Are your customers “Happy or Not?”

I recently read an article on the amazing company called “Happy or Not”. (You can read the article on the BBC website here.)  The founders, Heikki Vaananen and Ville Levaniemi dreamed up the idea based on Heikki’s horrible customer experiences in a local IT store as a teenager.  The fact that even at 15, he felt that rude, dismissive or event selective service (better service for some customers than others based on the whim of the employee) was just not good enough.

I love the simplicity of the “Happy or Not” terminals, and use them in most airports I travel through in Europe.  The spread of simple and gamified technology to allow customers to express a snapshot response of their emotions plays well to a simple and understandable metric that anyone within an organisation can relate to.  Of course, it’s not the only means to measure how your customers are feeling at a particular point in your customer journey, but the value of an instant and tactical opportunity to rant or rave can really help address the points in your customer journey where customers are particularly polarised / delighted or fuming.  The goal is to create consistency, create a rapid feedback loop for the changes you make, then track the impact over time.


So that’s great for businesses that are predominantly based in the “real world”, but what about those of us who are online / SaaS / indirect providers?  The key is to consider why a business might use the “Happy or Not” terminal – rather than searching for an online equivalent, but to dig into why the business might be using it.  Let’s stick with the travel theme to examine this further.


Business passengers are important to many airports.  They travel at peak times, spend a lot with the airlines, and by and large know what they are doing within the airport customer journey.  Whilst it might be their employer who pays for their travel, there’s often some flexibility around airline, departure and arrival airports and time of travel.  Some airport nail the efficiency element, allowing the business traveller to arrive at the last minute, charge through premium security, sip a coffee in the lounge before boarding their flight.  When it feels easy, the business traveller forms a preference for a certain airport, creating a routine as they travel. The airport experience can directly influence the airline choice, so it’s in the airport authority’s interest to make it easy, seamless and consistent.  So where does the “Happy or Not” terminal come into it?


The airport can track a large number of data points due to their secure structure – how many people arrive at the airport, check in, pass through security, arrive at the gate, board (or miss) their flight.  Times between each stage are also recorded, as well as types of passenger (from basic business or economy to much more detailed profiling.) The missing element is a real time snapshot of the customer sentiment.  How was that stage of your journey through the airport? Good? Bad?


The “Happy or Not’ terminal records this data, and helps determine, for example, at what point does customer satisfaction plummet due to lack of premium security channels being open.  The airport is able to determine a cost benefit around cost to serve and cost of service, investing in the areas of greatest impact and sensitivity. Those who are most valuable to the airport, such as business travellers can be tracked by key moments of truth and pain points to determine the positive impact of changes as they are introduced, helping balance cost with churn risk (business travellers defecting to other airports or other forms of transport.)  Unlike receiving an email or text message, the terminal are non-intrusive (i.e. the customer makes a conscious choice to reach out and provide feedback.)


Back in our online world, it becomes clear that knowing your magic moment, moments of truth, and pain points is key, but being able to measure customer sentiment in a timely manner matters just as much.  The emotional response at the point where the customer experiences a specific element of your journey can (and do) have far reaching impacts further along your journey. For a business traveller, this may be that Airport X never has enough security staff in rush hour, leading then to switch to another airport.


I’ve long argued that a lengthy survey at the end of a long experience will never be as useful as regular pulse check-ins, little and often to make lots of small changes and enhancements is so much better than infrequent “big bang” change..  Of course it doesn’t matter what you measure if you don’t use the data to drive actions and change, but next time you see a “Happy or Not” terminal and click on one of the faces, reflect how you can do the same for your customers.

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