“The Happiness Button,” by David Owen. The New Yorker, 2/5/2018.
HappyOrNot is a small Finnish start-up that gathers customer satisfaction data for companies that hire their services. (Their U.S, headquarters is located near the West Palm Beach Airport.) Their approach is simplistic in the extreme. They set up terminals that resemble Fisher-Price toys. Each free-standing terminal has four large push buttons designating Very Satisfied, Somewhat Satisfied, Somewhat Dissatisfied, and Very Dissatisfied. Each button is identified with an appropriate smiley face and a color ranging from dark green (very satisfied) to dark red (very dissatisfied). They are meant to be intuitive at a glance. The data is collected wirelessly at a central terminal in real time where they can be instantly analyzed and corrections begun.
Any satisfaction survey has the problem of collecting enough data to be meaningful. Only customers with strong feelings, good or bad, will take the time to answer a traditional survey. The vast majority are missed. The collection of the data has to be simple and even fun to get everyone involved. Said the C.E.O. of HappyOrNot, “We saw that, if you make it easy, people will give feedback every day, even if you don’t give them a prize for doing it.”
(The article points out that Finnish culture is extremely modest and humble. An old joke is that a Finnish introvert will look at his shoes when talking to you. A Finnish extrovert will look at your shoes.)
The HappyOrNot system has a brief reset time to avoid multiple entries by an over-enthusiastic child or an employee wanting to alter the results, but usually the vast size of the data overcomes any attempts at manipulation.
For example, how this system could be used at Longwood Gardens: (Longwood Gardens does not currently use this system, but I have to make up an example from something I know.) Visitors’ satisfaction can vary depending on where they are, so multiple button-stations often are required to identify problem areas. A station located at the new Longwood fountain area may show a high satisfaction, while a station in the parking lot may show more dissatisfaction. Satisfaction can also vary by time. A station in the cafeteria could register high satisfaction at slow times, but low satisfaction when crowded. Often the cause of a spike in the data is obvious to anyone at the site. The HappyOrNot system allows a real-time response.
The presence of the buttons alone can increase satisfaction. A disgruntled customer standing in line can complain to the person standing behind them. Now there are two disgruntled customers, and the dissatisfaction can spread to many more. The button system allows them to vent their feelings.
The buttons only spot problems. What needs fixing, such as long check-out lines, would require further investigation.
I am thinking of setting up something similar in my own house, a terminal for me and a terminal for my wife. How would we compare day-to-day or hour-by-hour? Perhaps I don’t want to know.