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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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Coming to an Agency Near You!

Posted on : 23-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology


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 live, especially how that factors into this social media filled world and business. Things around us are changing everyday and sometimes it is difficult to keep up. A few years ago the hot topics were “social media, “digital” and “mobile”, but in many ways we are seeing the hot topics shift to “sharing economy” and context. The business world is constantly evolving and it seems very difficult for any business to keep pace with the changes before us. Partially this is due to our own resistance but it is also because the future is often difficult to predict until it is right before your eyes. Yet we are starting to see the shift within marketing and PR agencies to help businesses lead the way.

I have seen agencies reduce the number of social media roles, but that is due to multiple factors. For some it is due to the talent moving directly to the business, but for others it is because the skill set is now available in multiple layers in the agency. It no longer required as a separate position. This seems to fit the same cycle we have seen in the past, and I expect we will see into the future. There seems to be a cycle that happens with each change impacting these agencies. The cycle starts with new firms being created usually by people from larger firms who see an opportunity that they can fulfill. This stage is followed by larger firms starting to hire for the skill, then businesses bringing the skill in house with the final stage including consolidation of the smaller firms. Over the past several months I have been watching shifts in the marketing and public relations space that go beyond the big merger talk. I have seen smaller agencies establish themselves in the data analytics speciality. I have also seen some firms restructure to provide greater emphasis on data. In my view data is going to continue to grow, with further challenges from a regulatory and Consumer view. This shift to the world of context will require very specific skills and we are starting to see the agency space recognize the potential opportunity.

I doubt any of you are surprised to see data coming front and center because it has been an interesting conversation point for years. We now have the ability to know the Customer for what they want the world to know, and if we effectively utilize this information we can better assist them in finding the products and services they need at the specific moment they need them. This will of course have challenges along the way. FIrst will be properly parsing the information to better understand the intent. Then it will be a question of delivery. If a brand is off in any of the data points they can take a strong message and destroy it. Over the past few week Acxiom launched AbouttheData.com which allows Consumers to view the data the company has on them. You can read more about this from the NY Times. This effort is a brilliant effort. First it heads off regulatory pressure by sharing with Consumers the information they have collected. But more importantly it allows Consumers to actually change inaccurate data so Acxiom as the opportunity to improve how well they know the potential Customer. I do wonder if there may be any negative backlash from firms that hire the company because they too can easily see the information that they believed to be accurate, may not be. For me much of my information was way off and I did not change it. It does explain some of the goofy marketing materials I receive. Anyway the use of data is going to change this business in many ways and we are just at the beginning stages of this shift. Some will not realize the impact until it is too late but many have already fully embraced it.

I am surprised that another shift did not happen sooner, but we are starting to see the beginning stages. Over the years I have heard marketers say that service should report to marketing. I would always quip back that maybe marketing should report to service since it was such a small part of the overall Customer experience. Needless to say this would stir the pot a little. The fact is in most organization service sits way too low on the food chain and has been disrespected by other business units or viewed as a cost center. It is so sad when companies view their Customer as a cost and not an asset. In my book @YourService I talk about these challenges and the fact that we are shifting to more a word of mouth or relationship driven era and our mindset must change. I do not blame business units for looking down on service, although I do view it as short-sighted. I blame the service industry for not doing a good enough job in managing upward the importance of Customer Service. Well this lack of leadership and the changes to how Consumers view the brand, marketing and communications leaders are starting to get more involved in fixing what is broken. This is also being noticed by agencies and they too see the opportunity to better advise their clients. We are starting to watch new firms evolve from the marketing and communications space into leading the Customer Experience. I expect this trend will grow because it is difficult for your marketing to win if it does not correlate to the experience a brand creates.

We are in changing times, and agencies are always quick to change with them. These are my expectations of changes, but I am sure there will be many others. What is your view?

NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses

Posted on : 10-06-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Technology


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 days as more is learned about the NSA use of phone data, such as the information they are requiring Verizon to provide or project PRISM that none of the businesses involved seemed to know about. We already have seen some of the political dancing, but as more information is revealed, the dance moves become even harder for the players involved. Even if your company was not one of the nine mentioned, you also have some dancing to do, or at least you will.

Events over the past week involving the National Security Agency will have broader implications that will not be fully understood for years to come. The ramifications will have impact on businesses large and small, and in the way individuals interact with technology. I do not want to explore the political aspects of the discussion, as I expect those much more experience than I will be doing this over the course of the next several days and months. I also do not want to pass judgement on the individual who leaked the information as this debate can be moderated by those who specialize in that discussion. I would like to discuss the broader implications for business as we continue down this path of the big data dance.

You may be surprised that I am referring to it as a dance, but that is because we are constantly moving on this topic, trying to keep up with all the data sources but also keep pace with changing regulations, and more importantly Consumer sentiment on how this information is used or maintained. This is not a new topic, but certainly brought to the forefront by the NSA conversation. There are many books currently written on the big data topic and new ones on the way every day. One book I am looking forward to is Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. I even touched a little on the topic in my book @YourService. I called it Scalable Intimacy. Thanks to social media we now know the Customer for what they want the world to know. I also discussed the problem to this. Customers do not always know businesses could obtain this information. I pointed out if information was not used in a way consistent with how the Customer expects it could easily cause a backlash. In my view this is the core of the trouble with the NSA situation. People did not know the amount of access, how the information would be used, and how it would be maintained. Without full transparency on these topics, business, and governments will see ramifications. We are still in the early days of this issue for the government, but I expect it will grow much deeper if these answers do not fully come out.

Technology is imperative to our everyday lives. I can not imagine living a day without the access that the internet provides. Social media provides me a way to connect to people and learn from them. You can learn a lot about me through these channels. Google probably knows me in the most intimate ways because I tend to search for all kinds of topics that important to me, not always shareable via social media. The we have website we visit which can be very telling, although usually meaningless without the context for visiting. We also have companies like Facebook striving to better deliver on this context by connecting your online data to that of your offline behaviors, using data such as information from store loyalty cards

In light of the NSA leak, I would recommend businesses take a few steps back and assess how they are utilizing big data, ask your Customers their views, and look to find ways to offer transparency to your Customers on how you will utilize the data. Data is often like a drug, where access to some information causes a desire for more and more data. This is probably true with the NSA, but also with many businesses. The time to fix this is now! Provide your Customers and prospects a bill of rights on how you use and retain data and then live up to it everyday throughout your organization.

I look forward to the deeper conversations on this topic because I think it is important for all of us so we can get back to building technology that forever changes our lives in a positive manner. For now we can all enjoy the dance and find ways to be better partners to each other.

Driving Listening to Be Part of Your Organizational DNA

Posted on : 05-02-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on February 5, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

Beth Comstock, CMO for GE had a great post regarding listening that inspired this follow up. When you are finished reviewing this, I urge you to read her post as well. I have never had the privilege to meet Beth, but her reputation as a leader is well respected. In fact when I was with Comcast I was approached by a GE headhunter about a social role with them. I was very interested in the opportunity to work with Beth, but within days of the first phone call,Comcastand GE announced the partnership for NBC Universal. I did not think it would be appropriate to further our talks. I have paid close attention to GE ever since; Beth and her team have been doing outstanding work leading GE.

Listening has been a favorite topic of mine throughout my career. It is something we all want to say we do well, yet often we struggle with actually doing it. I am sure my wife has accused me of not listening once or twice! Businesses like to send messages to their Customers stating they listen, yet I have seen little evidence that they do. Today we see surveys galore from virtually every larger business we deal with. I used to fill these surveys out religiously providing very direct positive and negative feedback. Have I ever heard back? Have I seen changes based on the feedback? The trouble with the way many companies approach these surveys is they look at overall numbers, with very little attention to the verbatims. If my feedback is so important, why wouldn’t you listen or acknowledge what I had to say?

Social media is a great example of how businesses struggle to listen. As I have studied companies social media efforts, I have seen many companies who like to say they listen but little evidence with how the company operates. This is very evident when you watch many companies who perform social media Customer Service. How often are they addressing identical problems over and over again. This lack of action sends the same message to me as not responding to survey comments. Of course Customer Service has been built on that same issue for years, so I am not sure why I would expect it to change.

Years ago (way more than I would like to admit) I was interviewing for my first management role in the financial services industry. The manager asked me what I thought the most important attribute of a leader was. I did not hesitate and said “listening.” In my view a leader will never have all the knowledge they need to make decisions. The key is listening to those in the know, including employees, business leaders, Customers, regulators and so many others. In my view information is power, but not in the way many people look at that statement. I do not need to hold all the information, but I do need to listen to all the information I have around me.

My background in business is within Customer operations. I have found that the best people in the service operations are also the best listeners. The reason this occurs is they deal with upset Customers every day and sometimes call after call. They are not listening to the cursing or yelling, but instead they go deeper to understand the reason for the frustration and strive to find a solution within their own toolbox. These skills are so relevant throughout the organization. The struggle for ops is they have not been able to get the right leaders in the organization to hear what the Customer is saying. The service employees, just like the Customers, struggle to be heard.

Leaders are often proud of their own accomplishments and they should be. I do wonder if this sometimes impedes their ability to listen. Could some leaders view listening as a sign of weakness? Possibly, but I think the reality is more that they think they are listening when in reality the proof points within the organization same differently. Of course there are many exceptions to this. For one, entrepreneurs have always been among the best listeners. They hear more than words and are then able to translate this into opportunity. We need to bring this same entrepreneurial spirit to all layers of business.

As I look across the various parts of the organization, I have found marketing and communication departments do an amazing job at telling the story of their successes. Since I now sit in marketing, I am often amazed at how well they tell the story of their piece of the business. This of course is probably because of the strengths that marketers bring to the table in telling the story of the brand. I think it is time we better connect these departments. Imagine marketing’s art of storytelling connected to the art of listening from the Customer operations department? Now that would be a powerful, game changing, combination. This would be a way to lead the story of the brand instead of trying to simply tell one.

Listening is so much more than words but with the right people working together we can make it part of the DNA of any organization!

If You Do Not Know Me By Now…

Posted on : 05-11-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on November 5, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

I can’t seem to get the song ‘You Don’t Know Me By Now” out of my head lately.   I am writing this in New Jersey shortly after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread destruction and has wreaked havoc for many of the great people within the New York/New Jersey community.   I am proud to watch the community come together and bring back a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible.  I have also seen an amazing outpouring of support from many people especially via social media.  In some ways this has emphasized some of the great strengths that social media has.  The ability to connect people is amazing.

As the song goes on to say, “If you do not know me by now, you will never, never know me.”  This is so true of most companies I have seen during this crisis.  Each day I received spam emails telling me how great products were, but the reality is I do not care about your product.  I had more pressing things going on in life, such as the quest to have electric or help my fellow community members recover.  The companies already had enough information to make this judgment but oftentimes chose to ignore it because they felt their marketing information was too powerful to ignore, or they felt I would just ignore it if I were not interested.  Well I will not be ignoring it, but I will not be buying the product as well.  It was a message to me how these companies do not care about me, so I will not care about them.  Of course some companies did a better job.  Surprisingly I saw some of the best understanding from companies we often love to hate, such as banks, cable companies, and at least one utility company (there is another that I would leave on the bad list but that will be a conversation for another day).

This song has so many words that correlate to all types of relationships, especially the connection that we are seeing between businesses and Consumers in a socially connected world.  If you watch social conversations as much as I do, you have noticed that often Consumers, at times, are very negative toward brands.  Well “We’ve all got our funny moods” and this is a reflection of that.  Often this negativity is a reflection of that.  Always remember that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.  This negativity exists because your Customers want you to see success.  The key is that they want the relationship to go both ways.  As the song says, “Just trust in me like I trust in you.”  Unfortunately this is not always part of our message to our Customer.  We like to dictate to them instead of inviting them to be a part of something special.

We often look toward social as a way to get our message out, but in reality our message is meaningless.  We send messages all the time to our Customers, and in social they can take the message to their audience.  Winning within social is simply reflecting your message through all touch points and then allowing your Customers to take that message to the broader public.  The challenge is that we have not always lived up to our end of the bargain, such as marketing messages that did not reflect the actual Customer experience.  Many companies like to say how great their Customer service is when in reality, at least when we need them, it is horrible.  Now is the time to change that.

In my book @YourService, I also talk about “Scalable Intimacy,” which in my mind is more pertinent than ever.  Throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, anyone could have followed what I stated in social media, and they could have easily known what was important to me, yet no company was able to correlate that to their marketing messages.  It is really sad, especially because we have discussed the importance of listening in social for years, yet very few brands actually do it well.

So my message to businesses looking to bring social to scale, which can also be found in the song:, is as follows “Just get yourself together or might as well say goodbye.  What good is a love affair when you can’t see eye to eye.”

What’s with all the Quora Hype?

Posted on : 11-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology

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Have you heard of Quora?  If not you have missed a lot a hype reminiscent of Friendfeed and other social media websites that we have been excited about in the past few years.  I, like many, tried to resist the hype but eventually was pulled in.  So what did I think?  Did I see value?  I guess I saw something, or I would not be writing this today.

First let me describe Quora for those who have not had the chance to check it out.  Quora is basically a website where you can ask questions on virtually any topic and members of the community will try to answer them.  Many times you will receive multiple answers and the community will vote up the best answers or, if necessary vote answers down.  You can easily search the large quantity of questions that have already been answered.  If you are like me and like to check out specific topics, you can easily do that through the tagging system the website has in place.

So why did Quora take off in the first place?  Most likely it was due to the quality of responses, and those who took the time to answer.  One of my favorite responses came from Steve Case, former CEO of AOL.  The first question I noticed he answered was regarding the cost of all those CD’s that AOL seemed to mail out every day.  He also took the time to answer that age old question ‘did AOL purposely make it hard to cancel service.’   Another favorite was about the reason for AOL’s shift to unlimited or all you can eat pricing model.  I was very impressed by Steve’s transparency and willingness to participate.  If you have time check out some of Steve’s responses.

I have seen many other notable people taking the time to answer questions, including the CEO for Netflix, Reed Hastings, as well as many notable people from the press, business, books authors, entertainment, etc.  The list really goes on and on.

Now is Quora all that and a box of chocolates?  Not yet.  What makes it exciting right now is the quality of answers and the caliber of the participants.  As it scales this could prove difficult.  There is one thread asking best speakers in social and it just goes on an on because the best speakers are defined by the audience, the topic, the event.  I posted a few, but I did not include someone like Dan Roam.  What you have not heard of Dan?  He is incredible speaker who talks about using drawings to better engage your audience.  Through his website, http://thebackofthenapkin.com, he has changed the way videos are done.  Back to Quora.  The user experience on the website is okay, but I am sure will improve over time.  When you start to type a question in the question field at the top of the page, similar questions show.  You can easily then click on them.  I have had the page lock up at times, as well as server slow downs, and links not working.  I do not think it is easy to understand when you are following topics, or all the notifications.  With all that, I applaud them at this early iteration of the websites, and the number of slowdowns are not too bad given the huge growth that I have seen for the website.

Like many social websites, I have heard the founders talk about how they are focusing now on building the best possible website and they will think how they can best monetize it in the future.  I have always thought this approach, used by entities like Google, Facebook and Twitter is not always the best way to go.  As an example I have always felt that Twitter will have trouble monetizing for the same reason they were able to grow so fast.  Basically their open API (the reason there are many different tools available to use) made it easy for tools to be built, but without control of where your user interacts, you will struggle making money with advertising.  Promoted tweets are a nice idea, but since everyone knows they are an ad, they do not always interact.  For Quora I see a potential to make money by licensing it to businesses to use.  Let me explain.  Over the past several years I have seen activity in help forums around the net decline.  The reason this is happening is many of the same people who hung out in forums, like to also hang out in places like Twitter and Facebook.  It is difficult to hang in too many places, so many have decided to hang with their tech friends in the same space they hang with the guys they have beer with on a Saturday night.  The other trouble is forums are typically restricted to one website.  So if you had trouble with your internet service provider, but the trouble could be with your router or the model computer you use, the answer may be in the computer manufacturers forum, instead fo the cable provider.  I have said for years that forum providers, like Lithium and Jive should find ways to better connect these conversation, which I think they are working on.  At the same time, if I used a help forum for business 2 Consumer, I would already be in conversations with Quora, and I would possibly consider replacing my forum with this updated answer site.  I think it would be much more Consumer friendly.  I also think Quora could quickly be on the path to making money.  Do not believe me?  Check out this bank website (they are not in operation yet) and the link (you have to scroll all the way down) to their companies Quora page.  I doubt they are paying anything for that, but obviously there is potential.  I also see great potential for companies to take a Twelpforce (BestBuy has people helping people on Twitter with products they sell) type method to start helping people with topics important to their business.  It is key to know that self advertisement is not permitted and at this time Quora does not have a means for business to participate.  I think this was shortsighted, but they want to avoid spam and make this about person helping person.  I think they should consider an option for authorized people from businesses.

The key for Quora is to continue to improve the user experience, and once the newness factor wears off, they need to make sure they do not go down the path of other answers websites, and have spam take over the answers.  The moderation now is working well but it must work the same as people try to find means to circumvent the system.  I also worry about attention span.  How many places can you hang out?  I find it tough enough to blog, tweet, Facebook and do my normal offline tasks.  Can I handle another place?  Twitter and Facebook will take the attention of time for many, but Quora is better than also visiting 3 or 4 forums websites, like I do today.  I do wonder if Quora and Twitter found a way to link up, how powerful they could become, but that is a conversation for the future.  I do think Quora will be a game changer as they mature their business and find the core community that will help them win.  I for one will be cheering them on.

Making Money During the Gold Rush

Posted on : 08-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology

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This week I have had the gold rush on my mind a lot, and for a variety of reasons it just will not leave, so it calls for a blog post.  I do get worried that we are looking at a bubble ready to burst.  When you look at markets you usually know when it will turn based on what people are talking about.  When everyone was talking about house flipping (all those shows came out on the topic) you knew the housing bubble was set to burst.  When everyone is talking about putting money into stocks, you just know the market will collapse.  When everyone is scared the market will go down to a 1000 on the Dow, you know it is time to buy, just like when people were talking about Dow 30,000 I knew it was time to go the other direction.  Today I am seeing the same with social media!  Is social media euphoria going to cause a collapse?

First I do not think social media is going anywhere.  During my last post I did make a few predictions for the coming year that may be a little contrarian.  I do think we will see usage go down as people pull back to determine how much of their life they want public.  More important than that, and where I think the social bubble will burst is regarding the marketing excitement I have seen.  You would not believe the amount of companies are looking to hire people to lead them to the gold in social media.  I think this is the bubble that is set to burst.  As marketers do not make the money they anticipate, they inevitably will have their own bubble burst.

I have been contacted a lot recently by companies with new ways to market to ‘influencers’ and get this gold of new Customers.  Each one seems to have the same theme talking about how they have proprietary software that has deep analytics that will get this message to the right people, and they guarantee they will act.  I have no doubt that companies are wasting a lot of money buying these maps to the gold, or hiring agencies that promise the same performance.  When the returns are just not there, marketers will be very upset and swear off social media.  I think that is the wrong approach, but a more holistic approach to the business could prove successful.

The trouble is social media is different, especially when you compare to other broadcast mediums like TV and print.  In the other mediums you had the Customer, or potential Customer undivided attention, but on the web, especially in social websites, the attention goes to so many other things, such as the people they are interacting with.  If people believe they are being sold too, or others were paid for their influence, it is very easy thing to turn off.  I know I do.

As part of this we have also seen influence model websites come about like Klout, Twitalyzer, and Peerindex.  Each of the links I provided go directly to my profile on those websites.  I also have seen some interesting discussion regarding these websites on Quora (more to come on this website later next week).  I would recommend reading this post by @ShelIsrael ‘Twitalyzer: How Does it Measure Up.’ and Matt Creamer’s Ad Age post ‘Your Followers are No Measure of Your Influence.’  My overall take on these analytics sites is they are interesting and can add a little fun, but they will never truly understand the human impact.  I do fear they will add into the inaccurate marketers belief of targeting influencers, but they will learn over time that all their Customers are influencers.  The trouble I have always had with these type of measures is there are some people, who walk into a room, say a few words and they change everything.  The same type of people are in spaces like Twitter and have great influence even when they are quiet.  In the past I have also talked about the influence a certain video about a sleepy technician had (and still does) on a brand I used to work for.  No tool would be able to predict influence like that.

What started me down this path were 3 emails and a call I received over the past week regarding these new social media influencer tools.  The one email was internal one that I was cc’ed on talking about this as the future.  I did something I typically strive not to, but I replied to all with this simple statement:

‘During the Gold Rush the people who made the most money sold the maps to the gold.  Keep this in mind.’

If you want to make money in this gold rush, jump in and sell the maps.  For me, I believe in the long term, and I will focus on the Customer experience which I think will deliver greater gold.

I wanted to make sure you all knew that I am Frank, not 4123 1234 5678 9012

Posted on : 28-01-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Technology


We all have cravings for an emotional connection to others, yet the majority of our life we steer clear of these connections. How has the computer age impacted your life? I think the majority of us would say it has made life easier, opened up numerous doors of knowledge, and the internet has brought about so many more connections to people we would have never had the opportunity to meet. It has also brought about the depersonalization of society in many ways. When you look at messages to each other, they are not the long love letters that we have seen in so many movies. They are short email messages, or better yet text messages to the ones we love. How personal are our connections in social media? Do you share your most intimate thoughts or are your messages a bit more controlled? I would assume the latter.

Many people who know me well would probably not consider me the most emotional person, and the outward person I portray may show that. But we all are human and there is a human need to connect with others, seek approval from others, a few nice words, and in some cases a few negative words. It helps us meet this emotional need.

So what does this all have to do with anything? As I mentioned in my last post, I am reading Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, and it is really make me think about a lot of things. In the book he basically says we are still in the industrial world, and as part of our job we are the factory workers, the cogs in the wheel. I have thought a lot about this, and where did it all come from. In some ways I think we evolved into more of the factory scenario, but I would have to do a lot more research to confirm that. I am not saying the dictating from the top down was not there, because it was, but they process side of everything we do, in my opinion, is part of a depersonalization that has been happening for a long time. For most companies, especially the larger ones, people are not known by there name, but instead there employee number. Hi I am 12345678, pleased to meet you. Before computers I would guess I was still Frank. I would bet it is easier to layoff 12345678, then it would be to lay off Frank or Jane or Jim or Jason and the list goes on and on. I would also guess that when an employee is not as much a number, but instead a person, the amount of emotional value they would add to the organization would be much greater. They could become that artist that transforms the organization or creates the next big product or completely wins over your Customer. But instead today, many do not invest any, or very little emotion, and there is minimal connection to the company.

So we were just talking about employees, but what about Customers? Well I know I am a number at most places I do business with. The funny thing is Customer data that companies have is enormous, yet none of it builds an emotional connection or emotional understanding of the Customer. Many companies have Voice of the Customer programs, which has some roots in the Six Sigma quality improvement process. The interesting thing about Six Sigma is everything is about data and numbers, but they call it “Voice of the Customer. I have been trained in Six Sigma, and I do see some of the value it created in organizations, but I wonder how much emotional value it removed from an organization. The concept converts everything into data and hopefully the data will guide you through the process. Wow, that sounds like cogs in the wheel doesn’t it? Seth, you may have some strong points in your book! Even those doing the project have no emotional connection. Anyway, back to the Customer. The leaders in the organization only have one connection to the Customer and that is the data that is shared with them everyday. That is not very emotional. That is why companies have not changed the Customer experience much over the years, except in some cases getting worse. No emotional connection to make sure it was right. That is why I have always emphasized the Customer story. Executives, and employees are tired of pure data, and the story from that data has not always created the right decisions. So if you want to improve your organization, share the Customer’s story, make that emotional connection, and I can guarantee you that change will happen!
BTW, I wanted to make sure you all knew that I am Frank, not 4123 1234 5678 9012 or 12345678

The Social Media Fire, Will It Change Corporate Culture?

Posted on : 07-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, In the News, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This is the third attempt for me writing this post.  This morning I woke up and read my email like I do every morning.  One of the emails was a Google alert with a reference to this San Francisco Chronicle article about “Social Media Going Corporate.”  In the article it stated the following:

At Comcast, employee Frank Eliason took the initiative last year to use his own Twitter account to contact customers who were tweeting about service problems. Now known as “Famous Frank,” Eliason has been credited with almost single-handedly turning around Comcast’s reputation. He heads a staff of 11 who monitor social networks and offer help to customers.

During a question-and-answer session at last month’s Web 2.0 conference, Comcast’s Roberts said the Twitter strategy has played a big part in changing the corporate culture “from inside the organization, not just the top down.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/07/BU341ACLD3.DTL#ixzz0WE9gWzSR

In my opinion the change in culture was due to so many people inside and outside the organization.  Some of the people I work with I give huge credit to the change, including my team, Rich Roberts (my former boss, now VP of Customer Care in Atlanta), Tina Waters (SVP and my boss), Rick Germano (SVP of National Customer Service), Jenn Khoury, (VP, Corporate Communications), and D’Arcy Rudnay (SVP, Corporate Communications).  But it was so many more than these individuals.  Team members throughout the organization, from techs, Customer Service representatives, managers, directors, and VPs from all area contributed.  Our Customers, who are very passionate about our products, and simply want a great experience to go with it.  As Rick likes to say “They are cheering us on, because they want us to get  it right.”  In dealing with so many, I can say Rick is correct, they do love our products and they want the opportunity to cheer for us, we just need to make sure we deliver on that.  This post is not about Comcast, but for those that do not know, I agree our culture has changed.  I have been seeing first hand, including changes in reporting structure, new systems, the implementation of the Customer Guarantee and the overall attitude of the company has shifted to be about the Customer experience.  In fact the new corporate credo is:

“We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day.  Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer friendly and reliable service in the market”

I am sure some will say they have not experienced this fully yet, but I will tell you a lot is being done to ensure you do.  You will be cheering!  Internally the conversation is always about the Customer experience and how to make sure we get it right.  I see a much different place than when I started 2 years ago.  I do not believe it was due to me, but a lot of the discussions in various spaces that started to come together at the same time.  Many of the discussions supported greater transparency, Customer focus, and an environment that questioned how things were being done.  As this took shape, the culture of the company changed.

So I wrote this post numerous times I kept singing in my head the following lyrics:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Aren’t these words so fitting regarding social media and corporate America?  Now I was not around when the phone joined the business world, but I can imagine someone saying they do not need a phone on their desk.  Yet today, many of us carry our work phone wherever we are.  I would imagine in the marketing space similar discussions happened with the transition from newspaper to radio to TV.  I remember email coming out and much debate over providing email access to all employees.  Today, I have work email 24/7 on my iPhone.  Even funnier was the reaction to using email for Customer Service.  Today who would not think to email a company for service?  Same was true regarding allowing employees having internet access on their desk.  This was done, but then many site were blocked due to productivity.  Of course I work on email at night and weekends, why would their be a problem if I updated Facebook at work?  So lets allow the song to continue:

Telephone, radio’s playing, newspapers, TV’s talking,
email, googling, paying bills, Pandora playing
Facebook Mafia wars, Blog updates galore
Following more Twitter stars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Social media is about relationships, and ultimately relationships are good for businesses and employees.  Will social media change corporate culture?  Well have other forms of communication?  I believe phone, email and the internet have already changed the culture for everyone, especially businesses.  With each new form of communication we gain efficiency and we find new ways to speak with Customers.  Can you imagine someone typing and copying memos?  Ugh, I would hate that.  For those that say Twitter and Facebook take away from the efficiency of the workers, the same was said about email and internet access.  I bet it was also said about phone too (oh no, a family member better not call).  Social media has made the world a smaller place (there are numerous examples of this) and I know it can make the business world smaller too.

A Twitter Warning…

Posted on : 03-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Social Media, Technology


In today’s Wall Street Journal there are 2 interesting articles about Twitter. The first is one that really emphasizes what I have said for a long time, Twitter is the early warning system and it is important for companies to watch what is being said. The article features friends Scott Monty from Ford and Bonin Bough from Pepsi. It also features Southwest’s Linda Rutherford and Coke’s Adam Brown. I have a lot of respect for what Linda has done at Southwest. I am not as familiar with Adam’s work, but I will keep a look out. If you have the opportunity check it out the article “For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert a PR Mess.

The second article is what is driving me to write this post.  It does not feature anyone I know, but it emphasizes the information available via Twitter.  Twitter has changed the world and made it much more flat.  News and information is flying faster than ever before.  The article, titled “For Traders, Twitter is One More Trading Tool” (requires online subscription), emphasizes the story of a trader that found information via Twitter.  The first paragraph states:

“When Thomas Grisafi read a “tweet” the afternoon of July 22 complaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had “goofed again,” the president and chief executive of Indiana Grain Co. wondered what prompted the message.”

This prompted Mr. Grisafi to research what the tweet was about and to trade based on the findings.  My fear is this will drive many to start searching Twitter to make riches.  Remember investing is a long term commitment and short term riches are highly unlikely and involve a lot of risk.  Mr. Grisafi obviously knew who this person was, and had trust in the tweets.  He also did a lot of research off of Twitter before committing money.  This is a key aspect to this story and the reason I am writing this.  Twitter search will not lead to quick riches, and research still must be done.  Unfortunately Twitter has many spammers, similar to the junk mail that you find in your inbox each day.  If you are not buying securities based on spam email, be just as cautious about buying them based on a tweet or perceived information.  I am not saying Twitter is not a useful tool, but like anything else be careful of how your react based on the information.  Even if the person may be a trusted source, such as a known CEO, most will be very careful of what they say.  It is also possible that a twitter account can be hacked or just completely false.  Think of the Exxon Twitter example.

This is just a simple Twitter warning, please go about your day!

Everything is so Amazing and Nobody is Happy…

Posted on : 23-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Technology


Ann Handley shared this video on Facebook.  It is an appearance by Louis C.K. on Conan O’Brien on 10/1/08.  This is worth the watch!