the skill in house with the final stage including consolidation of the smaller firms. Over the past several months I have been watching shifts in the marketing and public relations space that go beyond the big merger talk. I have seen smaller agencies establish themselves in the data analytics speciality. I have also seen some firms restructure to provide greater emphasis on data. In my view data is going to continue to grow, with further challenges from a regulatory and Consumer view. This shift to the world of context will require very specific skills and we are starting to see the agency space recognize the potential opportunity.

I doubt any of you are surprised to see data coming front and center because it has been an interesting conversation point for years. We now have the ability to know the Customer for what they want the world to know, and if we effectively utilize this information we can better assist them in finding the products and services they need at the specific moment they need them. This will of course have challenges along the way. FIrst will be properly parsing the information to better understand the intent. Then it will be a question of delivery. If a brand is off in any of the data points they can take a strong message and destroy it. Over the past few week Acxiom launched AbouttheData.com which allows Consumers to view the data the company has on them. You can read more about this from the NY Times. This effort is a brilliant effort. First it heads off regulatory pressure by sharing with Consumers the information they have collected. But more importantly it allows Consumers to actually change inaccurate data so Acxiom as the opportunity to improve how well they know the potential Customer. I do wonder if there may be any negative backlash from firms that hire the company because they too can easily see the information that they believed to be accurate, may not be. For me much of my information was way off and I did not change it. It does explain some of the goofy marketing materials I receive. Anyway the use of data is going to change this business in many ways and we are just at the beginning stages of this shift. Some will not realize the impact until it is too late but many have already fully embraced it.

I am surprised that another shift did not happen sooner, but we are starting to see the beginning stages. Over the years I have heard marketers say that service should report to marketing. I would always quip back that maybe marketing should report to service since it was such a small part of the overall Customer experience. Needless to say this would stir the pot a little. The fact is in most organization service sits way too low on the food chain and has been disrespected by other business units or viewed as a cost center. It is so sad when companies view their Customer as a cost and not an asset. In my book @YourService I talk about these challenges and the fact that we are shifting to more a word of mouth or relationship driven era and our mindset must change. I do not blame business units for looking down on service, although I do view it as short-sighted. I blame the service industry for not doing a good enough job in managing upward the importance of Customer Service. Well this lack of leadership and the changes to how Consumers view the brand, marketing and communications leaders are starting to get more involved in fixing what is broken. This is also being noticed by agencies and they too see the opportunity to better advise their clients. We are starting to watch new firms evolve from the marketing and communications space into leading the Customer Experience. I expect this trend will grow because it is difficult for your marketing to win if it does not correlate to the experience a brand creates.

We are in changing times, and agencies are always quick to change with them. These are my expectations of changes, but I am sure there will be many others. What is your view?

Driving Listening to Be Part of Your Organizational DNA

Posted on : 05-02-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on February 5, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

Beth Comstock, CMO for GE had a great post regarding listening that inspired this follow up. When you are finished reviewing this, I urge you to read her post as well. I have never had the privilege to meet Beth, but her reputation as a leader is well respected. In fact when I was with Comcast I was approached by a GE headhunter about a social role with them. I was very interested in the opportunity to work with Beth, but within days of the first phone call,Comcastand GE announced the partnership for NBC Universal. I did not think it would be appropriate to further our talks. I have paid close attention to GE ever since; Beth and her team have been doing outstanding work leading GE.

Listening has been a favorite topic of mine throughout my career. It is something we all want to say we do well, yet often we struggle with actually doing it. I am sure my wife has accused me of not listening once or twice! Businesses like to send messages to their Customers stating they listen, yet I have seen little evidence that they do. Today we see surveys galore from virtually every larger business we deal with. I used to fill these surveys out religiously providing very direct positive and negative feedback. Have I ever heard back? Have I seen changes based on the feedback? The trouble with the way many companies approach these surveys is they look at overall numbers, with very little attention to the verbatims. If my feedback is so important, why wouldn’t you listen or acknowledge what I had to say?

Social media is a great example of how businesses struggle to listen. As I have studied companies social media efforts, I have seen many companies who like to say they listen but little evidence with how the company operates. This is very evident when you watch many companies who perform social media Customer Service. How often are they addressing identical problems over and over again. This lack of action sends the same message to me as not responding to survey comments. Of course Customer Service has been built on that same issue for years, so I am not sure why I would expect it to change.

Years ago (way more than I would like to admit) I was interviewing for my first management role in the financial services industry. The manager asked me what I thought the most important attribute of a leader was. I did not hesitate and said “listening.” In my view a leader will never have all the knowledge they need to make decisions. The key is listening to those in the know, including employees, business leaders, Customers, regulators and so many others. In my view information is power, but not in the way many people look at that statement. I do not need to hold all the information, but I do need to listen to all the information I have around me.

My background in business is within Customer operations. I have found that the best people in the service operations are also the best listeners. The reason this occurs is they deal with upset Customers every day and sometimes call after call. They are not listening to the cursing or yelling, but instead they go deeper to understand the reason for the frustration and strive to find a solution within their own toolbox. These skills are so relevant throughout the organization. The struggle for ops is they have not been able to get the right leaders in the organization to hear what the Customer is saying. The service employees, just like the Customers, struggle to be heard.

Leaders are often proud of their own accomplishments and they should be. I do wonder if this sometimes impedes their ability to listen. Could some leaders view listening as a sign of weakness? Possibly, but I think the reality is more that they think they are listening when in reality the proof points within the organization same differently. Of course there are many exceptions to this. For one, entrepreneurs have always been among the best listeners. They hear more than words and are then able to translate this into opportunity. We need to bring this same entrepreneurial spirit to all layers of business.

As I look across the various parts of the organization, I have found marketing and communication departments do an amazing job at telling the story of their successes. Since I now sit in marketing, I am often amazed at how well they tell the story of their piece of the business. This of course is probably because of the strengths that marketers bring to the table in telling the story of the brand. I think it is time we better connect these departments. Imagine marketing’s art of storytelling connected to the art of listening from the Customer operations department? Now that would be a powerful, game changing, combination. This would be a way to lead the story of the brand instead of trying to simply tell one.

Listening is so much more than words but with the right people working together we can make it part of the DNA of any organization!

Ryanair is a Remarkable Business

Posted on : 28-01-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on January 28, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

The Merriam-Webster Definition of Remarkable as
“worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary”

Companies everywhere are striving to win in social media, yet who is really winning? Often we strive to build business for the masses which results in making a brand very average. When we look at social media, the greatest success typically does not fall in the average category. I know many of you think of your brand as above average, but in reality how different are you from other companies out there? What do you like to discuss via social media? When you are mentioning brands is it because it was a regular experience or something that really created a desire to chat? Human nature is that we like to talk more about extremes than every day things. It is a way we strive to differentiate ourselves. I tend to talk about really great experiences or really poor ones.

Unfortunately for brands, poor experiences have become the norm. As I discuss in @YourService, businesses have often focused Customer Service on avoiding talking to you instead of building relationships with Customers. Thhe result is the revolt we have seen for brands in social media over the past few years. This is a trend I expect will grow exponentially over the coming years. This has lead to the creation of social Customer Service, which is presenting challenges because companies typically offer their best help through that channel, causing more people to bash the brand just to receive the help they need. The other challenge for brands is that they have often used marketing channnels to demonstrate to Customers how great they are at service, or their product, but in the past Customers had little recourse if this did not match their experience. Today Customers can just blast your brand in social media.

One such brand that is often blasted in social media is a European airline, Ryanair. If you are from the United States you may not be familiar with Ryanair. As a service guy, I am usually offended by some of the tactics they elect to take, such as the CEO calling a Customer stupid, or debating charging to use the bathroom. A number of months ago I saw a blog postsaying Ryanair needed to start offering social Customer Service because of all the negative discussions occuring regarding the brand. As you study the conversation it is most often people upset about fees. As a person who flies often, I can relate to those frustrated by the fees, but I am not Ryanair’s Customer and my perspective would be meaningless. Ryanair strives to be the low-cost airline. You pay the lowest price to get from point A to point B. If you want to print your boarding pass at the airport, there is a substantial fee. If you want to carry on luggage, that too has a fee. As the complaints pile up regarding their fee structure, the fact is that each one sends the message that the company wants people to know. This does not require social service, in fact I would say more than most companies, Ryanair knows who they are and their message in social media is right on target. They are remarkable, even if it is not a remark you and I would like to see, it fits them.

Companies want to win in the hearts and minds of their Customers. The challenge is that, up until now, their efforts have focused on pushing a message instead of a more holistic approach. Most companies list values or mission on their website, but as you look inside the organization those fluffy words are not lived up to. In the case of Ryanair, they know who they are and live it everyday. It comes through in everything from the fees they charge, to the quotes from the CEO, to the complaints online about their brand.

As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, in 2003 Seth Godin introduced us to the Purple Cow, explaining that in the future the key for brands is not striving to message the masses, but instead look to the extremes. Stated simply, we all see cows all the time and do not think to comment, but if you saw a purple cow, now that is something that is remarkable. Ryanair has their Purple Cow, does your brand?

This is part of a multiple part series with the initial post available on frankeliason.com

Remarkable Experiences: Is Your Brand Shareworthy?

Posted on : 28-01-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Inspirational, Leadership, Personal, Social Media

Tags:

1

The Merriam-Webster Definition of Remarkable as
“worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary”

In 2003 Seth Godin introduced us to the Purple Cow, explaining in the future the key for brands is not striving to message the masses, but instead look to the extremes. Stated simply, we all see cows all the time and do not think to comment, but if you saw a purple cow, now that is something that is remarkable.

People are striving to get their brands noticed through all types of channels, especially social media, but in this day and age it is not as much about the content of the brand, but the willingness of regular people like you or I to discuss the brand. The challenge is most larger brands have sought to go after the mass market. Oftentimes this results in brands being average, or not very differentiated from other competitors. They are not remarkable in any way. This is why I believe larger brands will often struggle in an age where we are bombarded with messages from everywhere, and we are going to filter the message that most resonate with us. These messages are often found not from the brands, but with people we relate to and trust.

Now I would like to ask how you personally use social media? What brands do you like to discuss? For me, I like to talk about experiences that I consider amazing, or, more often than not, poor. This is why I wrote my book @YourService. For years companies have told us how great their service was, but reality proved to us differently. Now that we control the brand message, we will and have, set the record straight regarding our experiences with products, especially when that experience is at one of the extremes.

I have often said that a social world is a better fit for small and mid size businesses. This is because these businesses are often nimble and hungry to win. It is also because they tend to be the best suited for a relationship driven world, which to me is what social media is all about. This past weekend I had witnessed this in action and wanted to share the experience here. The story starts when I moved into my house a year and a half ago. At the time I knew I needed to replace the stove and ventilation system in the kitchen. I have put it off as long as I could but now it must be done. The challenge for me is the remaining appliances are not in need of replacement, in fact they look relatively new. I know in the future, I would love to upgrade all of them, but as you know that can be a costly undertaking. Over the past month I started shopping around trying to figure out what I may want and what the best long term approach was. At first I priced replacing all the appliances with what I would love to own, but that was not going to work out. I then decided I would try to find a middle ground and find something inexpensive, but something I could build on in the future. I did all my homework, even finding great prices online. In doing this, I noticed one of the appliance stores I already visited, Mrs. G’s in Lawrencville, NJ, had some floor models on clearance, which would help keep costs down yet possibly provide something worth building on in the future. I went to the store to compare the floor model item to a few other brands I was considering. When I arrived I was immediately greeted by a few people offering to point me in the right direction. The kind woman offered to set up our kids with coloring books while we looked at the items. If you have ever shopped for appliances with kids, you know exactly how pleasing this action was. She was also kind enough to help connect me with the salesman I spoke to the other day.

As my kid were coloring, and being offered cookies and candy, my wife and I looked over the appliances, hopefully narrowing our direction to one model. I mentioned to the salesman what we were considering and I asked about the floor model for the higher end brand that I saw online. Unfortunately the model we saw online was no longer available. I told him if we went that direction we would probably then buy online due to a cheaper price I found. We then went to look at the other models we were considering. As we continued to chat he understood my concern at spending too much money, especially if we decided to redo all the appliances in a few years. This was the top reason for our reluctance to buy sooner. I think we were hoping another appliance would go, forcing a decision. Anyway, he then suggested looking at a completely different type of cooktop that would be a little cheaper yet have a very nice look no matter the other appliances present. This new option turned out to be the ideal option for us. As we spoke he suggested looking at two, one of which had a floor model available at a very good rate. What a great solution to our problem. We were able to get great products but at a price that we would not be upset if we had to make changes in a few years. I am so thrilled by it.

What made this situation remarkable were a few key points:

  1. Listening – The salesperson was listening not just to the words I stated but also understanding the overall situation. This placed him in a position to point out alternatives that would meet all my needs. Listening is not about hearing words, but truly building an understanding. Unfortunately most companies say they listen but the reality is they do not understand what is being said
  2. Valuing My Time – I already spent a great deal of time on this effort and really wanted to bring it to a conclusion and this transaction was completed very quickly
  3. Winning with my Kids – My willingness to spend time on a transaction really depends on how the kids are during my time there.
  4. Culture – When I visit a store I love watching all the employees and how they interact with each other and Customers. I noticed this from the first greeting, to the leader and founder’s granddaughter, Ms Debbie, Schaeffer taking our kids to color at one of the desks, to watching the other Customer interactions and even joking among the staff. My favorite moment was when one of their support team members came to me asking if he could give the girls cookies and milk. Every person in the organization seemed to understand the new relationship world we are in.

Thank you Mrs.G’s and congratulations on your success. It is obvious to see why! This experience was remarkable to me and I look forward to continuing to build the relationship with you!  Mrs. G’s created an experience that was shareworthy.  How often does your brand?  Social media is so much more than marketing, PR or branding and now businesses are starting to understand that.  What brands have you found to be remarkable?

Now this does not mean every company should strive to use service as a way to be remarkable, in fact over on LinkedIn I posted about another brand who takes the exact opposite approach, yet they too are remarkable and shareworthy!

You Must Do This!

Posted on : 11-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 11, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

So often I hear these words regarding so many topics in business, and they always make me cringe.  Although there are some things a company must do, such as pay taxes, not violate laws or regulations, and if they are a for profit entity, hopefully make a profit.  Beyond these key things, everything else is simply someones view and may not hold true to business realities.  They come from a variety of sources, including talking heads who have interest in the topic (or to show how smart they are), companies that are selling tools to meet the need identified, or partners such as agencies or businesses that often also have an ulterior motive. But let’s face facts leadership is not following anothers view but creating the right path for your business and your shareholders.

I am a Customer service guy, and I tend to look at everything through this lens.  I do not hide this bias, in fact it is present in everything I do.  In my book @YourService I talk about the failures businesses have had over the years, and what they need to fix in order to win in a socially connected world.  I believe that many companies and people will find advice in that book that will help their business and themselves.  At the same time I recognize that not every company must be service oriented and that is okay.

The challenge is that many brands like to say they are service oriented but at the end of the day the actual Customer experience fails to live up to the message that the brand is striving for.  In a socially connected world, Customer and employee perception is your over arching message, which usually is the culture of your business.  One key point in @YourService is to know who your business is, its culture and the message you want the world to know.  Does your Customer believe you live up to your message?

This leads me to an example that I think can be helpful for any business.  About a month ago Conversocial put out a blog post stating “RyanAir’s Neglect Proves Social Customer Service is No Longer an Option.” For those of you who do not know Conversocial, they are a tool to help companies provide social Customer Service.  I like the tool and the ideas of social Customer Service, although I think most companies do not do it well.  They tend to provide better Customer experience to their loud Customers which then sends a message to their Customers that the best way to get help is to publicly blast their brand.  The key to doing social service right is to drive change in the organization to fix what is currently broken within your Customer experience.  About a year ago I wrote a post for Brian Solis’ blog regarding this.

Back to Ryan Air.  The author of the post points out that Ryan Air does not have a Facebook presence, and people have set up fake pages blasting the brand and their Customer experience.  I hear so often that brands need to be on Facebook, yet I have watched very successful brands with very limited social presence.  As an example Apple is one of the most discussed brands in social, usually positive discussion with the exception of those immediately following the launch of a new phone, which tend to skew a little negative.  Ryan Air may not have a Facebook page, but would doing so add to their brand?  The brand is often discussed in social media, usually for trying to add new fees such as when they were rumored to want to charge a fee for using the bathroom on the plane.  Then there are the quotes from the CEO over the years that have not always been Customer centric, such as when he recently refered to a Customer or group of Customers as being “Stupid.”  The quote came from a story where a woman was upset at paying $380 to print boarding tickets at the airport.  With Ryan Air it would be free to print at home, but there are fees to do so in the airport.  I could not believe a CEO would ever refer to a Customer in that manner, but isn’t the quote fitting of their brand?  As an airline their slogan is “Cheap Flights – Lowest European Fares, Low Cost Airline.”  You do not hear a message about service.  Their goal is cheap.  I would make the case that they know precisely who they are as a company, and the negative conversation you find on the fake Facebook pages completely lives up to the brand’s image.  The top complaint for Ryan Air is the added fees for everything.  I also doubt the negative commentary would change the view of their actual Customer who is looking for a seat on the plane.  Their Customer knows that everything else will cost them.  Like Apple, people are taking the company’s message to social for them.  Although I personally may not be a fan of their approach, I am not their Customer and they should not care about my view.

I do not think that every brand should be doing everything via social.  In fact I find online discussion typically highlights the percieved culture of your brand, whether you as a business are there or not.  At times the message may be different based on a loud few, but should those message change your approach?  Maybe not.  I am a big fan of listening to your Customers through all means, including social, but even that does not mean that your approach should be altered.  I will leave you today with a quote from Steve Jobs that was part of a Q&A with Newsweek back in 1985 shortly after leaving Apple.

“My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that’s my perspective, that everything starts with a great product. And that has its flaws. Ihave certainly been accused of not listening to the customers enough. And I think there is probably a certain amount of that that’s valid.”

-Steve Jobs

Be careful of the “Must Do’s!”  You know your Customer and your business, so you must decide what must do’s, if any even apply to you.  Focus on your business and your Customer, and you will have success.  This is part of leading the way instead of following.

What do you think?

Frank

Social Media Crisis Next Day Quarterback

Posted on : 06-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 6, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

Social media and crisis communication seem to go hand in hand, especially as of late.  Often these crisis involve Customer situations, such as the Progressive incident started on Tumblr in August.  If you have not heard about the situation, you can review this CNN article/video.  The issue has broad implications for the brand but offers a great opportunity for others to learn.

Another situation Wednesday night offers more fodder for online discussion.  If you have not heard about it, a member of the Kitchen Aid US team tweeted a comment about President Obama.  It was a personal tweet that was accidently sent out from the wrong account.  Kitchen Aid immediately deleted the tweet and sent out an apology.  If you have not read about the situation, here is a good write up from Mashable.

As I watched online discussion on the topic today, I have seen much praise for the way Kitchen Aid handle the mistake.  I have also seen some question if they did the right thing.  One constant with any of these situations, many within the space do like to criteque the handling and add their own spin.  I personally like the way Kitchen Aid dealt with it.  I feel a little different about the Progressive situation.  At the same time I would never want to bash either company, because we are all learning, and I think it is a good opportunity for other businesses to learn too.

The fact is I do not care how well loved your brand may be, there will become a time where you too have to deal with a similar scenario.  These two examples represent two of the three most common types.

  1. Employee Mistake
  2. Customer Treatment
  3. Relationship with One or More Community Groups

Each of these can be very difficult to deal with and in some cases may be caused by things outside the companies control.  Often times you will hear people say the best approach is being open and transparent on the topic, respond immediately.  This can work sometimes but I urge some caution.  First know your brand, your Customer and how the issue is percieved.  Will your response be trusted?  For many brands it may not be.  The Progressive situation is one we can learn from.  Another one that is similar involves Aetna and their tweeting CEO.  Here is an article on Washington Post.  In traditional media business often make exceptions to business practices, like the Aetna example, or quickly move to settle, as happened with Progressive.  The challenge to doing this in social media is it sends a message to the world that you can disagree with a policy but if you are loud against the brand we will make an exception.  I should point out that in the Progressive situation, I would expect that type of lawsuit would at some point lead to settlement, but the timing is what can be challenging.

In the Kitchen Aid situation they immediately tweeted the apology.  They also responded via Twitter to reporters writing articles.  I saw one comment that they should be responding to everyone.  That is not always feasible or appropriate in my view.  Certainly placing it out there for everyone to see does help.  Lets face facts that stuff happens and people make mistakes.  That is the gist of this situation. I applaud Kitchen Aid for the speed at which they apologized and offered to have interviews with press.  I could be wrong, but as an outsider looking in, it looks to me like they have done a key component to dealing with situations like this.  It looks like they practiced and knew the approach they would take.  So here is some advice I would provide to any business regarding dealing with a social crisis:

  1. Practice - Practive a variety of scenarios in an effort to know how you would respond and clarify the roles and responsibilities.  Speed can be imperative as highlighted in the Kitchen Aid example.
  2. Know Your Customer - Often we focus on the loud aspects of the internet, but is the topic important to your Customer or not?  Is the discussion something that would sway their view of the brand?
  3. Do You Have Anything to Say that would Add Value? Would Your Response be Trusted - Often times brands are not trusted and a response could be better from someone within the community instead of the company.  The Progressive situation is a possible example.  There initial response stated that it was a tragic case and sympathies to the family and that they were not reprenting the defendant.  I am not sure the response added value, but this is a difficult situation.  Not much can be said without a full legal review.  In this case it may have been better to await others within the community to start talking about it, especially lawyers from MD who can speak to the law in question.  The ideal scenario is not the companies lawyers, but others who have nothing to lose.  This tends to happen because members of the online community do like the ability to show how knowledgable they can be.  Of course this does not always happen, but in this case I did see it start to come up late in the day, but then the conversation changed to be about the response as opposed to the issue.  Another great example of this is the #NBCFail during the Olympics.  Here is an L.A. Times article on that topic.  If you watched social media, the topic of NBC failures was everywhere, but as a business, the games were among the highest in ratings, the ultimate measurement for an ad run business.  Here is an article from CNN on the topic.
  4. Respond in a Human Way - Often PR departments handle situations like these with a sterile press release, which is often translated by reporters or placed in better context.  When speaking in social media, it is imperative that you speak to the audience in a way they are most comfortable with.
  5. What Message are you Sending to the World?- This is can easily be forgotten, but I always urge caution regarding the message you may be sending to other Customers, employees or shareholders.  Oftentimes there is a subtle message, such as “if you take to social media, we will make an exception.” These interpretations of messages can be worse than the original incident

I hope these help you and your organization deal with crisis.  Never look down upon how any organization handles a crisis, but definitely strive to take something out of each situation.  Unfortunately I expect these situations to grow dramatically over the next 2 to 5 years.  Here is a post Radian 6 put together with some well handled social crisis situations.

Redefining Relevance in a Social World

Posted on : 03-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 3, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

Today I will be speaking with Linkedin’s Dan Roth as part of AdWeek.  We will be chatting about redefining relevance in a social world.  What a great topic for what has been going on within the social media space.

Throughout the history of business we have seen many businesses struggle with maintaining relevance, but isn’t that just part of human nature? There is a comfort level we sometimes have with the status quo.  We also are naturally proud of a direction we chose and shifting direction is sometimes perceived as being wrong.  We never like being wrong.  Of course facts change, so shifting gears is simply evolving but how do we go about making the right decisions?

I am looking forward to seeing Dan again.  We had the opportunity to see each other a few months back at a LinkedIn event.  That event was not the first time we had the chance to interact.   We first met back in 2008 as Dan was writing a wired piece called “The Dark Lord of Broadband. Dan has done an amazing job redefining himself during his career, and today he is Executive Editor for LinkedIn.  Speaking of LinkedIn, yesterday they too evolved their user experience.  I have always found LinkedIn Today to be a tremendous source of relevant news, now LinkedIn is trying to offer a new means to find relevant information.  I have followed many of the news sources and I have been loving the content within my feed, and that was just the first day.  I look forward to this evolving further.

As I look at the business world and social media, I have watched similar evolution.  A few years back for a business to win in social media it took a new, unique app or different approach through one of the social networks.  Today businesses are finding it more and more difficult to be noticed through all the noise.  As I listen to the discussion, I have heard a shift by businesses toward content.  You have heard the expression, “content is king.”  I think content is imperative especially if it is properly geared toward your audience.  That being said, the noise level will continue to make that hard to be noticed.  Too much choice can sometimes make people choose nothing. Can this happen with too much content? Who do we trust?

This question of trust becomes an interesting question.  Do we trust information from businesses or do we trust people further? When I look at some of the first efforts in social media by businesses, people within the space built connections to many brands. But was it really the brands?  Often it was the people behind the brand that built that trust.  It was blurring the lines between personal and professional.  I can’t help to think about this in relevance to the changes at LinkedIn.  I am sure some businesses would be nervous about the professional side of an individual and their writing reflecting on the brand.  Often companies have rules about their employees talking.  In my view this is one of the greatest means for maintaining relevance in a social world.  What a great means to build trust in a world redefine by social media.  This is all part of the redefining relevance. As the social world shifts more to being about people, how will your brand deal with that?

As you explore the new content I expect you will find new people to trust and learn a great deal to help evolve your business.  One of those examples came to me yesterday as I was thinking about this topic.  Richard Branson wrote a post Five Top Tips to Starting a Successful Business.  The post outlines steps for an entrepenuer to build a successful business, but they are also a great way to redefine a business.  Here are his 5 tips:

  1. Listen More than Talk
  2. Keep it Simple
  3. Take Pride in your Work
  4. Have Fun and Success will Follow
  5. Rip it up and Start Again

If you want to redefine business, follow these tips! Thank you Richard for these.  I think we all have the ability to be a bit entrepenuerial and drive the next phase of our business.

A Day to be #PositivelySocial

Posted on : 31-07-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational, Social Media

Tags:

32

For those of us who have participated in social media for years, we have grown to respect how the space can drive change. In fact, if you are like me, you love it.  Ordinary citizens have the power to drive change in government, or in some of the biggest institutions on the planet. As a Customer Service person, I love how it is changing the status of Customer Service within organizations. As an observer of the phenomenon I know the world is changing, and I hope it is all for the better. At the same time I have been watching conversations via social media becoming more snarky and personal attacks seem to be growing. I do not think most people do this, but what has occurred is we attract people with many of our same ideals which further validate our position. Then when others question this position we go on the attack. Often times social media is referred to as a cocktail party, but when would you call someone an idiot or worse things, while at a cocktail party?  Okay some of you might, but I think most of us would be more respectful of their views, and often be open to listening.

There are numerous examples of the negativity in action, including hot topics like #NBCFail, Olympics, Penn State, Chick-Fil-a, the Presidential election, Health Care legislation, and the list goes on. I have seen so many posts on each of these topics that start with ‘If you do not agree with…you are…”  What happened to having a dialogue?  That is what social media is really about.  One of my favorite topics to follow involved a young girl named Cathryn Sloan.  There were numerous posts that called her numerous things, all because she expressed a view. For those who may not have heard of Catheryn, she is an aspiring writer trying to make a difference, not that different to many of us when we were 25.  She recently did a post on NextGen Journal titled “Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” Needless to say this put many social media managers on edge to tell her how she knows nothing. Were we fully listening to her? Did we create an environment that would allow for a thoughtful discussion? I am not sure we did. It was very personal and the attacks were piling on. But why? People viewed her post was an attack on them.  We talk often how important it is to listen via social but I am not sure we are always doing that.  I took the time to read other posts by Cathryn and I found a theme. Like many in the Occupy Wall Street camp, as well as others in her age group, she has been frustrated by the lack of jobs. This is an important topic, that I think if we had an open dialogue we could help solve.  This too can be the power of social media.

As a person who started using social media for business with websites like Comcast Must Die, I recognize why many business leaders tend to see social media as the “snarky web.” I also have a few favorite websites like the Consumerist who have made a name for themselves by sharing some very negative conversations about business.  Although they do post positive stories as well the Consumerist is probably most recognized for their annual tournament to win the Golden Poo award. I also know the abuse that happens via social media, usually directed at businesses, but sometimes it does get directed to individuals. It has happened to me on multiple occasions, as I am sure it has to many of you that are active in the space. Sometimes it can be downright hurtful. For those of us with a Customer Service background, we know that it happens all the time through all communications means. I am sure I have been unintentionally guilty of it too, but I also know that I can strive to make a small difference, just as each of you can.

This idea has been on my mind for a number of weeks, but as I was reading up on the latest news, including many discussions on the Olympics. One of the hot topics has been about Tom Daley, the British Olympic Swimmer.  There were hopes that Tom would bring home the gold but he came in fourth place. I am sure many people rallied around him, but there was at least one who went a very different, unacceptable direction.  First this person tweeted how Tom let down his father.  Tom relayed the tweet with a message that his father passed away. There were a few other tweets culminating with “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky tw*t your a nobody people like you make me sick.” You can read more of the incident here. Having dealt with similar offline, I am happy the police are looking into it, and I hope the person receives any assistance they require. I then started to read people who were upset that the police were involved because it was just a tweet. When did that get to be acceptable?

We used to think the best was ahead of us, but due to the economy, negativity from politicians (in my view this is from all sides of the political spectrum), and other shifts within society (including social media), many of us have lost that belief. It is time we as a society start bringing that back and it starts with us. I think we can easily do that by starting with a day to recognize the positive things in our life, even things companies are doing well and others around us.  I picked August 14, 6 months after Valentine’s day.  I like the #positivelysocial hashtag recommended by Cari Sultanik but if you have other ideas for naming it, please include that in the comments.

If you like the idea, please help me spread the word to others. Driving change by recognizing the positive can help send a message and have just as strong an influence as the negative. I think it is time for us to lead this!

Related Posts

Scott Monty’s Post “When Did We Get So Nasty”

Another Post I did on Topic for Social Media Today “Dear World”

What it Means to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

Welcome to an @YourService World

Posted on : 12-04-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media

Tags: , ,

0

My book, @YourService is now available via Amazon, and coming soon to a book store near you!  The book was originally titled in my mind as Common Sense.  The reason for this is service has been in trouble for years, but, thanks to social media, the Customer is gaining even greater control over your brand image.  Now it is key for companies to deliver on their brand promise, otherwise Customers will define that promise for them.  Customer Service has struggled for years in developing their identity; oftentimes referred to as a “cost” center.  Companies had the opportunity to change this on their own, but instead the call center became the “sales” center.  Don’t you love call centers that run as sales centers?  Every time you call, instead of focusing on your needs or the reason for the call, they focus on selling some additional service.  Social media is a game changer.  Many have thought the change was too marketing or PR, but in my mind it is really a change to the overall culture of the company, and the Customer will now be first!  I hope you enjoy reading the book, and please share with others.  Together we can change the Customer Service industry and drive all businesses to focus on the relationship!

Here is a foreword from the book written by Jeff Jarvis:

I thought Frank Eliason had a terrible job: handling complaints from customers for the largest company in a much-disliked industry, Comcast.

But he did wonders. He fixed customers’ problems. He doused a bonfire set by a well-known grump (I’ll let Frank tell you about ComcastMustDie.com). But most amazing—with humor, directness, and credibility—he put a friendly, human face on a cold corporation.

He did it on Twitter. While many other companies were just discovering social media and using it mostly as a promotional platform for their institutional messages, Frank used his Twitter name, @comcastcares (picked, I’d like to think, with just a dash of irony), to talk with customers, to listen first, and to build relationships. He lived and worked the precepts taught by that seminal work of Internet culture, the “Cluetrain Manifesto,” now a decade old, which decreed that markets are conversations; conversations are held among people, not institutions; and we customers can hear the difference.

Frank brought his company back from the brink of its own Dell Hell. I should know. I’m the customer who unwittingly set loose a consumer firestorm on Dell when I complained on my blog—these were the ancient days before Twitter—about a lemony laptop. Dell at first ignored the complaints of bloggers, but after a year, when Michael Dell returned to the company’s helm, it dispatched technologists to fix grousing bloggers’ complaints. It blogged with a human voice. It set up a service, Ideastorm, to capture and implement customers’ ideas. In social customer service, Dell leapt from worst to first, setting a model for many to following, including Comcast.

Frank has since moved on, from cable to banking (or some might say, from the frying pan to the fire). And customer service as a trade is also moving on with new tools introduced regularly to help companies track and respond to complaints, sentiment, and memes about them traveling through the net at broadband speeds.

But this isn’t a craft—and Frank’s isn’t a story—of technology. It’s a story of people. It’s about returning to the days when people at companies knew customers by name and customers could name people in companies. It’s about a resurgence of accountability. It’s about the kinds of sensible, courteous, and decent suggestions Frank  give you here to build honest and productive relationships with customers.

Productive. That, I believe, is the next phase in this rapidly evolving field of social customer service: moving past complaints to collaboration, moving from putting out fires to building new products together. In my book, Public Parts, I tell the story of Local Motors, a company that collaboratively designs and builds cars. Now that might sound absurd, but it works so well that the company is not only producing cars—together with customers, making design and business decisions—but the company is also in a position to help even big car companies learn how to make customers partners.

When customers are treated with respect and given the right tools to connect with companies—with the people inside companies—then amazing things can happen. That’s really the moral of Frank’s story about his relationship with customers.

One more note: By day, I am a journalism professor at the City University of New York. As such, I will confess that I cringed when I saw Frank capitalizing the word “customer” at every reference. The copyeditor in me wanted to correct them, to make each lower case. But Frank will explain why he does this and he won me over because we are all Customers.

—Jeff Jarvis Author, Public Parts