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

‘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

0

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.

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!

The Customer & Employee Renaissance Series

Posted on : 12-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Inspirational, Leadership

0

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

The business world is changing around us in many ways, but hasn’t it always been changing and evolving?  We have just been through a time of greater focus on metrics and processes.  I refer to the era as the Jack Welch era, based on the Six Sigma evolution that has come and gone.  This focus brought greater efficiencies to business, but, as with anything, the case can be made that it was at the expense of other areas of business, such as employee turnover, innovation, or Customer experience.  Now we are entering a new phase that is being defined by a new generation of employees and Customers alike.  In some ways it is a Renaissance or a rebirth.

Times of change can be exciting to many, but very concerning to others.  We like to say change is good, but we need to face facts that change is hard on everyone, even those who may be excited by it.  As I write posts we will explore pieces of this renaissance and how it is impacting your business.  I would imagine we will have people reading the posts in various stages of the change.  Often small business owners are the first to see change in front of them and they sieze the moment to build there business.  Those of us working for larger institutions we may see the need for change, but due to the speed larger businesses move, seeing the shift is not always noticed until it is too late.  This is an era where smaller, more nimble businesses will have the chance to really excell.

Economic times always play a huge part in any revolutions, or even renaissance.  There is a reason why people look for something different, and often it is a chance to grow personally, professionally or a mix of both.  Historically in the US we have been very optimistic, and even if there were different views, we celebrated them.  As I look back I think we started to see a shift to a more divisive society from the late 1990′s and that continues through today.  The economic realities of the past 10 years have contributed to this tremendously.  In business our own artistic abilitiles were limited as we focused more and more on processes.  This also led to growing frustration with work.  At the same time technology advances changed the way we work.  Today many of us are connected day and night to our work email, expectations of our own performance has grown, especially as companies have cut back.  It sometimes feels non-stop.  

From a Customer perspective we have seen amazing amounts of change.  Shopping has shifted from smaller businesses that knew who we were and what we needed to larger stores with amazing selection.  In many ways that selection and price reduction was a huge plus, but we have all seen the drawbacks as well.  Service was not like those smaller stores.  Finding those hard to find parts by simply asking the clerk from the local hardware store was replaced with going through countless drawers in the nut and bolt aisle at the big home improvement store.  Of course this is changing again as we are now able to search the web.  Companies constantly looking to reduce costs added new technology, such as the automated voice when you call an 800 number.  Now instead of reaching someone we get to push 1 to be transferred to someone eventually after we are forced to enter all kinds of information that never seems to make it to the representative, then we have to repeat it all again.  You can also press 2 to be disconnected or 3 to reach the wrong department.  When your call finally reaches someone, they are limited to a process of a script. Of course no one provided you the other side of the script so you are at a major disadvantage. Hopefully your issue is on the script because the representative does not have access to decision makers and their abilities are confined to the process and systems they have in front of them. No deviation! When you go to the local supermarket, the checkout process has shifted from that friendly person, to either a person who is concentrated on meeting the number of items checked per hour, or worse yet, the supermarket forces the Customer to do the checkout for themselves.  Has all this new technology led to a better Customer experience?  Statistics would say it has not.  In fact many polls shows Customers feel the experience with most companies is not near an acceptable level.

I am sure if you asked a CEO, they would tell you how great their Customer and employee experience is.  We would all love to believe that, but often times our real life experience is different.  As Patricia Martin points out in the video below, a Renaissance comes about after a period of dark times.  The question is are we now in the dark times for employees or Customers?  I think it is possible, but I still have a sense of optimism and I think the best of times are in front of us.  As part of this series we are going to take a deeper look at the past, present and the future.  Together, we will start painting that future, and I expect it will be a masterpiece.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to present at TedxBroadway.  It was an amazing experience and I loved listening to all the speakers.  One of the speakers I enjoyed learning from was Patricia, and I thought this post was a great opportunity to share her perspective with you.  It was funny because Patricia and I had similar thoughts in our presentation, but prior to the conference we never had the opportunity to meet. I hope you enjoyed the post and the video!

Frank

What It Means to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

Posted on : 06-08-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Leadership, Social Media

Tags: ,

7

Have you seen this video by Adam M. Smith? If you are involved in social media you probably have because it has been a hot topic of conversation.  This is where #PositivelySocial meets the offline world.  In the video Mr. Smith is going through a Chick-fil-a drive through with the sole goal of recording himself sharing his thoughts regarding Chick-fil-a while obtaining his free water.  First I want to offer kudos to the employee who handled herself beautifully.  I am sorry that Mr. Smith has lost his job over the video but I do not think we should treat people, especially employees like this one, in a manner that has been considered by many as disrespectful. In my view those who are choosing to boycott the chain are certainly within their right and that is a #PositivelySocial way of trying to drive change.  I also respect anyone who lives up to their religious beliefs in everything they do.  I am respectful of all religions around the world. At times there may be differences between what I believe and other religions or individuals but I have to respect the rights people have to those beliefs.  I love hearing about differences so I can learn from them, and deepen my own understanding.  It does not mean I will agree with them but I will always respect the individuals and their rights.

Being #PositivelySocial does not mean you do not have opinions, because we all do.  It is all about how you decide to express those beliefs to those around you.  In my view the #positivelysocial beliefs are:

  1. Respect Others – This to me is the number one issue.  We all are passionate about our beliefs and often we express them in a manner that is closed to others, or sometimes downright cruel to others.  I think the video associated to this post is a perfect example regarding respect and why it is so important. Treat people the way you would want to be treated, sounds simple but not always happening. We can help lead by example.
  2. Welcoming Dialogue on the Topic – The greatest aspect of social is the fact that everything is open for discussion, so when posting, be open to the conversation, in fact welcome it!  Recently the situation involving Penn State caused a lot of discussion.  Within social media this dialogue was highly divided, especially within my Facebook newsfeed.  Since I grew up in Pennsylvania, I had many friends talking about the decisions by the University and the NCAA.  There were defenders of Joe Paterno, and those who completely offended by the reports of his participation.  Those offended sometimes referred to his defenders as being as guilty as Joe Paterno was made out in the reports.  I could see both sides in this issue.  As a father, I have strong beliefs on what should happen to child molesters and those who support or protect them. At the same time, I understand that Joe Paterno past away prior to the investigation into the matter by the University and his family was not able to share information on the topic.  I am sure more information will come out over time and people will come to their conclusion of guilty or innocence.
  3. Sharing Links that Live up to being #PositivelySocial - In my #PositivelySocial post over on Social Media Today, I discuss the story of  Harper Gruzins.  This 11 year old girl struggled singing the National Anthem, but the worst part was the manner in which the web turned on her.  In the post I talk about some horrible comments found on YouTube, but there were many others throughout the web. One website posted the video to help take this 11 year old down a few notched because on her “fu–ing” website she refer to herself as a singer-songwriter.  We should not share links to sites that treat people in a manner we would not want to see them treated.
  4. Take a Stand – If we were at a cocktail party and someone was being insulting to others, or unsocial in any way, someone would usually tell them to knock it off or leave. It is time we think about that as people around us are doing things that could be insulting to others.  We should also make clear to community style websites that it is important that their content be appropriate and comments or discussions are managed in a way that does not take away from the community as a whole.
  5. Truth and Facts Reign Supreme – The web is filled with innuendo, speculation, and down right errors.  The key is verifying information prior to sharing. Try to not add to inappropriate sharing (I have been guilty of this but I always strive to validate as much as I can)
  6. Share the Good Too – It is easy to share the negative.  I do it all the time, especially regarding Customer experiences.  Sharing negative experiences is sometimes very positive way of tell a brand that you do care about them.  Let’s fact facts, the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  At the same time if you are always sharing the negative people may lose sight as to who you are, try to share the good too.  I have also found brands want to know what they are doing well so they can strive to do more of it.  Of course this is not just about brands, recognize each other.  That can be a powerful message to those around us all!

I have been amazed by the outpouring of support for #PositivelySocial and I would ask that you help me keep it up over the next week so we can make August 14 a #PositivelySocial day for everyone.  Tell a friend or share your thoughts via social.  Welcome open discussion on the topic! This post was inspired by many of you. I am not looking for the day to simply be about being nice, but instead about truly being social.  One of the best parts of this effort has been the way it has connected me with new found friends.  Shel Holtz who introduced me to Civilination.  The organization’s mission is to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies. I love it, and look forward to getting involved with them further.Together we are changing the world! How do you define #PositivelySocial?

Thank you!

Related Posts

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

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

A Day to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

UPDATE:  The Person who did the initial video has apologized in this video

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)

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

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

0

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Show You Care?

Posted on : 18-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational

Tags: , , , , ,

0

Yesterday was the day we recognize a great, peaceful leader in Martin Luther King.  I sometimes wonder how Dr. King or other prominent historic figures would look at our world today.  At times it seems like we have grown so much in society, while other times it seems like we take a number of steps backwards.  Dr. King sought major change via peaceful means, yet today it seems we are sometimes attacking each other in vicious ways over silly issues.  Of course there are other times where everyone seems to come together for a common cause.  I can easily think of Haiti and other natural disasters where the world seems like a smaller place.

What I love about MLK Day is how it has evolved into a day of caring, with volunteerism throughout the US.  Many companies take the day and encourage their employees to volunteer for the day.  Of course I wish we did this more often.  Many companies offer their employees a benefit that allows days off just to volunteer.  This is over and above the usual allotment.  I know Citi, LexisNexis, and Comcast offer a few days a year to do this.  My wife works for LexisNexis and they have participated in many events through the year.  A few years back we did a lot of work with a local park, and the team at LexisNexis took the volunteerism to a new level helping to beautify it.  One of Carolyn’s favorite charities is Cradles to Crayons.  With the proximity to her LexisNexis facility, they were able to have employees there many times throughout the year.  I want to take this opportunity to challenge all companies to come up with similar programs.  It is a great way to give back to the community you serve and it is not about creating a PR event for your company.  It is genuine.

I have been inspired regarding this because of the company my wife works for, as well as my recent employers. I always thought it was a benefit not known well enough by employees. In December I had the opportunity to attend the Salesforce Dreamforce event. During the one session I had the privilege to be further inspired on the topic and I wanted to take the time to share the inspiration with you. I have posted the video from the event below (If you are receiving this via feed the direct URL for the video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq5aTaMnhuY ). The beginning focuses on Salesforce and the work of their employees. After that there is also an inspirational conversation with Stevie Wonder. If you have time I would recommend checking it out.

What I have found in social media is everyone is committed in giving back in one way or another. My friend Shauna Causey and the entire SMC Seattle Team created something called VolunTweetup as a way to help non-profits with social media. We all want to find a way to give something back. How do you do it? What companies inspire you? What can companies do differently? Does your company provide time off to give back to your community?

Inspiring New Thoughts

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

1

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.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Just Make Lemonade!

Posted on : 11-01-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Living in Philadelphia

Tags: , ,

1

“There is a lesson to be learned from the Lemonade Girl with the pretty blue eyes and hair that once curled.  You see, Alex lived by the words from which her foundation was laid…when life gives you lemons, just make lemonade”
Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand
Written by Liz and Jay Scott with help from Alex Scott

I know all to well how life throws various things at you, and somehow we live through it.  This past Saturday I had the privilege to attend the Alex’s Lemonade Foundation 2010 Lemon Ball.  I am not going to say I did not have mixed emotions, I knew, just like everyday, I would think about our Angel Gia.  I also knew we would relive some moments in life that at time we would love to forget.  At the same time we love the cause and we wanted to learn more about it.  The event was filled with various life changing stories that hit close to home for us.  Over the years I have been a part of many charity events, but none could ever measure up to the beauty, energy, and inspiration radiated throughout the Lemon Ball.  I know that may sound odd for a charity dedicated to a cause like pediatric cancer, a cause all too close to my heart.  Walking into the hotel you were immediately greeted by kids at a lemonade stand happily offering a cold drink or guide you through the hotel to the event.  Upon arrival you were greeted by more high energy volunteers happy to help get you in the spirit of the evening.  The yellow gowns and accessories made the room shine as if it were the brightest of days.

I love when companies encourage employees to participate in charitable events.  I work for one such company with our Comcast Cares Day.  My wife also works for a company that values this way to give back to the community they serve.  The company, Reed Technology, part of LexisNexis and Reed Elsevier, encourages every employee to take 2 days a year days to volunteer for a non-profit organization, while still being paid for the day by the company.   During this incredible evening, I learned the story of another Reed Technology employee, Bea Quindlen.   It was such a surprise to see someone my wife knew being honored as the Volunteer of the Year.  Bea’s story is not what you would expect for a charity like this.  She did not have a child with cancer, and I do not believe she was connected to one.  She volunteered through her work to participate in a local telethon for the Alex’s Lemonade Foundation.  She left the event so inspired, that she became a regular volunteer.  Stopping by the office weekly to help out, bringing homemade snacks to keep Jay energized (Jay, since you will be reading it I did hear about the Krimpets, I think I could win!  Sorry, inside joke).   Bea connected with Jay, Liz and all the other families and friends in this battle.  She dedicates so much of her personal time to help others.  I just met Bea for the first time on Saturday, and she is not the type to want to be honored, in fact she was so shy in even accepting the award.  Her goal was simply to do good things for a foundation made of good people that she cared for.  A lesson that is so important for businesses and non-profit groups alike, inspiring positive people influences and energizes so many around them.  Bea, thank you for being such a positive influence!

The evening started with a girls dance troop performing to some current hits.  They did great, but don’t ask me to name the songs (not really my music!).  This was followed by a special performance by American Idol and recording star Jordin Sparks.   Jordin was looking much more mature than I remember from American Idol and despite not being her standard performing stage she shared a song close to her heart.  She followed this with unique words, that would ring to be true, “Let’s get this party started.”  And with those words she sung a much faster paced song and encouraged everyone to get  up and dance.  She literally disappeared on the dance floor as so many joined her.  It was a sight to see.

As is typical in events like this, during the meal you heard from others about the work of the foundation, childhood cancer, and the plans for the organization.  There was no overwhelming request for money, or creating a sense of desperation.  The event was much more a celebration of the foundation and the life of Alex and so many others that have dealt with pediatric cancer.   We were sitting with other families that have personally experienced childhood cancer.  It may sound odd to those that have not dealt with it, but we have found it much easier to connect with families that have been through some of these life experiences.  There is a stronger bond shared than most other friendships could ever hope to have.   It was nice to share that time with them.

The true inspiration for this evening was hearing from Liz and Jay Scott.  I have said it before: Liz, Jay and Alex Scott are my heroes.  This evening just reinforced all the reasons why.  Liz and Jay did not seek the limelight or to even a foundation to do so much good.  I think they simply wanted a good life for their family.  But life throws you those curve ball sometimes, and you do what you think is best.  In this case Alex was diagnosed with cancer, her parents, to achieve the best possible care, moved the family to Philadelphia so they could go to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Alex started a lemonade stand to raise money “to help ALL kids get better.”  All of a sudden, the Alex’s Lemonade Foundation was born, and Liz and Jay would see a new path in their life.  What was interesting about their talk, they really did not talk about any of this, they spoke more about other families and the researchers for the foundation.  They were just so grateful for everyone around them.  Their spirit, which is the same spirit of Alex, is what attracts so many people to love this cause.   Although I have met Jay before, that night was the first time I had the pleasure to meet Liz.  The moment I felt a connection to her was the she tried to answer the question that gets asked all too often, does it get easier as time goes by.   This is something that every parent who has lost a child struggles with, but you would be surprised how often it comes up.   Liz tried to be tactful in her response saying in some ways it does get better as time goes by, but it is difficult as your realize all that is missed.  I can tell you as a parent who lost a child, not a day goes by that you do not miss the child you lost.  You are happy to share in the lives of your other children and family, but there is a hole that is not filled.   You still experience many of the highs in life but there are moments that are very difficult.  She did not say all that.  I can understand that.  The overall event was upbeat, but I do not think it is within their style to focus on themselves.  To them it is about Alex, and what she wanted – helping other kids.  Kudos to Liz and Jay on a job well done!

The evening was followed by the live auction, with 1 item I could only wish to afford.  Liz makes special lemon cookies, this year  she made 14 because Alex would have turned 14 on January 18.  The cookies sold for $14,000.  Wow!

Key to the evening was truly just having a good time, and that was what was all about.  The party got started and dancing took over for a night filled with all the energy of Alex’s amazing lemonade.  The whole event was perfect down to every little detail.  The sponsors were class acts, especially with Mike and Ike’s presenting Jordin Sparks and Volvo having the car giveaway (purchase ticket for the drawing here).  Now as Alex’s Lemonade Foundation embarks on its goal to raise $100 million over the next decade, Liz and Jay should know that they have done is priceless in the minds of all parents that are part of this same fight.

Visit Alex’s Lemonade to Learn More About this Cause

Land of the Misfit Toys

Posted on : 26-09-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Marketing, Personal, Social Media

1

I tend not to post when I have a lot on my mind that I am trying to work through.  Sometimes it may be personal, other times work or even career.  In the past few years I have had a lot of new things happening in my life that cause me to ponder many things, especially about the future.  Recently I have been thinking about my own career path and what it all means.  Social media has added an interesting realm to my life and I am not going to say it hasn’t brought struggles too.  I strive to be as open as possible with things, but sometimes you have to come to conclusions on your own.

I love leading the way, whether it be with a team or a movement for Customer Service.  I never strive for the status quo, especially with work.  We all need to continually evolve our abilities and companies need to broaden their horizons to meet an ever changing Customer.  My style is not playing politics but instead concentrating on the Customer story and what is in front of me at the time.  Sometimes in doing this people that are close to the process work off of their own historical information.   I am lucky to work with many that have great experience in the cable and telecommunications industry; I learn a lot from them every day.  My background is financial services, which provides more of an outsider view.  Sometime this makes me feel like a misfit.

I talk to many businesses regarding their efforts in social media.  In fact I have been approached by many companies about helping them build their efforts.  Most companies channel their social media through marketing or PR.  It is funny the reaction I receive when I tell them that I am just a simple Customer Service guy.  The marketers tend to be so stuck on the brand and sales, so they do not always see the community and relationship aspects in the space.  I have many friends in marketing that have built a similar view as mine, but they are already successful in the space.  Some in PR concentrate on the message as opposed to the relationship.  My view is this space is about the Customers, helping, listening and having conversations with them.  So as I talk to these different companies I recognize what a misfit that I may be.

I then look at all my friends in social media and I realize how different we all are.  It is these differences that make social media such a great place and a way to hear others perspectives.  As I was sitting pondering recent events, my own place in life, and how we all connect, I started to realize we are all in this place of misfit toys creating a home for all to enjoy no matter who they are, what they have been through, or where they are heading.  Being this misfit is a trophy we all carry because we are leading and doing things in a different manner.  Whether we are doing this online, at work, or within our home life we are carving this new path.  The misfit toys have found their home with each other.