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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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Destroying A Brand in a Social World

Posted on : 15-12-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Marketing, Social Media

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Much Discussion has been made about how successful companies can market themselves and their products through social media. I personally wonder if anyone truly cares about hearing brands do this, but that is a post for another day. I do know that companies can destroy their brand quickly in this space and I thought it would be fun to look at different ways this happens.

The first thing to recognize is that the brand image is owned by others and not the PR department or marketing. Both of these departments are important but they are no longer in the driver’s seat for brand image. I wonder if they ever were? Again, probably a post for another day. I am not sure things have changed in this regard but perception has. The masses, whoever they may be control it. In reviewing recoveries by brands who have had trouble, we can still determine how a brand can be destroyed in social media.

Many larger brands have had trouble in their history, even before social media became a large part of communications. McDonalds and Starbucks had difficulties at one point in their life cycle and both recovered nicely. Both had similar issues, they had inconsistent Customer experiences at different locations. They also strayed far from their core products. Both recovered in similar ways by working to create Customer experiences that were consistent from location to location. This will always be trouble for franchise type organizations or decentralized business model because the brand image is not as much in the companies control. In recovering they first outlined who they are and what they strive to be. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz returned as CEO. One of the first things he did was bring back the smell of coffee. Very basic but key to a consistent experience. McDonalds focus on cleanliness of locations and consistent food. How consistent is your brand? Are you doing what you are good at or are you trying to be too many different things to various constituents?

Your brand is also owned by your employees. Since there has been a long standing analogy of social media as a cocktail party, what story would your own employees tell at a cocktail party? Would they say what a great place your company is or would they bitch about their job? Worse yet, would they say nothing? Apathy is much worse than negative commentary. At least negative commentary means they want change or improvement but if they say nothing, they do not care at all. Employees have great power over the brand and could help build it further. There are also many examples of employees hurting brands, such as the Domino’s video from years ago. Domino’s did a great job recovery from that event but I am sure it fundamentally changed them.

Customers have the greatest power they ever have. Companies dream of Customers taking their message to others, but as a Consumer how often do you do that? I have done it for Apple and Samsung products as well as a few service brands that wow’ed me, but more often than not, I am more negative due to experiences that did not meet my expectations. Brands may have dreams, but the fact is people will not talk about your brand unless you give them strong reason to. Do you create wow experiences? If not, do not expect people to share your message. Also if you are not a well liked, but create something cool, they may share it with commentary such as ‘this is cool even if I do not like XYZ company.’ This happens because they are not playing to you, but instead they are playing to their crowd. They do not want to get blasted by their own friends for supporting a brand that others do not like.

You win or lose in this social world through the Customer and employee experience. Know what your brand is about and consistently deliver on that.

Social Media is Part of the Solution to #OccupyWallSt

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

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Over the past month the #occupywallstreet fever has been sweeping the country. There have been a few different thoughts surrounding the movement and I feel it is time for me to share some of my own. The movement has confused many because there is no clear leadership to express their views. It also has created challenges in responding to them. First there is frustration with the economy, politicians, and business. From the movement I have heard many different thoughts from wanting a world without money to environmental concerns. The movement is not all that different that revolutions we have watched around the globe and even quieter ones taking place right before our eyes (I will be writing about this in my book @YourService coming out from Wiley Spring 2012). Social media provides a voice to everyone and it allows those with like views to connect. That is what we are seeing take place. As I have analyzed the social conversations taking place, I am seeing set themes. First is a lack of trust of government, business and leaders. Trust is earned and it is imperative that we start to do that. This is done with more human interactions than business or government is ready for. They better get ready! There is a frustration with profits on Wall Street and CEO pay. I think these have been issues for many for a long time, especially when there is a lack of jobs. In reviewing the online dialogue, in my view we need to discuss job. The other frustration I am seeing is centered on student loan debt, which to me centers on the cost of education, societal pressures, and the lack of jobs when one graduates. We have always placed a strong emphasis on education with the notion that one would be rewarded. In many ways I wonder if ease of student loans helped create an education bubble and universities to raise tuition rates, similar to what occurred in housing costs an mortgages. I agree that these are important points for society to strive to address.

The challenge is not the lack of leadership on the #occupywallstreet side, it is on the other side. Social media provides us the opportunity to have a dialogue on issues like these at a scalable level to include everyone. It requires someone to step forward and say how are we going to come together to find solutions that move America and the World forward. We need positive leadership to do this, yet I have not seen that anywhere. I find that very frustrating. How can we improve education? What are the best ways to create jobs? How can we create this private/public partnership? I love America and business. We have to lead the way. What are your thoughts?

This post was done on my iPhone so please excuse typos, etc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

It is Not Just CRM or Social CRM; It’s Still Leadership & Vision

Posted on : 11-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Leadership, Uncategorized

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Over the years Social CRM has continued to be a hot topic of online conversation and debate, yet I am not sure we still have a clear understanding of SCRM versus a Customer experience culture! Two different aspects that both play into the successful organization in todays connected world. What started my thinking for this post was a Facebook post I noticed today indicating that Netflix was in a ‘CRM crisis.’  The Facebook post linked to this blog post by Harish Kotadia, Ph.D titled ‘Netflix’s Self Made CRM Crisis and How Social CRM Can Help.’  I found this interesting, given my views regarding social CRM. Now let me be clear the debate regarding this topic will not end here, just like it did not end when Paul Greenberg put his stake in the ground. In that post Paul offered the following short definition for SCRM:

“CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

I love his definition, but I do wonder if it is too broad.  I firmly believe that the social Customer owns your brand and a change in the way we conduct business is an imperative.  We will take a close look at my view of the Netflix issues in recent months.  Before going into that, lets take a look at CRM.  Wikipedia defines CRM as:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support.  The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.  Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments.  Measuring and valuing customer relationships is critical to implementing this strategy.

CRM, although part of a broader culture, starts with technology to better understand Customers, interactions, and build relationships.  CRM tools help us know our Customers and the interactions they have with us.  When you add the social component, you do gain a few other aspects.  First and foremost, you now gain the ability to know more about the Customer, or at least what they want known by the general public.  You can learn what is important to them, whether about your product or not.  Great way to further interactions with Customer and prospects!

Now let’s get into the Netflix conversation!  First let me say I personally love Netflix streaming and have been a subscriber for a while.  I tried Netflix by DVD years ago, but I never fully got into it.  I also have been fascinated by the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, for his ability to be a disrupter to varies business models over the years.  Netflix first stirred the pot back in July when it increased subscriber fees.  Basically DVD rentals used to be $2 a month more for streaming subscribers.  This of course caused a firestorm, because this was a rate increase from $9.99 a month to $15.98 a month, a 60% increase for many subscribers.  As a percentage, the increase was substantial, and in many views, unwarranted.  Based on financial discussions during quarterly calls, it is safe to assume that Netflix knew that they would see a backlash and some subscriber defections.  Of course later discussions make me think this was much greater than they anticipated.  As pointed out in this CNN article  on the topic, Netflix lost one million or more in subscribers.  Then on September 18, Reed Hastings and the Netflix team offered an explanation, and introduced ‘Qwikster.’  In the post I think there is a strong glimpse into Reed Hastings with this quote:

“Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly”

For those of us who paid close attention as the scenario played out, you know that the blog post seemed rushed.  Even the Qwikster domain was still pointing to another web property.  At the same time, the quote above still holds true that the decision to split could have been the thought all along.  The big question then becomes why not discuss it when the fee changes were made?  Now comes the recent news that they will not be switching to the Qwikster model due to feedback from Consumers.  Basically the feedback was very negative because increase cost and then the perceived difficulty of consumers if they have to manage their Netflix accounts from multiple websites.  Now the overall situation reflects flip flopping, as pointed out by this CNN article.  You can also make the case that there appears to be overly managing to the perception and not the business.  In my view Netflix is a great service, with strong leadership, but there are causes to this trouble, long before the price increase.  First the model was obviously priced to gain market share, which Netflix did in a tremendous fashion.  During the time they helped change the model for renting movies, including seeing major rental chains going out of business or severely downsizing.  There brand was also mentioned regularly when anyone discussed cord cutting from cable.  They were changing many business models.  The challenge I have always seen was price.  It used to cost $3-$5 a night to rent movies (okay $2 when rentals started), and they shifted that to about $8 for as many as you could get.  As a Consumer, I love that, but as a business person I have to question sustainability.  Even in there streaming business, they offered a lot of content, much of which came from Starz, yet it cost less than Starz on a monthly basis.  I could not see Starz keeping that up, which, as it looks like now, they will not be as of early next year.  This to me can be partially a breakdown of SCRM, specifically over thinking business decisions and making quick decisions based on negative feedback.  Ultimately if you had a strong business plan, you would not be jumping around like this.  This is more reflective of leadership, as opposed to SCRM.  There are going to be times tough decisions by business have to be made.  If the fees were a key component, then they should have discussed the business realities on day 1.  If the plan was to split the business all along, then they should have done that from day 1.  I would guess the real plan was to increase the price, allow the falloff of Customers then slowly shift to an all streaming model.  I am not sure we will ever know the real reasons for decisions, but I want to see the disruptive leadership in Reed Hastings step out further.  What I have seen is handling that is reminiscent of so many other, more mature firms instead of what I have come to expect.

Key lessens is listen, as it would appear Netflix is doing, but SCRM will not always help every situation.  In this case this was a business that was well trusted.  The trust is eroding not due to SCRM but what appears to be missing focus, speculation by others (even myself within this post) and a vision not yet articulated.  My advice to leaders is

  • Know your business and the future you envision
  • Focus on the needs of the Customer
  • Do not be afraid to make tough decisions, but be honest to what they are
  • Be cautious of wavering, because it does erode trust (sometime you must, and then just be open to why)
The business model is changing, and these are part of the growing pains we experience.  Social media is not the only aspect to this, nor would social CRM be the saving grace.  The fact is this is more about leadership and vision.  Sometimes tough decisions are made, but they may be good for the longevity of the business.  Do not be afraid to say so; do not be afraid to lead.

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

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

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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’

Social Media Customer Service is a Failure!

Posted on : 06-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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I know I have been quiet for a while, but I am back with a vengence.  Today’s post is over at Brian Solis’ blog, so check it out here! http://www.briansolis.com/2011/10/social-media-customer-service-is-a-failure/

Is Your Business Ready for the Thank You Economy?

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

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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?

Hosni Mubarak was an Influencer!

Posted on : 17-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media

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Okay, I know the headline was to catch attention, but it still brings up an interesting point. I am constantly hearing about influencers, and I thought it was a topic we should further discuss. By all definitions, Hosni Mubarek, former President of Egypt, was an influencer. He held control over much of the media, and in some ways, the internet. Yet the overwhelming voice of the people were able to change that. Simply by banning together, and connecting on the web and offline.

I meet people who are probably smarter than me when it comes to marketing, or even social media, but they focus so much on the influencer. Many want to give product to the influencer, in hopes they will speak well of it and add to sales. This always makes me wonder if influencers always started to hawk these products, how long will they retain their influence? I know for myself, I would want to turn them off. I like to connect with people for their intellectual ability not selling abilities.

Every time I think of influence, I always remember a conference in Atlanta where a telecom marketing person spoke about how she rewards people for saying nice things about her brand. As soon as she said it, I immediately thought ‘thank you for telling me that, now I do not believe good things said about that brand. Now I do not kid myself, I know that companies have policies for press and others so they can use product for reviews or articles. But for the most part press tend to work on ethical rules regarding gifts and free product. Companies also have similar rules limiting what they offer. There are also rules for disclosure for bloggers which should be enforced by the blogger, as well as the company who provided the product.

My favorite is when people start talking about giving preferential treatment to influencers when they need Customer Service. I personally feel everyone is an influencer and would be happy to share examples where negative or positive experiences by everyday people who have shared the experience and the content became influential. I know many will say companies provide preferential treatment to those who buy a lot of product or take advantage of multiple services. That is true and to me that makes sense. They create the revenue for the company and are very dedicated to the company based on their actions. Companies may provide them a dedicated team, or even other discounts. I think many understand that. I should point out that my first management role was in one of these service departments for the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies. My opinion is if you start to treat those with high Klout scores with preferential treatment, you run a number of risks. First if I regularly buy your product, have a lower score and find out, I will be irritated that you do not value me and you may lose me as a Customer. You are sending a message to other Customers that they are not as special as an influencer. The opposite can also cause trouble. People love to know they receive preferential treatment, but what happens if they feel a ‘regular’ person received a better Customer experience? Could they be loud regarding what they perceive as their poor treatment?

I also think this type of trouble could cause us to we see another Mubarak moment directed at the brand providing this ‘special treatment.’ I can see ‘regular’ Customers banning together and becoming the major brand influencer in a major negative way. Personally I would like to see brands realize every Customer can be an influencer and treat them in a way the builds them as advocates. What do you think about special treatment of influencers?

Twitter is Not Your Answer to Service

Posted on : 15-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media

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Fortune Magazine has an interesting piece by Anne Vandermey comparing Customer Service by channel, including phone, website, and Twitter.  They provided the same question to each channel and measured accuracy and speed of response.  What they found from most of the interactions was phone was still the best way to receive service.  I was not surprised by the findings, but there are a few other key points that should be made.  Here are a few:

1)   Customer Preferred Communication Style – Not everyone is going to prefer Twitter, the same way not everyone prefers phone or email.  My preference is email when I do not need an immediate response or I know a proper response will require research by the company.  If I have an immediate need, I will still call, although that is not my preferred means of communication.  Someone requesting a response via Twitter may not care if it takes a few hours to obtain the information.  They simply may like the fact that the answer will come to them in the place they are already hanging out.

2)   Customer’s Now Own Your Brand Message – Not just with Twitter, but also Facebook, YouTube, blogs, forums, user reviews and so many other social websites, the Customer now owns your message.  They can be very loud regarding a bad or good experience with a product or service.  They take this message to any of the websites they can.

3)   Speed of Information – Depending on the nature of your business, Twitter can highlight an area of concern faster than other internal communications.  The reason for this is the way Twitter is designed.  Twitter asks a question: ‘What’s Happening?’  The answer to this question can provide insight prior to a Customer even calling.  Many times they state why they are calling a company before they even finishing dialing the number on the phone.  Ultimately listening is key, but I would say the same regarding all communications methods

Overall Twitter is not for everything.  It is difficult for many firms to discuss Customer private data in a public forum, so there are times conversations must shift to other communication methods.  The power of Twitter and other social media is the shift to the Customer.  It is raising the importance of Customer Service, and many companies are now scrambling to fix broken service departments, or ones focused on inaccurate goals.  In this new world order, the Customer is gaining the upper hand (and so is your front line employee), whether you are on Twitter or not.  Twitter is not the cause, nor is it the solution.  There has been a Customer revolution going on; are you ready for the evolution of your business?  To me this is the more interesting conversation instead of speed of response.  At the same time I enjoyed the article because it did show how some are focusing Twitter more on the PR side of service and not improving all channels.

Twitter Can Be A Natural Fit for Car Dealers, but…

Posted on : 07-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service

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I decided this week it was time to get a new car for my wife.  We have had the same Volvo for 9 years and it has served us well, but with upcoming inspection which would cost a lot, it was time to think of a new car.  We have done well with a station wagon and wanted to find something similar.  I debated a Volvo, but I wish they were still owned by Ford.  In reviewing the current offerings I decided it would be between a Toyota Venza or Audi A4 Avant.  I think both are nice cars with many features.  So I decided to contact a few dealers.  Audi of Willow Grove shocked me when Brett Pomerantz, their Internet Sales Manager responded to my email on a Sunday.  As many of you are aware, I believe a key part to service is speed of response.  We had a nice dialogue, even though the basic part of the response was a team member of his would contact me Monday.  We even discussed social media and car dealers.  So on Sunday I contacted 8 dealers and all sent auto responders with follow up calls today.  The funny thing about the calls, none recognized my preference is email, and no I do not want to come into the dealer if I can avoid it!  Old school sales techniques do not always work.  Contact me the way I prefer to be contacted.  My wife stopped by the dealer at lunch today, test drove the car and they assessed the trade.  I have yet to visit the dealer and we have a signed purchase order.  The sales manager called me with the numbers, and within a few minutes of conversation we had a deal.  I would bet it was inexpensive sale for them as well.  Of course I had numbers I was comfortable with prior to reaching out, so I do think the internet helps with the overall experience.  I still doubt we would be at this stage if I did not build a connection to Brett last night with a few email exchanged.  Simply put he earned trust which helped the dealer close the deal (even though he was away at a conference today).

This is not why I am writing this post, although it does fit in what I look for in Customer Service and sales. Last night I twittered out a question about what car I should get.  After doing so I had a number of car dealer accounts follow me.  This is a great way to possibly drum up sales, but then I looked at their feeds.  They basically twittered out info on the cars and deals.  They are really missing the boat.  Imagine if they had sales people out here?  Just like the speed of Brett’s email shocked me, they could have engaged in conversation.  With the right speed and approach they could have easily won me over.  It is not saying come buy from me, or following someone that matters.  They could easily engage in a helpful dialogue regarding the buying experience or even say something like ‘let me know if you need any help with the car buying process.’  The key is this comes better from actual people not the generic dealer twitter account.

Have you seen a car dealer take this approach?  I think this would be a good experience but other may disagree.  I look forward to your comments.