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Business Cards are so Passé

Posted on : 14-06-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

Tags: ,


So this morning I received this email (I edited the email address out but remainder is the same):

From: Martine Paris
Sent: Sun Jun 14 02:03:30 2009
Subject: Plug on Content NOW from TWTRCON

Hi All,
Thanks for the great presentation at TWTRCON.  You got a plug at:
The blog post is in a notes format.  Please feel free to email edits or additions.
Looking forward to your thoughts!
All the best,
Martine Paris
Editor, Content NOW

I reviewed the post.  It is about the recent TWTRCON event in San Francisco, which was excellent.  During my panel discussion on Customer assistance on Twitter, Francine Hardaway chimed it with a fun story of how I helped her with trouble with her Apple router.   The story with Francine is one that I will never forget and she will be a friend forever (well doesn’t that sound so teenage like).  What basically occurred was our conversation shifted from social media to phone.  This does happen at times because the phone can be useful to walk someone through many steps in fixing something.  This same thing happens when someone needs assistance via email and more questions are necessary.  After we were able to fix things I received a call on my cell and it was a hotel that found her phone.  I was able to tweet francine on exactly where she could find her iPhone.

After that story, Dave McClure chimed in to say this story proves social media service is not scalable.  This led to a little back and forth regarding the scalability.  In my opinion he is incorrect, and we have proven that you can have a multiple people within social media, especially a place like Twitter.  Today we have 10 people on Twitter and we are also in many other spaces on the internet.  As I discuss in the post “The big question for @comcastcares is: How will they scale?” it is really about the tools that are being developed.  My big question for those that do not believe it would scale, what would you recommend companies do, ignoring commentary has not worked?

I know many would respond to that saying that companies need to improve traditional service channels, and I wholeheartedly agree.  This is a new time and Customers are more in control and companies must recognize that fact.  At the same time I will tell you that there will be a large percentage that will still request help online first.  In fact I would guess that most people are like me and google something before calling (in fact a Gartner study shows this is 50% and growing).  I can also say that the majority of people that we assist never called, emailed or entered into chat.  The other trouble is with many products, like internet, trouble can be with many other devices not controlled by the provider, such as router, computer, or even servers throughout the net that a company does not control.  We have to find a way to converge support to help with all these areas, and the web offers perfect solutions for this (I will save this for another post because I am developing a project on this topic).

This brings me back to the purpose of this.  In the post in the email it offers a synopsis of the talk and ends with the following statement about me:

“But for all that talk, Dave McClure was right, at the end of the presentation, Frank was not giving out any business cards. So much for accessibility.”

They are right, I did not bring business cards with me.  I did respond to the email with the following message:

That is interesting that you felt not having business cards proved that social media efforts were not scalable, yet you were able to contact me via email, could also do the same via Twitter.

Maybe the world has not changed as much as I thought if we are still looking for, even expecting, business cards at an event about Twitter.  I think the benefit to Twitter is how close it brings us all together.  It make the world a much smaller place.  I guess I was wrong about that.  Actually the fact was I did not go in the office during the week leading up to the trip and did not want to go in just for business cards.  So I do feel bad if anyone that wanted my business card did not get one, so I am offering it here for anyone.

Even the Best at Service…

Posted on : 13-06-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service

Tags: ,


Those that have read my blog know my passion for excellent Customer Service.  Most companies strive to provide good Customer Service but it does not always go as intended.  This can be due to so many factors, including: policy, personnel, systems or believe it or not, the perception of the person calling.  I have 2 major pet peeves when I call a company I deal with:  overdoing security on the account and selling when not appropriate.

In the past I have mentioned companies I really look up to regarding service, like USAA and Vanguard Investments.  I used to work for Vanguard, so I have heard calls that were not up to par, but we would coach the person immediately.  My most recent calls to USAA have not been at the level I have been used to.  As an example I logged into my accounts on Friday and I noticed pending charges that were not mine.  I wanted to call immediately so they could take the necessary action.  It was 7:30 in the morning, and I really needed to be out the door, but this would only take a few minutes so I called.  I went through the phone system entering my member ID and pin number.  I then get through to the agent.  She asks me to verify name, address, credit limit, credit card number number on back of the card, and something else, but to be honest I lost track.  She also asks me to set up a password, which I do.  I explain that the authorization that were pending and the card is compromised.  I am asked something like “are you sure you are not in Argentina.”   The attempted transactions were at Cheap Tickets and a hotel in Argentina.  Since I worked in the credit card industry I knew Cheap Tickets was a way to test credit card number validity used by many unscrupulous individuals because they do not check all aspects, such as the CID number.  She verifies with me that I have the card, of course this is silly since she can check the transactions and see they are probably not swiped.  At this point she begins the process then says she will need to transfer me.  Before transferring me she begins to “sell” me on using the mobile web.  Well at least she did not try to sell me on using the website since she knows that is what prompted the call.  My issue with this is my reason for calling was not even fully cared for yet.  Also if they tracked such things, they would know I have used the mobile website too.  In fact my feedback for that is way too many clicks to get to information, but hey that is for a different time.

I am transferred (and I should say it was quick and so was getting to the original agent, no queue!) to the fraud department.  He begins the conversation with verifying security on the account.  I immediately asked if he knew this was done already.  He explains that he has to make sure it is me because people sometime try to manipulate the system.  I respond that USAA has gone down in their focus on the Customer.  He then asks me for the password on the account.  I immediately laugh and explain that was just placed on the account with the other representative.  Of course this causes him to ask all the other information too.  He then also asks to verify the work phone number.  Of course I have no clue which number is there, so I rattle off old work numbers and cell numbers and offer to log into the website to look.  Believe it or not, I actually understand the reason for security, especially when canceling a credit card number, which can create havoc.  At the same time it is important to look at risk factors.  I am not asking them to mail the new card to a different address and I am reporting common fraud transactions.

Oh well, I guess every company can have bad interactions at some point.

Time for Reflection

Posted on : 02-05-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Comcast, Customer Service

Tags: ,


The past few days I have taken a true vacation from work and it feels good!  Not that I do not miss my team or being engaged, but we all do need a rest at times.  Since we began the digital care initiative at Comcast I have worked 7 days a week and all hours of each day.  But now we are at a time where this effort, and the ability of my team is now shining.  I am so proud of each of them.  Through these efforts we have been in numerous media publications, such as:

NY Time – Griping Online? Comcast Hears and Talks Back

ABC News – Still on Hold? Twitter Can Rescue You From Customer Service Line Waits

Business Week – Comcast’s Twitter Man

I realized a few weeks ago that we have really changed the entire Customer Service industry.  It is amazing.  I have received emails and had calls with many companies as they work to replicate what we have done.  But what is it we really accomplished?  Based on feedback from our followers on Twitter we have really made Customer Service more personal again.  Customer Service started to shift to a “self service” model in the `1990’s.  This was great for companies to reduce costs but it did take away from the personal connection that happened when you knew the person you were meeting with, or the personal conversation on the phone.  Around the same time companies shifted to measuring things like handle time, schedule adherence and other numbers that did not reflect the intent of service.

Today best in class companies are measuring things like Customer Satisfaction and first contact resolution.  This is what service is about.  Handle time is good for broader measurement for planning purposes but it is not appropriate at the agent level.  It brings the wrong focus by the agent.

What else have we learned?  Customers, just like most Customer Service agents, are craving real time, unedited information.  If something is wrong they really want to know what it is, what is being done and when it will be back.  We are working to create that environment at Comcast.

A year ago I was presenting to many people from our communications team.  I made the mistake to say that part of the success was that I was not one of them.  But really in this new world order, marketing, public relations and Customer Service are really becoming one.  It is all about talking with, but not at, Customers.  So yes, I admit, I was wrong (but please do not tell my wife!).  This has been a learning process that you have to learn from every interaction, whether it is to many or more one on one.

We have done so much in a short period of time, but I can not help but think what is next?  At Comcast Rick Germano and his team have been working very hard to improve the Customer experience.  The senior leadership staff revamped the corporate credo to ensure everyone was working on the goal of creating the right experience.  It is not something that will happen overnight, but will happen.  I am proud of what we accomplished up until now but I look forward to achieving all our goals.

But beyond Comcast, how can we further improve the Customer Service industry?  What are the next big tasks to tackle? Where do you see Customer Service industry going?

Now it is time to get ready to go to @ComcastBill‘s wedding!

Are You a Blogger? No Medical Care for You

Posted on : 04-03-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


Driving in today I heard an associated press report that really had me concerned.  Many businesses have tried to find ways to change perception about their brand, sometimes going as far as creating fake reviews, such as the Belkin example.  But now some doctors are trying to influence reviews by making it part of their contract for care that patients can not rate their service.  Read the story “Docs Seek Gag Orders to Stop Patient Reviews.”  I think I feel a groundswell coming!

Do you see a day where everything we buy comes with a contract or terms of use forbidding talking about the business?  What if it was changed to say you can only say positive things, but not negative?  Is this going to change the game?

This practice will cause multiple issues for businesses, including doctors.  Lets look at a few:

  • Not Allowing the Positive Groundswell – If you are doing things right, your own Customers will come to defense of any negative commentary.  By having a rule like this they would be afraid to
  • Negative Commentary will Still Happen – If someone had a bad experience they will want to tell the world and rules like this will not stop it.  The web can be a very anonymous place.
  • Groundswell Just for Having the Rule – What I think will really happen is people will start tracking organizations that create rules such as this and advise everyone not to use them

This is a slippery slope.  I am not surprised it is being done, and I am actually surprised it has not been done by others.  This is being done by people who are short sighted and uninformed about the groundswell within social media.  If there is a fear of this discussion the best options are to create the right experience the first time, but also find ways that Customers, oh I mean patients, can provide feedback to your business.  Then take this feedback and take action to improve when possible.

This is personal for me because I have used the web to share thoughts on medical care and my child.  I elected not to share all the negative stories, to which we have many, but that was my decision and not one forced on me.   There are great organizations to help families share the course of treatment on the web, such as Caringbride.org.  Will policies like this be so restricted that families would not be able to communicate in the way they prefer? Or will it censor what they can say?  Could a website like Caringbridge.org be sued because someone said something negative about a doctor?

To the defense of the docs, they are not permitted based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (better known as HIPAA) to discuss private patient information with anyone except the patient (and their insurance carrier) without written consent from the patient.   So they most likely would not be able to defend wrong information being written about them or clear any misconception.

I think it is time for some people to get past their egos and stop trying to prevent what will occur no matter what the legal mumbo jumbo has to say.  What do you think?

UPDATE:  While I was writing this the Consumerist posted “Warning:  Going to the Doc? Be Sure You Don’t Sign A Gag Order.”  In the post they talk about how RateMDs.com will create a wall of shame for doctors using the gag order.  Let the groundswell begin

Being a Personal Brand

Posted on : 26-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


Groundswell can be positive or negative for any organization, or for that matter an individual.  This is what makes social media so unique, and in my opinion so special.  Over the past few weeks I have seen a swell of discussion regarding my friend Scott Monty.  There were some critical of Scott, but to me it was a good chance to have further conversation on the topic.  First of all we all represent our employers whether we are at work at the time or on Twitter.  If you were a sales person, and you made a comment that was questionable, and a client saw it, do you think anyone would say oh he was on twitter at home so that is ok?  Another aspect to this discussion, as David Armano pointed out in his post, is the fact that Scott Monty already had a personal brand prior to joining the Ford team.  It is probably part of the reason why they selected him to lead their social media effort.  Beyond all this, I thought I might be able to add some personal perspective to the conversation.

Over the past year I have developed a personal brand , not intentially but it has still happened.  I have been weirded out by all the discussion over doing what seemed to be natural;  helping people who were looking for assistance.  A side effect was being a part of the conversation of businesses in social media.  Throughout the process of learning about social media, I was provided feedback.  I utilized this feedback when I could.  One piece of that feedback suggested using my own picture instead of the Comcast symbol.  This made sense to me, because when I service Customers via the phone I always strive to add a personal touch.  Why would I not do the same in social media?  This was really common sense.  Some people may have difficulty with this, and for that matter businesses too.  Now the brand and the individual are tied together in many ways.  Scott Monty and Ford are closely connected in the same way that I am connected to Comcast.  This changes the playing field a bit.  A true partnership develops that strengthens both the organization and the individual.

This may cause organizations to try to remove some of the personalization with their social media efforts.  I would warn against that.  Social media is not about selling, dictating, or marketing.  It is really a great place to build a relationship and participate in a conversation.  Relationships are better 1 to 1.  The best approach in my opinion is to educate all your employees on using social media.  This is what I like to refer to as the Zappos model, mainly because they have made this a standard for others to live up to.   Lately you may have noticed that I have not been on Twitter as much during the day.  This is because I have elected to build a team structure.  I want to provide @ComcastBonnie, @ComcastGeorge and @ComcastBill the opportunity to build their brand and demonstrate that this is not a one person effort.  My goal, similar to many, is to continue to grow in my career and continue to challenge myself.  I also want to build something that will live on and continually evolve in this ever changing world.  There is nothing more special than building something that is sustainable for the long haul.  My team is doing just that.

There is another side to being a personal brand associated to a business that is not always seen, and one of the reasons it is not for everyone.  I have had great success that has been recognized by numerous social media websites and traditional media.  How many people have the opportunity to be in articles like “Comcast’s Twitter Man” for Business Week online?  At the same time, what I do not discuss as much is the personal attacks that sometimes happen.  These occur in comments for articles, blogs or directly to me on Twitter.  Now I understand most of the time it is really meant for the company but that is not how they are worded.  How would you feel if you did a google search and you found a story that you have a small penis?  Well this has happened to me.  A Customer posted a blog that he could not do something on the Comcast DVR.  I wrote a response explaining how to do what he was trying to do.  The next day he did another post saying I was right, but you cannot do something else.   I responded with directions on how to do it.  The next day he followed it up with a post titled “Frank Eliason Probably has a Small Penis.”  This post was explaining I was right.  If this happened to an individual they might post a reponse that attacks the writer, but since I am associated with a brand, I posted a response thanking them for the feedback.  I remember the first time I saw this post on a Google search, my first thought was “I do not get paid enough to deal with this!”  As we all know the web is a permanent place.

The groundswell has been good to me, and generated a lot of positive discussion.  Many aspects contribute to thus.  First and foremost I think it is the outstanding work of my team.  Without them I would not be writing this today.  It also has to do with the friendships in social media, including Customers that I have helped.  At the same time, it also comes down to hard work.  Gary Vanderchuk has talked about passion and hard work to achieve his status in social media and the business world.  I am not sure if the countless hours I have spent helping Customers, even at night or the weekends, are even recognized.   In contrast, this hard work is respected in the world of social media and has contributed to the groundswell of support.  If I did the basics, I am not sure it would have been noticed.   Working hard always has the long term benefits.  Passion is another key ingredient.  My passion is creating the right experience for Customers.

Is the personal brand a bad thing?  In my opinion, no.  In fact it is really priceless recognition.  I know Scott Monty has lived up to this recognition, I just hope I can too!

P.S.  Here is a great example for a business in how not to handle social media:  Consumerist:  “Ryan Air Employee Calls Blogger “Idiot” and Their Spokesperson Publicly Agrees”

Economic Pulse: Saturday Errands

Posted on : 22-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Politics


I have a background in investments, and I like to keep up on the topic.  One of my favorite authors was Peter Lynch from Fidelity Magellan fame (before people that know my background say anything, I still love Jack Bogle too!).   Peter had a simple investment style to “invest in what you know.”  It was this style that caused me to pay close attention to traffic in certain stores, or common discussion about certain businesses.  These observations can be telling whether using for investment purchases or trying to get a pulse on the economy.  That is why I am very confused by my observations today.  I think we are all concerned about the economy and we would like to have the insight as to what the future will bring.  Working off these observation can sometimes help, but today I noticed some mixed signals.

We started off with a little ride, for what was meant to be a quick trip, and turned into an all day affair.  The first stop we made was to the Children’s Clothing Patch, a small boutique.  My wife ran in for a few minutes (actually 4 games of sudoku on the blackberry).  When she came out she said that the selection was not as vast as it normally is.  I explained that is probably prudent and they are trying to minimize the need for clearance at the end of the season.  Many retailers are limiting their selection now.  We then drove to a neighboring shopping center to visit Starbucks.  On the quick ride over we past a closed Giant Foods supermarket.  The location was purchased in September, 2006 from the now closed Clemens supermarket chain.   I never did understand why they purchased it in the first place.  The store was too small and was right across the way from a larger competitor.  Giant also had a location a few miles up the road.   I did not see the closure as economic related, but I was noticing that building and those near it were not in good shape.  We were heading to the other building and it had only 3 stores still open out of about 7 to 10 spaces.  There was a restaurant, Starbucks and a bank.  What was really interesting was the parking lot was full.  The bank was closed at the time, so either Starbucks or the restaurant were doing very well at the moment.  It turns out the store we were heading to, Starbucks, was doing very well.  At least at that location.  My wife said that a woman in line was buying big bags of their deserts.  Now I like their deserts, but if I needed that many I know a number of great bakeries I would go to first.  That was an interesting observation for a Saturday afternoon trip to Starbucks, especially with all the conversation about their closing of store.

So the kids were asleep in the car this whole time, so we went for our driving to house hunt and our dreams of being able to afford a home on the Philadelphia main line communities.  This is areas like Villanova, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Haverford, Wynnewood, etc.  Very nice, usually older homes.  The best part to the area is the short trip into Philadelphia.  Unfortunately the negative is the expense to purchase these homes, even in today’s economy.  But it is nice to dream.  After our little drive we headed out to King of Prussia to grab a quick bite at Baja Fresh.  Not much of an observation.  We were in there with only 4 other people but the time of day was odd.  It was around 4:30.  Using the Peter Lynch approach I liked the food, but before investing I would have preferred greater foot traffic.  After we ate we ran over to pick up a few items at Costco.  Now this is one of my favorite stores.  The store uses a very consistent formula for marking up items and they strive not to go above that.  So prices are reasonable.  But they also do this really cool thing where they strive to have a certain percentage of the store to be items that make you say “Wow, I have to get that.”  They usually do get me too!  We entered the store around 5:30 and the first observation was the parking lot was packed.  We went in and there were people everywhere.  I have usually found it to be the best time to shop, but not today.  We picked up our items on the list and nothing more.  Oh wait, my wife did find they had Baby Lulu clothes for the girls so she did get them.  We then had to wait in long lines with almost every register open.  It was a lighter than normal trip for us, with a bill around $250 (this includes 2 boxes of diapers and wipes which is close to $100).   Costco seemed to be doing okay.  I did not think that people would buy bulk when they were out of work or were concerned about job security.

The next leg of this trip was to the Cheesecake Factory (we were in King of Prussia anyway).  We like to pick up 3 slices of cheesecake to go and split them over 3 nights.  As is usually the case they had a line out the door.  Where the takeout counter is you can hear the people putting in their name.  At 6:30 PM the wait time was 2 1/2 hours.  They seemed to be doing okay too.  From there we started to head home with plans to stop by the supermarket and target.  On the ride we started noticing that virtually every restaurant parking lot was packed.  Some were chains, while others were just local favorites.  Some of the parking lots were the fullest we have ever seen.  This is really where we started talking about the economy.  Well we made our way to a Giant Supermarket near us.  Normally this one is not very crowded, but today it was.  Maybe because they closed the other location.  We then went through the parking lot to the Target Greatland.  Now this is almost always crowded.  The first observation was how few cars were in the parking lot.  We went through the store to pick up a few items.  When we went to look at girls sneakers, we noticed the selection was minimal and the styles very plain.  No Dora or Princess sneakers at least (I know we should have went to Zappos!).   So we picked up our few items (without the sneakers) and left.  We were discussing the small amount of traffic for the store, so we decided to compare to Walmart.  We ran to Walmart expecting larger crowds, but to our surprise I parked in the first spot after the handicap spots.  That was a first for me.  I am always happy when I am within 50 spaces of the entrance.  So we ran in and shopped for a few more items.  We went to look for the sneakers because that is where we purchased them up in the past.  We went into shoes and what is normally 2 sides of an aisle, was now less than half of one side.  They really did not have any selection.  We did find a pair, but it was without a box in a small part of the aisle.  It looked to be more odds and ends.  Where are all the sneakers at?  Kids feet still grow.  

Anyway, I do not know what all this means for the economy, but I thought the observations were interesting.  Have you had observations in your travels that tell the future?

Making the Brand. Social Media for the Long Haul

Posted on : 16-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


What do you get when you add together Ian Schafer, Brian Morrissey and Gary Vaynerchuk?  A lively discussion on social media and business participation.  Immediately when I viewed the video on Friday I knew I wanted to take the opportunity to share it here.  Not only are they great minds when it comes to social media, they make points that every business needs to hear.  A few weeks ago I did a presentation about business blogging and the person that represents that to me?  GaryVee.  Not that every business should act the same way he does, that is not the point of social media.  We should not try to be someone we are not.  In my opinion the key to Gary’s success is his passion.  That is what it is all about.  I have a passion for Customer Service, and that comes out in everything I do.

So what is the key to hiring for social media?  It all comes down to that passion.  Most likely you already have that person within your organization.  Instead of hiring that expert, tap into this passionate person to represent the brand.  When I hire for positions on my team I am always striving to hire the most passionate people.  They are always successful and they do a great job at representing the brand.

The key for any business to understand is people will be talking about your brand whether you are there or not.  If there are flaws within your organization they will be magnified in social media.  So it is important for the organization to identify and work on these issues.  I will say , from experience, social media is a great place to learn the pulse of your Customers.  It is not a statistical sample of opinion but it is certainly a sample of the loudest opinion.  My favorite part about the space is how well it brings the Customer story to life.  If you work for an organization that is looking to improve, gathering feedback from blogs and other social media spaces is phenomenal.  People may like to look at numbers, but when they relate to a story things really change.

The converse is social media will reward organizations that have a positive way of doing business.  The way to measure this is simply do a search for Zappos.  Their model is about allowing and teaching social media to their employees.  It is the model to build from.  It comes down to their policies and how they are so well liked by their Customers, such as 2 way shipping. 

Another fun topic that is brought up is the famous sleeping tech video impacting a company I know.  This is a great lesson for companies and why it is so important to listen to your Customers through all channels to improve the experience.  Ultimately something like this can come out.  The reason I actually love the example is it was a driver for my company to listen closely to social media.  It then led to the work my team and I have been doing over the past year or so.  In the video there was some discussion about my own worth to Comcast, but I want to say a few things on this.  My worth is really because of the great team of people I work with.  It is also why I am a big believer in having a team involved in social media.  This allows everyone to take part in the conversation.  Also if one person does leave there are other great people to step up to the plate.  At Comcast we have a number of great people involved in social media, include @ComcastBill, @ComcastBonnie and @ComcastGeorge.  We also have many other great team members involved in other social media spaces or working behind the scenes to ensure we are successful.  That is how you can build a social media Customer advocacy team to last.

What Can Tabora Farm & Orchard Teach Us About Business?

Posted on : 15-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Living in Philadelphia, Politics



Recently the economy has hit home for me.  Many of my friends lost their job at my former employer, Advanta Bank.  The company due to a variety of factors impacting the credit market is downsizing from about 700 people to around 400.  When I was there it was about over 1000.  I am really sad because it was a great place to work, mainly due to the people.  There was a rare atmosphere where most people in the company were actually friends.

As I have thought about the current environment and all those that have lost their jobs I have wondered how many companies and individuals have thought more short sighted, whether it be through layoffs or cuts in expenditures to meet lower expectations for the market.  Is the right move trying to make the number today or for years to come?

For Valentine’s day I decided to make a special dinner, including crab cakes from a little place we have grown to love. the Tabora Farm and Orchard Country Store.  This little place has all kind of goodies, including great baked goods and a nice selection of fresh foods.  So what can this little store teach us about doing it right in an economic environment like this one?  Well this store has been around since 1990.  It is very cramped and in need of a little clean up (although I love it the way it is).  I am sure the company, just like all businesses is hurting right now, but walking in there was no sign of that.  Actually there was a sign, one that caught my eye.  It talked about how they are going to be closed on Tuesdays for the next month or so as they renovate the place.  Wow, they are actually not pulling back, but investing for the future.  That is the way it should be done!  I am sure this is not their busy time so it will not impact their Customers too much but as things rebound they will be so ready.

How many businesses are busy closing locations or downsizing due to the current environment?  Now I agree closing poor performing locations, especially when in the past there was over expansion (think Starbucks), that does make sense to do that.  At the same time how many retailers are pulling back on planned renovations.  Wouldn’t now be the perfect time, especially as there is less foot traffic?  Now is a great time to redefine your business.  Layoffs may still be inevitable in some areas, but maybe it is time to rejuvenate other areas of the business.  Maybe look for some of the best minds that can add immediate value to your long term planning.  Instead of cutting Customer Service, revamp it and create the best experience.  As the economy improves your Customers will remember being treated right.  Are the tools your company uses outdated?  Work to improve them and use added resources to further train your employees.  This may not help companies make the number for the current quarters, but it will add to the profit margins for a long time to come.  It will also assist the overall economy in expanding therefore making prospects for future growth even sooner.

We can be our own stimulus package, just in the way we approach these tough times.