June 27, 2009
Bend over: Dr. Obama will see you now
Who wouldn't love the cover of the latest issue of The Economist (above), which caused me to burst out laughing when I first saw it in my mailbox a few minutes ago?
It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican: this one's for everyone.
Dinner is served
Won't you be the talk of the barbie in your waycool apron from Aksel Creations?
@comcastcares on Twitter sure beats eternal hold on the help line
At least I'm thinking it will the next time a cable outage takes down a game I'm watching.
I read about this hack in Jon Swartz's June 25, 2009 USA Today story about how during a recent Stanley Cup playoff game TV outage viewers learned what the problem was via Twitter way before Comcast's hard-wired help lines had the scoop.
Tell you what impresses me: Frank Eliason, Comcast's bleeding edge Internet guy, gives out his email — firstname.lastname@example.org — to anyone who asks.
That's only about 180° different from 99% of other businesses and people when you're trying to get in touch with them.
I know this to be true because I always make a good-faith effort to contact someone whom I've featured in bookofjoe, only to FAIL to find an email address/method of getting in touch no matter how deep I have my crack research team drill down.
Hey, guess what? No one's that important.
Bonus: I woke up this morning to find the Frank Eliason was now following me on Twitter.
You could look it up.
Here's the USA Today article.
Businesses use Twitter to communicate with customers
It was there — not on a phone system with multiple options — they discovered that a lightning storm in Atlanta had caused a power outage during the Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins hockey playoff game, and that the transmission would be restored soon.
"I did a search on Twitter as soon as the game went off the air," says Dave Decker, 31, a Web developer in Pittsburgh who regularly tweets while watching sporting events. "The mystery was resolved in minutes. Before Twitter, it would have been a nightmare trying to find out what happened on the phone."
Comcast's deft use of
Twitter underscores what is becoming a staple in modern-day customer
service. Increasingly, corporate giants such as Comcast,
PepsiCo, JetBlue Airways, Whole Foods Market and others are beefing up direct communications with customers through social-media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
popular communications technology has helped companies quickly and
inexpensively respond to customer complaints, answer questions and
tailor products and services. It has supplemented current customer
services, easing the load on call centers and expensive mailers that
most consumers abhor. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and online software
services such as LiveOps,
"If you're trying to hide from your customers, don't use Twitter," says Demian Sellfors, CEO of Media Temple, a Web-hosting service. "We want to know what our customers think, both good and bad. That's a good thing."
As more companies effectively use social-media tools for customer care, it also is becoming easier to shift customer-relations resources to the U.S. and feed into the fledgling "homeshoring" trend. Home-based workers have become de rigueur among employers to take advantage of better technology, gain productivity from employees no longer tied to long commutes and leverage the expertise of local workers.
There are about 200,000 so-called homeshored jobs — most of them in the U.S. — and more than 300,000 are expected by 2012, says Stephen Loynd, program manager for contact center services research at market researcher IDC.
"The competitive landscape for customer care is subtly changing because of technology like Twitter," Loynd says.
Changing with their users
As Americans — especially younger ones — flock to Twitter, the companies that sell them goods and services are following them. Those companies view social-media services as the ideal vehicle to air comments, gripes and suggestions.
"It's where a lot of our younger customers are," says Bonin Bough, PepsiCo's global director of digital and social media. His position and title changed eight months ago, reflecting the changing face of customer service.
In this emerging world, Frank Eliason is something of a legend. For more than a year, he has helped pioneer the use of Twitter as a customer-service resource at Comcast."We can see in real time what our customers think, and learn from them," says Eliason, director of digital care at Comcast. He leads a team of 10 people for @comcastcares, which has nearly 24,000 followers.
"Social media is a natural extension of customer service," says Bill Tolany, global coordinator of integrated media at Whole Foods Market. It has more than 50 Twitter accounts, tweeting on topics as specialized as cheese.
"The more ways you provide customers to contact you, you're more likely to satisfy them," says Elissa Fink, vice president of marketing at Tableau Software, a business-software maker that began using Twitter to improve customer service. "It shows you're listening to them."
For many, call centers are out of the question — too frustrating, with long waits — and e-mail is too slow in an era of instantaneous online communications.
In some cases, Twitter is nurturing relationships between retailers and customers. Consider Shelley Risk, a 29-year-old public-relations rep in San Francisco. When she ordered a designer sweater that proved to be defective, she tried to contact ideeli, the online retailer from whom she bought it. But she couldn't find a phone number on the company's website, and an e-mail message was not answered immediately. So she reached out to ideeli's Twitter profile. Within 24 hours, the problem was resolved.
Social-media tools are fostering customer service through:
•Up-to-the-minute service details. Twitter can function like a real-time search for airlines and others. For example,
(@jetBlue; over 730,000 followers) assiduously answers traveler queries about flight times, delays and weather updates. "It's like an early-warning system," saysspokesman Morgan Johnston.
•Customer feedback that leads to enhanced services.
Through social-media forums on Facebook and
•Online communities to exchange comments. Facebook and
Dunkin' Donuts actively manages a fan page on Facebook with more than 825,000 fans. It used the page extensively to complement advertising and e-mail to inform customers on a new line of healthy foods and an iced coffee day event in April.
Harley-Davidson's corporate profiles on MySpace (36,000 friends) and Facebook (175,000 fans) let it solicit comments from fiercely loyal customers. Harley also uses Twitter (@harleydavidson; 4,000 followers) and produces videos of its motorcycles on YouTube.
The creation of online communities extends to sophisticated software programs. Salesforce.com is helping 6,800 companies — including Comcast, Dell and Starbucks — build online communities to solicit customer suggestions on how to improve operations.
Technologies has created a social-media tracking service, dubbed Cloud
Monitor, to monitor what customers are saying about brands and their
products on Twitter and YouTube; a later version, scheduled for August,
will add Facebook, MySpace and
Whither call centers?
With so many social-media tools available, and consumers increasingly using them, this raises the question: Are call centers, direct mailers — even e-mail — things of the past for customer care? Hardly,say marketing experts and companies.
Though invaluable, social media is just a fraction of a company's customer-service arsenal, says Peter Kim, a blogger who covers the topic.
For perspective, consider the size of call-center operations for major brands. Comcast says it is unlikely to uproot its operations, which employ 25,000 — most of them in the U.S. — in favor of Twitter. "A majority of our customers prefer to contact us by phone," Eliason says.
JetBlue has more than 1,500 call-center employees in the Salt Lake City area, most of whom work at home.
"Twitter is for basic troubleshooting," says Zsolt Katona, a marketing professor at the
That hasn't stopped some companies, however, from exploring new ways to ease their dependence on offshore call centers. New technology could usher in specialized customer service.
companies with vast call-center operations overseas plan to shift some
jobs back to U.S. soil because of advances in technology, says LiveOps
President Wes Hayden. LiveOps manages home-based contract workers who
staff virtual call centers. The remote workforce approach is similar to
"I am my own boss, and I have the flexibility to work my schedule around my farm and family," says Lisa Hammond, 41, a home-based agent who takes sales calls for infomercials at a 20-acre farm in Goessel, Kan.
New technology also lets some companies plop customer-service reps at special facilities in the U.S. to handle calls. Contact Centers of America is readying a 32,000-square-foot facility with 270 workstations in Orlando that will mostly hire veterans, the unemployed, college graduates and retirees, says CCA CEO Joe Jacoboni.
"Brands aren't about 'messages' anymore," says Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. "Brands today are conversations — and today the most important conversations are happening ... through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace."
When Yohji (Yamamoto) met (Salvatore) Ferragamo
Women's shoes designed by Yamamoto
and crafted by Ferragamo.
100 Best Movie Lines in 200 Seconds
Solar Powered LED Hat
From the website:
Solar Powered LED Hat
Wear it during the day, push the button and you've got two strong LEDs when darkness falls.
Up to 5 hours of full power operation from a fully charged cap — even longer in "Dim" or "Flashing" modes.
100% brushed heavy cotton with a brass swing buckle rear closure.
Cap as sold comes without logo (unlike those pictured).
"It refers to the state your mind is in when you have a word 'on the tip of your tongue' but can't quite articulate yourself."
Helpful Hints from joeeze: Reupholstery in a spray can
It's the new new thing in decorating.
Here's Joyce Wadler's story from the June 25, 2009 New York Times Home section.
To Reupholster, Spray Away
It is always trying when a pet or a friend ruins a beautiful upholstered piece with an unsightly stain. The pet can be put down, the friend banished, but that does little to fix what is truly important in life: your stuff.
Now comes a solution: Simply Spray fabric paint.
According to its inventor, David Reizian, the president of Deval Products in Warwick, R.I., the paint can be used to disguise stains or transform anything from sofas to car upholstery to fabric partitions. It is nontoxic and, most important, won’t come off on your guests’ trousers, even if they deserve it. Mr. Reizian, 43, a onetime rock vocalist who has nonetheless spent his life in the fabric-paint business, knows because he developed it.
“We went to Goodwill and bought a couch,” Mr. Reizian said. “It was tan, and we painted it bright red. I like bright colors. We paid $50. What I noticed was it would rub off, so we went back to the drawing board. We came up with a formula that stays soft and is durable and it won’t rub off, even if it gets wet.”
How does he know?
“We had it in the factory, and I had all my employees sitting on it with white pants,” he said. “Then we tried a car interior in one of my employees’ cars: a black Ultima gray interior that we did black.”
How did he figure out which lucky employee would volunteer a car?
“I went and looked in the parking lot and saw who really needed their upholstery painted,” Mr. Reizian said. “It was Alaida Zapat. She’s our floor manager. It looks great and it doesn’t fade in the sun. She’s happy with it.”
Simply Spray Upholstery Fabric Paint is about $13 a can; information: (800) 261-4772 or spraypaint4fabric.com.