The Science of Happiness Article
This is an article based on my talk at WordCamp Europe 2016 in Vienna
So, what do we actually know about happiness? We know that it can be caused by anything or anyone and that everybody has different happiness triggers. These happiness triggers change as time goes by and what made us happy when we were young might not make us happy when we are older. We can also say that there are certain happiness triggers that work in most cases by default on a certain group of people. For instance, if we introduced WordPress to a group of web developers who just started diving into www development and chose Joomla! as their tool of choice, they are most probably going to be quite happy! 😎
On the other hand, what do we know about ourselves? We all want to be happy, right? And we all want to have a successful business, maintain it, and make it even better!
I am not going to write about how you should run your business. That’s something I’ll leave to the folks in the picture below.
However, I am going to write about Happiness, Customer Happiness, and why/how to achieve it. And I’ll be using science in the process even though I am not a scientist! 🙂
A study of major lottery winners found that on average, they returned close to their baseline level of happiness within one year*. People adapt to good things in their life very fast and material goods only provide a short emotional boost which fades very quickly.
So, what does provide a significant increase in happiness which lasts through time? The answer is relationships. Happiness research has shown that the quality and quantity of relationships is one of the most influential factors in increasing happiness*. On average, people that are involved in a community are happier than ones that aren’t. We can take WordPress community as an example of how much happiness it brought to us over the years and it continues to do so every single day.
*From The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom By Jonathan Haidt
I wrote the following paragraph on my website CustomerHappiness.rs :
From the moment a customer hears about you, enters your store, starts using your product or arrives at your website, a relationship is created. And it is up to you to nourish that relationship.
I strongly believe in the aforementioned paragraph and I can also add that, just as Tony Hsieh said, the key ingredient in strong relationships is to develop emotional connections.
All in all, by looking at the term of Customer Happiness, we first need to check a few facts. We are all customers – we go to the grocery store, we shop online etc. And also, many of us have customers of our own – we’ve developed a plugin or a theme that people are using or we are selling our programming/support/writing/translation services online. In order to achieve Customer Happiness, we need to ask ourselves how can we, as customers, become happy. We also need to put ourselves into our customers’ shoes and ask ourselves when do our customers become happy.
There are three most common scenarios that make us, as customers, satisfied and happy:
- When we can confirm that the product we bought (the service we used) is of good quality and when we are satisfied with its performance
- When we are amazed by the product or service by how much it exceeded our own expectations. This is also called Customer Delight
- When we are relieved that the product or service wasn’t as bad as we expected it to be
In Consumer Behavior: Concepts and Applications, David L. Loudon and Albert J. Della Bitta gave a definition of Customer Satisfaction:
Customer Satisfaction can be defined as stepping out of the experience in order to evaluate it. Someone can have a positive experience which can lead to a negative one because, even though the experience was positive, it wasn’t as positive as one expected. Thus, satisfaction or dissatisfaction is not just an emotion, it’s an evaluation of that emotion.
Basically, the main players in achieving Customer Satisfaction are the performance of a product or service and by how much it exceeds the expectations of customers. Once Customer Satisfaction is achieved, it leads to Customer Happiness which ultimately leads to Customer Loyalty. When you have loyal customers, they will spread the word about your service and brand by using the word of mouth. Since we live in a digital era, you can also count on the word of mouse (which is sometimes a lot louder than the word of mouth and it can reach a larger number of people). Word of mouth/mouse brings you new customers which now have their own expectations which you need to exceed.
And it’s a cycle that allows your service and business to keep growing.
Based on all the information above, we can say that Customer Satisfaction is a function of the customers’ expectations and the performance of the product or service.
I am not reinventing the wheel here. This formula was already made by Oliver Richard back in 1981. in his work Measurement and Evaluation of Satisfaction Process in Retail Settings. The formula also works for any situation in everyday life – just remove the word customer from its definition!
A Practical Example
Let’s take a look at an example. For instance, let’s say that you created a product which we’ll call Perfect Product. There is a potential customer who has certain expectations about it.
Just for the sake of this story, let’s say that your potential customer is no other than
So, Batman has certain expectations about your product, he goes to the store or your website and buys your product. There are two possible outcomes now – Batman is either going to be happy with your product and you might have already achieved Customer Happiness. Or, he’s not going to be happy.
Let’s imagine this situation. Batman bought your app which sends SMS notification to a cell phone whenever there is a bat signal up in the sky. So Batman is sitting in his room, watching TV and drinking a beer, and all of a sudden, he sees on the news that there is a havoc in the city and that everyone is expecting him to come and save the day. He looks at his cell phone – no messages. He takes a look through the window and sees the bat signal.
So, after Batman takes care of the villains and saves the day, what’s the next thing that he is going to do? He’ll probably call your Customer Service to check what’s going on!
If your Customer Service team is in this mood:
Chances are great that you’ll receive this reaction from Batman:
He will spread his wings and come after you. He’ll tell everyone how he feels and how he’s been treated by your company. Remember the word of mouse? Well, bad news travels a lot faster than good news and it hurts your product, your brand, and your business.
Having a helpful and devoted Customer Service team is crucial in these situations! By helping a dissatisfied customer you have a chance to produce Customer Satisfaction, and even gain a loyal customer! Remember the Customer Satisfaction quote from earlier? Someone can have a positive experience which can lead to a negative one because, even though the experience was positive, it wasn’t as positive as one expected. Well, it also works the other way around and if the customer had a bad experience and doesn’t expect anything anymore of your service and if you jumped in, helped him, and saved the day, you’ve probably achieved Customer Satisfaction right away and maybe even Customer Delight!
Why Wouldn’t We Just Lower Customer Expectations?
Good question! This way we would achieve Customer Happiness more easily, right? Well, not exactly. The thing is when we set high expectations, we are making it more difficult for the competition to stay in the game. And also, we are growing together with our customers! By raising the bar higher and higher each time, our business evolves together with our customers. What’s considered a stellar service yesterday can become an industry standard tomorrow. And this is how we push ourselves each day and make the world a better place.
Food for Thought
Just as you can use WordPress hooks to hook on a certain action or filter in WordPress, you can also choose to hook on a positive emotion of the customer. For instance, my role at Automattic is a Happiness Engineer. Even though I provide support to our customers, I am not a just a support agent. Happiness Engineer implies a certain accountability and drives me forward to provide happiness to our customers, not just answer to tickets. It works the same way for our customers, too – when they receive a reply from a Happiness Engineer, it produces a positive emotion compared to a reply from a support agent. If you receive a reply from a Happiness Engineer, he is probably armed to the teeth with good will and intention to help.
Thanks for reading!