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


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

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


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’

Customers can’t tell you about…

Posted on : 23-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Leadership


I continue to hear about listening to Customers and words like innovation, but I wonder how much of this is lip service.  Even more importantly I wonder if thing like Ideation websites and other ways to show Customers you are listening are purely PR and not a true transformation in thoughts within a company.  In my opinion it really comes down to culture.  The reason I feel it is important to provide excellent Customer Service is because, more than ever, the Customer is your marketing.  If you are going to depend on Customers to sell the benefits of your product, you have to provide them the best products and service.  But will Customers help you get this best products?  Thanks to my friends at Mac Rumors, I came across this 1985 Newsweek interview with Steve Jobs (they reprinted it due to Steve’s current leave of absence – I wish him well).  At the time Steve, at the age of 30, recently left Apple and was determining his next steps.  It is fascinating to read his thoughts, especially because I believe he has held true to them 25 years later, but also how they apply to today’s business environment.  I recommend reading through the entire posts, but I want to share a part of one of the responses:

Q. In the end it did get down to who would run the company.
A. I think, more importantly, it was which philosophy and perspective, more than an individual person. You know, my philosophy is—it’s always been very simple. And it has its flaws, which I’ll go into. My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that’s my perspective, that everything starts with a great product. And that has its flaws. Ihave certainly been accused of not listening to the customers enough. And I think there is probably a certain amount of that that’s valid.

A key aspect to innovation is understanding your Customer and having a passion to create the best products for them.  As Steve points out, Customer may not know what they need next, but you can take Consumer insights and a passionate group of people and truly guide to the next big thing for your industry.  As I read through the entirety of the interview, I wonder if companies, with all the analytical information they have access to, are heading in the right direction.  How much of this innovation is really the artistic abilities of people connected to the needs of the Consumer, but a passion to build something new.  Do we sometimes stifle innovation by using Customer data to show it is not what they want?

The more I think about this, the more Apple’s history can help change the landscape of business in America.  This is not me being a fanboy, but instead relating their history to what we see everyday in business.  In 1983 Apple brought in John Sculley to be CEO.  John was president of Pepsico and a well respected marketer.   You can see very quickly when reading Wikipedia entry for John what eventually happened.  Here is an excerpt from the time Steve was still with the company:

some of the privileges of the elite development groups were trimmed, and projects were subject to stricter review for usefulness, marketability, feasibility, and reasonable cost.

Most people in business would read that quote and say absolutely.  Now I want you to put the Steve Jobs hat on.  Steve would view this as stifling innovation and placing costs ahead of creativity.  I do not see these words being said around Apple much today.  In fact I think the case could be made that the opposite is true.  Of course when you innovate, as Steve said in 1985, it is imperative to have the Customer in mind.  At the end  of the day you have to come out with products that sell.  I alway look at tablets as a good example.  If Steve always kept the data in mind, there is no way we would have ever seen the iPad.  Yet the Apple team created it anyway, and sales are easy proof of success.

Steve Jobs is the ultimate Linchpin but instead of being a Linchpin for Apple, he has really been one for all of business.  After returning to Apple, Steve has proven that the ‘start up’ type business model can scale and be profitable.  Who are some other business leaders that can transform business?  I think there are many, some are good, while others may have created a negative impact.

Moving Forward! Enjoying the Ride

Posted on : 13-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Leadership, Personal

Tags: ,


The past few years have been very transformative for me, as they have for many of us in the social media space.  This transformation, like all others, has had many ups and downs.  I tend to always portray an upbeat, positive view on where I am and where I am headed, but I will not say it has not been tested at times.  Overall I feel very lucky to have had recognition for doing work that I truly love.  I also feel lucky to have had the opportunity to connect with so many of you.  I learned from you everyday and look to do that even further.  Recently you have seen an increase in the number of posts, and I hope to continue to that for a long time to come.

I have had a debate in my own mind regarding where I was headed in life and how I would get there.  I am not going to tell you that I have everything pegged but I do know where my focus is.  Recently I had a conversation with a dear friend and advisor regarding my career.  We spoke a lot about technology, changing business environment and key decision points that need to be made at times.  Rich will probably never read this, but it was an extremely helpful conversation.  Right now social media is the hot thing, and I strongly believe it will change businesses, especially how they deal with the Customers and also their employees.  I plan to help lead this change in many fronts!

The past year has been an amazingly successful for me, but one of the reasons I have not blogged as much is I had much on my mind.  As any reader here knows, Customer Service is my passion.  To me, social media has simply been a tool I could use to express that passion.  There have been points where I lost some of that passion due to interactions I rarely talk about.  I have had my share of negative interactions, including threats to myself and my family.  One reached the level of requiring a restraining order.  When things like that happen, you naturally question the paths you have chosen, no matter how successful they are.  If you want to understand me better, know that I tend to want to share everything (I am not good at giving surprises), so when you notice I get quiet here, there is probably things on my mind, that are not easy or appropriate to share.  It is hard for me to do that, but we all must recognize there are times that is the best approach, no matter how hard it is.

So back to my conversation with Rich.  We were discussing how people who move fast, especially driven by technology or unique knowledge tend to have career paths with ups, followed by downs.  Then when they adapt to the next big thing, they ride the roller coaster back up, at least until the next dive.  There are others who plan out their career in a manner that it keep climbing.  Usually this is much more methodical.  Part of this is knowing what the end game really is.  Where do you want to be.  For me when it comes to career, someday I may want to work on my own as a consultant, but that day is not today.  My career aspirations are simple.  I want to attain the role of Chief Customer Officer.  This is not a role that exists in many places, but as companies realize the changing world environment, they will learn that the Customer experience is the key to success in the long term.  It can not be buzz words but a complete transformation of the business approach.  It also requires new leadership in the Customer Service world to grab the seat on their own.  This has not typically been the type of leader within that world.  Times are changing, and Customer Service must move forward.

So how do I plan on moving in this direction?  First I do believe the transformation aspects of social will help lead the way in this career path.  The interest in the space provides many unique opportunities internal to an organization, but also external.  I will continue to be at the forefront of this.  This year I have been provided the opportunity to join the board of directors for the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals.  If you have any involvement with the Customer, I highly recommend joining this organization.  I learn from every member I have interacted with.  They are just as passionate about the Customer experience.  Through this involvement, I like to continue to learn, while helping to provide the leadership to help everyone of their members to take the seat at the table.  Together we are moving the Customer Service world forward!

If you have not noticed, I have much more confidence today, but it is not alway that way.  Last month I was asked about my interest in joining the board of directors for the Council of Better Business Bureaus.  I can tell you my immediate response was yes (in fact in may have been hell yes).  Right after sending it, I started to look over the current board and I started to think I am not worthy.  To me the BBB is the epitome of service and integrity.  The BBB can be traced back to 1912, and during the majority of that time they were the leader in fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.  Their history has not been perfect.  Right now the BBB is going through its own transformation.  Like many businesses, the BBB is made up of many silos around the US and Canada.  This, the changing world we live in, and other factors led to the need for the transformation.  I have confidence in everyone I met with the CBBB (the Council of Better Business Bureaus) that they are headed in the right direction.  I look at this transformation as a great opportunity for me to represent each of the Customers that the BBB serves.  In my view they serve businesses that are paying for the accreditation, non-members companies who they still work with to resolve complaints, and the general public.  So in my view, those Customers are who I represent, and I will always be happy to have your feedback (frank [at] frankeliason.com).  Together we are going to move the BBB forward.

So I am happy to report to you that I am moving forward with a clear focus and mission.  I look forward to have you with me for the ride.

EDITORS NOTE:  I am trying to write more posts, but you may not see posts over the next week due to the BBB Board Meeting and other commitments, but I promise you will be seeing many more posts in the future. Thank you!

Part of Marketing is Knowing Who You Are

Posted on : 30-12-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Leadership, Marketing

Tags: ,


First I hope everyone experienced an amazing year this past year and is looking ahead to an even better 2011.  I started this post to be the typical well wishes and a handful of predictions for the year ahead, but in some ways that gets so passé.  But then last night and today a topic hit home and I decided that was a more appropriate post to end the year with.  I will still throw a few predictions at the end of this post.

So yesterday @BarryMoltz Twittered out “Can you celebrate others achievements without comparing them to your own?”  I quickly responded “sure. I am not trying to be them, I am trying to be me. I would be happy for their success.”  This conversation was followed up today by a post I really enjoyed by Chris Brogan “The Evolution of Chris Brogan.”  In the post Chris describes what his true brand is and what he is all about.  It was interesting reading his history.  I first noticed the post on Facebook and I posted the following response:

“The key is you are you and I respect that. Too many strive to be others when the key is be comfortable with yourself and achieving your goals. Thanks for writing this. It is a topic on my mind as well, although not who is Chris! Happy new year and continued success”

The one challenge to posting a comment to a Chris Brogan Facebook post is I receive a lot of emails with comments from others (I know I can turn that off, but I typically enjoy it. Of course Chris receives more comments than most people I know).  One of the comments was negative toward the post, asking Chris to focus less on himself and more on Chris’ knowledge of marketing.  To me the post was exactly about Chris’ knowledge of marketing and relayed a lot of information to the reader of what Chris has learned over the years, the value he offers his readers, his business value in this changing world and what his businesses are offering to non-profits and businesses that wish to hire them.

We also learn another, more human aspect, that ties into the Twitter conversation I had last night with Barry.  We are all a product of our history, and that is what makes us special.  There is never a need to try to be someone we are not or try to be someone else.  Every year we get the chance to evolve, learn, grow, and in some cases step back.  This is the best part of being human.  One of the biggest things I learned this year is I am happy being me.  There have been times where I contemplated where I was headed, even tried to emulate people I was not.  I think this is all part of the growing process.  I joked a lot over the past year that I was trying to decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, but it really was not a joke.  I was debating in my own mind and which path was the right one for me.  You see Customer Service professionals are not always looked upon as highly as they should.  This is part of my history and adds to this quest to be more.  Today as I write this I have come to respect that I am a service visionary and I have been provided a forum to help lead a change in the way business views the Customer.   I am not only comfortable with this, it is who I am, and I am proud of it.

Knowing who you are is key to marketing yourself, just as knowing what your business stands for is key to marketing your business.

Now I promised a few predictions for the year ahead, so here they are:

  • DOWNTURN IN SOCIAL – To the surprise of many but I expect a dip in social media activity, especially on Facebook and Twitter for at least two quarters next year.  This will not last long, but the everyday person using social media will have privacy concerns and will step back to determine how they wish to use the space
  • TWITTER SELLS – By the end of 2011 Twitter will be forced to sell as they continue to strive to build a sustainable financial model, investors will want to see a return on investment
  • TRADITIONAL MARKETERS BACK AWAY – Many marketers are still looking for that silver bullet marketing concept, and when they can not hit the magic mark, social will not appear as sexy as it does today
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE – We will see improvements from many companies as they start to focus more on the Customer experience.  We will also see a dramatic rise in the number of companies who have Chief Customer Officers as part of the C-Suite
  • SOCIAL TOOLS – We will continue to see a rise in the number of tools for social media, but the market will begin to mature and we will see a consolidation and reduction in the number of players for listening platforms.  The rise will be in CRM variations and visual analysis.
  • THE APP WORLD – I know many loves apps, but with so many variations in devices we will see a revamped effort of companies to focus on mobile web experiences, which will be easier to accomplish than multiple versions of apps

Leadership Buried in the Snow

Posted on : 29-12-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Leadership

Tags: , ,


This week many parts of the northeast experienced an unexpected blizzard causing massive trouble.  The cleanup is taking much longer than expected, especially in New York City.  I am sure over the next few weeks we will see a lot of finger pointing, and in most cases well deserved.

First lets take a look at this video that went viral yesterday (please note language many not be appropriate around children):

The video shows NYC workers who clearly do not care for the people they serve.  I know they will be the ones blamed, and I support that, but what I see here is an environment where they do not car about their Customers at all, and there is little accountability.  What would have happened if there was no video?  I would also be interested in what was going on behind the scenes.  Could there have been a supervisor demanding that they get the bulldozer back to work, no matter the cost?  It could be many things, but as I looked deeper at this issue it turns out the city is in the process of demoting 100 supervisors and losing 100 more through attrition.  Many are saying the union is actively having a work slow down based on these cuts.  If so, shame on the union for doing this to their Customers, and the people who could be the biggest advocates for them.  In my time in NY I have observed many of the sanitation workers doing their best to create the best city possible.  In fact in prior storms the city residents have usually applauded their work.  Not this time and that is sad because I am sure many are working very hard to do the right thing.  In this changing world the court of public opinion is key and it will impact how governments, businesses and even unions work.  The video you see above was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people in the past 24 hours.  I do not think it will help any of the parties involved.  Welcome to the connected world!

Now lets head over to the airport to see the fun going on there.  Yesterday I was horrified as I read this CNN article ‘Airline Passengers Unloaded After 11 Hours on the JFK Tarmac.’  Here is a video:

I should point out that the New York area airports are run by the Port Authority of NY & NJ and not directly related to the streets department in the video above.  I could not help but think about what it would be like stuck on a plane that had arrived at the destination for that amount of time.  On multiple occasions I have been on the tarmac at other airports for about 3 hours, and I know I was going stir crazy.  It is a little unclear as to the actual cause.  I have seen finger pointing to the airlines for not checking if a gate was available prior to taking off as well as statements about the lack of available Customs agents.  Customs has stated that they have people at JFK 24/7.  In my opinion, this is about neither one of those.  First the flight was permitted to land at the airport, so at that point the airport takes on the responsibility.  I am not well versed on how airports run, but I would venture to guess that a plane landing and sitting on the tarmac is the responsibility of air traffic control, as well as the leaders of the airport.  If I assume the statements of gate availability and lack of Customs officers are the true cause, I still blame airport leadership and air traffic control.  It is clear that no one cared about the passengers.  A leader is sometimes faced with difficult choices, and in some cases must break the rules.  In this case I am confident that individuals recognized how horrible this must have been but they were afraid to make decisions.  The rules are no international plane can disembark on American soil without clearing Customs first.  If I were the leader of the airport I would have contacted the highest levels available to me at Customs to find a solution.  As part of that conversation I would have proposed allowing them to disembark in another area, hopefully somewhat confined (but not remain on the tight quarters of a plane), until officers were ready to proceed.  If that was not acceptable to US Customs, I would have made the decision to move ahead if they did not find another solution in a reasonable time.  In terms of not having available space, there are 2 clear options.  First is moving planes in slots, but not actively in use.  I think it is safe to say that the airport has relationships with other airlines and could have pulled in this favor.  If this was not possible due to lack of pilots to move the planes, then I would have moved the planes closest to a terminal and then used stairs to disembark, or at least provide the option.  These choices would be difficult, and could have led to being arrested, but they would have been the right choices for the passengers, the Customers in this case.  The court of public opinion would have seen this as the right thing to do.

We are in a new world order, and in the past things like this would not be as open as they are today.  Leaders, whether they are union leaders, government leaders, or in business must be willing to make tough choices that are the right thing to do.  Trying to lead others by fear is wrong, but more importantly leading is sometimes making tough choices and partnering with others to find solutions.  I expect both these incidents will create change, but I hope people look at what was truly the cause of the incidents instead of just the people directly involved.