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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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Enough is Enough: Observations from a Horrific Day

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic Pulse: Saturday Errands

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


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

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

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

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

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

What Can Tabora Farm & Orchard Teach Us About Business?

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



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

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

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

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

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

I Do Not Know What to Say But Here We Go…

Posted on : 09-11-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Politics


As you may have noticed I have not had a post since Monday.  I started so strong and then down hill it went.  I have started a number of posts but I never was able to finish them in a manner that I like.  It felt good when I saw CC Chapman mention in a tweet that he was having similar trouble.  This has been an eventful week.  We have a new President-elect.  The victory should take away much of the division that we have seen in recent Presidential elections.  No matter your political affiliation, I have a feeling that many people are grateful that there is no question in the results.  It is now time to be optimistic for the future.  


Now back to the topic at hand, I wrote different posts on topics such as optimism, and favorite positive Customer Service companies.  Optimism is easy because I like to think that I am usually very optimistic.  At the same time I was not sure how it would come across to readers because it did have a tie in to politics.  The challenge is I am not a fan of politics and I also feel that individual politicians, including the President do not hold as much power as they think they do.  So yes I am optimistic for the future, but I think that is simply related to change, not so much the individuals.  The Customer Service story I was writing talked about companies that I have a lot of respect for.  The companies included USAA, Vanguard Group, and Zappos.  The trouble with this is Vanguard was an employer a number of years ago. Zappos I consider many from their fabulous team to be friends.  So I did not want the post to be viewed with personal bias.


At the same time I was writing the Customer Service post, Zappos also announced changes to staff due to economic conditions.  This could have led to a whole post on that.  They truly did this reduction in a manner that was a class act.  You do not have to take my word for it, but see what Tony posted about it. Or search through the Twitter feed from their employees.  There are some great people at the company so if you are in the market for shoes, check them out.  They are a class act.


We also saw many other economic news, high unemployment, auto companies in need of a bailout, etc.  So you may ask why people can be optimistic.  I agree that can be difficult because of all the news and the manner it is sometimes presented.  But for me changes lead to many positive things, but even more importantly what we have been seeing is friendships and family becoming more a priority for everyone.  We all pull together during times like these because it is the right thing to do.  We show ourselves as a much more caring society.


What do you have to be optimistic about?

Why Can’t Politicians Abide By the Do Not Call List Too?

Posted on : 02-11-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Politics



Views expressed here are my own and not representative of my employer!


I have to admit I am not a fan of most politicians on either side of the aisle.  Mainly because they are career politicians that strive to look out for their interests and not those that they serve.  I have yet to hear a politician that was honest enough to admit that about themselves.  They normally say that about others they are running against, but the case can be made against them too.


In the past week I have had calls from both sides of the aisle encouraging me to vote for their candidate.  I have even had recorded calls from my local politician Patrick Murphy encouraging me to vote.  Each of these calls seem to come at inopportune times, such as when I am putting the kids down for a nap or dinner.  If they understood those they served they would have included political calls in the Do Not Call legislation.  Even if that was not done they could think to scrub their list against the Do Not Call Registry prior to doing it.  I am half tempted to not vote for the group calling, unfortunately it is both sides.  Does this frustrate you too?


Another interesting marketing technique I have seen this year is post cards and letters that look like they are from individuals encouraging me to vote for a candidate based on their reasons for selecting them.  They are interesting because they have the look of being personally written and they even include the return address of the sender.  I should check if it is even a real return address and a real person.  Probably not that important and I probably threw them out.  Does this mean they are sharing my address?  I doubt it because they are probably mass produced, but wouldn’t that be inappropriate sharing of personal information?


I do want to encourage everyone to vote on Tuesday based on the candidates that you think are best.  I am looking forward to the political season to be over, but I do think it is important for everyone to vote.