When entering or leaving China, each passport control booth has two buttons you can press. One has a smiley face and the other a frown. When your passport is handed back you can choose which button to press based on whether you are satisfied with the immigration officer’s service or not.
HappyOrNot, a company based in Finland, has a similar idea. It has taken the same concept, refined and beautified it, and taken it mainstream by selling it to a broad range of businesses around the world.
HappyOrNot is a small display of four buttons mounted on a pedestal that can be placed anywhere on the premises of a business, government office or retail store. If it’s a small retail store for example, it might be located at the checkout or exit. For a larger establishment like a department store, a HappyOrNot installation could theoretically be placed in every department.
Each of the four buttons on a HappyOrNot display has a different emoticon face corresponding to “very happy”, “a bit happy”, “a bit unhappy” or “very unhappy”. The customer pushes the button that most represents his or her impression of the shopping experience. The responses are tallied, diced by variables such as time of day and location, and streamed to management in analytical reports.
Despite the simplicity of the HappyOrNot concept from an analytical standpoint, it has a lot going for it.
First, it sends out a highly visible message to customers that this business or government entity genuinely gives a hoot about what they think. That can be reassuring.
Second, it provides customers with an outlet to express their opinions in a non-confrontational manner.
Third, it provides an incentive to staff to do their best.
Fourth, for the management, it offers a useful indicator of where it might have strengths and weaknesses. A department store, for example, may find it is doing OK in women’s shoes on Saturday morning and wretchedly in handbags on Friday afternoons. This is clearly actionable information, if only to alert the retailer to where a more focused diagnostic and remediation program is required.
A particularly useful feature of HappyOrNot is that the question can be changed to gather different information from customers. They can be asked about their satisfaction with the general shopping experience, with the merchandise on display, with the service, or any other aspect of their visit.
Most businesses are interested in customer feedback but in many cases they are unsure how to gather the information. Often, it’s just a case of waiting to see if the customer comes back. After all, the cash register doesn’t lie. This is not a particularly effective way of finding out how you are doing.
Traditionally, customer surveys have been the preferred method and there are some very simple ones. In a 2003 piece for the Harvard Business Review, Fred Reichheld introduced the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS) that was based on customer responses to just one question: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to refer our company to a friend or colleague?” The responses are divvied up into three groups – the “detractors” who gave a rating of zero to 6, the “passives” who rated the company 7-8 and the “promoters” who rated it 9-10. The NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
Reichheld’s NPS became popular and widely used. However, it has since been embellished by a technology company called ForeSee, which added a second question to the one posed by NPS. This was: “How likely are you to discourage others from doing business with our company?” ForeSee then subtracts the percentage of 9-10 ratings given in answer to the second question from the percentage of 9-10 ratings given in answer to the first. That is, it subtracts the “likely to discourage” people from the “likely to recommend” people. The result is called the “Word of Mouth Index”, or WOMI, and is now also widely used.
If your company relies heavily on word of mouth to bring in new business, the WOMI Index may be one useful tool to find out how you are doing with existing customers. Like any diagnostic tool though, it should be used in combination with others. Although such tools offer useful insights, they don’t usually get you to a clear understanding of why you are doing well or poorly.
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