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June 22, 2021

The Balance Between Human-Interaction, Epic Cultures and Digitization in CX with Eric Michrowski

The Balance Between Human-Interaction, Epic Cultures and Digitization in CX with Eric Michrowski

Every once in a while, we stop and think to ourselves, "how much is enough"? I am talking about, how to balance Human-Interactions, Epic Cultures and Digitization. Most companies today have embarked on a journey of Digital Transformation and are trying to digitize as much of their world as they can, but how do you step back and really take a look at "The Balance" of these things? Eric Michrowski, CEO of Propulo Consulting stops by the ScienceOfCX Studios and we tackle just this issue.

Once you listen to this episode, you will understand the delicate balance that needs to exist in order to get Digital Transformation right. How the Human-To-Human Interaction will always exist and just how important it is to be intentional with how that works.

Our Sketchnote for this episode can be accessed here:

To get in touch with Eric or Propulo please use the following ways to connect:

-Propulo Website: https://www.propulo.com

-Eric’s Website: https://ericmichrowski.com

-LinkedIn (Eric): https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericmichrowski/

-LinkedIn(Company): https://www.linkedin.com/company/propulo/

-YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/propulo

-FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/propuloconsulting

-Twitter : https://twitter.com/PropuloInsights

 

Transcript

well welcome everybody to another episode of the Science of C. X. I'm your host, steve Pappas and once again we have found a great expert that has graciously offered to be on our show today. We have ERIC McCroskey and he comes from a company called prop alot dot com and it's going to be an interesting conversation and one that we've touched upon in the past. But I really, I urge you to listen carefully to some of the things that ERIC has got to say today because I think it will really help you grow scale and accelerate your business is So let's welcome ERIC to the show. ErIC welcome and thank you for coming on the show today. Well thank you so much for having me steve. Let me give folks a little bit of your bio just so we kind of understand your background and what we're going to talk about today. So ERIC McCroskey is a globally recognized thought leader and guru in safety and operational performance. I'm going to talk about that a little bit more, but with a career starting in safety within the airline industry, he's held many leadership roles in different sectors, so he's going to bring knowledge from various industries today. He's dedicated his early career to finding better ways to lead operations, to improve the world of work, to allow people to come home safely from work and to deliver more significant impacts in business. Eric's focus has been on finding ways to better connect the front line team members and unlocking the discretionary effort that exists in all teams and organizations. His approach is really anchored in evidence based research and practical applications in human performance, continuous improvement and organizational change. So our listeners are understanding where this is going because we talk a lot about the employees, We talk about how that affects the customer and generally in the organization, what that means. So across his work has achieved substantial improvements in safety, operational reliability, employee engagement, financial performance. But the key and the thing that we're going to talk about is he's always done it by incorporating epic cultures so that he can maximize the results and sustainability. So eric, that's a mouthful. I've got to tell you that's a great bio. And what I want to do is let's just jump into it because you talk about epic cultures and how important is that in growing and scaling and sustaining business today? It's huge because business today requires people have interactions with people and you need those people to step up anybody who's led a business. You know that there's some performers that do well and others that go that much further. And so really early on in my career, as you mentioned, I start in the airline industry and if you've ever flown on a plane at one point in time, you've probably shaking your head at times where people making the wrong choices, blaming their company, blaming their dispatchers, etcetera. And I start realizing there's got to be a better way to do this and really understand how do you get people to consistently step up. And really, what I talk about is this concept of discretionary effort. I started realizing that some people would go above and beyond. And it was triggers from a culture, from a leadership standpoint that would enable it. And that discussion effort for me is really that free effort you can get from somebody when they're truly connected to the business. So that's really where I want. On a quest to understand how do you do that consistently? We've talked about some of these areas in previous episodes and we know how important it is, But I guess maybe what we could do is dig into the what do you look for first when you're talking to a client or you're in a business, what are the telltale signs that you look for? You know, I know myself, I walk into a lot of contact centers at least 150, a year and I just look around and within about, I would say 60-90 seconds I can tell some of the problems right off. So what are the things that you look for in a business that gives you an indicator that we're going to go down this path to help you? I think it's very similar to what you're saying. So if I take a call centre example, you're walking on the floor, you're talking to people, you understanding what's happening and usually people are very authentic. They'll tell you the story the number of times I've been in contact center where I'm sure you've seen the same thing. Somebody sits next to somebody and you see some really wonky behaviors. We had one example where sitting next to an agent and they were going through a particular process And we were 20 minutes into it and then they put the customer on hold for about 15 minutes. And then I said, so why are we doing this? And at the tail end of the 15 minutes they're keying frantically in the system. And then at the tail end they had just 30 seconds to say yeah all done, we're good. And so I said, what's the probability that the keying that you just went through? It would actually require you to have another interaction with a customer. And they said almost never. And so I said, what are you doing this? And they said, well, it's because we have this rule around average handle time and particularly this metric around after call work. So if I do this work while I'm not talking to the customer, I get penalized. So I'm going to do it. So I said, would you do this to your mom if it was your mom on the phone? And she is of course not. That's not how I treat my mom. So those are the types of signals I've seen agents flush calls just because their average handle time metric was the wrong one. I know we'll talk about it later when we talk about an exercise. We're gonna talk about measuring the right things. But from the things I've read on you and you're speaking and what have you. You talk a lot about the human to human aspect and the trust and promised cap, can you tell our listeners a little more about the work that you've done around human to human? Absolutely. So human to human I think is in a world that we're in which is getting more and more digital. People are still craving the human interactions and service will always have a degree of human interaction within it. And that becomes really a differentiator. So if I think about foundation early to get customer experience right, all the research points to you need to have trust, essentially promise made promise capped a degree of ownership. Those are really the basics to operate in business. The next level is really, I need to solve things. I need to resolve things I need to be easy to do business with. I need to anticipate what's going to go wrong next and then start to address it. The next layer is this human to human relationship, the connection. How do I personalize the connection I have with you? How do I bring care into the conversations? But I need to get the basics right. The human to human is really the next layer. If you think about great hotel experiences ritz Colton, that often comes up, it's about that level of personalization, I know who you are before you even come into the lobby and I'm already going to call you by name and I probably know something about you and that's that level of personalization. So that's really the human to human. How do you create this in more of a mass environment? It sounds like there's got to be a balance though today, as more companies are going through digital transformation efforts and many of them are not going well. As we've talked to other experts in the field, there has to be a balance with how much human is allowed or can be used and how much digital needs to take over to allow the human to do more? What's your view on the balance? How do you strike the right balance for your business? That's a really good question, because when I look at it, it's individualized to each organization. So you've got a journey, really got to put yourself in the customer's shoes and what's the journey they're going through and really think about what makes that journey as easy and as simple as possible. So digitization will often make things simpler and that's a good thing. What you don't want is I start in a chat channel but it can't authenticate who I am and then I need to transfer to human. That's complex. That's difficult. You really want people to have a seamless experience where the human human comes in to me is at key moments. You've got to be intentional. So I'm not saying don't digitize that would be insanity in this day and age is digitized and then be very thoughtful about those human interactions. Yeah, it seems like a lot of companies when they were moving to chat bots and things like that, they were trying to get the chat bot to imitate human behavior. And of course, as we know from our own experiences, we can detect that in a matter of seconds. However, said so how do you go about developing the digital so that it feels authentic, but it's in a way that it's there to be a supporting character, not necessarily the lead character and the customer feels like, okay, this is just another way that I can get my information may be quicker, maybe with less effort, I'm going to try it. How do you go about that without it seeming to inauthentic? I would say this is an area where it's really about putting yourself in the customer shoes and really mirroring the journey there on. So I keep that as a core message because people in this day and age one automation, they want simplicity. When's the last time you wanted to go to a branch to make a transfer or pay a bill? That's difficult. So we now expect these things to be digitalized. I think most people would accept a chat bot to be part of the interaction. What they don't want is to be led down a path that has no exit and then waste time and effort. So I think if you think about those interactions is make sure that if you see there's gonna be some friction, you pass it to a human as quickly as possible. Don't let people get stuck in the chat bot if it's not solving their issue, I think they could get stuck. But I think people are getting to the point where they're expecting a limited vocabulary with chatbots, they're almost predisposed now to say, oh they can only handle this, this, this and this, because that's gonna be the options that come up in the cards that are displayed within the chat bot. And if you try to ask something outside of it, it keeps coming back and giving you the same thing. I think that becomes a frustration today that people are not addressing so they're not taking your advice, they're not putting themselves in the shoes of the customer, in the design, in the Ui and it fails quickly. And that's hard. I agree. And the answer isn't more call centers because when's the last time you actually enjoyed calling a call center? I would say it's frustrating in most cases that as well because it's not necessarily designed for the journey, right? You talked about the airline industry, I won't name the airline but in last january. So over a year ago we had purchased for the whole family tickets to head to europe and we're supposed to go last May. Obviously that got canceled. And then they came back and said well you can reschedule for august. We rescheduled for august that got canceled. But it costs me I want to say about $2,000 more because it was high season now So I had to pay more money and then that get canceled. So in the end six months later they issued me the voucher after about 15 calls to them going through the same thing all the time. But then they issued me the voucher. But they issued me the voucher for the original cost, not the increase, $2,000 cost. That took another six calls. And finally I got an email two days ago. Now, here we are, 13 months from purchase that I got the email that said we're gonna close out that voucher and we're gonna put another voucher for the full amount in. And of course who knows when we'll get to take that vacation. But the frustrations that I've gone through with every channel I could from chatbots to online chat or support type chat, two many calls to the contact center and every time I have to look at my calendar and I have to call between certain hours and I have to say, okay, how much time do I need to allocate for this call? Is this a 30 minute segment? Or is it a one hour segment? Because I'm always back to back from usually seven in the morning till about 8:00 at night. When do I have the hour slot that I can sit on hold to take care of that anyway, enough of my ranting. But I share your story, right. This is really the issue when I was talking about the beginning. Trust in the airline industry is you're going to get me there in one piece when my luggage is going to arrive, resolution is what you're talking about. And The answer isn't put people at the problem. The answer is how do I have better solutions that should have been solved in the first call? It shouldn't have required 18 calls or 20 some odd calls. Its understanding, this is saying I get who you are Steve I understand your needs and I'm going to deal with it and it will be a single call will be solved and you'll never have to call me again. That's the human to human connection. People want it easy. And so the answer isn't chat versus another channel versus email versus a person. It's get the issue solved and where you do need that human to human make it count. Yeah. And one of the problems that made it worse was the minute you pass the cancelled date of the ticket, all of a sudden it's archived from their system. So now they have to go look it up in the archives, which is a different system, not that they don't talk to each other. And then once it's archived away and there's a voucher that was given. Now it's another system and the three different systems do not talk to each other. So there was no way they could personalize my experience and which system where they putting my records in or adding to the history of all my calls. You know, it went into the ether somewhere and that was a flaw in their system. So they couldn't personalize it for me, but they couldn't even keep the history of all of the calls or all of the interactions. So they could see the frustration level that presented. Another question is, where's the feedback loop in all of this? How does the business that is trying to move forward with the right balance of digital and the right balance of human to human? How do they start putting some feedback loops in there? Because every business needs an early warning system, whether you're a SAAS software company and you need an early warning system because you don't want to turn to happen or you're a brick and mortar business. And all of a sudden you're saying, where are my customers? What's the early warning systems that you know of that you can put into place? That helps the business forecast the problems and the frustrations to act quickly. It's a really good question and a lot of it is, I would say post journey, ideally a lot of people put contacts post transaction, but in your case that you just walk through 16 or 18 different contacts. The problem is that they are not going to over contact you so you might be contacted the first one and never contacted after. So I have no idea what's transpired. So it's really understanding through the journey, how do we perform? How do we deliver? Not just per contact because typically the people are in a different experience, a different journey. So for example, in a telco were lot of frustrations, I'm buying a particular product and service and then it gets activated and I get my first bill. I should have a sense after I got my first bill, promise made, promise kept and how easy was it not post initial contact because I'm always going to be happy when I bought the service, but it's going to be, didn't get delivered as expected. And then how do you bring that link back to the human? So if it's a contact center is an example, we had huge success and it's not always operationally possible, but it's surprisingly easier than most things is if you talk to me in the initial activation, so take the telco example And any other issue keeps coming back to me. That's the ultimate feedback loop. Suddenly we had people realize what I did didn't actually solve the issue because it kept coming back to me and I had somebody once cry saying, Hey, I used to think and I've been doing this job for 20 years, I used to think that it was always somebody else making a mistake and I was fixing it until I realized I was making the same mistakes when I got that instant feedback loop from the customer. So let's talk about the importance of it though. I want to put a magnifying glass on feedback in general. I mean I think you'd agree feedback is very important in the course of business period, but getting feedback during or closely after is probably the most important because it's fresh in people's minds, the frustration or the elation is right there. So when they're on your website or when they're in your e commerce system or where they're on your chat bot etcetera, would you say that figuring out technological ways to capture how did we do, did we keep our promise? How did we do at that moment? Because every time you call the call center and they say well stay on the line and there will be a 123 question survey. We know the results are very low of those, but in the middle of it, if there's a way to do that, how much does that push forward the experience and the engagement of that customer? I think it's helpful. What I would say is make sure you understand in the journey. What's the propensity of something going wrong after that point? Because what I've seen too often is particular journey is not a transaction, it's not a phone call, it's not an email conversation, it's not a chatbot conversation and it degenerates very quickly and you don't necessarily have visibility through it. And repeat calls doesn't necessarily give you that visibility if people have interacted with multiple different channels and that's where the irritation factor goes 10 fold Is if I've missed that point. So initially I might like your website like you promised me you're going to solve the issue right? You talked about the airline is you have a credit card issue where they had made a mistake is one of those things where you buy something at a retail store and they give you 18 months without interest accepted in tag. It probably in the back end it took a dozen calls to solve. And the only person who actually was able to solve it was the Ceo of the bank, none of the other agents, managers etcetera. And the Ceo was embarrassed when he even couldn't solve it. It was his escalation team and it was passed the quote unquote ceo escalation team. It was now the Ceos a trying to solve it for the Ceo and they couldn't solve it the first time because the problem was so big, it makes perfect sense and I understand the feedback and we all get those pop ups all the time. But when things go wrong after you told them everything is right and yes, I'm satisfied with this interaction that can be a source of even deeper frustration. So thank you for that. It's combination. You need multiple points, right? And so I'm not disputing that instant feedback is useful is just don't ignore the journey part because that's where the magnification of the problem gets significant. Exactly, let's talk a little bit about differentiation. You know, you talked a lot about high value differentiation, How can approaching these things really speak to differentiation in the marketplace? I think that's a incredibly important component because if you look at most studies of customer experience, there are very few airlines, banks telcos that are significantly different and that's part of the challenge where they all seem to congregate around the same level of mediocrity. So until somebody differentiates and there are some examples in different sectors where somebody truly has differentiated, there isn't necessarily Market advantage and it's not about shorting a call by 30 seconds, that's going to make a difference. You need to really rethink what's the journey and how do you match engaging, what the client wants and how do you get your team members to differentiate consistently? Right, So I often talk about aligning team members to customer outcomes, so they really understand what is that the customer is trying to achieve and they're driving towards it, that we're empowering them to solve things. A lot of the great examples if you think about Ritz Colton, but even if you look at Continental when they went from worst to first, a lot of the answers, we're empowering team members to solve issues on the spot. Give them that instant feedback loop, which we talked about before and then more of an improvement mindset as well within the work that they're doing, so that they take more accountability for the client. So these are simple things but differentiation. If you do this consistently, you're going to act differently because now you're solving things early on, you're not allowing problems to become significant like an 18 call conversation, which is hugely expensive for your organization. Not to mention that you're likely going to lose the client at the tail end. But the other element is have you thought about how you differentiate your top customers? Your highest value customers? If you've got such a customer base, Think about the airlines. That is one area. They've done really well. The person who flies 100,000 miles in a year gets differentiation in terms of their treatment, same thing with the hotels and ultimately speaks to reducing turn 100%. So we talked about a few things. I'd like to get back to your mantra of epic cultures. So I understand the importance of Epic cultures and I think most of our listeners will agree with it, but I think they're also going to be thinking that well our culture is our culture. Our culture comes from maybe our founder. Our culture comes from various things in our history. So how do you talk to them and say you can change culture, you can affect a more positive or in your case, what you say is epic culture to really maximize your results and get the business to the next level. Maybe it's growing, but it's plateau owed. And one of the things that you recognizes the culture, how do you tell them that culture can change? It's not stuck the same way forever as a fantastic question. And actually was writing an article the other day. Exactly that topic. And I think the number one theme is to recognize we all have a culture and every culture has some strong points and some challenges And it's really thinking about the directionality of what is it exactly I want to change in that environment and start thinking about not just culture as this abstract theme, but the culture also gets reinforced by the process by how I'm creating the work environment that people are working in it so that they're going to want to do more. There's a lot of waste anchor at how leaders lead in that context. And I think one of the biggest fallacy out there is that culture change is next to impossible. And I was actually doing some research on that topic is often people quote this number of 70% of culture change efforts fail And it's a common number that's showing up in lots of articles. And that's scary because it makes you think he only had a 30% chance of success. Why would anybody do this if you had a surgery? And they said you have a 30% chance of success, It's unlikely it would take that particular procedure if it was optional. So the part though, is interesting. I was trying to understand what does that number actually come from, and it comes from a book on re engineering and it was published in the 19 nineties and it was identified that somewhere between 50 and 70% of change initiative failed. But they actually pointed out saying it's unverified, no scientific evidence behind it is just a guesstimate, Somebody decided to drop the 50-70% and now this populist 70% of change initiative fail, but there's actually no evidence to that effect. It doesn't mean it's easy, but I would actually propose that it's easier than a lot of people. Do you think it's really being intentional understanding where matt have a very clear understanding of the intangibles that are part of culture, making it more tangible so people can measure it, understand it, see it, and then mobilizing the workforce around a lot of it and where it often gets missed is really how do I start embedding into the systems, the processes, the measurements, etcetera, so that it gets reinforced the right way. So I would say it's much easier than more people think, but you have to be very clear as to the outcome you're trying to achieve and the tactics are going to leverage and being much more agile about it. And I guess as you're trying to affect that within an organization has the fact that everybody is not in the same building affected it, that most people are working from home and there are other pressures on everybody. Has that affected the ability to change culture or has it just extended it made it a longer term process. I don't think that's been researched. As of now we know the impact that it has been a huge influx in the last year of people working remotely. I think in contact centers, it's actually one of the areas where there was more accustomed kind of variable of remote workers. And I would say we've had some success, it's harder in a virtual environment where people not together, but it's still achievable because again, you still can reinforce in terms of the choices, the environment that people operating in the measures how leaders show up all those artifacts are there have typically in that environment, the contact center done it more in a blended environment. And so that's where it works easier because you've got already some people that already in a work environment, I would say it's harder, but it's not impossible. Alright. I'll buy that. I think we'll probably revisited months from now and see if there are studies on it. I know you've got some case studies that you've talked about. You know, some of the things that you've done in various industries, You talked earlier about hotel chains, telcos, even real estate, what are some of the use cases or some of the case studies that you have affected or you've been involved in in some of those industries more to bring to our listeners whether or not some of these things resonate with them, that they can realize they might need to make some changes and then maybe what we could do is we could give our listeners one or two exercises or something they can do with their teams when they get together on their team calls that might give them an exercise to make some of this makes sense. Absolutely. So I walked through maybe three scenarios that we did. So the first one was one of the larger hotel chains in the world, was really trying to grapple with the idea of how do I create high value differentiation for my highest value guests, The ones that are staying 150 nights a year in and out of different hotels. Many of them have different needs. And we really helped them understand and shape an environment from what was more transactional. I spoke to whoever was on the line today and then they solved my issue to shifting into more relationship based. So now is starting to build more of a relationship with you understand your needs. I would be able to customize and tweak it obviously with some support from a technology standpoint to understand who's steve and what's his persona. And maybe today steve is going to hawaii so he needs going to hawaii with his family might look different then the needs when he's going to Chicago on business as an example. So those types of clues and really getting to maybe 3 to 4 personas and understanding how those can shape and then be able to personalize that relationship. So now I become steve's personal concierge account manager, however you want to call it in that relationship. So that's scenario one, the other one was we talked about a telco in terms of activation, so onboarding and then the support was migrating the environment from mass market transactions to relationship based. So steve calls in, I'm going to solve steve's issue which is maybe I'm selling him a new service. How do I make sure that from cradle of the conversation to grave, where I've gotten your first bill, you're happy the service works that we've got kind of that anti invisibility. Same as I would if you had a trouble ticket. So shifting again from transactions to journey in that particular instance. Another one was more on the real estate side where an organization, real estate is not necessarily known for customer experience and really what we did, there was more from a cultural standpoint to bring the customer the persona and understanding. Bring agents and team members closer to the customer, understand their needs and create a very strong culture that was around the customers and putting the customer first day in and day out. Hopefully those give a couple of illustrations in terms of use cases and examples of shaping culture and then reinforcing into the process and the work design to get people to deliver better experiences day in and day out. All great examples erIC this has been a fantastic conversation. So now if you don't mind, what we like to do is we like to put our listeners to work and I say that affectionately because they may be driving. So hopefully they're not taking notes right now. But what I'd like to do is is there an exercise or even two exercises if you prefer that when they get together with their teams because we have a lot of business leaders that listen to this show every episode. But is there an exercise that maybe we could give them to start thinking about things that would make this information gel not just for them, but maybe for their team to that they could do together. Yeah, absolutely. So two examples and to activities that are very simple have a huge impact. So the first one is around stories and we know the power of storytelling and I would say start your meetings and pick whichever meetings you want with your leadership team And get somebody to share a story of where we really nailed it well from a customer standpoint, from a relationship standpoint. And then another one which is where something went off the rails where we missed the mark. It was complicated with the 18 phone calls etc. And two things is get your leaders to start understanding sharing those stories and then connecting with people. This was a simple observation I realize is that cultures that were really solid in terms of customer experience leaders in those organizations, Ceos were comfortable calling customers. It sounds ridiculous but there are banks in the U. S. As an example on the west coast where in every branch there's a phone, it's a direct phone that goes to the Ceo. And if you're really frustrated it goes straight in the Ceo actually answers that line so that comfort both from an issue. CEOS executives even in HR in it being comfortable calling customers will drive that the more we get into story based approaches. So activity number one, I would say. And activity number two is I would look at things in terms of With your leadership game around four core themes that have been demonstrated to link the high levels of human performance when it comes to that human to human relationship. And number one is saying how a line on my team members to the customer outcomes. So what's the degree to which as a team member, I understand what the journey urine And too often you've got somebody in the back office who only chunks of pieces of the work and unless they have understanding, you'll never get to that customer ownership. 2nd 1 is how empowered. Do you think those team members are resolving issues? So there's a problem in front of them are able to solve it. If there's a compensation, are they able to give the $5 or doesn't need to go to five levels up in the organization. So really the degree to which you're tight on, the outcomes, your loose in terms of how you solve it. But tight invalidating where the work got done right. The third one I would say is really this clarity of the feedback loop that you talked about before and really thinking about does my team member really get that feedback from the client in an actionable way where they can adapt it. And then I'd say the last pieces, how good are your employees that solving issues that are in front of the customers? So how good are they at being able to problem solve to resolve to have more critical thinking skills and improve the process, changes the process, adapt the Deans in front of them. I think both of these exercises are things that listeners may want to work on maybe at different times, But the idea of sharing stories that's almost a great meeting starter because we're all tired with zoom and teams and all of these things that were on. Maybe we start our meetings with, let's talk about that one time that we nailed it. Or let's talk about a story where it didn't go so well, but what we did to fix it and I think you're four theme areas around measuring the right things and looking how everything is aligned properly. That gives folks real cause for taking stock in where they are in the business. But this isn't something that they've got to go out. They don't have to buy technology, they don't have to bring in a big consulting company. It's something that they can do immediately and I'll put these in the show notes for everybody eric I can't even begin to tell you how great our conversation has been and how I think our listeners we'll get a lot from this episode. So I really want to thank you a lot. If people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you or your company? Best way it would be either to our website properly dot com or if you want to reach me directly, bounce some ideas, see what the responses were there, those two activities and get insights from it. Just send me an email at Ceo at properly dot com. Well that's very gracious of you and I think people will take you up on it and proper low. I'll spell it. P R O P U L O dot com. And again Ceo at properly dot com to send your results from the exercises to ERIC and maybe start a conversation and maybe there's something there that ERIC can help you with in the future. ErIC thank you very much for coming on today. This has been really, really great. Thank you so much for having me steve and that's another episode of the science of c x I'm steve Pappas your host and until next time. Please take care, stay safe, stay healthy and see you on next episode.