TLF Gems Newsletter June 2022

Your monthly CX and insight newsletter from TLF Research

while I am pleased that so many companies have embraced NPS, I am deeply troubled how badly most of them are implementing it.

Fred Reichheld

In 1983 researchers at IBM ran a study on the benefits of a "listening typewriter" (i.e. dictation software). The interesting thing about that study (which you can read here) is that speech recognition technology at the time was years away from making the listening typewriter a reality. The authors aren't really interested in the technology, they're interested in the benefit to users and the human factors angle of how it might work, so they fake the back end by having a typist hidden in a back room to play the part of the machine.

This is something all organisations should do more of - test customer experiences that you can't yet create by faking it with a prototype.

Too often what we do instead is ask customers whether they think something is good, then spend masses of time and money building it only to find out it doesn't actually work. This month's Top Read is the best book I know on the importance of sketching and prototyping in experience design (and it's where I learned about that IBM study).

Thanks for reading,


Here are 6 things we think are worth your time this month

Bionic Reading

Thought this was interesting - a tool which formats text in a way that is claimed to make reading quicker and easier by supporting the way we scan text in a series of eye jumps ("saccades"). I'm not totally sold, but playing with the settings does seem to make some things easier to read. Could be useful for text-based customer interactions? "...Bionic Reading aims to encourage a more in-depth reading and understanding of written content."

Find Out More: Bionic Reading

Fake AI

I thought this was a brilliant piece showcasing Gary Marcus' criticism of current approaches to AI which rely on huge datasets and computing in place of anything that could meaningfully be described as thinking. Hybrid approaches are probably the way forward. "Current AI is illiterate. It can fake its way through, but it doesn’t understand what it reads."

Read: Fake AI

The Psychology of Referrals

It's pretty common to incentivise referrals, but what's the best way to do it? In this response to a reader question, Dan Ariely suggests that it may be more important to incentivise the new customer than the existing one making the referral. "The new customer is the one who needs to go to the effort to get signed up, and an incentive can help make jumping through those hoops more attractive."

Read: The Psychology of Referrals

Blowing Up PowerPoint

Edward Tufte's crusade against PowerPoint is well known, but this is an interesting example of a company (Amazon) embracing his ideas about more effective ways to communicate, specifically starting meetings with everyone quietly reading an information-dense document for 20 minutes instead of sitting through an interminable slide show. "Amazon relies far more on written words to develop and communicate ideas than most companies, and this difference makes for a huge competitive advantage."

Read: Blowing Up PowerPoint

Intuit Content Design

I love it when companies put their style guides online, and this is even better. Intuit's content design hub is a treasure trove of advice on topics from tone of voice to formatting and antirascist language. "Show customers why they should care before you tell them what to do. For instance: To add a new customer, go to the Customers tab. (Not Go to the Customers tab to add a new customer.)"

Find Out More: Intuit Content Design

Top Reads: Sketching User Experiences

There are lots of books about design thinking, but few of them actually help you think the way designers do. For me, Bill Buxton's 2007 classic really changed the way I thought about how products and experiences should be developed, and sold me on the importance of testing with rough sketches and prototypes as early as possible. That's how you get experience front and centre in the innovation process, instead of getting bogged down in technology. "Despite the technocratic and materialistic bias of our culture, it is ultimately experiences that we are designing, not things."

Top Reads: Sketching User Experiences

If you'd ever like to have a look at our list of past Top Reads, they're all catalogued here - enough reading to keep anyone going for a while!