Featured Posts

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


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...


  • Prev
  • Next

It is Time to Take a Stand!!

Posted on : 04-09-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,


I want to thank everyone for the tremendous support for the #PositivelySocial campaign.  We were able to reach millions of impressions during the course of the day, but beyond that we have found many of us have the same goal of creating positive dialogue through social.  I am continuing what we started with #PositivelySocial, but this time focusing on a topic very close to my heart.  This campaign will only be going until Friday, but it is extraordinarily important to me, and millions of others.  I am so passionate on this topic, that I decided to take this a step further and post a video on the topic.  I would ask that you take 5 minutes of your day and watch the video/  I would then ask you to help spread the word to all your friends, families, and even your enemies.  I am sure we can all find common ground for this cause.  In the comments please share who you will take a stand for.


Is It Just Me?

Posted on : 23-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Uncategorized



I just finished my book @YourService and it is filled with Customer Service stories. It has the good, the bad and the ugly. In my view the businesses must make a shift in the new @YourService economy. Your Customers and employees now control your brand image. Often I am struck by stupid easy things businesses could fix, yet they fail to do so. Is it just me that sees this?

As Customers, new technology has brought us greater ease, yet it has caused us to grow ever more frustrated. Case in point is my recent experience with Best Buy. Best Buy has been an interesting case study for me. Over the past few years the company has gained greater control of their market by the departure of Circuit City. I am a tech geek and have spent a lot of money with them, and most likely will continue to do so (although debating that based on my experience with Amazon). Recently Forbes had an interesting piece on ‘Why Best Buy is Going Out of Business Gradually‘. The post has many strong and truthful observations about Best Buy and ways they could improve. For a few years Best Buy has also been trying to send the message that they are working to improve, including their Twitter Twelpforce initiative, their community forum and ideation efforts, as well as their CEO blog, where he welcomes feedback. I did enjoy the CEO’s post in response to the recent discussion of the Forbes piece. The problem is it should never have taken such a long time to gain reaction from the company. No matter what words are said, actions are louder. Online feedback regarding the retailer has been negative for a number of years, and I have yet to see evidence of any changes the company has made to create the right experience. I should note that I know many people within the Best Buy social team and I adore them. The failure here is not their efforts, it is the failure of the leaders to understand their Customer. Winning in social media is not some program, it is creating the right experience for the Customer where they want to talk about your brand.

Unfortunately I want to speak about the brand in a negative manner, because that is more fitting of my recent experiences. As Consumers, I wonder if our actions have told companies that poor service is okay! I especially think that way because I tend to attract it. That is probably for a post another day. On Black Friday I was wasting time so I went window shopping at Best Buy. While I was there, a TV caught my eye and the price was great. I decided to buy it. Well after waiting really long (not in a line mind you, just one Customer was doing some odd things involving credit, which they were not approved). There were 3 associates there but no one could do anything while this situation played out. So I went online and ordered the TV from a store that was on my ride home. When I arrived I already received the email that it was ready so I went to pick it up. Amazingly there was no line late in the day for pickup so I thought I would be in and out. Well that was not the case. It took well over 40 minutes to get the item from the back. I chalked that up as my fault for shopping on Black Friday. A week later I decided to order an accessory for the TV. I did it online with store pickup. This is where I started to see the dysfunction of the company. About an hour after ordering I went to pick it up. I never received the email but in my prior experience this typically took about 30 minutes. I went to the store and the associate said there is nothing they can do until ‘they’ transmit it to us. First of all they is you and you are Best Buy. After waiting in the store for 30 more minutes, I decided to pick it up myself figuring I could easily cancel the order. Probably my mistake too. First they could not cancel the order in the store. The mysterious ‘they’ had to do it. You also are not able to do it online. Now this makes business sense, take someone who prefers to self serve and send them to a call. If you want to save money, make it easy to do things online! Calling is a trip, but needless to say, after many transfers it did not happen. I did learn that if you do not pick up the item, eventually they cancel it, so I did that. That brings me to my latest. I ordered a game system and some games for store pickup. When I received the first email it had an item with the wrong store as the pickup location. I quickly relooked at the order and for some reason the incorrect store was listed for 1 out of 7 items. Why would your online system even allow that to happen? Bad Customer experience! An easy warning asking do you want to pickup items at two locations would resolve this. Of course I still blame myself for not catching it prior to submitting the order. I do take issue with what transpired next. I called to cancel the order. When you do the only real option that fits is speak to someone, so I select that. Once you get to that point you have to describe your issue, and more importantly, the product you purchased, then you are transferred to describe it all over again. Of course you do not get to describe it when you are transferred to dead air or disconnected. After working on this for 30 minutes, I give up and head to pick up my items. I assumed the products were ready, even though the confirmation only listed two items. I luckily assumed right. While driving I called again and on the 4th attempt I was able to get the item cancelled. Why do I have to go through all that? Why, as I was getting increasingly frustrated, did no one empathetic to my frustration? I am willing to bet it happens so often that the agents simply do not care. This is all emblematic of a larger cultural issue.

As I vented this on Twitter, others came out to vent frustration, including Lon Seidman, who shared a strikingly similar post from 2009. Now I do love Best Buy and hope I start to feel the difference, but if it does not happen soon, I am afraid I will be seeking alternatives. Is it just or is service going downhill?

Do You Build the Right Messages for Your Customers?

Posted on : 18-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, Uncategorized

Tags: ,


I had a great experience returning an item to Lowes last week. The cashier made if fast and was very friendly. She even noticed, without me saying, the color difference which was the reason for the return. Even with that great experience I left with a different message and it is something that can help other companies too. Like many retailers, the service desk is located by the front of the store. It is fairly open area, so it is easy for Customers to see behind the counter. I am always fascinated by hand written signs behind service counters. They usually are something about the policy. In this particular location the sign was signed by the Loss Prevention department, so of course, I had to read it! I did take a picture but it was too blurry to share. Basically the message was to the service team. It was a reminder of a policy about Customer or employees trying to exit through the entrance. I immediately thought about all the times I exited through the entrance. 9 times out of 10 it was because I forgot something in the car. No the 1 out of 10 was not theft! It was because they did not have what I was looking for so I was leaving. Anyway the sign tell the service personnel if anyone tries to exit through that door, you are to immediately stop what you are doing, including helping other Customers and confront the person using the wrong exit and guide them to the other exit by the cash registers.

I should be clear that I understand the need for loss prevention, and years ago even did it. There are benefits for Customers in keeping costs low. That being said, telling a service agent to break away from the Customer they are helping to help the loss prevention team, is ridiculous. It is not the Customers fault that the loss prevention team is not able to watch the door properly. I also do not think it is a good practice to dictate what doors a Customer must use.

In this new world of @YourService it is important to know the message you are sending to your own employees and Customers. Their interactions are what define your brand. This handwritten memo is an example of this message. Have you seen message like this? As a Customer how do they make you feel?

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

Tags: , , ,


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.

Is Your Business Ready for the Thank You Economy?

Posted on : 10-03-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized

Tags: ,


This may be preaching to the choir, but the world has changed.  Many who read this blog already understand that this change is dramatic and the power of the Customer is huge.  But between you and I businesses do not see this yet.  It is sad that businesses continue to be focused on force feeding their brand message.   Do you want to help change this?  Then buy a business leader Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book ‘The Thank You Economy!’

Social media is not anything special, it is simply a new communication medium, but it does create dramatic shift for businesses.  Today people are sharing details of their opinion of products and influencing those around them.  More than that, they are also sharing information that they want other to know about themselves.  How can you make this part of your  business?

I think this year will present a few tipping points that will be interesting to follow.  I do expect some individuals will back away from social media as they figure out what they are willing to share in the space.  Don’t worry, I think this will be short lived.  I also expect many of these firms that have popped up promising huge returns via social media will start to shut down or merge in with larger firms.   We will also continue to see the growth and improvements to social crm tools.  Listening tools will continue to improve speed, and the abilities for Customer engagement.  These are keys necessary for this shift to the Thank You Economy.

The most important part of this shift will be the human interaction that is missing in many company social media efforts.  Now they do exist but in many cases not endorsed or supported by the business.  This will change over the next few years.  We will see more companies embracing their own employees use of social media.  The fact is employees are the most passionate about the company and they are the best ones to represent the company to Customers.  We will also see companies focus on the Customer experience.  This will not just be a marketing message, but rather a shift in the way they conduct business.  There will be a major change in cultures for companies and those who embrace these aspects will be the long term winners.

Over the years I have heard how the Zappos model does not scale, nor the ability to create a one to one experience for Customers.  I disagree with this view, especially since tools make this scalability very easy.  It does require change, which I know will be hard.  I have seen so much change in the world, many of which could have never been predicted.  We have to create a new vision.  Here is an interview Gary did on MSNBC today:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In my view the ‘Thank You Ecomomy’ is not just theory, it is part of the new reality.  Gary has already proven it and shown the way on how businesses can succeed.  Will your business listen?

Humanizing the Brand: Building Partnerships Throughout Your Business

Posted on : 17-12-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized


This post has been a long time coming.  Over the past few years I have sometimes been frustrated by the shortsighted views I hear regarding social media.  Over the years I have heard PR or marketing should own social, to which I always respond the Customer owns social, not the business or these specific business units.  To this point I have always asked the question as to why shouldn’t Customer Service own social, since they are the best equipped to have discussions with Customers.  This is what they do best.  Of course one could make the case that I am just being as short sighted as the PR and marketing teams who state the same about the areas they work in.  But in reality we are all right, yet we are all wrong.
Although the thoughts of this post have built up over the past few years, the inspiration to post it today is based on a post by David Armano in November called ‘Humanizing Business & Brands: Your Ambassador Ecosystem.‘  His post was also cross referenced on Edelman’s blog and today David and Chris Ehrlich exchanged comments that really add to what has been going through my mind.
“The approach to social media as marketing/communications only is not sustainable to business in the long run.” -David Armano

Social is the Disorganized Labor Movement

The sheer numbers of those on Twitter (over 175 million registered users according to their about us page) and Facebook (over 500 million active users per their statistics page) guarantee that many employees are participating in social media.  If you read many employee handbooks you will see restrictions on representing the company in social media.  I apologize to the lawyers, but that is not very enforceable.  Employees are a key part of what people think about the brand and people in social media like to talk about what is one their minds.  Since most people spend 40 hours or more each week working, this is a key part about what is on their minds.  They will and do share the good, bad and ugly as part of their day.  They also connect with many of their friends from work within these communities which helps magnify the voice that they have.  Over the years many companies have threatened, fired, or even promoted people for the voice they have taken in social media.  I have been asked my view on actions companies should be taking, and to me it is not much different then what I would recommend regarding Customers.  First if they are talking, they do have a passion for the company.  If you do not like what they are saying, it is best to listen to them, and talk about it with them.  Maybe it is a point they do not fully understand, so maybe you help them with that.  It can also be a valid point and I would highly recommend listening to them and seeing if there is a way you can improve the employee experience.  The fact is your employees are the brand ambassadors and it is key to give them the tools necessary to achieve this.  I know legal departments are scared of these blurred lines, but that fire is already started and there is not going to be a way to put it out.  Like it or not, the world as we used to know it no longer exists.  Employees are key partners.

Be a Part of the Customer Revolution

I have discussions all the time with Customer Service, marketers and communications experts from major brands. It amazes me the lack of understanding each group has regarding social media. Many marketers have visions of sales galore and viral marketing gone wild. Some of the communications experts have vision of their message spreading like wild fire. Parts of the Customer Service field views the space as snarky and in many cases the ‘lunatic fringe’ of the brand. Of course there are many individuals within these business worlds who do understand the space, and excel at it. The first key message is understanding Customers are really the ones who own the space, and they will be the ones who decide what messages spread. Over the years I continue to hear about ‘influencers’ and how they will drive the right messages. Today your everyday Customer is the true influencer. No one will want to spread a message if your own Customers don’t buy in. Imagine blogging about a brand that is not well liked? What would happen to your influence?

The easiest way to understand this revolution could be reviewing your own habits. If you are like me you do not make a purchase without reading reviews. I have been in the middle of Best Buy and using my phone to read reviews on Amazon or other websites. I have also asked friends their opinions via social media. It is amazing but in many ways we trust people we have never met in person to relay their experience with a product or service.

If you are among the many companies doing social service, I will be the first to tell you this is not enough. Jermiah Owyang over the years has spoken about social Customer Service not being scalable. Well, technically it is scalable. It is easy to queue a tweet or blog post. But I agree fully with his true thoughts, which is that companies need to correct the causes of the trouble in the first place. This means rethinking the way Customer Service operates, improving products based on this feedback and building your Customer base as a community for your products. Unfortunately most companies listening in social are not taking much action to improve the Customer experience. If companies truly want to be a part of social, they must understand the concepts of building community and create their own brand advocates. This is what will lead to the holy grail of social media: Customers leading the charge regarding your brand message and building sales.

We Are All Part of the C-Suite

The key to social media success is not fighting employee involvement or the Customer revolution that is going on, but to embrace it. Encourage your employees to participate in social media and educate them how. Listen to their suggestions as well as those of your Customers. Your employees will be able to build trust in the space and show the expertise they have built within the field. We know from many surveys that people tend to trust people, especially those who are like yourself. The reason Zappos has been so successful in social is their own employees build trust and we can relate to many of them as people like us. Beyond all this, it is key that we break down these silos that separate us within our business. As I mention above, many listen in the space but few take action. This is because much of the listening is taking part within a silo and not shared throughout the organization. I do not care if you are in PR, marketing, Customer Service, or even work for an agency of the company. Each of you represents the company and must strive to improve the business. The company must rethink the typical top down we have seen, but I also think all the other layers within the company must start to feel like they are part of the C-Suite and help the organization improve. You can no longer say it is not my job!

Part of Leadership is Giving Back

Posted on : 04-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized


This is a post I wrote for the Comcast corporate blog, Comcast Voices. It was originally posted on August 3, 2009.  I am posting here because I will be doing a follow up post based on the same leadership program.

This year Ive had the privilege to be a part of a leadership training program at Comcast called the Fundamentals of Leadership. The training brings in both internal and external thought leaders to help educate the future leaders within the company. I am one of about 45 others that were selected to be part of the 2009 class.

A large part of the culture of Comcast is giving back to communities, and it is important for leaders within the organization to demonstrate this. The training was a lot of work but I loved the intimate conversations with people like Steve Burke, COO of Comcast. One of the speakers that had the greatest impact on me was Colonel Robert L. Gordon III from City Year. I didnt know much about this organization but now I am so proud of what they have accomplished. They even have 2 members of their organization going through the training. During the next session I will ask them if I can feature them on the blog.

We also did our own little community project during the initial 3 days of training. We went to Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and learned about their “Reach Out and Read program. From there we went into the hospital, met with families and read to the children. This was more personal to me based on prior time in the hospital. I loved seeing the kids light up simply because we were taking the time to read with them. There was one little boy where a bunch of us sat on the floor and played cars for the longest time. The mother and son had a lot of fun and were able to forget, for a little while at least, some of what they were going through.

As the first session of training concluded, we were assigned our first project: create, manage and implement a project for Comcast Cares Day which was happening a little over a month away. This was difficult because many of us, including myself, had already planned to participate in that day in other ways. I wanted to find a way to teach non-profits about using social media. We decided this would need to be a stand alone project from the Comcast Cares Day event. While I was at the Comcast Cares Day I was so jealous of the great work done by so many people in the class. They were doing everything from beautifying neighborhoods to providing a piece of home to our troops.

Now the little project I had in mind has grown tremendously, thanks to the efforts of Jorge Alberni, Scott McNulty and many others. We recently launched the website for the Comcast New Media Exchange, which will be held on August 4th and 5th. It includes great speakers like Josh Bernoff, best selling co-author of Groundswell and Andrew Bleeker, the New Media Director for President Barrack Obamas Inaugural Committee. It also includes friends like Pete Blackshaw, Scott McNulty and Chris Krewson. Special to my heart is Jay Scott from Alexs Lemonade Stand. Im also really looking forward to hearing Colonel Gordon again. If you have time make sure you log on to hear him speak, he is amazing.

The event in Philadelphia is by invitation only (really due to space), but it all will be broadcast live on the net for free. Check it out at www.comcastnewmediaexchange.com.