At my local drug store, there is what looks almost like a Fisher-Price toy. It is free standing battery powered terminal with four big push buttons-dark green and smiley, light green and less smiley, light red and sort of frowny, and dark red and very frowny.  The sign says to rate your pharmacy experience by pressing one of the buttons.

I did not think too much about it until I read an article in the February 8, 2018, The New Yorker magazine— “The Happiness Button” by David Owen.  In the article, David refers to a European gas-station chain that hired a small startup, HappyOrNot, to measure customer satisfaction at its hundred and fifty-plus outlets using what sounds like this similar emoji kiosk.

The results were that one gas station quickly came out as the leader and another was at the other end of the spectrum.  Knowing that customer satisfaction can be influenced by factors unrelated to customer service, the experiment went on with the managers at the best and worst performing locations swapping places and within a short time the store at the top of the list was at the bottom of the customer satisfaction list and the store that ranked previously at the bottom was now the top performer.  One manager praised and another, I assume, on their way out.

This might be considered by many as crude data collection.  After all there were no comment cards, customer surveys, focus groups or reports from “mystery shoppers.”  Just basic data, compiled by a toy appearing kiosk with emojis to represent the customer experience.

Of course, part of the appeal is the immediacy of the response, the ease at which the consumer and the company can collect the response, no lengthy questionnaires and no real interruption in the customer’s daily journey.

One of the major issues in polling is gathering responses from enough people to make valid conclusions.  Recently and perhaps because I am more aware, I have noticed more requests to fill out online questionnaires and questionnaires are sent after every medical doctor’s appointment.  These are often lengthy, involved and difficult to get to completion.

I don’t have the time to fill out these pages and pages of questions and only do if I have had a particularly negative experience.   Even now I have stopped that because without any feedback from the company I believe that survey has either gone into a black hole or been compiled into analytics and boils my response to “negative” but not necessary capturing why or what changes can and should be made.

Whereas the toy-looking kiosk, (we should probably give it a name like Edgar).  Edgar can capture thousands of impressions in a day, from people who buy and people who don’t.  The terminals are easy to understand, no interpretation, no language barriers, provide immediate gratification and customers can answer without losing a step or disruption to their visit.

And, although the responses are anonymous, they are time stamped.  So valuable information can be gathered about the best and worst times of the day, who was working the counter that day, is additional training needed or changes of some kind within the companies control to get a better customer experience.

HappyOrNot is the startup with the great idea of manufacturing and providing this type of kiosk.  In David Owen’s article, he states that HappyOrNot terminals have already been installed in more than a hundred countries and have registered more than six hundred million responses.  The company’s ultimate goal is to change not the way people think about customer satisfaction but also the way they think about happiness itself.

As a content/brand strategist, I want to help companies learn as much about their customers as they can, the kiosk is a limited channel yet powerful channel in the application it was intended for.  It is a tool to help brick and mortar locations evaluate customer service and make changes to enhance the customers happiness rate.  I think it is a good idea.

Next time, I go by one of these kiosks I will be sure to click the applicable button and know my response is measurable and helpful to the company willing to analyze and make changes based on the data.