Tomas Haffenden, head of service design at Torrens University
CX Decoded Podcast
November 15, 2022

CX Decoded Podcast Episode 5: Exploring the Customer Unhappiness Factor

Avoiding unhappy customers is what everyone wants to do, right? But listening to our most vociferous critics is not always easy because they're not going to pussyfoot around with you. According to this episode’s guest, it’s our angry, enraged customers who are our Golden Tickets to success.

Shaking down happy customers about why they like you won’t help you understand areas you need to improve, says Tomas Haffenden, head of service design at Torrens University. You want to cozy up to the grumps, the crazy mad and the fire-breathing fit-throwers instead — cause boy-howdy — will they ever tell you what the !!*@%&*! is wrong. 

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Hello and welcome to CX Decoded. This podcast is brought to you by CMSWire. CMSWire is the world's leading community of customer experience practitioners reaching over 5 million digital professionals.

Michelle Hawley: Hello and welcome to our latest edition of CX Decoded. I'm Michele Hawley, senior editor for CMSWire, and I'm joined by my co-host, Dom Nicastro, managing editor of CMSWire. What's going on, Dom? 

Dom Nicastro: Not much, Michelle, good to be here. Hope you are well and ready to talk customer experience, actually, more specifically, customer unhappiness. And that's why our guest is on this podcast because I'm intrigued by it. We hear a lot about customer happiness, customer retention, customer success, but I want to get right to the negative, baby. I'm ready for this. How about you? 

Michelle: I'm ready, and who is our guest today? 

Dom: All right, we got Tomas Haffenden. And he's the head of service design at Torrens University, and we woke him out of a dead sleep because he's in Australia for this recording. He's also the head of innovation at Electric Sheep, a little company he has himself. Tomas, what's going on, buddy? 

Tomas Haffenden: Hey, guys, how you doing? 

Dom: Good. So you're gonna bring it today? Because I know it's like, some ungodly time down there. It's like 4 a.m. the kids. 

Tomas: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's like 6 a.m. But, Dom, I made the mistake of having two children. So getting up earlier is something I've had to live with for a while now. But yeah, so it's all good.

First Job Was Hardest Marketing Challenge

Dom: Before we get into the topic, I'd love to hear a little bit more about you. Tell us about your role in your current company, kind of how you got there. And, hey, we're not letting you off the hook without one fun fact not related to anything work or customer experience.

Tomas: I would say I've been in marketing my entire life. In fact, I would say probably my first job is the hardest marketing challenge that anyone can ever have. Where I was trying to, I guess market, a highly disliked challenger brand to an adversarial client base. Because I started life as a mathematics teacher, where every day I'd go into the room and people be like, I don't like what you're selling. And I don't want to do it. And I think that allowed me to kind of cut my teeth and learn kind of the skills and the importance of engagement. So I think I didn't know it at the time. But that's been pivotal in, I guess my approach to building things and creating amazing CX longer term. 

So in terms of what I do now, I'm head of service design for a company called Torrens University, which are part of the SEI global university network. We've got five campuses across Australia. And essentially, my job as head of service design is to kind of poke around and look for problems. And once I’ve found those problems, do some pretty deep analysis, apply kind of service design and design thinking, and unpick them and hopefully make everything better, which is pretty challenging. Because you know, higher education is one of those places, I think, that still struggles an awful lot with keeping up with the digital world and the changing expectations of customers, which obviously, are students in this case. 

The role of education has wildly changed. And I think universities in particular are really still at that point that maybe medicine was three-or-four years ago, pre-pandemic, of kind of scratching their heads thinking, we haven't really managed to take advantage of this incredible technology. And so it's a really amazing space to be in at the moment because I just think there's such huge potential to activate change and to enhance the experience that customers are expecting. 

Related Article: Beware! 3 Tactics to Avoid Spooking Your Customer 

How the Pandemic Changed the Educational CX World

Dom: Yeah, what did that do, Thomas, for you know, when COVID hit. COVID came down in Australia, right?

Tomas: Yes, the the global pandemic, clue in the word “global.” Australia, yeah, we managed it. I think we managed to not get it for a bit. So I think we glibly looked on and thought, being a massive island in the middle of nowhere is quite useful. But yeah, obviously eventually came down and everyone was hit in the same way. And I think, education, I think it's still kind of reeling from that OK-let's-move-everything-online kind of approach. 

And I think traditional execution of education, essentially, an expert stands at the front of the room and tells a small group of people something for three hours. And I don't think that translates well because the moment you go online, the expectation from a user, if I'm sitting down to watch three hours, I'm probably looking at a Schneider cup, right? And I'm expecting all the snazzy visuals and the CGI and some pretty top-flight stars and names and incredibly attractive people. And that's not what you're getting in a three-hour lecture necessarily. 

I think the best analogy as anyone who's been subjected to Friday night drinks on Zoom knows, you know, very acutely that you can't just translate one event from a physical event online by adding a video. It doesn't work. So I think that's the thing that education globally is kind of playing around with — is trying to work out how do we utilize the strengths of the digital environment to provide a brand new way of learning, and what does that do to our very traditional — when you think about the UK and Europe three-, four-, five-hundred-year educational history — which it hasn't really changed — you go, you sit in a room, someone talks to you, you remember that stuff. And then they ask you to prove that you remember that stuff through a series of hoops you have to jump through, and then you get a bit of paper at the end. Ultimately, the topics may have changed, but kind of the approach is pretty similar. 

But where else in the world whatever category could you look at and recognize that same, I mean, stagnant, maybe it is maybe a bit of a reach, I'm sure there'll be lecturers who are like, I hate this guy. But I think it's just interesting to look at, when you look at things that haven't changed. I think it's interesting to try and analyze why, and we're changing our devices every six months. So the idea of having the structure of a course or the delivery of the course, changing in periods of three years, four years, five years, is very alien, I think, particularly to a lot of younger people coming into higher education, marketing, in particular, I think it's a fascinating one. Like, what sort of cadence would you have to create to keep a course up to date for marketing? I reckon you'd be talking months rather than years. The speed at which things change? You know, automation trends? It's a really interesting challenge, I think.

Related Article: A Decade of Dramatic Change in Digital Customer Experience

Doing the Pandemic 180 for Better Customer Experience

Dom: Yeah, Thomas. I mean, we have UX professionals, design professionals that, you know, read our site and stuff. And they went through a lot of change when COVID came, but I'm wondering like, was your change? Would you call it accelerating things that were already kind of in place? Or was it literally like a 180 in terms of how you design experiences for your customers slash students? 

Tomas: I would say it was like a 720. Because I think that sort of does a better visual job of how people are still spinning round and round in circles, not really sure which direction to point in. So yeah, I think there's changing expectations, not least, I think when you look to the workplace, which is obviously kind of the next step after education, that the majority of big companies, Apple, like big, big companies who are struggling with, we want you all to come back to the office, and people are like, no, I don't want to because I'm more effective at home, I can get more done, I can do the washing up in between a meeting. You know, it's a better work-life balance. 

And I think the same goes for education. Students are looking around going, well, you've given us a little taste during the pandemic of doing things online. So no, we don't just want to step back into the classroom, we want to be given the choice. And I think that's thrown a lot of things on its head. Because like I said, I don't think people were in the same way as I think big business, wasn't really interested in engaging with the idea of working from home in any meaningful sense, but was forced to do so. I think education is in a very similar place. Where I think a lot of institutions have empty campuses, where students, when given the choice are saying, well, no, I'd prefer to do this online. But you know, not everyone's set up to cope.

The Haffenden Unhappiness Index

Michelle: So Tomas, I have to ask you, because we're kind of tiptoeing around this idea of unhappiness, you know, kids that are unhappy about learning math — or unhappy about not being on campus. So I want to ask you about this phrase that you've coined the “Haffenden Unhappiness Index,” can you tell us a little bit about it? 

Dom: HUHI, baby.

Tomas: Ah, yes, everyone's talking about it. I guess the irony there is that it was kind of my response to I consider the sleuth of vanity metrics. Now, I appreciate that that's an irony because obviously, I've named it after myself, which is probably the vainest thing anyone can do about anything. So I think there's sort of, there's a bit of fun there. But to me, a lot of the monitoring, and a lot of the studying that I was seeing wasn't meaningful, because it wasn't actionable. And I think that was my biggest criticism with things like NPS and others, you know, when we're talking about customer satisfaction. As a business, knowing that 100% of your customers are happy, is great, that's a great thing to be able to put on a billboard and say, you know, my customers are happier than your customers, as an external facing statement. But ultimately, as with any business, you're looking to improve. And I think the difficulty with happiness is that it doesn't give you actionable insights to improve. If someone says, are you happy with my coffee? Yes, you know, it's four out of five. That's not really giving me very much information to do anything to make it five out of five. And so I think from a business point of view, you're kind of like, what am I doing with that? I've got a long list of people who say, yeah, it's OK. So what do we do? We've, you know, shut down the innovation department and go, OK, everyone thinks it's fine.

Related Article: Are you Ghosting Your Customers? 

Do Customers Share Their Unhappiness or Just Leave? 

Michelle: Do you think that people are willing to share when they're unhappy? Because one of the things I've heard is that when people are unhappy with a product or service or maybe students with a school, they're not going to tell you they're just going to leave and not come back?

Tomas: Yeah,I think that is the risk. But I wonder whether that's, you know, part of, because that's kind of the status quo, and it's giving people the opportunity is because I think in most cases, people have been given the opportunities that yeah, can you wait after this call and tell us how amazing we were, and you're like, but I asked, you know, I called up to get my bill and you gave me my bill. So I'm sort of indifferent. You've met my expectations, but I'm like, am I happy? I'm not probably happy.

Dom: Pumped to pay that electric bill. 

Tomas: Yeah, exactly. Thanks very much. Another giant bill to pay. I think that the other part for me, I think, is more of a maybe a sort of psychological one, a self-reflective one is that I don't think we know what happiness is, not on an individual level, and certainly not on a I'm-going-to predict-your-happiness level. And I think that's where I kind of, so my background is philosophy. That's what I read at university. And I guess, when I'm thinking about the idea of happiness, it's quite an ill-defined or certainly a very flexible concept. And so I think as an individual, if you say, right, if I asked any of you now to right, Dom, what makes you happy, other than speaking to me, obviously, like, what makes you happy? 

Dom: It's yeah, it’d probably be everyone leave me alone in the house. Just let me sit there on the couch. 

Tomas: Yeah, exactly. But if I asked you that in like, 20 minutes' time, we're probably gonna get a different answer. 

Dom: No, no, I’d still like the couch.

Tomas: I can imagine it's a very nice couch. But I think the difficulty is in terms of the articulation of that, it's not always easy, really, to really, really describe that happiness. And I guess the point I was making with the idea of unhappiness is that unlike happiness, unhappiness is much, much easier to articulate. If you're pissed off about something, you can normally find the words to explain why and what that thing is far more eloquently than, you know, happiness, you know, the notion of being alone, I'm like, OK, and sitting on your couch, great. But unhappiness you're like, right, I love that couch. But that pillow is really scratchy, it's too large, it's too firm, it doesn't support my back, suddenly, the negative sides are much easier for us to articulate, which kind of makes sense because obviously, evolutionary-wise, you know, as a species, we're communicators and communicating what doesn't work leads to making it work better. So there's kind of an advantage to us developing language that allows us to explain what doesn't work more than what does work. 

Why Digging in to Customer Unhappiness Reveals Insights

Dom: So how would you say like a customer experience professional, could put that into action, you know, and run away from things like NPS, those vanity metrics, where it looks great to the board, you know, look at our NPS, it's been consistent through COVID look it never changed. Look at this. People are mostly happy here — 85% scored in the seven, eight range, whatever. So how, as a CX leader, do you put this into action and really get at what matters with customers? Is it reshaping the question? Is it abandoning the NPS or just using that as one of the metrics and not your beacon metric? How would you actually go about it? 

Tomas: I think NPS is an interesting one, right? It's the prevailing one that everyone wants to have a look at, because it allows me to compare myself with any other company also doing NPS. I can compare myself with Nike or Apple or British Airways or whatever, which is fine. But those services are so wildly different. I'm not sure whether creating a standard to allow that kind of comparison is necessarily useful. I think NPS to me, is largely underpinned by the idea of “Do you love my thing enough to recommend it to somebody else” is essentially, you know, the kind of the underlying principle there. But I think what's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be any effort to calibrate that by saying to new customers, was this recommended to you, which to me would be a way to kind of maybe explore validating any NPS claims? Because it seems to be based on the notion that I'm asking you, would you recommend it? And you're like, yeah, maybe? And then we're like, cool. That's good enough bye? 

Dom: Yeah, we don't know. Right? We don't know if there was follow-up.

Tomas: Which seems like an interesting one. Because to me, I wonder whether that would be relatively straightforward to check, right? In terms of new customers to say, “Oh, we just got a simple question.” Has anyone recommended this product to you? And if they're like, “No,” you're like, OK cool, then that probably starts to give a clearer insight. 

Dom: Yeah. What if we rephrase the question and just said, Have you ever made a positive status on social media about our product? That would be a good question to ask. If they said yes. Then you'd be like, oh, wow, OK, that will get in some concrete information. We can even search that. 

Tomas: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And there's definitely monitoring stuff that you know, sentiment analysis stuff that you can even further validate that right to start to have a look at those kind of lookalike audiences and stuff like that to say, is there that positive sentiment and to me, that's far more meaningful than the suggestion that I made. I mean, we lie. Everyone lies all the time. It's another very key human trait. You know, we can call it all sorts of other things, but it is lying. It's like, do I look good in this and you're like, you're my boss. Yeah. Yeah, you look amazing.

Right. You know, I don't think there's anything wrong with I think kind of calling that out. And I think there’s the awareness of manipulation, I think the word manipulation is always seen as a negative word to kind of be avoided. But that is essentially what marketing is. I'm trying to twist people towards the thing that I want them to do. And they're trying to twist the world to the things that they want to do. And you know, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but it's all manipulation. And I think people are aware of that. So as soon as you go into those survey scenarios, you drop straight immediately into that, oh, OK, got it. I know what I need to do. Put my performing monkey hat on, is the quickest way for me to get through this just do five notes, which makes it really difficult. 

And I think, to some degree kind of invalidates, I think there's a couple of other things in terms of what I was thinking with the unhappiness metrics, which I think make it slightly different is, I was keen to kind of move away from surveying, where people are like, “Oh, it's amazing, we got, you know, a 30% response rate.” And I'm like, “Well, hang on, hang on,that means 70% of your audience didn't reply.” And that people are like, “yeah, that's kind of normal.” And I'm like, “just hang on, just think about that, that's massive,” yet, you're still gonna post all of these things about your findings up, surely, there needs to be more of an effort to push towards something closer to 100%. So you at least feel like you can have more validity in terms of not just the numbers, but just the span of your different customers. 

And so what I was thinking in terms of the unhappiness thing was the idea that you could sort of place the customer service agent in a far more controlling role. Because I think one of the other elements is, when you're asked to do the survey, at the end of the call, you're often rating the person rather than the thing. And I think that can be quite stressful for the person. So there's agents who are like, I'm sure, you know, sitting there worrying that that person calls up and ask for their bill, if we use that analogy. And I'm like, yes, a billion dollars, because gas prices have gotten mad. And they're like, well, I'm really unhappy about that. And so their rating is like zero. And then that call center agent gets a flag saying, well, they're not very happy. And they're like, oh, yeah, I've just given them a billion-dollar gas bill, but it's not me. And so the other thing I was trying to do was to try and remove the rating of the agent. Not to say that that's not important. But I think you can probably automate that through monitoring in other ways. And place the agent, therefore, in a sort of a position of authority, perhaps, because I think the interesting thing about unhappiness is because people are so willing to talk about it, I think it's far easier for us to extrapolate somebody else's unhappiness, rather than their happiness. 

So I think after I've had a conversation with someone, I feel relatively confident that I as the customer service agent, I could give you a list of the things that make them unhappy. 

Dom: Sure can. Yeah. 

Tomas: But I certainly wouldn't have that confidence if I would say, you know, what makes Dom happy beyond your couch? I'm like, I don't know him well enough to dive into his psyche to be like, oh, you know. 

Dom: Getting off the couch makes me unhappy. That's a philosophical there. It's a physical movement that I don't like. I don’t like getting off the couch. 

Tomas: Exactly. Putting on pants, like it's not, you know, it's not for me to say. But it's, so happiness is really hard to, or really dangerous to kind of assume in other people. But unhappiness I think is just far easier. I'd feel really confident if we had a long chat about something to be like, OK, he hates this. And here's why. Because, you know, it links back to our ability to articulate that. 

So my idea would be to, instead of, you know, of course, you can ask the customer how happy or unhappy they are. But I think there's also a role for kind of giving that to the customer service agent as well, to say that, you know, you are as integral to the development of CX as everybody else in the company, you're not a drone at the bottom, who just does anything, you are, arguably more important, you're speaking to people one to one. Whereas the majority of people in different positions, yeah, they might have access to a few recordings, but they're not speaking to your customers directly, one-to-one regularly. And therefore, it also would empower customer service agents to take a more central role in that to say, hey, just had a conversation with Dom, he rated his unhappiness at two out of five, based on the conversation as a customer service agent, I've identified these three key areas that I would say, were, you know, his unhappiness, right, the size of the bill, but he's also unhappy that it's been posted to a previous address. And he also mentioned that, you know, the gas smelled funny, or whatever, I don't know. And what that allows you to do, if you put a human into that position, is suddenly you're moving beyond just a number, by allowing them to articulate with a bit more granularity. If it's just the number you've just got there, the level four and you're like, brilliant, what does that mean?

Related Article: Customer Experience Conundrum: Fix Bad Experiences or Make Good Ones Better? 

Why Customer Service Agents Should Be Empowered

Dom: Yeah, I think I read a stat like, you know, customer service agents, like in some places, I think the typical tenure is like 30 days, you know, because it's so thankless. They’re not empowered. They get yelled and screamed at all day and they get poor ratings. It’s just a horrible job. 

Tomas: And there’s a massive turnover, massive turnover, and you're doing a job that by its very nature, you know, is being recorded. Just imagine that, you know, you're being listened to theoretically, all day long. That's a super high-stress environment. Whereas I sort of feel like the idea of saying, you know, that positive from a management-of the-customer-service point of view, empowering them to be part of it, and kind of praising them every time they're collecting these insights and sharing them. That's a real sea change in terms of their role, and sort of allows you to kind of support them in a very different way. Because you're saying no, guys, this is amazing. This person found out that we've had 10 People today saying that the print on our invoices is hard to read. It's not easy to get to that insight. You don't necessarily get that by sticking a survey out. Hi, guys, tell us what you like and what you don't like. It's a bit harder to get there. Because people are like, survey, no, not interested. 

Dom: Yeah. So you think Tomas, you know, ultimately, this seems like an issue, not just the sentiment of the customer, and their goals and objectives, which is obviously huge. And number one, but also, this relates back to empowerment of the agent, and putting a little more value into their jobs feeling like they're collecting enough information to help the company get better at what they do with their product and service and not just taking a call. Right? So you said earlier, you know, not rating the customer service agents so harshly. And by numbers only that kind of thing. Anything else top of mind that CX leaders that manage these call center agents can do better to just make them feel empowered, and truly a part of the team.

Tomas: I think it's providing an opportunity to feedback to me, like in all the projects, whether it's customer service, or any digital projects, for me, the success is intricately linked to a really tight feedback loop. Finding a way for your customers and your staff, I guess, your team to be able to feed back honestly. And frequently. And to me, the frequently bit is really important, because I think the honesty bit comes from doing it regularly. It's not a monthly survey, it's not a yearly event. You know, it's not like the purge, where you get one day to be honest and tell everyone how furious you are, it needs to be regular, because I think the more open that door is, the more relaxed people get that? Oh, OK, cool. This is a thing we do now, you know, almost like that kind of agile approach of doing a retrospective at the end of every week to be like, not necessarily always, how can I do better, but highlighting those insights. 

And I think from a customer service, particularly, you know, forward-facing customer service agents, those insights are so valuable, they can literally define your backlog for months and months and months, in terms of things to explore ideas to validate to improve what you're doing. And I think sometimes there's a fear, again, I guess it links back to people's, you know, reliance on those larger metrics, that they want to perform a survey that is methodologically valid, and I've got 100% representation. And I've managed to segment my audience into 50 segments. And I've got an equal number of each one of those segments in the survey. And therefore the survey is fantastic. 

And I think the difficulty with being a slave to that approach is that you can miss out on incredible insights, like a survey size of one isn't methodologically sound. But if you're really listening to that customer, I would argue you can still get some incredible insights. Yes, you still need to invest the time to validate them. But like one really meaningful conversation with a customer who, for whatever reason, just opens up to you. And he goes, I will, I'm going to tell you exactly why I hate this. And they're like, right, the font size is too small. And when you send me the letters, they're always facing the wrong way round. So when I open the envelope, you know, I have to pull them out, which means they always tear. That, to me is the goal. From a service design point of view, I'm not looking for it to be OK, I'm looking for every possible point that I can improve it. 

But it's sometimes hard to get to those granular improvements. I had an amazing one the other day with sort of I'm working on a project at the moment that has been shortlisted for a CX Initiative Award, which I'm pretty pleased with. And we've created a really, really tight feedback loop. So when students enter that digital experience for the first time, they get a big message that says, “Shhhh, you've just found our secret proof of concept project. Don't tell anyone else. The only way this is going to work is for you to give us as much feedback as possible to improve things. So please share all your thoughts what you like, what you hate, and everything in between.” So every student who arrives at that experience gets that. And it's what I call seeding. Right not I mean, it's not like I've invented the word seeding is what I refer to as seeding. But I think it's a really important thing, right? If you can seed your audience, you can push them on it. ….I don’t know If you can hear my daughter saying hello in the background sounds like meow.

Dom: Unhappy customer in the back. There's an unhappiness, I know you got the idea now.

Tomas: I know exactly having children is nothing short of incredible because they really will tell you this is too cold. I'm not eating it. 

How to Put the Customer Unhappiness Index Into Action

Dom: Michelle, you wanted to ask him about putting this into action? Right? And like actually how the unhappiness index works on a on a more like actionable level, right?

Michelle:  Yeah, I kind of want to talk about the rating system where I guess zero means, you know, at least I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed, which is, you know, a classic parent phrase. And then the negative five, meaning they're incandescent with rage. So I kind of want to know, if somebody gives that negative-five rating, how should a company respond. And if you try to implement a fix, do you follow up with the customer, again, to see if they're less unhappy? 

Tomas: Oh, 100%. So the feedback loop, I was saying that's the absolute critical thing for the feedback loop is making people feel like they're being heard. Right. And that I think can be. So the thing I was referring to before fits quite nicely into this. And we've created a very tight feedback loop. So through that program, students are able to feedback on everything, what they like, what they don't like. What was really surprising is a lot of people quite quickly to the contrary to my normal thing said, we really, really liked this, this is really useful. OK, which is great, which is awesome. But as I mentioned before, I mean, I can collect that. And obviously, that's the first page of any deck I'm showing to, you know, an exec or any talk I'm giving, but that's inactionable. People telling me they like it isn't giving me a clue to what to do next. So when it's really interesting that people like well, I like this, but — and I had a great one the other day where someone said, when I click on the feedback button, it has a pop-up that allows me to feedback. But I then need to click inside the feedback area before I can start typing, which I was like, that's true, that's really good. And it wasn't something that we'd noticed. But it was a really, really easy fix, right. So now when you click the feedback button, your cursor is automatically in the place it needs to be for you to immediately type your feedback. Doesn't sound like much, not a big deal. But it's those kinds of subtle refinements in terms of your, I guess, UX UI approach that I can sync and start to find meaningful. 

What's great about that is so far, I think we've had about 350 or 400 pieces of feedback so far. And I don't know how long I would be able to keep this up. I've responded to every single one of them personally, to everyone who gives me feedback I've responded to with an email saying, hey, this is amazing. Thank you so much. This is exactly why this product keeps getting better. And then sort of referenced their comment and just given them something short in return. No big deal. It's not always like we're going to fix it. It's more I hear you and I agree. But the number of people who've returned to that with the same message, which has essentially been OK, well, no one's ever replied to feedback before. I've never received a reply to feedback I've given I think allows you to kind of have that grassroots word of mouth, I guess what NPS is hoping it's trying to do, right. Is that kind of support and people being the surprise and delight element, I guess. I think that's just hugely valuable. 

But sorry, to come back to your question about the five. I think the key thing is obviously, in those instances, they're likely to have a number of things that they want to tell you beyond just the number. And so in the situation where you know, you've gotten them to rate it as five and you say to that customer service agent, OK, cool. Incandescent rage? Well, that's not great. What was that about? I think the interesting thing there is the role of the customer service agent there and how it feeds back into the business would be to identify whether their fury is based on the size of the bill, for example, which although is five, which is not great. You could say, right? Well, that's kind of out of our hands. So, you know, that, again, is something that we're aware of now, but we perhaps were always aware of it if the bill suddenly goes up. People don't normally go. Yeah, brilliant. 

But I guess it's looking for that opportunity to unpack exactly what that incandescence is, you know how furious they are. I guess my point is that when you are that level of furious, you're normally quite keen to tell people about it. You know, and you can see that when you look at Google reviews for restaurants and things like that, it's not people going on there being like, oh, yeah, we had a lovely meal. You know, the food came reasonably quickly. It met my expectations. And I may return here again. People don't want to do that. They want to tell about the one time that the waiter mixed up their drink. I mean, food was cold. 

Dom: It's crazy. My wife will not go to hotel rooms. There could be 499 glowing reviews. If one person said there was a bedbug in there, we will not be going. I'm like, what kind of math are you doing here? It comes back to the unhappiness thing. 

Tomas: And when you look at the reviews, like TripAdvisor is a great one. There's some clearly fake ones on there. And obviously I think everyone's aware of the challenge of fake reviews but I think they're normally fairly easy to spot. You can look at them in your like, do those all at the same but when you look at the good reviews versus the bad reviews, I'd love to do a study on volume as in character count. Because yeah, I've read some bad reviews and there are pages, they've gone into detail how, you know, Claire at reception, got my name wrong three times in a row. And then this, you know, they're calling people out by name. They're like, like, it's proper, visceral anger. 

But I think that's what's most interesting, right? Is that you can kind of, you can unpack that and be like, OK, cool. We can probably get a list from this and things to improve, you know, one, get rid of the bedbugs, which you'd hope they do already. But you know what I mean? Like, it's fairly clear, versus someone saying, had a lovely stay. It was nice. I'd come back. Yes, that's nice. But I can't do anything with that. Yeah. 

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How to Handle Conflicting Customer Feedback

Michelle: How would you handle conflicting feedback, then it's like going back to your font. And example, if you have, say, half people say, I hate this font, I can't read it. And then you have the other half that say, I really love this. It's really easy on the eyes. How would you handle something like that? 

Tomas: Yeah, I mean, that's a challenge. I guess that's the whole thing, isn't it with marketing, and I guess the digital world and kind of you know, every year at this is the year of personalization. And then people remember that mass communications are nigh on impossible, you know, the bigger your audience, the harder it is to personalize in that way. From a service design point of view, what I'd be hearing from that is that there needs to be a way to ensure everybody can access that font or something. So I think I'd be looking at, OK, what can we explore, to either allow people to self-select or easily move between sizes, but at least you know, from there that the insight is, we need to look at the font. 

So I think, you know, although they're conflicting, and I suppose you're always going to have that, again, if you've got a big enough audience, which every company hopes they have, you are going to have someone who loves the thing. And then someone who also hates the thing. I guess what's interesting in that is, that doesn't stop you kind of investigating it. And sometimes being aware of that allows you to make more of a conscious compromise. And so for me as a company, who keeps their Ts and Cs at font five, the unreadable from human eyes, if they know they're getting people complaining, who are frustrated about that, and they continue to do it, at least they're continuing to do it consciously.

There's no excuse that they're like, oh, wow, we didn't realize. I'm like, no, no, you did. If you look at your evidence, loads of people were telling you, they really hated this thing. And you've consciously chosen not to change it, which I think is, you know, it's that whole, the unconscious life is not worth living that whole thing. And I think it's a much stronger place for a business to be to have as much insight as possible, even when the decision they're making is a compromise — and a lot of them. All right, you can only have one size font. 

Dom: Tomas has given us a lot of great actionable items here for customer experience leaders, design leaders to take away and consider, you know, implementing into this CX programs. We appreciate it very much. That's always the goal here in CX Decoded, talk to those CX leaders about what's going on in their world. And would they consider doing something different? So I think they get a lot to munch on here. I do before we let you go, just want to give you an opportunity to, and I'm guessing you're gonna say LinkedIn, because every single guest says follow me on LinkedIn. So here we go. How can people follow you and your thought leadership? 

Tomas: It's MySpace. 

Dom: It’s LinkedIn isn’t it. 

Tomas: For me, MySpace has always been MySpace. I'm going to MySpace, I'm bringing it back. Definitely LinkedIn. That's where I publish most of the things I write and such got a couple of things in the pipeline just clearing work out of the way. So I can actually finish writing them I'm currently writing something called "Is Uber Eating Its Own Lunch?", which is kind of an analysis of how I think Uber has kind of tipped the balance against itself. Uber Eats in particular, and many restaurants who weren't in the delivery service game, now have a business case, to hire someone to do their own delivery and effectively cut Uber Eats out of the entire process. But I've only half written that. So I'll have to write the other half and then illustrate the header before I can publish it. 

Dom: Sweet. Well, Tomas, go help that child of yours. We appreciate it. Thank you for coming on CX Decoded. Hope you have a good rest of your day. And oh, there's a lot of day ahead of you over there. We appreciate you coming on to CX Decoded, bright and early. 

Tomas: Lovely to be here. 

Michelle: Great having you.

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