Happy or Not: How Smiley Buttons are Revolutionizing Customer Feedback

By Raquel Guarino

600 million. That's how many responses Finnish startup Happy or Not has accumulated from its revolutionary customer feedback product. The idea is simple: customers walk past a terminal with four colorful buttons on it; they hit the button that best represents how they're feeling after an experience. The first button is dark green with a big smile, the second is less green with a more subdued smile, the third is a light red and slightly unhappy looking face, and the fourth a deep red with an intense frown. After the customer hits one, no further action is needed on their end. Happy or Not takes the feedback and uses it to gather information and improve customer experiences.




A common retort to the idea is that such feedback requires context. But Happy or Not's true value lies in the sheer volume of feedback it can receive over relatively short periods of time. Traditionally, many companies rely on a variety of survey methods to understand their customers. Often, the surveys are tedious and boring, which decreases the number of people who actually want to fill them out. Another conundrum is that this kind of activity generally self-selects for a certain kind of person who is not wholly representative of the average customer. On top of this, surveys filled out too far out from the time of interaction can render distorted opinions and feedback--and that's hardly helpful.


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Happy or Not eliminates these issues. According to the New Yorker, "a single Happy or Not terminal can register thousands of impressions a day." The action is short, requires no sign-up or bulky actions, and has been referred to as an essentially "frictionless" experience. Additionally, the terminal attracts opinions from customers of all different backgrounds, not just the passionate ones with a lot of time on their hands. This tempers the reviews to make them more representative of the average customer, which is ultimately much more useful when compiling and analyzing customer data. Plus, the feedback is nearly simultaneous which improves the accuracy of the feedback.

Another benefit of the Happy or Not smiley terminal is that it provides real-time reporting. (If this piques your interest, Help.com's customer service software offers real-time reporting as well.) For many organizations, like Heathrow Airport, this feature was a game-changer. Heathrow was Happy or Not's first major international client, and they were yielding major complaints about their security checkpoints. With the installation of the feedback system, the airport was able to identify problem locations in real time. Very quickly after their installation, airport executives say they were able to make changes that improved customer satisfaction ratings by more than 50 percent.

While surveys can be a privacy issue for potential takers, Happy or Not offers a convenient alternative that's essentially effortless. While a survey keeps your name, email, and other personally identifiable information that could be sold to the highest bidder, the smiley alternative is anonymous. To traditionalists, that anonymity may initially feel disadvantageous, but it ultimately leads to higher participation, more data points, and a comprehensive understanding of what's really happening.

Furthermore, since the feedback is timestamped, businesses can still discover important trends and patterns based on when things happen. One client said they retrained one of their employees after discovering customer satisfaction plummeted once she started her daily shift. In a separate example, execs for the San Francisco 49ers placed terminals in various locations throughout the stadium to determine which vendors were customer favorites (the way they used to gauge customer satisfaction was purely through sales, which would often take a day or two to report).

All in all, it looks like Happy or Not has got a good thing going. By keeping customer feedback simple, anonymous, and lighthearted (have you ever frowned at a smiley face?), the terminals reduce customer risk while simultaneously registering opinions from a variety of people. Without needing to commit to anything, customers can share their experiences and feel like they're being heard. Businesses can view these impressions in real time which helps organizations make changes faster and more efficiently. That being said, the Happy or Not system gets one big green smiley from us.

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