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


Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...


Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...


Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...


Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...


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For Sale: Customer Activism in a Web 2.0 Era

Posted on : 17-11-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media

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I am a firm believer that Customer Service and public discussions on the web will be an alternate channel similar to phone, email, or chat.  At the same time I was not surprised to learn that the Consumerist on Friday announced that their parent company, Gawker Media, was putting the web property up for sale.  Recently Get Satisfaction started a pay program to provide more control to companies.  Will websites such as these ever be a profitable place?  Are they even needed with all the blogs and other website out there?



Well let me start of by saying I regularly view the Consumerist, and I have for a long time.  I think Ben and Meg are great and they really are trying to get companies to think about their Customer differently.  The trouble to the model is the website is ad supported, although the ads are minimal.  It looks like most of them are google ads that pay on a per click basis.  I am sure more money would be available if the ads were sold directly, but what company would buy ads in that space?  It would have to be an against the grain company.  Would there be a perceived bias towards those that purchase ads.  I know that it would not impact Meg or Ben, but if a company was blasted for something, would that mean that they would pull the ad?  Would a subscriber model work better?



Get Satisfaction recently started an effort to make money by offering an advanced moderation services to companies paying a fee of $49 per month or a better package at $120 per month and a pro service at $349 per month.  I applaud their effort to make sure the business model is profitable and long lasting.  It is important for any company to try to be successful.  The team at Get Satisfaction built great tools and have the ability to really expand on that.  The trouble is in this economic environment I am not sure I can justify the expense to my employer.  Especially since complaints and compliments are not limited to one website, but rather throughout the internet.  I will continue to watch the website and consider it as the tools advance.  At the same time I am not sure enough companies will pay that much to make the company sustainable.   This is especially true in the current economic environment where everybody is cutting back on expenses.  I wish them well in this effort!

Another website, and one of the original for providing feedback, is one I have used called Planet Feedback.  The way this website works is you fill out a letter to the company.  You also answer a number of questions, like would your recommend, would you like to share the letter publicly, mood, propensity to tell others, etc.  This is a fun way to tell a company what you think and I will say from personal experience it works.  This website was originally founded by Pete Blackshaw, and went through a few other owners, with Pete’s continued involvement.  Again the website is back in Pete’s hands.  The question is how can a website like this be financially feasible?  The concept is great, but many people have access to email company leaders by doing a simple google search.


I think these are different models for consumer activism that are present today, and truthfully I hope for a long time to come.  The trouble is they are not necessarily going to have the best way to make money.  I think a website like the Consumerist would do better using a subscription based model, but would their readers pay that?  I know I would, but not sure if it would make enough money.  Get Satisfaction and Planet Feedback are interesting websites with some strong data available for companies.  Get Satisfaction would do best by building analytics centered around all web 2.0 spaces talking about a company.  They already involve Twitter.  That would be something worth paying for and creating the ability to centralize it.   Planet feedback could consider developing a method for companies to collect and analyze feedback from other sources.  They could also consider creating a program for companies to manage letters and emails.  The trouble for these websites is they are competing with personal blogs, forums discussing companies, twitter and many other websites where the Customer may already be.


What is the best way for these websites to continue to exist?  Should they consider being part of a non-profit dedicated to Customer Satisfaction?  Would you pay to subscribe?  If you were a company would you pay to use the service?

Does US Airways Care?

Posted on : 15-11-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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I originally planned this post to be about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA – I just really like to say WOMMA, so that calls for a post!).  Well this trip was a last minute decision and because of that I had limited selection of flights.  This made me realize how far below par service has gone with the airline industry, specifically US Air.  It is sad to see how far it has gone since my last flights about a year ago.  So lets go over my travel experience in the past 8 weeks:



Well when I was traveling to Blog World, I purposely chose Southwest because of their great efforts in social media (Check them out on Twitter or their corporate blog).  It was an okay experience.  On the way over I was one of the early people going on the plane and the seat selection was good.  Now on the flight over I was expecting to see some of the excitement on the flight that I have heard about and also seen on the A&E show.  To be honest I did not see it, and I was very bored on the flight, but it was okay.  Now this flight had a connection in Phoenix.  During the short hop to Vegas the crew was great and it was a fun hour, but my opinion was probably driven from the initial flight.  So I would label it an okay first trip on the airline.  The way back was another story.  First I was unable to check in early (lack of printer) so I was one of the last to load.  It did not help that I was late getting to the airport.  When I was getting on the plane I saw many couples who could not sit with their loved ones due to the boarding process without seat assignments.  This made me think this was probably not the perfect approach.  The way back the crews on both flights did help create the Southwest experience.  Unfortunately I had an older couple (that did not appear to know each other prior to the flight) create a much different experience for me that I will never forget, and wish I could.  That is as far as I will go into now.  So overall Southwest was okay but I really prefer to pick my own seat.  My experience was mainly impacted by the Customers sitting next to me on the flight back and that was the reason I did not select them in future flights.  I have since learned that they do offer preferred boarding for business Customers at a fee of $25.  What they do not have is extra baggage fees and I did get a soda!


US Air Trip 1

My next trip was to Scottsdale/Phoenix for the Marketing Profs conference.  I actually booked through the work travel agency and I select United since it was listed as preferred.  I did not realize when I did this that it was actually US Air.  I have had a few poor experiences with US Air in the past and I do sometimes hold a grudge.  Well I went with it.  Because I did not realize it was US Air, I then had trouble checking in on the computer, they really should make it easier when flying a partner.  So I go to the airport and the first thing I was greeted with was a $17 fee for a checking my bag.  Not a second bag, but a first.  I found this to be irritating, but okay I will go with it (not like I have a choice).  The flight itself was okay but I did not think to eat prior to getting on the flight.  I do remember hearing about the fees for food and soda but I did not think of it.  So anyway I get on the flight and the attitude presented during the announcements, particularly about food pricing was ridiculous.  “We have limited supplies so if you do not get your choice do not blame us.”  As the representative of the company who else would I blame, the person stuck in the seat next to me?  So true to their word they did run out (I was not even sitting far back) so I did not have my choice but instead a lousy salad ($7) and a soda ($2).  My message here is if you are going to charge, it should be better and have the right quantity.  But to me it was all in the attitude of the employees and the approach.  The return flight was similar too.


American Airlines

After the first 2 experiences I decided to try a different airline for my trip to Dallas to attend the Forrester Conference.  Just like US Air, they were just as irritating over the fees.  At the same time they were great with allowing us to go standby for an earlier flight.  In fact they made it easy to do at the kiosk.  The flight over was good.  I enjoyed the movie.  On the way back I did not have an issue, but others did.  There was a problem with the video system, but they did sell headsets before hand.  They did this even though they later admitted to knowing that it was broken based on feedback from the prior crew.  I also did not notice them proactively reimburse for the now useless headsets.  To their credit I will say they did replace a broken one for a Customer that had a problem with his prior to getting onboard.  I did notice on both ends of the trip that they were announcing exactly what to expect with other flights for those with connections.  I did not have a connection, but I did notice this and thought it was nice.  Overall it was an okay trip but for the same price I think I will go back to Southwest.

US Air Trip 2

Well this is where I really began to see the disconnect with Customers.  At the last minute I was asked to speak with Pete Blackshaw at the WOMMA conference.  I had limited availability of direct flights.  In fact the only real choice was US Air.  I booked the round trip ticket leaving only a few hours later.  This time I was smart.  My wife picked up a small carry on and I had something to eat at the airport before taking off.  I actually slept most of the way there.  So on the way over I immediately noticed something strange.  When going over the preflight instructions they did not use the video.  Instead they were going over the seat belt think in a similar fashion (although not as fun) as Southwest.  I immediately looked up and noticed the flight had screens, but they did not come down.  I then pulled out the book to see what movies they would have.  When I turned to the page there was notice that effective November 1st not entertainment will be provided for any destinations except international and Hawaii.  This was the only reason to chose this airline over one like Southwest.

Well on Friday I decided to try to take the earlier flight home.  I thought it would be better than a red-eye I was scheduled for.  I went to the airport and went up to ask about flying standby.  Unlike American, I was directed to speak with someone instead of the kiosk.  I waited in line and I watched someone being helped being told about a $50 fee.  He was very irritated.  So anyway I get up to the counter.  I ask about flying standby.  The woman responds “The flight is not filled, so that would be a $50 fee.”  So I respond “So let me understand, the flight is not filled, so instead of having my seat available at a later flight, and you might be able to sell it, I will be charged $50.”  She responds “yes.”  Well I made it clear that I will not be flying US Air in the future.  She then reviewed the ticket and said, “Oh you have a fully refundable ticket, so there will not be a charge.”  Gee thanks, but you already made clear how you and the airline feel about me and other Customers.  So I did not have to pay the fee but it did influence me for a long time to come.  It is obvious the leaders of the company are okay with irritating Customers and that is not her fault.  But I can make my choice with my money.

So anyway, I get on the flight, which was running close to an hour late.  When we got on the plane the faces of the crew members made it clear that they were not very interested in being there.  I also found I was seated in the last row window seat.  Okay I guess my reaction penalized me by the privilege of being the last off the plane.  The pilot made a number of announcements throughout the trip.  He sounded like he was a fun guy, but in each of the announcement he kept making clear that yes we are late, but do not worry about your connections, because it is Philly and there are going to be many of delays of other flights.  That is a great confidence builder in US Air.  I did not care because for me because Philly was my final destination.  Another aspect to the announcement was he was very clear to not ask any of the crew about connections because they do not know and will not know.  His instruction was when you get off the plane see a Customer Service agent.  Isn’t Customer Service everyone’s role? 


I know that I will have to find the right airline for me.  It is probably going to be Southwest, at least if I can figure out the seating thing much better.  The one thing that is clear is US Air is not a good premium, standard or discount airline.  I think it is imperative for them to figure out what they want to be when they grow up, or else I would not expect them to be around much longer.  I know I do not plan to fly with them.  I know I will try Southwest again, and I am sure I will give others a shot.  Does this industry even care about Customers?  Which ones will be able to lure you back based on Service?

An Amazing CEO! Maxine Clark

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

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A passion of mine has always been good Customer Service.  I look for it with every interaction I have with companies.  I also tend to be very vocal when I do not receive service that I expect to receive.  I feel it is important to be just as vocal when things are done that just overwhelm you for being so far above that words can not describe.  I have had just one of those experiences a number of years ago.  The woman that went so far above and beyond that I still think about today is a woman named Maxine Clark.


Many of you have never heard of Maxine.  She was a leader in the former May Department Store chain, and she served as President of Payless Shoe Source from 1992 to 1996.  I never heard of Maxine either, until one Saturday night.  That is when I came into this amazing woman who founded Build a Bear Workshop in 1997.  We received mail addressed to our deceased daughter Gia, a little over a year after she past.  To be honest I was in a rage over it, I could not figure how a company would have her name.  I obviously was not thinking straight because one of my fondest memories with Gia was at a Build a Bear Workshop.  I immediately looked up the CEO of Build a Bear and fired off an email asking to have her name removed from the mailing list.  To my surprise I almost immediately received a response from Maxine.  This began numerous emails back and forth.  She was very apologetic, but beyond that she wanted to learn more about us.  She started to review our website.  She also asked some questions to better understand what we went through.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was by her.  She was down to earth, yet a smart and savvy business person.  She has firm beliefs regarding service and she is obviously very hands on in creating the right experience for every child that enters her store.  I immediately knew I would be dedicated to her organization.  The interesting thing was she totally had me turned around by simply being herself.


Now if the emails were not enough, she was impressed with our work for charities and wanted to offer something to help them.  She asked about our favorite charities.  At the time they were the Candlelighters of Delaware (a great charity helping families dealing with pediatric cancer) and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Her team contacted these charities.  They provided numerous gift cards for Candlelighters to be distributed to the families going through so much.  You would not believe the gratitude from these families and this small charity.  Maxine and her team made a huge difference for so many people.  Build a Bear also donated parties to be auctioned off by the CF Foundation during an Evening with the Philadelphia Eagles, an event I helped organize and the year prior I was the speaker.  Unfortunately an employee of that charity kept asking for more.  To this day I am upset by that.  So on behalf of families dealing with CF, I apologize to the Build a Bear team and Maxine.  That individual is not associated with the charity anymore.  Anyway, Build a Bear went so far above the normal and I am so appreciative for what Maxine did.  She and her team have made a difference in many people’s lives.


All I wanted to do was make sure we did not get mail in Gia’s name.  There was no need for Maxine to do anything beyond that.  In fact from a business perspective, Lily and Robyn were not born yet, so I did not anticipate purchasing in the future.  But of course now I will.  Maxine, you truly did build a company with a heart, it is modeled after you!  


Have you ever have someone turn a negative situation into such a positive that you would think about it years later?

World Series Champions! Philly Fans and Service

Posted on : 30-10-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Living in Philadelphia

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The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series!  What a great a day for Philadelphia.  Many of you do not realize how important this is to all of us in Philadelphia.  You may have heard that we are a little passionate about our sports teams.  Yes we have thrown snowballs at Santa and batteries at JD Drew.  I remember the cheering when Cowboys star Michael Irvin was injured.  All true, and many other stories that you may not have heard of.  But Philly fans are really just passionate for their team.  It is this passion that drives us.  If you did not notice, that passion also helped the Phillies go undefeated during the playoffs at home.


This is the first major sports championship in this City since 1983 when the Sixers won the NBA championship (the Soul won the Arena Bowl this year too).  We have been in desperate need to have a parade to celebrate our beloved teams.   As I think about this, and the news of the fans in the streets is playing in the background, this is all about passion.  I have a passion for Philly sports.  I also have a passion for Customer Service.  Unlike many people, I believe service by many companies has been improving over the past couple of years.  That is because companies have drifted away from bad measurements such as sales and handle time and went to concentrating on first contact resolution and Customer satisfaction.  I think that is a good start.


But what we really need is a few Philly sports fans, or at least individuals that have a similar passion for Customers.  When people are doing what they are passionate about they have more fun at work and have much better results.  Wouldn’t you love your job if it was something you were passionate about?  How many sports fans would love the opportunity to work for their favorite team?


Does this mean the wrong people are hired for Customer Service?  Maybe, but not in my opinion.  I think the trouble is managers have coached toward numbers.  Gen y’ers, which make up a number of Customer Service positions, do not care about the numbers.  They may not even care about the Customer or the company.  I will talk about Gen y’ers at times because I think they can be the greatest employees.  In many cases they have a passion, it is just trying to show them how they can direct that toward Customers.  They just want to know why it is important to them.  That is not hard to show.  Once companies do more of that, we will see service improve to new levels.  Passion is good in many things in life!


Now back to the Phillies.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  This is so exciting to have a World Champion in Philly.  I think they partially won because of the fans, and maybe because of Comcast (hehehehe).  For those that have not heard, the Curse of Billy Penn is now broken.  In 1983 the first skyscraper was built higher than a statue of William Penn on top of city hall.  Rumor has it there was a gentlemen’s agreement to never build higher than William Penn.  Well no major Philly team has won a championship since.  This is how the curse became known.  Well when the Comcast Center was built to be the highest building in Philadelphia, a small statue of William Penn was placed at the top!


That is my first ever blog post!  Have a great day.