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Issue 5 | October 2013

From Brad

Welcome to Issue 5 of The Edge of Service. You are receiving this new newsletter as a friend or colleague, or because we've connected or interacted on service topics. If you choose, you can unsubscribe by clicking unsubscribe.

As I type, the doors of the Delta flight out of Atlanta that will take me west and home are about to close. I'll soon power down my computer until we reach 10,000 feet, where I can turn back on and access the onboard wireless service (to which I'm hopelessly addicted—there's no better place than 35,000 feet to write, research, and think).

Shortly, my fellow passengers and I will watch Delta's safety video, featuring a welcome from CEO Richard Anderson as he walks through a Delta call center and highlights the organization's focus on service. The video's images of service agents interacting with customers forms a fitting backdrop to the brand message Delta wants to reinforce. (Delta, along with, Convergent and The Home Depot, provided site tours for attendees of a recent ICMI conference in Atlanta; each is doing exemplary work in building out customer care operations.)

Products matter, but it's the service around them that is often the primary differentiator. Customer interaction—and its importance to overall customer experience—is an area of intense focus in organizations that are upping the service ante.

I hope you enjoy this issue!

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

Customer Interaction is Changing the Game

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Jed York, the youthful 33-year-old CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, is bringing a storied team that had fallen on hard times back to prominence. San Francisco won the NFC Championship title last year and came razor-close to winning the Super Bowl. York is "the secret behind the 49ers return to greatness," concluded CBS Sports writer Jason La Canfora in a recent column.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jed, along with a number of other forward-thinking CEOs and entrepreneurs, at a small, top-notch conference put together by Tugboat Ventures. (Tugboat is a Silicon Valley-based firm led by Dave Whorton that invests in "evergreen companies"—growth firms focused on long-term success rather than a near-term sale or IPO.)

Those who work with Jed often cite his vision, leadership, and organizational skills, but I picked up on another trait—he's incredibly focused on customer experience. For all the intrigue surrounding players (his deep concern for and commitment to them is evident), a fast-evolving season already in the sixth week, and a new $1.2 billion stadium set to open in 2014, his focus seems to always gravitate back to the fans.

Levi's Stadium will feature an ecosystem designed for mobile phones (think network, apps, video feeds). "They're coming in with their Androids and iPhones, they've already invested in the hardware," he points out. Imagine Anquan (was it Anquan Boldin he used as an example?) scoring a touchdown: Some will watch the replay from different angles; others may want to explore his involvement in the community, buy jerseys with his number, or jump into social discussions. In the world taking shape, customers become part of the game.

Jessica Herrin, CEO and Founder, Stella & Dot Local Motors Racer, Stars and Stripes Edition

Jessica Herrin, CEO and Founder, Stella & Dot

Local Motors Racer, Stars and Stripes Edition

Brad and Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers

Brad and Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers

Customer engagement is a theme playing out across today's most innovative organizations. Jessica Herrin is the inspiring CEO and Founder of Stella & Dot, a company that offers boutique-style jewelry and accessories exclusively through in-home trunk shows. She and her team have developed an innovative social shopping approach that harnesses ecommerce, social media, and personal service, putting the company on a hyper-fast growth track. And in another example—wow, talk about engagement—Local Motors, headed by CEO and Founder John ("Jay") Rogers, enables customers to literally design and build their own street-legal car or motorcycle through "crowd-powered automotive design, manufacturing and technology." To get your arms around this one, check out this interview on Jay Leno's Garage. (Jessica and Jay were also at the Tugboat Summit.)

Think these companies are exceptions? Innovative outliers? Maybe, but don't underestimate the central role of customer interaction and engagement in the success of more traditional organizations. I recently visited GM's customer care center in their downtown Detroit headquarters, along with other executives who were part of a Customer Response Summit headed by Chad McDaniel. In addition to traditional channels, GM interacts with customers and prospects through 97 automobile forums, 20 Facebook pages, and 14 Twitter handles; they have tools to pull potential conversations to desktops, where reps decide when it's appropriate and helpful to join conversations. As one of their agents told me, referring to a forum scrolling across his screen, "That's where our customers are, so we need to be there" (quite a profound statement). Organizations as diverse as Intuit, Comcast and the National Cancer Institute are transforming engagement through multichannel customer interaction.

It's exciting to see the role customer interaction is playing in shaping strategy and delivering business returns. And it's fast becoming a competitive mandate.

Recent Issues


3x Better Returns

According to a study by Watermark Consulting, customer experience leaders generated a return three times higher on average than the S&P 500 index. Laggards trailed the index significantly. The study covers a six-year period, from 2007 through 2012.

Source: Watermark Consulting

The Channels of Service Organizations Provide

Here's a snapshot of how many organizations currently provide the following service channels:

Phone, inbound 98%
Email 89%
Phone, outbound 76%
Web 70%
Self-service IVR 49%
Offline (fax and/or mail) 48%
Social 47%
Self-service portal 42%
Chat 40%
Mobile 39%

Source: ICMI's 2013 report, Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center. (Survey respondents primarily from North America, spanning all major vertical industries.)


An important enabler to customer engagement is to cultivate your organization's customer access strategy (CAS), which is a plan that touches virtually every business unit and, ideally, incorporates these essential components:

  • Customers (segments, prospects)
  • Types of interactions
  • Access channels (Web, phone, chat, mobile, social, et al.)
  • Hours of operation (by channel)
  • Service level objectives
  • Routing methodology
  • People/technology resources required
  • Information required
  • Analysis, improvement process
  • Guidelines for deploying news channels and services

Assemble a cross-functional team to discuss five basic questions:

  1. What channels should you provide now and in 24 months?
  2. How can you simplify access?
  3. How are processes, information needs and skills requirements evolving?
  4. What opportunities exist to boost engagement?
  5. Does your CAS need an update; what are the next steps?


Brad's upcoming public speaking schedule:

  • Seoul, Korea, November 11 and 12. Keynote and workshop for APCCAL Expo.
  • Tokyo, Japan, November 13 and 14. Reception for ICMI Japan clients and session on trends in customer service and cultural awareness.
  • San Francisco, November 19. Sessions at Dreamforce conference on mobile customer service and service delivery best practices.
  • San Diego, February 18-20, 2014. Workshop on the foundations of customer interaction for the Customer Response Summit.
  • Orlando, March 4-7, 2014. Workshop, Principles of Effective Contact Center Management for ICMI.


  • Blog, Our Customers are Driving Innovation
  • Interview, on The Edge of Service newsletter, with Contact Center Pipeline.
  • Article, How Companies are Shaping Access Strategies that Further Their Brands

About Brad

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

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