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NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...

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Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...

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Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...

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Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...

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Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...

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‘Yesterday Is Not Ours to Recover, But Tomorrow Is Ours to Win or Lose’

Posted on : 04-10-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Inspirational, Leadership

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 4, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

I do not consider myself to be a devout Democrat or Republican; instead I see myself as a simple American. My views run the gamut across the political spectrum, so I tend to vote for the person primarily, followed by issues that may be important at the time. Like many, I think a lot around us right now is broken, but I believe together we can repair this world and create an amazing new future together. But the question becomes: Who is leading this charge?

When I look at the business world most perceived leaders are managing the situation instead of leading it. We are constantly laying off employees, changing priorities and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Where does it all stop? Businesses today are being run to achieve some miraculous quarterly number at any cost, with very little view of the long term. We worry more about what an analyst may think instead of achieving the potential vision for our brand and its impact to the world around us. In business, I see leadership and vision from Google, but few others. I see true leadership from Elon Musk and Richard Branson. In such a large world, shouldn’t more people come to mind? Maybe you can help by talking about leaders you recognize in the comments section below. I especially love to hear about smaller businesses that are making a difference.

Politics is probably even worse than the business world for its lack of leadership. When I think of true political leaders, the likes of Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and John Kennedy come to mind. I do not care what your political affiliation may be — you have to admit each of these individuals were true leaders. So what are some of the attributes that made them seem like a leader to so many? History will be the ultimate judge, but each had a strong optimism for the future. They believed our best days were ahead of us and sought to keep that message in everything they did. They often challenged us to do better for the society as a whole. They each had their faults, but during their time we all felt better about the future. We need that today. I do not care which political side this leadership comes from, but I know we have to stop this silly finger pointing and look ahead. Too much of politics since 9/11 has been about looking back and pointing fingers. Enough is enough; it is time to look at the amazing future before us. Politics should not be kids on a playground, but a means to move the world forward. Who are some of the best leaders you have seen? I live in New Jersey, and although I do not always agree with Chris Christie, I have come to respect his leadership. He is one who has been known to look forward, even in the most dire of circumstance. Who do you respect in the political arena?

The lack of leadership is understandable, especially due to the rate of change we have seen in recent years. Technology has completely changed the way we do things, and this rate of change is continually increasing speed. Change is often difficult because it requires us to change skills, and sometimes it can wipe out entire industries. At the same time, new industries develop, providing new and unique opportunities. Times will continue to change and sometimes we will hit bumps in the road, but we need to define a new greater future not just for us, but our children as well. We need to show them the possibility this new connected world can bring and how it, too, can lead the way. There is hope, strength and a reason to be excited for each day. I am challenging those who believe they are leaders to step up and start to lead. As a society we need this now! Together, we will build an amazing future.

Now it is time to get off my soap box. I have just been growing frustrated by this vacuum sucking the energy out, instead of someone putting the energy in. Please recognize leaders you know in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: I updated the title from “It’s Time to Lead” to the Lyndon B. Johnson quote based on the comment from Matthew M. Thank you, Matthew, for the inspiration! I should also make clear that views expressed here are my own and do not represent those of LinkedIn or my employer.

Apple’s #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart

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

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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.

NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses

Posted on : 10-06-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Technology

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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 days as more is learned about the NSA use of phone data, such as the information they are requiring Verizon to provide or project PRISM that none of the businesses involved seemed to know about. We already have seen some of the political dancing, but as more information is revealed, the dance moves become even harder for the players involved. Even if your company was not one of the nine mentioned, you also have some dancing to do, or at least you will.

Events over the past week involving the National Security Agency will have broader implications that will not be fully understood for years to come. The ramifications will have impact on businesses large and small, and in the way individuals interact with technology. I do not want to explore the political aspects of the discussion, as I expect those much more experience than I will be doing this over the course of the next several days and months. I also do not want to pass judgement on the individual who leaked the information as this debate can be moderated by those who specialize in that discussion. I would like to discuss the broader implications for business as we continue down this path of the big data dance.

You may be surprised that I am referring to it as a dance, but that is because we are constantly moving on this topic, trying to keep up with all the data sources but also keep pace with changing regulations, and more importantly Consumer sentiment on how this information is used or maintained. This is not a new topic, but certainly brought to the forefront by the NSA conversation. There are many books currently written on the big data topic and new ones on the way every day. One book I am looking forward to is Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. I even touched a little on the topic in my book @YourService. I called it Scalable Intimacy. Thanks to social media we now know the Customer for what they want the world to know. I also discussed the problem to this. Customers do not always know businesses could obtain this information. I pointed out if information was not used in a way consistent with how the Customer expects it could easily cause a backlash. In my view this is the core of the trouble with the NSA situation. People did not know the amount of access, how the information would be used, and how it would be maintained. Without full transparency on these topics, business, and governments will see ramifications. We are still in the early days of this issue for the government, but I expect it will grow much deeper if these answers do not fully come out.

Technology is imperative to our everyday lives. I can not imagine living a day without the access that the internet provides. Social media provides me a way to connect to people and learn from them. You can learn a lot about me through these channels. Google probably knows me in the most intimate ways because I tend to search for all kinds of topics that important to me, not always shareable via social media. The we have website we visit which can be very telling, although usually meaningless without the context for visiting. We also have companies like Facebook striving to better deliver on this context by connecting your online data to that of your offline behaviors, using data such as information from store loyalty cards

In light of the NSA leak, I would recommend businesses take a few steps back and assess how they are utilizing big data, ask your Customers their views, and look to find ways to offer transparency to your Customers on how you will utilize the data. Data is often like a drug, where access to some information causes a desire for more and more data. This is probably true with the NSA, but also with many businesses. The time to fix this is now! Provide your Customers and prospects a bill of rights on how you use and retain data and then live up to it everyday throughout your organization.

I look forward to the deeper conversations on this topic because I think it is important for all of us so we can get back to building technology that forever changes our lives in a positive manner. For now we can all enjoy the dance and find ways to be better partners to each other.

Social Media is Part of the Solution to #OccupyWallSt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough is Enough: Observations from a Horrific Day

Posted on : 09-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Politics, Social Media

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Over the past 15 years it seems to me that the political spectrum and debate has become more and more intense.  During that time there has been finger pointing on both sides blaming the other.  If one good thing can come out of the event in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, let it be a coming together of everyone.  I tend not to be very politically driven, and in fact usually do not like politicians from either side of the aisle.  The reason I feel this way is I consider myself to be similar to most individuals.  I agree with certain points from each political party.  I also disagree with points from both sides.  I have always been frustrated that politicians seem to be more motivated for themselves, followed by their political party, with the last consideration being their own constituents.

I do believe that social media will be discussed a lot in the aftermath of this event.  We have already heard a lot about the Myspace and You Tube accounts maintained by the disturbed individual who committed this horrid act.  We have also seen a lot of discussion regarding Sarah Palin’s PAC and the use of gun scope on Representative Giffords and many others.  Let me be clear, unlike the headline from the NY Daily News regarding Sarah Palin having blood on her hands, I believe this was a disturbed individual and this action was not taken because of stupid graphics or dumb wording for tweets.  We can easily find similar stupidity regarding other historic events from every side of the political spectrum.  There is a key learning for all of us, and that is that our words and actions are always being reviewed and it is important to keep these possibilities in mind.  What is the message you want people to take and how will history review them?

If we really look at all the events over the past 15 years, we can easily see how both sides of the political spectrum have created this environment that is us vs them.  I do not care if you are the us or the them.  If you are blaming one side, you better learn the other side is just as much at fault.  We need to stop focusing on the negative of others, and start focusing on what we can accomplish together.  For the politicians, I beg you to start showing yourselves in a manner that reflects the positives you can contribute to your constituents.  For those currently in office stop focusing on you or your party and focus on the needs of those you serve.  Do not let events from yesterday stop you from meeting with local citizens.  In fact do it for Gabby and show that unstable individuals are not going to stop you from this.  That shows courage.

During the course of events yesterday, social media played a different role, and one that I hope to continue to see in regard to political discussions.  Yesterday we were unified in our disgust at this event.  I watched discussions all day from people on all sides commenting about the event.  For the most part the discussions were centered on the horrific nature of the event, others who were hurt or killed, and the good Representative Giffords brought to her role.   Like many people, I did not know or hear of Gabby Giffords until yesterday, but I would guess that she would not want us to focus on the political sides, but instead focus on how we can start to come together.  This should not be done as Democrats and Republicans but as Americans.

Now that events have settled in, people are looking to answer why, and many are focusing on political divisiveness to answer this.  This action was not due to Sarah Palin or comments by Jesse Kelly (opponent of Rep. Giffords during past election); it was a crazy individual or individuals.  Lets focus on how we can make things better, find ways to get people like this the help they need before lives are lost and lets be horrified by all acts of violence.  My prayers are with all those involved in this incident.

UPDATE: President Obama is calling for a moment of silence tomorrow at 11:00 AM.  Let’s include more than just our mouths, but also texting, Twitter, email, Facebook, etc.  Maybe we can use it to reflect on how each of us can have a positive impact on the world.

Having Someone in An Exit Row on a Plane is Not an FAA Requirement

Posted on : 07-04-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Personal

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I am not an expert when it comes to travel, or flying a plane. I am a Customer asking questions. I had an interesting conversation with another passenger on a United flight from Philadelphia to Denver. We were discussing fees and the airline industry. She flies a few times a month between Philadelphia and Burbank, CA. I too fly multiple times a month. It was an interesting conversation. We were both sitting in aisle 17, just behind the 2 middle exit row seats on a 757.

If you sit in an exit row, there are typical questions that are asked if you want to sit there. Here are the questions, with the answers provided by individuals sitting in the 2 rows on our flight:

  1. Are you willing to assist on an evacuation?
  2. Are you under 15 years of age?
  3. Are you an adult traveling with a child under 15 years of age or another passenger who requires your care? NOTE: The passenger will not qualify, if these passenger types are seated anywhere on the aircraft.
  4. Do you lack mobility, strength and dexterity in both arms, both hands and/or both legs to: quickly reach the exit, remove any obstructions, manipulate the exit door and slide mechanisms or lift out a window exit door, exit the aircraft, or assist others in exiting?
  5. Do you lack visual capacity or require corrective aids beyond eyeglasses/contact lenses?
  6. Do you require assistance beyond a hearing aid to hear and understand verbal instructions?
  7. Are you limited in your ability to read and understand printed/graphic instructions related to exist, an aircraft evacuation or the ability to understand crew members commands?
  8. Do you have a condition that might prevent you or injure you while performing evacuation functions?

Oh wait, I was not able to provide the responses, because no one was sitting in either emergency exit row. The flight was not empty. In fact it looked fairly full to me, except these 2 aisles. There was 1 man in the exit row, but prior to take off, around the time these questions would normally be asked, 2 things happened. First they came on the loud speaker offering for someone to purchase the extra leg room within these seats. Nobody jumped at that opportunity. Then a crew member came over to the only man in the exit row and asked if he was a former United employee. He responded yes, he was retired. The crew member insisted that he move up to first class. To his credit, he was reluctant, but then he moved on. At this point now nobody was in the exit rows.

We were stunned that no one would be in the exit row. We were expecting they would ask some people to move, but no request came. This led to the conversation about safety and the various fees assessed by airlines. We first started to talk about the ever popular baggage fee. Have you noticed there are usually very few bags checked on a plane anymore? The fee encourages you to bring it on board. Of course this makes the boarding process longer, especially on very full flights. My favorite is when they have to “courtesy” check the bags due to the overheads being full. They always make sure you know it is a courtesy. The passenger I was with also wondered if the increased bags on the plan cause accidents as items shift while in flight. I did not know the answer, because I can only think of one time I saw an accident like that, and I am not sure baggage fees existed at the time. We discussed this, boarding process trouble, and even differences in weight distribution. Of course we both admitted not being experts in any way, just talking about Customer perceptions.

Now back to the exit row seats. We wondered what the FAA rules regarding emergency exit seating were. The woman asked a crew member in the back of the plane. The crew member told her that the FAA does not have a requirement for exit row seating. When the woman asked what would happen in an emergency, and the crew member explained that it would be the flight crew’s responsibility. This really had me thinking!

When the plane landed, I had a layover for a few hours, so I sat down and started to read more on the topic. I searched the FAA website as well as Google to find out more on the rules for emergency exit row seating. I was not able to find any rules that stated someone had to be seated there. The only rule I was able to find was the door must be able to be opened within 10 seconds, and the slide must deploy within 10 more seconds. I did not have a chance to test but I think it could be hard for a crew member to unbuckle, get there from one end of the plane to the exit row, and have it fully opened within 10 seconds. The other trouble with not having people in the aisle is other passengers may not know who is responsible, causing hesitation in the event of an emergency.  They would then have to unbuckle and work their way to the emergency row.  Also it is possible that someone not able to meet the requirements of the emergency row would be the closest to perform the task.  That makes me feel safe!

The airline industry has struggled in recent years due to changes in travel, low cost airlines, increased fuel costs and so many other factors. We all like to blast companies when they add new fees. At the same time, no one wants to see companies go into bankruptcy or worse, go out of business. It means loss of jobs and less selection. The trouble for many older airlines is they have high labor costs, and inefficient processes. Southwest, an airline that prides itself on not having as many fees has added things like early check-in, or business class (I forget the name, but they get to be one of the first 15 people to board – ideal since they do not have assigned seating). Maybe we can all help find ways with ideas to improve?

I do think this changes the game for the FAA. The emergency exit row seating policies were designed in 1990. At the time there was rarely, if ever, a shortage of people that wanted the exit row. No one could have ever thought of fees for sitting there. With fees, comes the basic rules of supply and demand; as the price goes up, demand goes down. What happens when there is no demand?

I did ask United if they were interested in commenting for this piece, but as of this point I have not seen a response. I will post an update if I hear from the FAA or United.

For Background, here is a NY Times piece by Joe Sharkey “Throwing Exit-Row Seats Into the ‘For Sale Bin

Other stories on airline fees from the Consumerist:

Ryanair Going Ahead With Pay-To-Potty Plan

Spirit Airlines Now Charging Up To $45 For Carry On Bags

Inspiring New Thoughts

Posted on : 29-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Inspirational, Personal, Social Media

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I have not been posting as much as I like. This usually happens when I am in deep thought regarding some things, and I do not feel it is best to share publicly. I have always found this to be tough because I try to be as transparent as I can be, but it is necessary. I always feel bad when that happens, because I do not want to let people down. I also feel that I am missing out on really good advice that I can receive from my friends in social media. Ultimately I always strive to do what is best for myself, my friends and most importantly my family.

So recently I was at my first SxSW (for those not used to the abbreviation, it is South By Southwest, an Interactive, Film and Music event in Austin, TX). It was an experience. I was excited at the opportunity to see some friends I have developed over the past few years, but I did not realize how overwhelming the events would be. I saw so many people, but it is funny, at the same time I feel I saw no one at all. Everyone was rushing from one event to another. There was not much time to slow down. When I finally returned home, I think I needed sleep for a week (I am still not sure I have my energy back). I did return to work the day after coming home, so that may explain the lack of energy. Anyway it was still a lot of fun and I loved seeing some old friends and many new friends.

While I was in Austin, I spoke on 2 different panels and at an event for Dachis Group. One of the panels was for the book launch for Brian Solis’ new book Engage. It was fun to be a part of that. The other was a panel for support in a 140 character world with Jeremiah Owyang, Caroline McCarthy, Lois Townsend and Toby Richards. It is always a pleasure to speak with so many knowledgeable people. My favorite moment at SxSW was not in a panel, or other presentation. It was not at a party, or at a dinner (all though many were fun, especially going to Salt Lick), it was the unlikely private time with just a few people. On my final night in Austin I was heading to a dinner I was invited to. When I arrived I ran into Brian Solis (Follow these links to connect with him on Twitter and his Blog) outside the restaurant. We started chatting, ran into a few others, and shared some champagne (for those that know Brian, that is not shocking). We then realized the dinner we were supposed to be attending was happening without us, so we stopped by. We did not stay too long due to other commitments Brian had. We then strolled through the streets of Austin on our way to his other event. After that appearance we connected again, this time strolling through the now rainy streets looking for a nice quiet place for dinner. Brian was his usual inspiring self. We were chatting about life paths, and selections we all make along the way. Brian was filled with stories from his own life, as well as people like Chris Brogan. At the time I thought my plans were set, but I walked away rethinking my thoughts and the inspiration in my heart. This is really what social media is about, connecting with people who can change our lives. We do it each day but it is moments like that where it is so truly defined. Thanks Brian.

So in my absence I have had so many different things I wanted to chat about. First and foremost was how I have been rethinking CRM (for those that do not know, this is Customer Relationship Management). This is a way of using technology to understand your Customer and bring the Customer into every aspect of the business. This led to my post today on The Social Customer website. If you have the chance, check it out. The post is the beginning of a conversation on redefining the tools necessary and the culture required for Customer Service, now and in the future.  It is time for us to stop looking at past concepts and build new ones based on the reality of today.

During my absence from posts there was an interesting social media case study developing regarding Nestlé and GreenPeace.  I am not going to rehash all the details, but if you want, read about it on Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategist blog.  It was also in today’s Wall Street Journal in an article titled “Nestlé Takes a Beating on Social-Media Sites.”  As I read the article this morning, I was caught by the end where Jermiah did not support removing it, while Ian Schafer did support it.  I can see both sides, although I think removing it might cause Nestle to even prolong it more (I am taking my ball and going home).  But it also caused me to rethink how companies should utilize Facebook.  So many are rushing to create fan pages, often because others told them they had to, or success they have seen for other companies.  Experts will tell you, as Jeremiah points out in his blog post, you must have an action plan to deal with brand attacks that may occur.  It is the reason to think these things through thoroughly.  But as I have read through the Nestlé experience, I wonder if there was a better way in the first place.  I know those not connected to social media may not realize, but there have been other events in the past for this company that also played out in social media.  My favorite story regarding Facebook fan pages is how the Coca Cola fan page started.  It was not started by the company, but instead by fans.  I am not convinced it is the best interest for companies to say how much they are loved by creating their own fan page.  It seems so much more genuine when it is created by fans.  I then think about the Nestlé experience, and wonder how would it have changed if the fans were the ones that started the page?  Would Greenpeace have still attacked the page?

Everyday we are filled with ideas that change our direction, or inspire us to do more.  I hope to always be inspired each day and continually challenge the status quo.

The Social Media Fire, Will It Change Corporate Culture?

Posted on : 07-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, In the News, Marketing, Social Media, Technology

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This is the third attempt for me writing this post.  This morning I woke up and read my email like I do every morning.  One of the emails was a Google alert with a reference to this San Francisco Chronicle article about “Social Media Going Corporate.”  In the article it stated the following:

At Comcast, employee Frank Eliason took the initiative last year to use his own Twitter account to contact customers who were tweeting about service problems. Now known as “Famous Frank,” Eliason has been credited with almost single-handedly turning around Comcast’s reputation. He heads a staff of 11 who monitor social networks and offer help to customers.

During a question-and-answer session at last month’s Web 2.0 conference, Comcast’s Roberts said the Twitter strategy has played a big part in changing the corporate culture “from inside the organization, not just the top down.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/07/BU341ACLD3.DTL#ixzz0WE9gWzSR

In my opinion the change in culture was due to so many people inside and outside the organization.  Some of the people I work with I give huge credit to the change, including my team, Rich Roberts (my former boss, now VP of Customer Care in Atlanta), Tina Waters (SVP and my boss), Rick Germano (SVP of National Customer Service), Jenn Khoury, (VP, Corporate Communications), and D’Arcy Rudnay (SVP, Corporate Communications).  But it was so many more than these individuals.  Team members throughout the organization, from techs, Customer Service representatives, managers, directors, and VPs from all area contributed.  Our Customers, who are very passionate about our products, and simply want a great experience to go with it.  As Rick likes to say “They are cheering us on, because they want us to get  it right.”  In dealing with so many, I can say Rick is correct, they do love our products and they want the opportunity to cheer for us, we just need to make sure we deliver on that.  This post is not about Comcast, but for those that do not know, I agree our culture has changed.  I have been seeing first hand, including changes in reporting structure, new systems, the implementation of the Customer Guarantee and the overall attitude of the company has shifted to be about the Customer experience.  In fact the new corporate credo is:

“We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day.  Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer friendly and reliable service in the market”

I am sure some will say they have not experienced this fully yet, but I will tell you a lot is being done to ensure you do.  You will be cheering!  Internally the conversation is always about the Customer experience and how to make sure we get it right.  I see a much different place than when I started 2 years ago.  I do not believe it was due to me, but a lot of the discussions in various spaces that started to come together at the same time.  Many of the discussions supported greater transparency, Customer focus, and an environment that questioned how things were being done.  As this took shape, the culture of the company changed.

So I wrote this post numerous times I kept singing in my head the following lyrics:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Aren’t these words so fitting regarding social media and corporate America?  Now I was not around when the phone joined the business world, but I can imagine someone saying they do not need a phone on their desk.  Yet today, many of us carry our work phone wherever we are.  I would imagine in the marketing space similar discussions happened with the transition from newspaper to radio to TV.  I remember email coming out and much debate over providing email access to all employees.  Today, I have work email 24/7 on my iPhone.  Even funnier was the reaction to using email for Customer Service.  Today who would not think to email a company for service?  Same was true regarding allowing employees having internet access on their desk.  This was done, but then many site were blocked due to productivity.  Of course I work on email at night and weekends, why would their be a problem if I updated Facebook at work?  So lets allow the song to continue:

Telephone, radio’s playing, newspapers, TV’s talking,
email, googling, paying bills, Pandora playing
Facebook Mafia wars, Blog updates galore
Following more Twitter stars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Social media is about relationships, and ultimately relationships are good for businesses and employees.  Will social media change corporate culture?  Well have other forms of communication?  I believe phone, email and the internet have already changed the culture for everyone, especially businesses.  With each new form of communication we gain efficiency and we find new ways to speak with Customers.  Can you imagine someone typing and copying memos?  Ugh, I would hate that.  For those that say Twitter and Facebook take away from the efficiency of the workers, the same was said about email and internet access.  I bet it was also said about phone too (oh no, a family member better not call).  Social media has made the world a smaller place (there are numerous examples of this) and I know it can make the business world smaller too.

A Twitter Warning…

Posted on : 03-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Social Media, Technology

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In today’s Wall Street Journal there are 2 interesting articles about Twitter. The first is one that really emphasizes what I have said for a long time, Twitter is the early warning system and it is important for companies to watch what is being said. The article features friends Scott Monty from Ford and Bonin Bough from Pepsi. It also features Southwest’s Linda Rutherford and Coke’s Adam Brown. I have a lot of respect for what Linda has done at Southwest. I am not as familiar with Adam’s work, but I will keep a look out. If you have the opportunity check it out the article “For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert a PR Mess.

The second article is what is driving me to write this post.  It does not feature anyone I know, but it emphasizes the information available via Twitter.  Twitter has changed the world and made it much more flat.  News and information is flying faster than ever before.  The article, titled “For Traders, Twitter is One More Trading Tool” (requires online subscription), emphasizes the story of a trader that found information via Twitter.  The first paragraph states:

“When Thomas Grisafi read a “tweet” the afternoon of July 22 complaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had “goofed again,” the president and chief executive of Indiana Grain Co. wondered what prompted the message.”

This prompted Mr. Grisafi to research what the tweet was about and to trade based on the findings.  My fear is this will drive many to start searching Twitter to make riches.  Remember investing is a long term commitment and short term riches are highly unlikely and involve a lot of risk.  Mr. Grisafi obviously knew who this person was, and had trust in the tweets.  He also did a lot of research off of Twitter before committing money.  This is a key aspect to this story and the reason I am writing this.  Twitter search will not lead to quick riches, and research still must be done.  Unfortunately Twitter has many spammers, similar to the junk mail that you find in your inbox each day.  If you are not buying securities based on spam email, be just as cautious about buying them based on a tweet or perceived information.  I am not saying Twitter is not a useful tool, but like anything else be careful of how your react based on the information.  Even if the person may be a trusted source, such as a known CEO, most will be very careful of what they say.  It is also possible that a twitter account can be hacked or just completely false.  Think of the Exxon Twitter example.

This is just a simple Twitter warning, please go about your day!