Numbers: The Arch-Enemy of Feelings



I currently manage the entire music program for a global brand. As part of my duties, I am responsible for the direction of background music creation for over 30,000 tracks that are cycled monthly across our properties. These tracks are organized in playlists that fire throughout the day to support the experience of each venue. On occasion, we have customers complain that the music is wrong, they would rather hear “their” favorite tunes, etc.


… and this is where the fun starts.


In an experience-based business, employees can become overzealous in meeting the needs of each and every customer, and with that, they occasionally make a decision to impact one customer without thinking about the others in the group. This is where math helps us find an answer.


I was recently in a packed venue of 300 plus. I watched as one customer approached the host demanding they turn the music down “now.” I chose this time to sit back and watch what would unfold. The host turned down the music for this one customer and almost immediately the vibe died. Butts stopped moving in seats and people (including staff) who were dancing around stopped. I decided to step in and offered my take. I started by asking the host how many people were in the room, which was 300. I then explained that we just adjusted the music for less than 1% of the population. You could see the lightbulb go off in their head.


Unfortunately, this happens far too often. Especially in service-based businesses where we are bombarded with the famous “the customer is always right” mantra. In all honesty, that phrase should be “the customer(s) are always right.” Very few of us work in a 1-1 business. More often we work in a 1-many business. Adjusting your business or experience because one person screams the loudest is not a good course of action. Sure, you should weigh their opinion. Even share it with the team afterward for review. However, for every one person complaining. There is likely one who is happy, which was the case in my example where shortly afterward another customer walked up and asked us to turn the music up.