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


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


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


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


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


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Customer Service Week: Here’s Your Call Center

Posted on : 07-10-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Leadership


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 who strive to serve Customers each and every day. In my view we do not always show them the respect and gratitude they deserve every day, not just during one week out of the year. These individuals do more to contribute to your brand than any marketing message ever will. In my book @YourService I wrote extensively about their experience and how that ultimately reflects on the brand. As leaders we do not equip them with the right tools or empower them to truly help, then when things fail we do not look at ourselves but instead to these same service departments. The fact is we are the one’s to blame for not creating the right culture to ensure our Customer Service staff are successful. Your call center is not a cost center, but instead it is the hub for the ongoing, fruitful relationship with your Customer. To celebrate this week, below is anexcerpt from @YourService, published by Wiley. Parts will make you laugh, but the fact is this is the reality of most call centers. Is your Customer truly important to you?

Chapter 18: An Inside Look at a Call Center

Let’s take a visit to a call center. Some of you may work in one, others may have drifted through, but some may never have had the opportunity to experience daily life in one, although we have certainly all called one! Over the years, I have had the privilege of working in many different call centers and visiting even more. Please note that the following scenarios outlined are not specific to any call center that I have worked in or have done business with, and you will want to thoroughly investigate the ins and outs of life in your call center after reading this. It is so very important to know exactly what is going on in your call center because the impact on the Customer is enormous. This is often how your Customer sees you or hears your message. Please try to wear all hats when reading the following, especially the Customer’s hat. If your business does not have a call center, you can still think of this through the mind of your frontline employees and the Customers you serve.

Imagine that today is your first day on the job as a new Customer Service representative. You walk in and see balloons and what appears to be a happy place. You check in with HR and are brought into a classroom. As you were walking to the classroom, you thought about how thrilled you were that you found a job where you can help people. At the front of the training room stands a cheery trainer excited to have you and the rest of the new recruits onboard. Training will be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the type of call center it is. During the training they teach you the basic technical aspects to the job: usually the system that you will utilize and the knowledge base to obtain information to answer Customer questions. Often you will not be taught exactly what to say, but you will be referred to the talking points in the knowledge base. The systems can be confusing because many companies use multiple programs. This adds to the complications of the new job because you will be expected to know how to use each one.

Nevertheless, training is always a happy time, even when you get to go out on the floor to listen to calls. They will probably sit you with the best representatives at the company. These individuals are usually very nice and they always follow the rules to the letter, at least in the eyes of their manager. During the training process, trainees split time from the classroom to on-the-job training and listening to calls. As time goes on, agents start to share the reality of working in a call center. The first thing they do is start to go over pain points that Customers have and what, if anything, can be done to counteract this. Sometimes you will learn shortcuts and workarounds that are not demonstrated during training. Finally, the conversation shifts to the different managers and their styles.

Toward the end of training, a manager comes in to go over the rules. Much time is spent on attendance and behavior policies, emphasizing how you will be fired if you do not abide by them. You are now starting to wonder if some of the representatives are thinking that the balloons decorating the call center may be more appropriate in a day care center. The manager also spends time going over how your performance will be measured and what this means to you. Typical call center metrics will be average handle time, or how long you have spent with each Customer, compliance to scripts or quality, adherence to your schedule, attendance, and finally sales. Often the expectation is that you will sell on every call, whether it is appropriate or not. You can easily spot these call centers when you are a Customer calling with a problem; before the representative addresses the reason for your call they’ll try to sell you something. This is simply the agent trying to meet the quality goals, and this is part of the checklist.

You now start to take live calls, usually with a buddy right next to you. This is when you will learn all sorts of things that weren’t covered in the training class. Calls come in and they let you go listening half-heartedly because they are just excited to be off the phone for a little while. The cube that you are sitting in is fairly close to the person next to you and the noise level is high due to all the talking. During this nesting period, all is well but it does not last long. Suddenly you hear beeps across the floor and red digital signs are blinking. You see the manager walking around yelling at everyone to get on the phones. Your buddy jumps up and says that you are on your own, as she makes her way back to her desk to take calls. The next call comes through and now you are flustered with no help. You are hitting the keyboard going through each of the systems, trying to find the right answer, but with no luck. The Customer is getting irritated at the lack of help and is sniping in your ear. You try to ask those around you, but they are busy with their own calls. Finally you get up to ask the supervisor, who snaps back that the answer is in the knowledge base. Frustrated, you go back to look again. Finally, the Customer hangs up without the right answer and another call comes through even before you are ready to start again. Now even more flustered, you struggle with the next call and they wish to escalate as the caller hears the uncertainty in your voice. You go searching the floor for your supervisor and he is nowhere to be found.

Finally, another representative whom you sat with during training offers to take the call for you. Now you have some relief. After the call has been completed, you need to go to the restroom. So you place your phone in break mode to go. When you return, your supervisor is at your desk asking where you have been. He explains that you are not scheduled for break until later in the morning and asks why you only took a handful of calls.

Certainly this has not been a good day and definitely not a great start compared to the high hopes that you had for this new job. As you get back on the phones, you get a call from a Customer whom you want to help. You understand precisely what she needs, but the call will take a while. You think, I can’t have another long call, but there is no choice. Then the Customer, who greatly appreciates how well you are listening and the understanding that you seem to have, says that she has to run but wants to call back and speak directly to you. Unfortunately, policy and the phone system that the company uses do not allow you to give the Customer your extension. During training you were told to simply tell the Customer “Everyone is able to help you just as well as I can. Just simply call back at a time that is convenient for you and they will care for you.” With this the Customer, who is now yelling, says that she has called six times and you were the first one to understand. They then hang the phone up out of frustration.

Interestingly, many call centers are designed not to have personal phone extensions. This was based on the business decision that Customers might call the same person back frequently or they might call and leave a message, but the agent might not follow up or have that extension anymore, in effect causing a worse Customer experience. There can also be a concern that the agents will take personal calls.

The next call comes through and it is regarding a policy that Customers do not like. You heard all about this during training and reviewed many calls on the topic. The answer is always the same, so you provide it. You have yet to hear a call where the Customer was thankful for the answer. You read the answer directly from the script that references this as instructed and the Customer yells in the same manner as the last caller. The company requires you to end every call the same way and ask, “Is there anything else that I can do to help you today?” In response, the Customer yells back, “You have not helped me yet, so why start now?” The phone slams down. After that call you are late for break, so you go. Upon return the supervisor is right there at your workstation again stating that you are late coming back from break. You then explain that the call lasted after the start of your break so you went as soon as you could.

Once again you are back to the phones. As the calls come in you notice that your system is running slower and slower. You help the Customers as best you can, but it is taking minutes for an account to even come up on the screen. At one point you apologize to the Customer for how slow the system is. You eventually help them out, but when you have finished, you look up and the supervisor is back at your desk. He is upset because he was listening to the call, heard internal jargon regarding the systems, and is really upset that you told the Customer how slow the system is. You ask what else could have been said during the lull while waiting for it to come up. He responds, “Anything but that” as he walks back to his desk.

As time goes on, you start to get a little more comfortable but realize there is not all that much that you can change. You stick to the procedures outlined and you do your job. You watch the clock. Eventually the mirror that they gave you during training to encourage you to smile during calls breaks but you leave it hanging on the wall. Broken tchotchkes are not an uncommon site in a call center.

Often, a career for a Customer Service agent is not as pleasant as it should be and coworkers who often want to escape the Customer surround you. At many companies, service is at a location with other business units, and you will find that employees in the other areas look down on the agents and the job as something that is clearly beneath them. This sends a message to those serving your Customers about the focus of the company. Although there are excellent supervisors and managers out there, many are burnt out and many others worked their way up in similar conditions so they are not that interested in changing them.

‘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


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.

Defining the Customer Experience Role

Posted on : 02-10-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service, Leadership


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 big and small. I am sure many will point to social media as the cause but the reality is we often see Customer and employee experience gain importance as we experience economic improvement. I am seeing more and more companies hiring leaders for Customer experience at a much higher level than I have seen in the past. For someone like myself these are exciting times, but set to move with the whims of the business world.

The challenge for businesses may be very different today than any other time in history. The decisions (or bets) companies make can have long term repercussions for the brand and their position in the marketplace. The challenge is those making the decisions for these roles and the strategic direction are doing so based on their own experiences or beliefs and not necessarily a holistic approach across the organization. Stated in another way, they are not viewing the brand as a Customer. The key factors that are driving the current shift are:

  • Achieving Savings with the Shift to Digital
  • Seeking Competitive Advantage
  • Being Outpaced by Competitors in Ratings
  • Increase Sales
  • Social Media and Escalation Emails Causing the CEO to Take Notice

No matter the reason, I am glad to finally see the focus by senior leadership. Out of each of the reasons the one that causes me the greatest pause is the goal of achieving savings. I do not disagree that the right digital experience will definitely reduce calls therefore reducing a huge chunk of budget, but if this is the cause do you really care about the Customer and their experience? I would further caution companies to be careful what you wish for. If you are fully successful at stopping your Customer from calling you, you may find that the opportunity to truly build the relationship will be gone. This is when people will usually mention the efficiency of Amazon and their digital experience. I agree Amazon is an amazing company. I spend a great deal of money with them, but they built trust in their experience over years. The digital experience was core to who they are as a brand. Does your brand exude that same level of trust? Amazon has proven time and time again that they understand me, and their experience fulfills that. Do you understand your Customer? I would make the case that the reason Customer experience has been so poor in the first place was due to this lack of understanding. Yes I know companies often have the data, but the reality is they look at their Customer on a macro level or the “process”, not clearly understanding who the person really is. Amazon does not make you feel that way from the contextual way they present their website, to the speed they fulfill orders and their pricing is considered fair, or often, lower than any competitor. Cost of switching from Amazon is minimal, all I would have to do is change a favorite in my browser or add a new favorite, but the reality is their experience in my view is so above any of their peers that I have no reason to look.

One of the reasons the Customer experience is broken at many companies is we have tried to force the Customer into our view instead of taking the Customer view. We create processes for everything assuming that every Customer fits that exact situation, but at least in the Customer’s mind there is plenty of gray area. This gray area, which probably would never show up in a survey, has a deep influence on the Customer’s view of the brand. As an example, I personally love how Starbucks asks for your name when you order. It tends to personalize the entire experience. It was a great process to implement, but the challenge is on the micro level when incorrect names are heard or mispronunciation happens. To some this could become insulting (Starbucks please note I am not recommending discontinuing the practice, I personally love it). I think it is important to recognize any program is not a one size fits all Customers. The challenge for Customer experience is it goes well beyond our typical silo of operations that the role is often forced into. The experience is defined every day at all levels of the organization. Your marketing defines the expectations your brand wants to put forward, your legal department outlines risks often seen by Customers (terms and conditions often define your brand to Customers), compliance, fraud, even IT have direct implications on the Customer perceptions of the brand. I can go through every piece of your company and find the link. Often I hear CEO state that Customer experience is everyone’s responsibility. I do not disagree with the statement but the reality is we all view things based on our own experiences. I doubt a lawyer would say you know Customers would love us if we got rid of the terms and conditions, so let’s do that.

I often find myself thinking about these macro vs micro experiences that brands exude. I doubt most brands even see these tiny issues that have an impact on some of the Customers. This post came about because I have been speaking a lot to many businesses about the Customer experience. I continue to find the same issues at play. We want this macro answer to this micro problem. I was speaking at a hotel recently. One I have spoken at numerous time. It is a beautiful place with world class service, but I often receive a different message while I am there. In the area where I have spoken for the past year there is a spot where their is duct tape on the ground. Each time I would see it I would think about the message this was sending how the brand does not care for themselves to fix this frayed carpet. That carpet is part of the experience, maybe not to the extent as the check in process, but the message no matter how subtle is there. Duct tape is so useful it can fix almost anything but not your Customer experience. Unfortunately because of our traditional macro view of the Customer our Customer experience today is filled with a lot of duct tape.

We are entering an age of context and it will change how we do business (to learn more about the age of context check out Shel Israel and Robert Scoble’s new book of the same name). It will require us to know the Customer like never before, and get it right. It will impact marketing to Customers shifting from hitting the masses to one of targeting the person, at the right moment. It will be a time of proactive Customer Service as opposed to the current lack of reaction that seems to take place. There will be huge pitfalls during this time as well, especially regarding the data that is available on Customers and how to best utilize that information in a way that the Customer desires, even though each Customer may have vastly different views. Keeping ahead of all this will be a challenge for all, but the Customer Experience role will help organizations lead the way!

The Customer Experience Role is to bring the Customers view, no matter how big or small, into the conversation across all silos of the business. It is not specific to a channel of communication or product line. It is this person’s role to connect the dots and ensure the brand lives up to the promise that they give to each and every Customer. This promise will vary dramatically from brand to brand and so will the challenges within the existing culture of the business. For this person to be successful, the senior most leaders must buy into the shift. Success can never be achieved if this role is silo’ed in any way, except in the way the Customer views the brand.

If your business is taking a harder look at Customer Experience, I highly recommend that you follow the Customer Service channel on LinkedIn. I also recommend following my hero in the space, Don Peppers.

Remarkable Experiences: Is Your Brand Shareworthy?

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



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


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!


What It Means to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

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

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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

The Good Ole Boys of Spirit Airlines

Posted on : 05-05-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Leadership, Marketing, Social Media

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The past few weeks have been fascinating for me, watching Spirit Airlines and the latest Customer blow up to take over the internet.  In my book, @YourService, I talk about Customer gaining more and more control over your brand.  Ever since the days of Dell Hell & Comcast Must Die, Customers have been realizing this new found power.  Some of my favorite blow ups over the past year have been the Bank of America debit card fee fiasco, Netflix/Qwikster, and the Verizon payment fee.  Each of these examples are learning opportunities for businesses.  Spirit Airlines offers probably the greatest learning of them all.  So let’s take a quick look at each one.

  • Bank of America Debit Card Fee Fiasco – Timing is everything, and for BoA the timing was simply horrible.  At the time banks were viewed at an all time low.  The overwhelming opinion was they were money grubbing institutions that did not care for their Customers at all.  As you probably are also aware, government regulations on fees, and very low interest rates were making it difficult for banks to increase profitability while maintaining proper reserves.  Therefore banks started looking for new ways to make up the lost revenue.  Debit card fees made sense to many, since much of the fees lost were related to debit card purchases.  BoA should have done more Consumer research before introducing the possibility of such a fee.  They would have found that this particular fee very much angered their Customers, and Customers of other banks because they fear all banks would follow suit.  Bank of America should have also talked more openly about the impact regulations would have on the bank and in particular, Customers.  The challenge is the general population does not understand how banks make money, and the impact changes may cause.  Stated simply banks were not trusted.  The worst part about BoA handling of this situation was they defended it extensively, which pitted the company against their Customers.  Brian Moynihan, CEO of BoA even stated during the fiasco, that they have an “inherent right” to a “certain amount of profit.”  The fact is this showed the general population that the leader was out of touch with Customers and potential Customers.
  • Netflix/Qwikster – I am a Netflix streaming Customer, and love it!  I should say my kids love it (I do not get to watch my shows often).  Netflix to many has seemed like the savior for continually increasing cable bills, and the best part is that it was cheap!  You could easily use their streaming service and DVD by mail service at a very low rate of $9.99 a month.  In July of 2011 the company announced they were changing the plans.  Basically they were separating out the DVD by mail service and streaming.  For Customers who continue to use both, the rate would go up to $15.98 a month.  Given the cost to process items by mail as well as increased licensing cost for programming, this new rate could be justified.  It would also guide more people to streaming which certainly is cheaper for the company to process.  Of course that is not how the Customer viewed this change.  Customers saw a company they viewed as different then the cable company, increasing fees at an even higher percentage than the cable company.  Netflix immediately went from trusted disruptor to untrusted money grubber, just like cable.  In September Netflix announced that their intention with the fee hike was to separate the DVD by mail business from streaming and create a separate entity called Qwikster for DVD’s.  Netflix would just be streaming.  This set off a whole new firestorm.  Netflix failed to estimate the ramifications this would have for Customers and the way they shopped for their entertainment.  Needless to say a month later Netflix backed down on the Qwikster idea, but the fees stayed at $15.98 a month. After losing subscribers, Netflix is growing again, but through this, the trust level is not the same as it once was.
  • Verizon Payment Fee – Often companies try to send bad news out during slow news cycles, such as weekend or holiday weeks.  On December 29 Verizon issues a press release “Customers Encouraged to Use Options to Avoid Single Payment Fee That Starts Jan. 15.”  Besides being bad spin, the press release outlined a new $2 convenience fee for making payments.  Within 24 hours the net was filled with discussion about the fee.  The next day Verizon came back to reinforce the decision on the fee and clarify that the online chatter will not change their mind.  Of course the FCC was listening to the online chatter too! By 3:00 in the afternoon the FCC stated they would investigate the fee.  Almost immediately after that announcement, Verizon changed their mind regarding the fee.

These incidents prove that Customers are forcing change in companies!  The most recent incident involves the spunky good ole boys of Spirit Airlines.  I was shocked to notice that the company’s board of directors and leadership team appear to be all men.  Of course that has nothing to do with it, but maybe their lack of diversity and thought process is part of their problem.  That is not for me to decide, but certainly others can form their own view.  Spirit airlines has never shied away from controversy.  Over the years they have been accused misleading advertising, including this incident involving tweets, inappropriate advertising like the ‘threesome fares’ and ‘M.I.L.F Sale’ (no wonder women do not appear to be part of the company’s leadership or board!), and they even tried to spin government disclosure requirements to be about hiding taxes.  This ‘Animal House’ of airlines has been making a name for themselves in recent years, including making a nice profit thanks to add on fees, but I know it is a reputation I would never want to be part of.

As I discuss in my book @YourService, social media simply highlights the culture of the company that already exists.  In this case social media is highlighting the frat house style culture of this airline.  Over the years they have tried to spin it that they are ‘Customer friendly,’ including going on how carry on fees are a Customer benefit.  Spin is never a good approach, but it still shows you for who you are, because Customers are smart and can easily see through it.  There are two major issues impacting the brand over the past few weeks.  The major incident involves 76 year old, Vietnam vet, Jerry Meekins who is dying of esophageal cancer.  He no longer was permitted to fly by doctor’s order, and he requested a refund.  The airline responded that they would not be able to refund the money because he did not purchase the $14 insurance.  This is not the first incident like this, as you can see from this Consumerist post.  Of course this heartless approach does not fit with the spin they have historically provided indicating they are a Customer friendly airline.  Remember social media, simply displays the culture of your brand!  Spin no longer matters.  The company had numerous opportunities to quietly make an exception, and we would have never heard about Mr. Meekins, but the company decided to take the hardline approach.  As word spread regarding Mr. Meekins, the social media in conjunction with traditional media started to heat up about Spirit Airlines.  The company continued with their posture.  In fact CEO Ben Baldanza called into Fox News to discuss this.  Of course Fox brought up the fact that Spirit Airlines is leading, by more than double, in Customer complaints to the US Department of Transportation.  Mr. Baldanza was not horrified by this fact, but simply spun this further to indicate most Customers were happy.  I have never met a CEO that would not be horrified to be leading in complaints.  I agree number of complaints does not mean anything, unless you understand the details of those complaints.  It is still indicative that this airline is not living up to the spin they would like us to believe.  In my view, it showed that Mr. Baldanza is completely out of touch.

There are a few approaches you can take when dealing with incidents like this.  You can either try to quietly handle it (make it go away as I like to say) or you can be firm in your approach.  It would appear that the later was the direction Spirit wanted to take.  If you are going that direction, it is imperative that you explain why and clearly outline the benefit to all your Customers.  As an example, Spirit could have said that we strive to be the low cost airline, and to that effort we would not be able to make exceptions to this but we would like to find solutions, such as transfer the ticket to Mr. Meekins daughter so she could visit.  The next options could have been, once it reached the CEO and the publicity, Mr. Baldanza could have offered to refund the money out of his own pocket.  This way it would not be changing the rules but would have still made him out to be the good guy.  Spirit did not take any of these approaches.  Instead they took the hardline approach, but 24 hours after the Fox News piece, Mr. Baldanza issues a statement that they would now refund the money as well as donate to a cause close to Mr. Meekins.  Backing down, after the CEO took such a hardline stand in a public form, was probably not the right choice.  The negative brand hit was already there and this new gesture would not change that.  Of course it does reemphasize that we are now in an @YourService world!  This experience, which started as a simple Customer Service call, will be very altering for Spirit Airlines, and I would expect many dramatic changes over the course of the next year, including in the CEO position.  The Good ole boys may be moving out of the frat house!

This is not the only incident going on with Spirit Airline right now.  The social web is also enraged over a fare increase changing carry on bags to $100.  So even resolving the issue for Mr. Meekins does not change the discussion of the fee change.  Spirit has been a leader in the airline industry, at least when implementing new fees.  They led the way in checked baggage fees, boarding pass printing fees, carry on fees, and others.  They have not led the way regarding proper disclosure of fees.   I would guess this is one of the reasons for complaints regarding the airline.  It is also the reason they are not trusted at all, and these incidents will not help build that trust.  Any increase in fees will create a backlash in social media, but the key is how you discuss them.  Will fares go down due to the cost structure shift or service go up?  Spirit could have had good talking points if done properly.  In fact, I do believe they have seen fares go down, while fees went up.  They need to first embrace what they want to be.  If that is being the lowest cost provider, then fully embrace it with no spin.  They need to outline their fares compared to full service competitors in an open way.  So show fare, with carry on (paid online at time of ticket purchase) compared to multiple competitors for the same flight.  Then also show the same comparison with different options, such as paying for carry on at the time of boarding.  Spirit Airlines has failed to partner with their Customer to create the right experience for both the Customer and the company.  As complaint data indicates the company may be making a short term profit, but at the rate they are going, they will not be in business soon, unless they have dramatic changes.  These blow ups in social and traditional media do tend to force dramatic change, and I expect that will happen here.  Best of luck Spirit and Mr. Baldanza!

The Good Ole Boys of Spirit Airline!

Board of Directors (found here on the Spirit Airlines website)

Bill Franke, Chairman – Managing Partner of Indigo Private Equity, NewBridge Private Equity

Ben Baldanza, President & CEO – Spirit Airlines

David Elkins – Retired President & Co-CEO of Sterling Chemicals

H. McIntyre Gardner – Retired Head of Americas Region & Global Back Group, Global Private Client for Merrill Lynch

Robert Johnson – Retired CEO of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise

Barclay Jones III – Executive Vice President of Investments for iStar Financial Inc

Jordan Kruse – Managing Director Oaktree Capital Management

Stuart Oran – Managing Member of Roxbury Capital Group, former senior executive at United Airlines

Horacia Scapparone – CEO Bristol Group

John Wilson – Principal of Indigo Group

Management Team (found here on the Spirit Airlines website)

Ben Baldanza, President & CEO

Barry Biffle, Executive VP & CMO

Thomas Canfield, Senior VP & General Counsel

Ted Christie, Senior VP & CFO

Tony Lefebvre, Senior VP & COO

Jim Lynde, Senior VP Human Resources

Guy Borowski, VP Technical Operations

Jake Filene, VP Airport Services

Joseph Houghton, VP Flight Operations

Craig Maccubbin, VP & CIO

Edmundo Miranda, VP & Controller

Graham Parker, VP Pricing & Revenue Management

Charlie Rue, VP Financial Planning

Social Media is Part of the Solution to #OccupyWallSt

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



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

You’ve Got Mail! How Fast Does Your Business Evolve?

Posted on : 12-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Leadership

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‘You’ve Got Mail,’ a term we all loved to hear in the mid 90′s but when was the last time you heard it?  Actually for me it was about a month or two ago.  Do you remember the Tom Hank’s, Meg Ryan movie of the same name?  Yes, I watched it.  That movie started me thinking about the evolution of business.  Although AOL still exists it is a vastly different, smaller company today.  Last week I received an email from Barnes & Noble regarding their purchase of the Customer list from Borders.  Here is an image of the email:

I loved the human tone of the email, particularly this quote from Barnes & Noble CEO, William Lynch:

“First of all let me say Barnes & Noble uniquely appreciates the importance bookstores play within local communities, and we’re very sorry your Borders store closed.”

This brings me back to the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail.’  If you remember the movie, the character played by Meg Ryan owned a small book shop called ‘The Shop Around the Corner.”  Tom Hank’s character, along with his family, controlled the Fox Book Superstore, moving in around the corner.  Fox Books would remind you of any Barnes and Noble or Borders location.  It was very open, featuring a wide range of books, other media, and, of course, the all important coffee bar.  Although the two characters fell in love, ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ does go out of business.  The model changed and the little shop was not able to change with the times.  Now today we see the model changing again.  First Amazon made a strong competitor with their internet book business.  They further pushed the model with the introduction of the well loved Kindle.   The iPad and Apple furthered this evolution, as did Google and their Android devices.

Business models are changing all the time, and the most nimble businesses can bring success to this.  ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and Borders may not have been able to make it, but companies like Barnes and Noble are trying.  Amazon has proven to be a disrupter to the typical business model.  How nimble is your business?  Do you see change before it is too late?

It is interesting, when taken into context of yesterday’s Netflix post.  Evolution is imperative but timing can be very difficult.

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.