Changing Real Time Customer and Employee Feedback for Companies with Adam & Kfir Alfia
This is Jeff Amrhein. This is the Startup Junkies podcast. This is about those stories for the people that are afflicted with creating the next great products and services that are going to change lives not just in America but worldwide. We’re going to tell the stories of the next great beer we are producing, we’ll tell stories and new product apparel makers. We’re going to tell the stories of those people that don’t accept the status quo. We want to make people welcome to the startup Johnny’s Rockets.
All right. Welcome back to another startup junkies podcast. My name is Davis McIntyre. Thank you for tuning in. Whether you are watching us or listening. We appreciate it. Be sure to like, subscribe, do all that fun stuff so you can catch up with the startup junkie crew Weekly. I’m joined today by my co-host, Jeff and Victoria. How’re you guys doing?
Awesome. I’m very excited about the podcast today. Today we have joining us is Adam and Kfir Alfia. From Real Time Feedback, guys. How are you doing today?
Doing fantastic. Fantastic. So before we get into kind of a an origin story, could you give us a little, little bio on what Real Time Feedback is, what you guys do?
Sure. It’s a two way customer communication platform private customer communication platform that allows customers at any business to directly communicate with management digitally in real time to give both compliments and criticisms to try to fix issues while they’re doing business at the business.
Amazing, amazing. Well, yeah, let’s get right into it. What’s kind of YOUR story leading up to Real Time Feedback? Both you guys if you want to take turns.
Yeah, so my brother and I have run a company for last 17 years called Maestro and that’s a digital personal assistant. A live remote agents. We started in 2005 our biggest footprint if you think of OnStar and what that was for GM, we duplicated that type of environment for non GM vehicles. And we are currently in four manufactures vehicles. Nissan and Mitsubishi Subaru and Infinity. And any of those four cars if you push the soft button in the car on the head unit or on the roof, it’ll come to our call center here in Dallas. And we pretty much help you with pretty much anything you need. Think of about like American Express black card, you call up and you want tickets or dinner reservations or you know, I’m flying to Italy and my wife only vegan, you know, plot out the whole week of restaurants, anything you want. We take care of, our motto is really anything anytime, anywhere. And we’ve been doing that for the last 17 years. And so we’re really hypersensitive to customer experience. When a customer calls up our service we want them to hang up the phone go wow that was one of the best phone experiences I’ve ever had with anybody. And we’ve really noticed a big decline in customer engagement, customer experience customer service, especially in the last seven years and I think it was really even more so in the you know during the pandemic where, you know, there’s no more in face experiences for a while. And now that it’s come back, and now with the whole you know, big quit. It’s really hard to get qualified, customer oriented employees. So a lot of businesses are just grabbing warm bodies. Hey, you got to if you’ve got a heartbeat and you can speak you know, you’re hired, you know, you see the McDonald’s giving $1,000 Bonus just to work crazy, you know, hourly wages, so it’s really put a clamp on finding for normal businesses. It’s really expensive now to find a good customer experience person that can come in and handle that customer when they walk in. And my brother and I would always swap horror stories of experiences that we had at restaurants or otherwise. And we always talked about this type of, you know, mechanism where I wish I can speak to the manager and tell them what I’m seeing right now, but it’s always really been hard. You know, you don’t want to make a phone call, Hey, can I speak to a manager? If I’m walking around a Bed Bath and Beyond? And I see something with an employee on their phone for five minutes, you know, not helping any customers. I mean for myself, I sometimes if it’s really egregious, I will go find the manager and say Hey, can I take a picture? I could just say no, there’s somebody here just on their phone and I was looking for help and they weren’t interested in helping me, but most people won’t. So we built a really cool platform for customers if there are having an issue to directly message management and hopefully fix issues before, everybody knows if somebody goes online and blast our business gives them one star that’s really detrimental for the business. If a manager just knew, you know, the customer was having a bad experience and be more than happy to take care of it. But that communication bridge is not there. And by the way, but before we get to that point, we were dabbling with a couple of other ideas that kind of had us pivot to where we are now. And it was we had a domain called BadEmployee.com where we were really the idea was to shame the business. So you would take a video or picture of whoever’s you know the bad employee or slacking off you would tag the business. And then after we thought it could have left but the business model was such that, you know, we’re not charging anybody and I would just be going on and then we maybe advertised on it. And then if after mulling it around for about, you know, a few months or a year I remember we were thinking there has to be a different way to monetize this. And that’s when some bypolls went off. Like, why make it a public shaming site. Why not keep it private? And make it so that you’re not really shaming the employee, you’re just giving criticism and feedback on any part of the operation via complimentary or negative and then have it go directly to manage and that’s how we came up with the idea where we can charge a fee, monthly fee or so for the business to have this service implement.
Sounds like a more engaging way to do a net promoter score to some extent where you’re, you know, you’re giving that direct feedback, but it’s something that’s actionable. How’s it been going so far? How’s the uptake with enterprise?
It’s been really, really good. We, our first big customer was actually here in Dallas, a company but the American Airlines center where the Stars and Mavericks play. I knew some people there and that we did a presentation and they absolutely loved it. But they said they don’t know what their engagement would be. So we launched in December of 2019. They had a previous program in there where you would text where you would send a keyword to a short code but it wasn’t very successful. They said that I think in all of 2019 they hadn’t received somewhere around 25 or 30 messages for the entire year. I said look, let’s put our platform in its QR code base. It’s much easier than to remember a short code or the keyword a lot of people that was you know, that was great back, you know, about 10 or 12 years ago but that’s not really anything that anybody does anymore. So we launch it with the QR codes and select areas. And the first night alone we received 42 feedbacks during a Mavericks game. And now they’re getting a constant stream of really great insights from fans and from employees. One of the things that when we built this we didn’t even think about the excited employees are there more than anybody, but a lot of times they really don’t have a path to management. They’re embarrassed to say something they don’t want to share and they don’t want to be that you know the cure and that’s always complaining about stuff in the workplace. So half the feedbacks that we see that are coming in now from retail environments are actually employees seeing something and there’s, you know, using the platform, it’s web based and nobody has to download an app on the consumer side and just going to the website and putting in Hey, we have some lightbulbs out of the storage facility, or whatever it is so now they can let management know in real time and the beauty the beautiful part about this rather than NPS score, which is a huge measuring tool for companies is there’s a response, right most surveys and when you fill out an NPS type of survey or when you fill out a standard survey, nobody ever expects anybody to reach back out. We make it crystal clear on both our marketing. And when you’re submitting, that somebody is supposed to reach back out to you, you will get a response. And it’s usually we actually put a lot of emphasis in that response time because you know, you’re getting somebody that’s having a negative experience a lot of times and you want to respond quickly and in save that relationship and save that experience in the real time in the moment while that customers you know in your business.
That’s such a clever insight as it relates to employees because there’s a full on war to get talent and it’s even more difficult to retain talent particularly in service sector. So part of that is lack of engagement. Our culture seems like no one cares about what they’re doing. And seems like you guys address that problem. It’s very clever.
Yeah, we’ve actually because the more we do this, and we’ve been doing this since 2019, we’ve been actually marketing it. And of course, pandemic you know, shut everything down. But now we’re back at it. We got a lot of pilot programs going on. We just finished a large pilot program with Ford. At a large number of their service dealers service dealerships, they have a thing called Quick Lane, which is their Express lube. And then we had four months of data come in, they absolutely loved it. Now we’re going national they’ve got they have almost 1000 locations nationwide. We’re talking to a lot of other car manufacturers, because right now, if you notice the, you know, the car market, there’s not a lot of inventory out there. So the service department is really carrying the dealership, that’s where all the revenue is being generated. And it’s really, really important to keep the customer happy that’s coming in for service because once the inventory comes back, they want to make sure that customers continue to come to the service department, because that’s when they buy a vehicle while they’re there for two hours. You might walk around in the showroom and buy a new car. So they want to keep that customer there and if they go to a Jiffy Lube or one of those other third party vendors and they don’t have that opportunity to capture that customer. So that’s really important. We’re launching grocery stores. We just launched a chain of grocery stores, party cities about to do a pilot program with us as well. Many of these are all traditional type of, you know, brick and mortar locations that you know are really feeling the squeeze right now with employees. And if you’re turning your customer into your eyes and ears, they’re able to let you know about deficiencies in your business that you otherwise wouldn’t have known because you just don’t have the staff to properly address issues. What are the kind of major industries that you see using this app? I mean, is it industry specific or favorited?
Yeah, so I mean, right now we’re going after we just launched our first hotel, and it’s getting incredible response we put actually we came up with this, applied for a patent. It’s called a trigger code, where you don’t have to tell the business anything, just simply scanning the QR code sends out a pre-selected message. So if you’ve been to a hotel recently, you’ve noticed that you have to call downstairs get your room made up, a lot of hotels are no longer making up your room every day, because they just don’t have the housekeeping staff. So you’re required to call downstairs and say, Hey, I need my room made up. Well, that’s you know, it’s pain for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t like talking on phones anymore. I’ve got six kids and every time I call my kid, one of my kids, they text me back and said hey, what do you want? I want to talk to you. That’s why I’m calling you to answer the phone. But you know, the generation probably 35 under they just want a text message. I don’t like calling phone numbers. I don’t want to call an 800 number. So what we did was we put QR codes on the inside of every door and as you’re walking out it says I just want your room made up, scan this code as soon as you scan that QR code it says you’re about to send the message makeup room 315 to housekeeping. Would you like any additional? Anything else from housekeeping so you can add hey, I need extra shampoo or add coffee pods or I need more towels. So now you can just send that, it goes straight to housekeeping. They respond back with a thumbs up and then you know you’re happy, they’re happy because you know they’re not just sit there taking phone calls and it’s all digital to really cool, very easy system for people to navigate. Another industry that seems to be a really good fit is that Adam already touched on at the arena space, right and as you can imagine, we want to see a game is packed. You know this actually very typical situation where there’s a belligerent, somebody’s in front of you, they’re getting really drunk or they’re cursing. You don’t want to start a scene you know, trying to flag people down you don’t really know who to tell. This offers the guests a very discreet way to communicate with management. And American Airlines that actually uses this for this exact situation all the time that they just route somebody over there. They take care of the situation. We had another situation also at American Airlines center where there was a concession stand that was scamming customers. They were offering unlimited refills, but they were then as soon as they would sell, you know, make a bunch of sales they would shut down and the people will be aware, going back to the refills and people were complaining like two or three people complaining about this same concession stand and he was a third party and the American Airlines center operations found out what was going on otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to know about it. It’s got Ashley. I’m sorry, the American Airlines center the girl that’s in charge of the arena. Gina Chapo last month was awarded by the NBA. The Pete Winemiller guest experience Innovation Award for 2022. And in her interview, she talks about how it was primarily brought on because she put in the Feedback platform to really engage the guests to let them know about issues, even have it in every suite. So if you want in another six pack of beer or more nachos, you just scan a QR code you go hey, I need more nachos in my suite, and boom, it goes straight to the person that’s in charge of your swing. She comes right back with, you know, your six pack.
That’s fantastic. I also think that it’s very empowering to just be able to have that feedback but also be anonymous because I’m sure there are people like me who don’t like to raise, like just an issue with people if it’s not that big a deal. I’m not going to bring it up but you know, it’s not worth going to talk to the manager in person, but I definitely like you know, impacted my experience. And so I do think that that is very important for a lot of people like that. And so, have you seen any trends with something that managers typically find important for their business versus what customers are reporting on? Like, oh, I didn’t even realize that this was something that we would get feedback on.
Yeah, so actually, we have a bunch of restaurants on our platform, one of which is one of the first ones we launched as a chain of 24 hour diners here in Dallas, and the diner chain is known for late night on Fridays and Saturday nights where people come in, you know, half drunk till four or five in the morning. And they cater to that crowd during that time where they play louder music and it’s more of a party kind of a festive atmosphere. Well, they had a bunch of complaints from people who showed up on Sunday morning like at seven o’clock to have their you know, Sunday brunch or their read the paper, have some coffee. And you know, we have we had one restaurant that had several complaints that at seven o’clock in the morning that the music’s still wearing. And most people won’t call the waiter over and say Hey, can you turn down the music? But now if you make it a seamless experience, right, you just scan a QR code and send something so that was something that they didn’t know about. They also got complaints about hey, you’re you’ve got a tremendous amount of dust kicked up on your fan that so when you work at a business, these things just become background. And when you see stuff every day you just don’t notice it. So but customers do if you’re giving him the platform to tell you about things, leaking faucets, you know overflowing toilets. We have actually another segment we’re going after right now is property management. We own our own building here in Dallas on the Tollway and there’s always stuff that’s breaking. But a lot of times half the people that are beside are busy building are not even resident they’re not tenants, they’re visitors. So now if a visitor walks in, you’re out of paper towels if I’m a visitor and I’m in a high rise building, and I walk in, you’re out of paper towels. I just wipe my hands on the pants as well. But if I’m giving the giving them the opportunity to let me know when there was out of paper towels or when there was a toilet overflowing or something’s going on. That goes straight to our maintenance guy and he’s on it you know within minutes rather than having to find a puddle of water made its way to the hallway. So it’s really great to have in the moment type of information come through at any time. Yeah, Victoria the way you describe how your kind of temperament is that’s exactly what this who this tool was built for. There’s a majority of people I like that, you know that people have a misconception about Yelp, Google reviews. Most people don’t do that. You know, there’s a certain type of person that goes and leaves the Yelp review, or you know, gets revenge on a business that did them wrong. Most people are actually just readers of Yelp. reviews. So there’s a whole swatch have guests and customers that are kind of silently having bad experience and leaving and then either thinking out it’s never come here, or you know, I’ll tell my friends, but those are the people who are the silent majority that really need the voice and that’s what this tool was catered.
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We’re going to take you down a little bit of a different tact here. I mean, I think it’s impressive that this is a family business. You’ve got multiple generations of the family involved. We have it turns out we have listeners in over 100 countries now and then a fair amount of engagement but there’s always this question sometimes is can you make adventure work if you’ve got a bunch of family involved? My son is one of the managing directors here. We’ve worked together for eight years. I’m a big fan of it. You get a mixed bag of views on it from venture capitalists and others and not just be interested in you guys have obviously been successful in it, talk about it. What’s it take to be successful? When you’ve got family involved in in ventures like this?
So you know, if you’re and I have a really good dynamic because we both bring certain things to the table, he’s a more level headed one. I’m more than the Gunslinger and a lot of times he’ll talk me off the ledge you know, so we have conversations and he brings him to the voice of reason where I bring the voice of chance and so we have a really good dynamic not to say that we haven’t had our different blowouts but we’ve always you know, maintained you know, we after five or 10 minutes maybe yelling we always come back to the center and work it out. But the good thing is we’re stuck with each other. So that’s really one of the things that’s different and that the positive of having you know, doing business with family is that we have a very tight knit family unit so and I understand you know, a lot of I have friends that don’t talk to their family members or their even their parents anymore because of money or business etc. But, you know, we’ve been we have a very, very tight unit and I know that I would never choose a business over the relationship I have with my family. So it keeps us where we have to, you know, figure out a solution rather than and we can’t fight each other. So, so it’s been interesting. We’ve been working together for 17 years. And guess what, when I first started the personal assistance company, he was just an idea then and I was doing it with somebody else. And he kind of back at the last minute and Kfir was working for another firm and I called him up and I said, Hey, I’ve got this idea that I want to explore but I have to go to India or our first call center wanted to do in India. We’ve quickly abandoned that but I called him up and he was recently engaged at the time and I go hey, you want to go? You want to go to India and start a call center? He called me back an hour later and he talked to his then fiancée and today I want to go do something with my brother and we’ve been together ever since. So it’s been a crazy journey, it’s great when you have somebody to celebrate with that family. We found a lot of big wins. And it’s great when you have somebody that’s close to you that you have so you can celebrate that with and I agree. I agree and it’s typically a lot less transactional. And if your rally around the same purpose, the same mission there’s a lot of satisfaction. Yeah, I mean, no hook. But the I think the secret is that everybody has to be on the same wavelength as far as work ethic, because the last thing you want is where, you know, he’s told me and I’ve told him before Hey, man, what’s up with the hours you know, I’m busting my butt here. And then it’s vice versa you know, sometimes I like to vacation. And sometimes things slip, you know sometimes and you know, we can both tell each other Hey, you know what, I expect more out of you. And it’s easy to have that conversation but we’re both very, very hard workers and I can’t imagine having the same dynamic my dad actually had his brother as his business partner but more of a I need to help them type of and it was in it was toxic because one did all the work and the other one was riding on the coattails and that’s very toxic, because there’s a lot of animosity now they don’t talk anymore. Wow.
No, it’s good to get those perspectives though because a lot of people wonder about it and the other thing that’s interesting is planning for succession and all that having when you have multiple generations involved, that sort of as founders figuring out how to work yourself out of a job, and building that next Exelon of leadership is always really important as well. So it doesn’t become kind of a cult of personality is something I think about a lot with this business. We’ve been at it for 15 years. And Brett, my son who’s essentially our Chief Operating Officer, he’s the one that turned it from the sort of ad hoc side hustle into process driven business where, you know, we’re able to grow it, but it makes it makes a lot of difference to think about what comes next. You know that so that the business survives beyond. That’s a wonderful problem to have. And it is no it is it is and if you think about it, the survival rate for any new ventures is low. If you get past one year you’re doing something to get past five you’re doing something if you get past 10 and 15 you’re onto something you’re going to figure it out typically and you guys strike me as the type that are not complacent in it are always hungry or go dodge to new venture based on seeing a problem in the marketplace. So I mean, how do you manage between the two you’ve got this one kind of existing large business now you got to do better. How do you manage between the two at this point?
Well, I mean, we really put the other business really on autopilot because there’s only so many car manufacturers and go after we pretty much shocked everybody. And right now with the car sales, the way they are and our product is really intended the maestro. Personal System product is really supposed to help car sales. Right now they’re selling every car that they can without any issues. So we’ve kind of taken the brakes off or the taking the foot off the pedal for that it’s on autopilot. We have the clients that we have, we really spent the last three, three and a half years, you know, living and breathing feedback. And in back to you know, like Aiden’s involvement now he sees a different side of me that he’s never seen before as far as you know, in the work environment and all the things that I’m taking care of. And then he brings a fresh perspective because you have employees that will give you their peace of mind and their ideas. But I think he feels a little bit more liberal to say exactly what’s on his mind because I’m his dad, rather than somebody that you’re paying to be there. So not that I’m not paying him but nonetheless, he tells me Hey, you know, why don’t you try this? Why don’t we try that that a lot of I think a lot of employees might not voice their opinion, so freely because you know, they feel like you know, you’re the big boss and you know, they don’t want to kind of steer you in a in a different direction. So it’s great to see that he’s that we have somebody that can now give us a different perspective on stuff and I wouldn’t call up our other business currently on autopilot necessarily just that we put some really talented and hardworking. I’ve heard about the sales part. Yeah. How the sales, the salesperson felt like you’re about to fail. Yeah, like you have the right people in place. You can sleep at night knowing that they know what they’re doing and they’re going to show up and take care of things as they come up. That’s really if we didn’t have that, I think it’d be it’d be a lot more difficult to do what we’re doing with feedback.
So what’s winning look like for feedback? You know, you’ve got this great traction. You’ve been at it in the last three years. What’s it look like over the course of the next five?
I mean, we’re right now just, you know, we when we first started, we were going after small and medium sized companies, local companies. And we quickly realized that to scale our platform that’s going to really take enterprise type of clients adopting the program. So that’s really where we cherry steered our efforts we know it’s a longer sales cycle, a much longer sales cycle and the pilot programs and buy in and legal issues and it and all sorts of things that go in, but once you build a a platform that works and that they adopt, it’s you know, it’s a long it’s a long serving solution. One thing that we are about to launch is a self-serve model, where customers can just go online, they pay, you know, anywhere from 49 to $99 a month and they get their own QR code. There’s no there’s very little involvement on our part. They just, you know, put their credit card in, they get a QR code, they download the app on their phone and now they can start marking the QR codes in the platform to their clients without any you know a lot because we have a bunch of bells and whistles. So we’re going to remove all the bells and whistles just dumbing it down to where it’s if I want to get feedback to my customers and be able to respond to them. If for small business, florists or whatever it is, they can do that very easily. But you know, to answer your question, enterprise clients where, you know, they’re they’re actually having the QR codes everywhere they print on their receipts, they send an email out saying, hey, you know, because the emails you get now are all one directional. Any survey you fill out nobody’s ever responding to you you’re just giving data back to that company. For them. We’re using the big picture. But the customer doesn’t really care about big picture. They care about themselves. And a few give customers a way to voice their concerns, and then get an answer back from the manager of that store that they were just at to Hey, sorry about your experience come by next time and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee for your problems or whatever it is that they want to do, to try to get that customer to come back in and have a better experience. The managers aware of their shared their negative experience last time, and it’s a win for everybody.
Yeah, you know, they often say there’s that silent majority out there that are not writing reviews on Yelp or on Google and they’re voting with their feet. They’re just not coming back. Right and this this way, you’ve got a chance to engage them at a point an important moment of truth where you can keep them you know, it’s difficult to retain customers and strikes me is a really good way for the customers to feel like they actually care about what we think and they’re not just going to blow it off or assume everybody will show up. Regardless of experience. Transmit will be one of the things that you have to respond to. That’s one of the things when we go into a business go look, do you really want to know, because if you’re just saying you want to know, and just going through the motions of acting like you want to know, but then when you somebody tells you something and it falls on the floor, then it’s not going to work for you. It’d be worse than if you didn’t have it at all. You really got to make a commitment that if a customer has a problem, legitimate problem, and you submit something, he or she submits something, you have to read it, you have to respond, let them know that you got it. And we make it very, very easy. But if you don’t care, you don’t care.
Right. Yeah, it’s got to be kind of something that’s ingrained in the culture. Or else it’s probably not going to work even with this type of tool. Right. I’m occupying all the time as usual alternative Victorian days. But Victoria, do you have any more questions before we kind of lay in the plan as we like to say,
oh, have any more questions? I just I feel very I mean, like I said, Before, I am that silent customer who votes with my feet just had a bad experience at a restaurant earlier this week. But it wasn’t so bad that I needed to tell someone I just in my mind I made up that I’m not probably gonna go back there pretty soon but yeah, I think this is really cool technology that you guys are bringing to the table, and empowering people like me to actually give feedback that I know is valuable and needed. So I think it’s it’s very exciting.
Thank you. Yeah, I agree. And fantastic product. Fantastic idea. Very excited to see where this goes in the next five years. But yeah, we usually kind of start to land the plane of the podcast with a pretty theoretical question. Kind of put you guys in the hot seat. If you could go back in time, maybe before Maestro maybe before real time feedback. Maybe before then, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would that advice be?
Don’t ever take your foot off the gas. I mean, I’ve had I’ve had times where we’ve won big and big contracts and go okay, I can relax now. I wish I never did. You know I want to go full throttle because you’re just building on building on building and you and your exponentially growing your business rather than relaxing. Relax later on in life.
I love it compared to you have any? Sure yeah probably tell myself to be a little bit more ahead of the curve on research on what’s coming because it’s so easy just to be a consumer of the news and Uncle Kollek it’s kind of going there and you kind of find out where everybody else find out but if you look hard enough you can find out certain trends that are probably can a hit. And you’ll know about them a couple of years more than, you know, the average consumer of now says and I think that would have probably helped us make better decisions, you know, in certain pads points in our trajectory that would have been a lot more beneficial.
Fantastic. I love it. Well guys, if our audience wants to find out more about feedback or wants to connect to you about maestro or anything else you’re working on what’s the best way for them to get in touch? RealTimeFeedback.com Perfect. Hey, we really glad to have you guys on and I’ll say it again, having, having your son in class was a treat, I’m glad we were able to make the connection. And, and have a great upcoming independent state we’re really happy to have you guys on the show. Thank you so much. Thank you so much guys really.