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Issue 4 | September 2013

From Brad

Welcome to Issue 4 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.

I'm writing under a clear, deep-blue western sky. What a welcome return to normal. Aspens are bursting in fall colors, Mountain Bluebirds are hurriedly preparing for winter, and the crisp air is suggesting a turn of seasons.

It was only weeks ago that a massive 110,000 acre fire, in the region where I live, was catapulted into national and then worldwide news as it threatened homes, America's first destination ski resort, and one of the country's most varied and beautiful national forests.

Fire has inspired many idioms we use in the business world: stamp out that fire, baptism by fire, tackle a firestorm of challenges, that new employee is on fire. I'll never think about these expressions in quite the same way again. But I can say, now that it's behind us, I will always be grateful for the lessons this event provided on staying in the know.

I hope you enjoy, and thanks to many of you for the positive feedback on the first three issues.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

Staying in the Know

Please enable pictures on your device for full story

The lightening-caused Beaver Creek Fire, near Sun Valley, ID, was fueled by a perfect storm: heavy forests, challenging terrain, dry late-summer conditions, and unusually strong winds that were whipping up flames and sending hot embers miles from the fire's edges (prompting the nickname "Multiheaded Beast" by fire crews).

I had been working out of the area and first became aware of the fire from an announcement on a return flight. The captain was pleased to inform us we wouldn't have to divert due to the smoke, as winds had temporarily shifted. What's he talking about?

As the threat grew over the next 48 hours, hundreds of homes in the surrounding area were evacuated and Sun Valley came under pre-evacuation notice. (Rounding up the few things that matter most was a bit surreal and reminded us of what is truly important, especially family and friends.) Getting the latest and most accurate information took on an immediate urgency.

DC10 tanker. Source: Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1

DC10 tanker. Source: Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1

Local Restaurant. Source: Jessica Robinson/Northwest News Network

Local Restaurant. Source: Jessica Robinson/Northwest News Network

My go-to source became Twitter, as firsthand observations coalesced around a few hashtags. The national news picked up on the story and began providing nicely packaged updates, albeit somewhat sensationalized—the threat to America's first destination ski resort, celebs who have second homes in the area, an inside look at the thrill and danger of flying tanker aircraft. Other sources provided unique insight: local radio, mobile apps with updates, the official incident command website, Facebook sites that aggregated news and photos, and live briefings at local venues. Every source had its strengths.

The customer service landscape may not be a raging forest fire, but it's evolving by the day. And it prompted me to investigate a question. When the dangers of this experience passed, I reached out to some of the successful business leaders I know with a simple, unvarnished question: How do you keep up? What sources do you turn to, to stay on top of what's happening in your profession and industry? Here's what came back, summarized in breaking news brevity:

  • Customers, including direct conversations, aggregated input through surveys, voice of the customer initiatives, and related.
  • Peers and colleagues, through direct contacts and conversations, meetings, list-serves, conferences, and community forums.
  • Industry content providers, via blogs, newsletters, books, videos, training, graphics, et al.; these sources provide focused news and info that is vetted and packaged into accessible topics.
  • Social channels; sources mentioned include LinkedIn groups, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest (yes, for infographics), and others; many commented that they use social only for focused, specific purposes or topics.
  • General news providers, e.g., local sources, major papers (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, et al.), and various broadcast outlets.
  • Consultants and industry experts, via reports, books, blogs, speaking forums and direct engagements.
  • Search, which can lead to any of the above and more, and is often the first step in researching specific issues.

I observed four themes in my conversations. First, these execs are intentional; a few even compared information to food diets—keep it balanced, focused, and supportive of what's needed for optimum effectiveness. Second, they scale information consumption around workflow, getting only what they need during crunch times and going deeper as workloads allow. Third, they make staying informed a priority; it's something they build into their daily habits and schedules. Finally, just about all mentioned this as an area they want to continue to improve.

Staying in the know requires thought, effort and intuition. Given today's fast-evolving business landscape, it's well worth the effort.

Postscript: The Beaver Creek Fire, which reached 112,000 acres, was 100 percent contained on September 2. The firefighters and incident commander Beth Lund are local heroes; the ski area is intact and only a few structures in the region were lost. While some areas are reshaped and changed, the area retains its natural beauty and the worst predictions were averted.

Recent Issues



"From 2005 to 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 300, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes, or 40 trillion gigabytes (more than 5,200 gigabytes for every man, woman, and child in 2020)." John Gantz and David Reinsel, in "The Digital Universe in 2020," IDC, December 2012.


The U.S. faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills, and 1.5 million managers and analysts to make decisions based on their findings, according to McKinsey Global Institute in "Big Data – The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity."

Gen-Y and iGen

Cisco survey of Gen-Y-ers (respondents 18-30 years old):

  • Sixty percent check their smartphones compulsively.
  • Nine out of ten make checking their smartphones part of their morning routine (along with breakfast and brushing teeth).
  • Two-thirds spend the same amount of time or more with family and friends online as they do in person.

What comes after Gen-Y? "The iGen," says Jason Dorsey, who studies generational attributes. "They are going to rock the workplace and the marketplace —and all while using their phones for everything but talking." Born after 1995, the oldest are approaching college and the workforce.

(Sources: 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report and


Individuals, teams and organizations can benefit from periodically revisiting information sources and being intentional with their approach. Here are some suggested steps:

  • Take inventory of your current sources of information. Don't be surprised at a long list with dozens of entries; it's helpful to itemize on a spreadsheet or document to get the full picture. Add sources you don't currently use but would like to include.
  • Categorize each as "push" or "pull" (some will be a combination). With push, the information needs to be delivered as soon as it becomes available (e.g., "breaking news" in your professional and personal circles). With pull, the information is accessible as needed (e.g., research reports).
  • Estimate the time and frequency you spend with each. What would ideal (being realistic about workloads and schedules) look like? Are there gaps or imbalances? Where could you cut back to ensure you're focused on what best supports effectiveness? Where can you systemize/automate (e.g., automated notices, reminders, read files, etc.) to reduce unnecessary time and overhead?


Upcoming public speaking events:

  • Atlanta, GA, October 21–23. ICMI's Call Center Demo and Conference (conference theme is managing complexity). For more info, see
  • Seoul, Korea, November 6–9. Keynote and seminar for APCCAL Expo. For more information, contact Jane Seo at
  • Tokyo, Japan, November 13 and 14. Trends in customer service, and cultural awareness in the global community (times TBD; see
  • San Francisco, November 18–21. Dreamforce conference (times TBD), sessions on mobile customer service and service delivery best practices.


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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