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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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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...

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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...

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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...

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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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Customers are Talking About Blank

Posted on : 29-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Social Media

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I saw this video and had to share it. What is the right blank for you?

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Posted on : 24-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Personal, Social Media

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I have tried to write this post numerous times and continue to get lost for words.  I will apologize ahead of time but I have been wanting to write this for a long time, but post it today.  With all the attempts to start it, I am just getting to the third sentence at 12:02 on Friday, 7/24.  Those that know me, they know July is an emotional time for me.  In fact I even snapped at one of my favorite leaders at work (I should call her today and have her read this).   Twitter has been a wild ride for me, and, for the most part, it has been an amazingly positive experience.  I can not believe all the friends I have made and all the people that have written about our work.  But that is such a small part of the overall story.  I am hoping this will show everyone the true power of social media and Twitter.

So as everyone knows I work for Comcast, a company that has been very good to me.  Since I started on Twitter there are many people who have started to understand the company a little better and may have an improved feeling toward the brand.  I want to take everyone back a little bit to last year.  I started on Twitter back in April, 2008.  With all the discussion of my help, I was working day and night.  I did not have others on Twitter until September or October.  Needless to say it was tough, but on July 26, 2008 I realized what all this hard work was all about.

It was not about PR or marketing, as some believed.  For me it was about helping people that needed assistance, but even I was proven wrong.  Late July is a unique time for me.  My soon to be 3 year old daughter, Lily, was born on July 25.  Last year we had a variety of different things going on, so the only day we could have a party was July 26.  I still can not believe that we had a party on the day, but we would have felt guilty if she did not have a party, which we did think about.  This is because our other daughter, Gia, passed away on July 26, 2004.  In many ways the party turned out to be a good thing, because we were so busy and focused on creating a good day for Lily that it made it much easier on us.  I will never forget the day for so many reasons, from the running around in the morning picking up cakes, balloons, beer, soda at all different places (having it all piled in the Prius must have been a funny thing to see) to the waiting when everyone arrives late after rushing to have it all prepared.  Anyway, the day went well and we were hanging with some neighbors after everyone left.  I swore I would not even look at Twitter that day.  We were sitting in the family room drinking and talking.  My Mac sits on the counter, and I was sitting on the bar stool, so I could not help myself.  I started glancing through my search and I started to notice some interesting tweets.  People responded to others that tweeted me.  Some told Twitter users to let me have my day, others offered suggestions to help, while others simply offered to help.  All I can say is I was touched, and to be honest amazed to see it.  This is when I realized what Twitter is really about.

I hear experts on social media talk about ways to market or how to build up your reputation, these types of thoughts are all wrong.  This is not about going out and posting all kind of links or driving people to other sites.  Twitter is about community and relationships, pure and simple!

I will probably not be around much this weekend, but now I have a team out there who are eager to help.  In fact they have asked me to turn it off this weekend (they even threatened to turn off my internet access).  I do want to take the time to thank them, but also the community of Twitter who over the past 15 months have been so good to me.  Thank you!

Social Media is Powered by Service

Posted on : 23-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media

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Forrester’s Dr. Natalie Petouhoff has a great post over at Forrester called Who Should Lead the Customer Social Media Interaction?.  This is a question I have thought about often.  All of us contemplate our future and what we want to be when we grow up.  I am the same way.  I always wondered which direction I should follow, social media or Customer Service.  As everyone knows my passion is Customer Service but social media brings a whole new realm into my career path decisions.  So I want to thank Natalie for helping shed some light on this for me.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Natalie that Customer Service should lead the Customer social media interaction, but this does not mean I think that Customer Service should lead all interactions in social media.   Judging by some tweets, I think some took it that way.  It is my opinion that PR has a specific role regarding corporate messaging and policy, which may be on a corporate blog or on blogs throughout the internet.  Similar to discussions they may have with the press.  I do not run the corporate blog at Comcast, that is done by a great person, Scott McNulty.  He is part of the communications team.  Marketing has their own role in social media, specifically tying together marketing messaging through other channels to the ones used on the web.  They should also create unique messages for the web that relate to the spaces in which implemented.

But after all that, the social web is really about a conversations and relationships.  The best place for these conversations with Customers are the people that do it best, Customer Service.  They know how to help people in need and they also are trained in listening.  So in this world where companies are looking for leadership in the social media world, try first looking in the area that has been helping Customers for a long time.  They will know what to do.

The challenge is Customer Service departments everywhere are stretched thin and do not have the resources or the will to take on additional tasks.  This is something I think companies need to work on, because as we know the social web will hold companies accountable for poor service.  It is now time to really look upon good service as the right marketing for a company.  It can do so much more than ads.

It is funny, but as I was writing this, Pete Blackshaw sent me a link to an article he wrote for Ad Age about Zappos.  The article, titled “Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos,” fits so well into this post.  It is a look at the cult like following of Zappos, and specifically Tony Hsieh.  The reason for this is their slightly (okay a lot more than slightly) wacky culture, but more importantly their belief in the Customer experience.  That is what it is all about.

I do not expect companies to change overnight to create a culture like Zappos, although it would really be cool if they did.  I also do not expect Customer Service departments to gain the budgets they need to create these great experiences or build out new contact channels as the social web.  But I do have an easy way they can start.  Customer Service departments everywhere should consider removing some of the “web sense” blocks on social media websites.  Teach your employees how to use them.  Encourage them to assist Customers if they come across someone in need.  Provide the agents tools that allow them to forward social media links to other areas when they are unable to assist.  This could be a simple email address.  What will be fascinating is the employees will love it, they will help Customer (that is what service people like to do), and it will help start the social media efforts.  Zappos is the perfect example of that.  They teach and encourage all their employees to participate.  Look at the near billion dollar brand they created just by being powered by service.

The Engagement of Zappos and Amazon

Posted on : 22-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, In the News

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In the past year I have built many friendships at Zappos, and I am proud to have learned from them.  One of the greatest experiences from a business perspective was the opportunity to tour Zappos in Las Vegas.  It was the most Customer centered place I have ever been.  During the visit I received their famous culture book and a bag.  I keep both on the top shelf in my office to remind me that it is all powered by service.  So when I heard the news that Amazon was purchasing Zappos and making it a subsidiary of Amazon, I will admit that initially I was concerned.  It is not that I have had a bad experience with Amazon, because the exact opposite is true.  Every interaction I have had there was very good.  One minor service concern was rectified really fast.  I knew the purchase was the best thing for the Zappos shareholders, but what about the culture that I have grown to love?

Tony addressed this in his letter to employees:

“Q: Will the Zappos culture change?

Our culture at Zappos is unique and always evolving and changing, because one of our core values is to Embrace and Drive Change. What happens to our culture is up to us, which has always been true. Just like before, we are in control of our destiny and how our culture evolves.

A big part of the reason why Amazon is interested in us is because they recognize the value of our culture, our people, and our brand. Their desire is for us to continue to grow and develop our culture (and perhaps even a little bit of our culture may rub off on them).

They are not looking to have their folks come in and run Zappos unless we ask them to. That being said, they have a lot of experience and expertise in a lot of areas, so we’re very excited about the opportunities to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and resources, especially on the technology side. This is about making the Zappos brand, culture, and business even stronger than it is today.”

I was still not convinced, but again not due to experience with Amazon, but rather seeing acquisitions in the past with other companies.  As I went down the letter, there was a video with Jeff Bezzos, CEO of Amazon.  I have heard good things about Jeff, but mainly due to investment performance and driving the results of the company.  The video shows a much different side, and one that I felt the need to share:

Maybe this will be a marriage made in heaven.  I wish all involved great success.


Sorry, But It’s Not All About Jeff Jarvis

Posted on : 20-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service

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Most of my readers know of Jeff Jarvis but for those that do not, he is author (latest is “What Would Google Do“), journalist, and a Customer evangelist (at least based on his Dell Hell example).  You can learn more about Jeff on Wikipedia.  I tend to agree with Jeff Jarvis on many things, and this will be another point that he and I will agree.  Yesterday on Twitter Jeff shared an experience he was having with his local cable provider (not Comcast!).  He followed it up with a post on his Buzz Machine blog.  During his experience with the cable company call center, a representative responded “I dont see you listed as a VIP.  Now I am not going to say something like companies do not have VIP Customer lists, because most I have ever worked for did.  When I worked for Vanguard investments I was a supervisor in their Voyager service, which was for household with $250,000 to $1 million invested (those levels may have changed today).  Since starting my work helping people in social media, someone inevitably steps in and says “you only helped them because they are an influencer.”  Even within Jeff’s comments Cody Brown stated the following:

“If I did this on my twitter, I dont think I would have gotten any response from Verizon or Comcast.

A big problem with going after corporate customer service with Twitter is that if you dont have the follower count, it often goes no where.

Its nepotism when you get better service because you are friends with the VP but what is it when you get better service for having 20K twitter followers?”

Well Cody, my belief is you are just as much an influencer as Jeff Jarvis, and so is every Customer a company interacts with.  I responded to Jeff, not because he is a VIP  Customer, in fact he is not a Customer of Comcast at all.  I responded because he directed a comment specifically to me, and it is only polite to respond.

Social media is making the world a smaller place and it is also providing a lot more control to Customers.  People are sharing their experiences to their new world within places like Facebook and Twitter.  Customers have always communicated bad experiences to others, but the scale is shifting.  The rule of thumb used to be a Customer with a bad experience will tell 10 others, but as Pete Blackshaw points out in the title of his book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000,”  the scale is getting much larger for everyone.  This is a new world order and the Customer is gaining the upper hand.

Now think of it from your own perspective, what happens when you have a bad experience?  You tell as many as you can.  How many of us are influenced about a product by reading a review on Amazon.com?  I know I have been.  Today there are many influential websites serving Customers, such as the Consumerist, Planet Feedback, Get Satisfaction and many more.  Any person can influence things like search results or the perception of the brand.  You can even look at your Facebook page as having dramatic influence.  Updating your status goes out to all your friends, then others start to comment on it opening it up the influence to their friends and so on.

This is why, in this new world, companies are going to have to improve the Customer experience through all communication channels.  If they do not, they may not have Jeff Jarvis going on a rampage, but it could be someone as simple as “John Smith.”  The person who brings it to light on the internet may not even be the Customer at all.  Instead “John Smith” may share his story and a friend decides to tell so many others.

I have reviewed numerous software for managing social media and discussions on the web.  A feature I always see is “influencer” ratings or rankings.  I believe any company that focuses on the highest rankings is really going the wrong direction.  They are usually working from a PR or marketing perspective and not really striving to listen or help their Customers.  I am not going to say I have not helped people that would be ranked as “influencers,” because I have.  I strive to help all Customers in the same manner.  If you have not seen the ABC story, check out the video on this link.  One of my favorite stories was when I help Michael Arrington, many said it was because of who he was, but within the comments there were comments like these:

Siobhan said “Actually, they monitor a lot of blogging tools and sites. I have a friend who uses LiveJournal who got an email within about 24 hours of complaining about her Comcast service from a legitimate customer service rep, and they sent a tech out to help within a day. So theyre doing it whether youre Michael Arrington or the average Joe on the street.”

Even Michael added a comment “based on twitter messages Im receiving, they are monitoring services in general, not specific influencers. http://twitter.com/angelcitybl…../784144918

Since the Michael Arrington story, I am sure many others will recognize that my team and I strive to assist everyone to the best of our ability.  Some will say that service is not the same through other communications channels with my company, but I will let everyone know that we are working hard to change that.  In fact the cool part about our efforts is we can learn so much that can then be utilized in other communications channels.  It took us time to get to the level we are at, and it will take time to show these improvements.  I look forward to getting to that point.

I think all of this is why Forrester’s Dr. Natalie Petouhoff wrote a post that I will be discussing later this week about Customer Service leading the way for companies in social media.  Check it out.

I will end this note with a tweet I sent to Jeff Jarvis last night:

Losing Trust Equity

Posted on : 14-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Personal

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Everyone has a brand that they trust fully.  For me, one of those brands is Crest.  In fact I trust all products by Proctor and Gamble.  So much that we bought stock in the company.  Over the years the performance of their products has gained a large trust equity for me.

The benefits of trust equity is I would never hesitate purchasing one of their products.  This can be such a big boost to a company.  It makes it much easier to introduce new products and develop interest.  In many ways it also allows you to price your products at a premium to the market.  But how easy is it to lose this equity?

Well yesterday Carolyn went to the dentist.  During the appointment she discussed some brown spots on her teeth.  They easily cleaned but there was a discussion about different teeth cleaning products.  The hygienist asked about Crest Pro Health Rinse.  We did have that recently.  My wife asked about Crest Pro Health toothpaste.  The hygienist did not hear of any trouble with the toothpaste but she did mention how they were no longer providing the samples of the rinse due to brown spots.

So today my wife immediately started searching the web regarding this issue.  She was surprised at what Google brought to her attention.  Here is a news report on the topic:

I strive to read the Consumerist everyday, and I missed some of their stories on the topic.  Here are a few of them:

A standard Google search reveals many more. It also revealed to me that there is a warning on the toothpaste that states “products containing stannous flouride may produce surface staining of the teeth.” I should clarify this is a “whitening” toothpaste that my produce surface staining? I never noticed that until this Google exercise. I think that has to do with the trust equity that this product has with me. I would have never even thought to look for a legal disclaimer. I also think we have all become immune to the legal mumbo jumbo that exists out there.

By the way here are the other warnings on the Crest Pro-Health toothpaste:

  • When using this product do not use for sensitivity longer than four weeks unless recommended by a dentist
  • Stop us and as a dentist if the sensitivity problem persists or worsens
  • Sensitive teeth may indicate a serious problem that may need prompt care
  • Keep out of reach of children
  • If more than used for brushing is accidently swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison control center right away

The actual warning is under “other information” and it does state adequate brushing may prevent these stains which are not harmful or permanent and may be removed by your dentist. The next bullet is “this Crest is specially formulated to help prevent staining.”  This brings about the question of why the warning?

For many products, before buying, I usually search Google, read review or discuss with friends, but some have a trust equity that do no require that.  This equity does build up, but can easily come down.  Now I will probably still buy standard Crest products because I have a strong experience with them, but it will take a long time to build the equity when it comes to trying new products for this company.  Do you have companies or products that have built such a large trust equity?

Its All About the Grill

Posted on : 13-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Personal

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I am probably not too different from most men, I really enjoy grilling.  But like most of my life there seems to be a story behind it.  So a number of years ago I purchased a grill.  It never really worked right.  When I noticed the trouble I played around with it but it never cooked properly.  I did not replace it because I did not feel like spending the money.  Believe it or not, the grill just sat unused for a a few years.  As we were doing some spring spruce up of the shrubs my wife noticed something.  There were a number of birds chirping.  After looking everywhere, she finally realized they were in the grill.  Yes a family of birds somehow set up their own condo inside the grill.  Needless to say we were not going to be cooking on that grill again.

When Father’s Day arrived I received some new grill equipment and I was told to go pick out my grill.  I really wanted to go out and buy a cool grill.  I love some of those big ones with stone side (I wish, as you read that, I could add sound effects from the show Home Improvement).  At the same time I could never justify the expense for a really cool grill.  Any chance to justify that was blown since I have not cooked on the grill for 5 or 6 years.   Last week one of my team members, George , told me about a grill that had charcoal and gas as part of the same grill.  I had to look into that.  Well on July 4 (yes I know a very strange day to buy a grill), I decided it was time to have a cookout.

I immediately went to the computer and read numerous reviews on the Char-Griller Duo, starting with Amazon and then shifting to many other review sites on the net.  I think I tend to shop like many people, first finding out what others think on a product.  I then started to compare prices.  I found Lowes had the grill for $299.  I was all set.  I then had to decide how to get it home.  So I drove over to Lowes and started to decide the best way to do it.  I decided not to take advantage of the free assembly, and I just picked up the grill.  Hey the box said easy assembly, I can do that.  Actually the assembly was easy, but time consuming for 1 person.  So that night we ate on the grill.  Now I did not pick up  a new gas tank because I had the one from the last grill, and it still had gas.  So I hooked it up and started to cook.  Just like the last grill it was taking a long time.  Based on this the next day I went to get a new tank.  What I did not realize was there was free tank exchange when you bought the grill.  Lowes was great about it and swapped a new tank.  While I was there I picked up the smoker attachment to add to my grill (insert Home Improvement noises here).  When I went home I attached the smoker attachment.  This was a little harder than the grill assembly and should have been done with multiple people.  Anyway once that was done I tried the new propane tank.  Wow now that is the way a gas grill should light up!  So that night I cooked on the charcoal side.  It was a first for me and I love the fact that I have the option.  Gas for ease and charcoal for taste.  What a fun concept for a grill.

The only trouble I had with this grill experience was the knob for the side burner was cracked.  It still worked, more of just a nuisance.  I shot off an email to Char-Griller, truthfully expecting them to ask for all kinds of info or refer me to call in.  I realized today I did not hear back, and I was wondering if I would have to call or something else to obtain the part.  Instead I came home to Fed-Ex package at the door.  I am always so appreciative of companies that make it easy.  Email is my preferred method to communicate and I had the part in a timely manner with no questions or verifications.  Very pleased Customer.  The grill is one of the best purchases I have had in the past few years.

GM Leading the Way?

Posted on : 12-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

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On Saturday I was reading the Wall Street Journal and in section B there was an article titled “GM Takes New Direction.”  As we all know GM exited bankruptcy protection on Friday.  It marked a new beginning for the company.  What caught my eye in the article was the 2nd paragraph which stated:

“The new company will put a premium on speed, accountability, and risk taking, and root out the layers of management that had hobbled decision making, he [Frederick "Fritz" Henderson, CEO of GM] said at a news conference.”

Wow, I wonder why they have not done this years ago?  In this time of social networks, and instant communication, speed is the name of the game.  For those on Twitter news is not measured in hours, but more like minutes or even seconds.  But how does this apply to big business?

Well businesses have been changing, even if it is not realized at the top.  With a new generation at the lowest levels, they are not like prior generations.  They want a direct say in the business.  They want to control their own destiny, and one of the ways they will do that is providing their ideas and insights.  It is imperative for organizations to include them in the discussion.  They will tell you everything, whether you want to hear it or not.  I would guess that their actions will force a flattening of the corporate structure, and hopefully the elimination of the typical corporate bureaucracy.

Customers too are now demanding speed and support.  They are tired of not have a personal connection with companies.  As part of this same article Mr. Henderson discussed having his team meet with dealer and consumers around the country.  Wow what a shocking concept.  Yet it took a lot of money, bankruptcy and almost going out of business to think that way.  Hopefully other companies realize this sooner.

The name of the management game is changing.  During my first interview for a management role I was asked what the most important thing for a manager was.  I responded listening.  Needless to say it was the incorrect answer based on the feedback from the interview, but I stand by it.  In the new world order, listening will be the most important attribute of leaders.  You will now have to listen to Customers and employees in a new manner.  Then you will have to further engage them to learn more and to find out if you completely understood.

Social media tools are a great way to consider doing that.  I wonder if GM has built social media tools internally for allowing all levels of the company to communicate with each other?  As we have seen with the uprisings in Iran, social media tools make the world a smaller place.  If used properly internally they can even make a place as large as GM, much smaller.  They can also be used as a means of communicating and listening to Customers.  I do want to emphasize that it is 1 part of what should be an overall plan to listen and engage with all Customers.

I wish GM well as they strive to reinvent themselves, I just hope other companies do not have to go through such drastic steps to realize what needs to be done in this new world.

The Capital ‘C’

Posted on : 10-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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The english language has a lot of rules, especially regarding capitalizing a word.  Here are the rules:

  • The first words of a sentence
  • The pronoun “I”
  • Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, etc)
  • Family relationships (when used as proper names)
  • The names of Gods (Exception: Do not capitalize the non-specific use of the word “god.”)
  • Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names
  • Directions that are names (North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country)
  • The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays
  • The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages
  • The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote
  • The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs
  • Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups
  • Periods and events
  • Trademarks
  • Words and abbreviations of specific names (not those that are general)

Some of you may have noticed I always capitalize the word Customer.  At times some have questioned this as being improper english.  Well I have not always been a rule follower; I just strive to do what is right.  In my opinion capitalization places emphasis on important words, such as the name of people or companies.  Why would the name of a company be more important than the Customers that make that company possible?

So to me, the capitalizing the ‘C’ in Customer will always be my rule.

The Google “Sucks” Index

Posted on : 08-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Social Media

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Back in February 2008 Business Week had a story by Jeff Jarvis called “Love the Customers Who Hate You.”  I loved the overall theme of the article.  At the time I just started in my position as the manager of digital care.  I saw the great potential to turn detractors into evangelist, but more importantly I recognized that we can learn a lot from these Customers and make the feedback actionable.  This article was the first to enlighten me that my new role was truly the convergence of PR, marketing and Customer Service.

The article also inspired me to do a quick graph of what I call the Google “Sucks” index.  I simply did a search of google for many companies and added the word sucks.  The first thing I noticed was a slight different in the numbers, specific to Wal-mart.  That was because I added together variations of company names, like Wal-Mart and Walmart.  Besides the slight difference, it was a fascinating way to look at where we stood as a business.

Well today we had a luncheon at work to award my team for all their hard work and success in creating the right experience for our Customers.  I am so proud of the work they have done.  This caused a little reminiscing  about what has happened over the past year and a half.  One thing led to another and we starting talking about the Google “Sucks” index.  I never thought I would use a word like sucks around executives as much as I have today.  Anyway, I decided after all the conversation to take a quick look at the index again.  I went and did a search for the different companies and added sucks to the end.  I then looked at the right side of Google and jotted down the number that came up.  I sent the graph around to those that were part of the conversation.  I included a similar caption to the original version with a link to the Jeff Jarvis article.  Everyone loved it, but the next question was can we compare the numbers to the report from February 2008 report I did.  So I went digging and actually found the original report.  So then I did the mathematics to determine the percentage change.  As I was putting together I had to try to remember the original searches to ensure apples to apples comparison of the numbers.

So what were the results?  Since that is work data, I will not publicly share all the information.  I will say only 1 company moved less (and tonight I realized why, it was not apples to apples comparison, the February 2008 version did not have cable in the search where today’s version did).  I would always expect the number to go up since you really can’t ungoogle something.  Ours went up less than 5% while all the others went up 15% to 472%.  Is this a measurement of my team’s success?  Company improvements?  I really do not know but it is a really easy and fun way to measure the movement of the needle.

And they say this space is difficult to measure!