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The Secret of Happiness

What is happiness? Not an easy question to answer, and one that has tested the greatest thinkers for millennia. I thought I’d give it a go, too, since someone recently asked me this precise question.

One of my client’s channel partners raised the subject of happiness, because we frequently ask customers about their feelings in questionnaires. When customers say, for example, that they are ‘very satisfied,’ what exactly does that mean?

At its most fundamental level, happiness, like many emotion- and sense-based factors, is impossible to define in isolation. Similar to the way that we describe colours in relation to other things (sky blue, brick red, and butter yellow, for example), our descriptions of happiness and satisfaction vary depending on our personal perspectives and experiences. You may have a very different definition of satisfaction than I do, so you would rate your level of satisfaction differently than I would in the same circumstances.

We do know that happiness in general is important – for customers, employees, and the wider society. Back in April, at our CXFusion conference, best-selling author Shawn Achor presented research on the science of happiness. One of the interesting conclusions he’s come to is that happiness breeds success, but that success doesn’t necessarily make for longer-term happiness. That actually makes sense – in the same way that a house needs to be built on a solid foundation to be steady, you need to be fundamentally secure (happy) before you can successfully deal with the rest of life.

So, how can we achieve that? In the context of CX, I suppose that you could argue that you’d have to make sure that customers are happy before they interact with your organisation – that way they’ll get the most out of their experience with you. That’s probably asking a bit much (although it does explain politicians’ nervousness about holding elections in years when large national sporting events are taking place – if the national team loses, it’ll probably dent their chances of being re-elected if they’re in government at the time).

More helpfully, turning the concept on its head, you could ask, ‘Given that we want to make people happy (whatever that means), what do we have to do to achieve it – what factors and behaviours have to be in place?’

Conceptually, that’s simple – look at people who rate their experiences well (or less well) and see which parts of these experiences are linked most strongly to reaching that state. This theory is the one behind Key Drivers Analysis, developed by MaritzCX, which strives to answer precisely that question.

Going further, the reasons behind that success (or lack of it) can be brought to life by examining customers’ comments, which will give the detail behind the ratings.

Once you have the answer to those ‘why?’ questions, you could then ask even more valuable ones: How will it benefit us if people are happy? Are we making the right people happy? In other words, the ROI case. In an ideal world, everyone would be perfectly satisfied with everything all the time, but we know that that isn’t economically achievable – some things matter more than others and knowing where and who to focus on are key factors in any organisation’s success.

All of which leads me to a slightly strange conclusion: while I can’t define exactly what we’re all trying to achieve, I know exactly how to achieve it. Wittgenstein would be proud. And that makes me very happy.