TLF Gems Newsletter February 2024

Your monthly CX and insight newsletter from TLF Research

You don’t have to have a dream…I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you.

Tim Minchin

How many LinkedIn articles have you read recently about how AI is going to revolutionise customer experience?

And yet the Institute of Customer Service's UKCSI tells us that customers have never been less satisfied. Our own research shows that 1 in 3 consumers think service has got worse over the last few years, and nearly as many expect it to get worse still in the near future (more detail on those stats if you sign up for my free webinar on the Customer Experience Landscape for 2024). Something isn't working.

Rather than starting with the technology and trying to find a place for it, organisations need to start with customers. Who are they? What are they trying to do? How can you shape the experience around their needs?

Thanks for reading,


Here are 7 things we think are worth your time this month

How High-Performing Teams Build Trust

A useful HBR article (you'll have to register for a free account to read it) about the characteristics that help to build trust between members of a team. High performing teams discuss how to work together, keep each other informed, share credit, thrive on productive disagreements, and proactively address tension. " isn’t relayed from the top down. It’s built organically on a foundation of behaviors exhibited by all team members that empower everyone to produce their best work."

Jerry Seinfeld on Jokes

Interesting article on Jerry Seinfeld's take on writing jokes, with the setup as the cliff edge your audience is jumping from and the punchline as the one you're hoping they reach. If those cliff edges are too close together there's no thrill, but if they're too far apart your audience is going to plummet into the ravine. There's a lot of wisdom there for communication in general and for designing customer experiences. "...the setup has to be the proper distance from the punchline to make that mechanism that causes a laugh work."

The Value of Unpaid Work

I love this story about an Anglesey man who has been diligently submitting rainfall data every morning since 1948. Whether it's those who write open-source code, volunteers who play their part in collecting data, or carers who look after their loved ones, there's immense value in the unpaid work that so many people do, and it's nice to see it recognised. "The scientific community is in a better position thanks to the work carried out by such committed volunteers."

Why Everything You Buy is Worse Now

Thought-provoking video from Vox about why everything is lower quality now than it used to be. It's a combination of fast fashion, resistance to price rises, and planned obsolescence. Speaking as someone who recently swapped the battery in an old iPod, I can attest to the difficulty of repairing tech yourself! "The stuff we buy is just a little bit worse than it was 10 years ago."

LLMs as a Research Tool

If you've spent any time playing with tools like ChatGPT you'll have found that, while they're pretty bad at writing, they're quite good at providing a summary of the consensus view of a topic. This interesting piece suggests that that quality might be used to study the culture that LLMs are distilling. "If used carefully and judiciously, the study of LLMs can help us investigate how cultures are represented within the modern internet, the largest corpus of ideas ever collected."

Could Lightbulbs Prevent the Next Pandemic?

Respiratory viruses, you don't need me to remind you, cause untold misery. They have an enormous economic, social, and human cost. Could UV light be the key to containing them? There's still much to be understood about the risks and benefits, but this article is certainly thought-provoking. "The ensuing decade of studies produced strong evidence that far-UV is both effective at killing viruses and bacteria and safe for human exposure."

What I'm Reading: The City of Today is a Dying Thing

(A slight change to the newsletter: after 72 (!) editions I'm beginning to run out of classic books to include as one of our "Top Reads", so I'm going to start featuring a book I'm reading right now instead.)

Cities are bad for us, nature is good. Architects and city planners should work on including green spaces and taking inspiration from natural forms. All of this feels obvious to most of us, but is it really true? Des Fitzgerald's book is a brilliant examination of the evidence, the dubious impulses that underpin some of these instincts, and the great things about cities that we may be missing. "...all the city is, from a scientific perspective, is variables upon variables; variables all the way down."