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Turning Customer Happiness Into A Sustainable Reality For Your Business The thing a customer is most likely to remember about their experience with an organization is "the way the experience made them feel."

By Ian Golding

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Over time, several words have been used to describe the organizational focus on customers. They include customer experience, customer focus, customer centricity, customer service, customer success, customer outcomes, customer relationship management and customer management. The fact that there are so many variants at least demonstrates that the world of business does, deep down, recognize that customers are connected to the reason their organization exists in the first place.

Over the last couple of years, a new word has firmly worked its way into the business dictionary, as one directly related to the word customer. Very much inspired by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, "customer happiness" is becoming as commonplace in the rhetoric of business leaders as customer experience or customer service. Indeed, the Smart Dubai Happiness Agenda states that "we are fueling a city transformation to happiness. Adopting a globally unique, science-based and methodical approach, we are measuring, impacting and sustaining happiness for the whole city."

Whilst it could be argued that there is a lack of consistent clarity with regards to the true meaning of any of the customer suffixes, with "happiness" becoming more prominent as an aspiration, it is important to understand exactly what it means. According to Wikipedia, happiness can be defined as "a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being."

If we dig deeper into this definition, the words "positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy" really stand out. These words are without question, directly applicable to the outcome of any experience a customer has with an organization.

All experiences a customer has contain three component parts;

  1. Functional Does the customer journey do what the customers want?
  2. Accessible How easy is it for customers to do what they want?
  3. Emotional How does the experience make the customers feel?

Of the three components, the most important one is the emotional component. This is because the thing a customer is most likely to remember about their experience with an organization is "the way the experience made them feel." With all experiences, we will remember one of three things:

  • Very good things
  • Very bad things
  • Nothing at all

By far, the worst of the three emotions is the last one, "nothing at all." Even if something goes wrong, it creates an opportunity for an organization to leave the customer remembering the way they out it right. Creating an emotional link with customers demonstrates the ability to identify the "wow" moments in the customer journey -the compelling brand proposition that leaves customers in no doubt as to why they keep coming back- and telling all their friends to do the same.

With this in mind, how do organizations determine what really does make customers happy? How do they find what it is that needs to be done to create an emotional connection that will result in a customer remembering their experience with them for the right reasons? To create a feeling of happiness?

To know what makes customers happy, it must be possible to define their core "needs and wants." A customer need is something that is very important, rather than just desirable, and is a necessity or a basic requirement– an airline getting you to your chosen destination on time, for example. What customers want, represents the touchpoints in the customer journey that are likely to "exceed expectation"– the sprinkling of fairy dust, as I often call it.

Your ability to give customers what they want will enable your organization to differentiate itself. For an organization to create a sense of happiness with a customer, it must be able to consistently leave the customer feeling as thought their basic requirements –their needs– are being met. We must be able to get the fundamental basics right before we even start thinking about things that may delight the customer.

In 2013, I conducted an independent research study to understand exactly what it was that customers "wanted" from organizations. I have always been intrigued to know exactly what is most important to us as consumers. I distributed a survey to people within my networks on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The survey contained five simple questions:

  1. What are the three most important things to you as a customer (consumer) of an organization?
  2. What irritates you most as a customer based on recent experiences?
  3. Which organizations do you, or have you transacted with who deliver excellent customer experiences in your opinion?
  4. Do you ever recommend organizations you have transacted with to friends, family or acquaintances?
  5. Have you ever used social media (Twitter or Facebook) to interact with an organization when requiring customer service or help?

What customers wanted in 2013, is unlikely to be remarkably different in 2018. It is also interesting to note that what makes people happy -in other words, what customers will remember about their experience for the right reason- is as much about getting the basics right, as it is about "wowing" them.

What really makes customers happy, brings me back to the Wikipedia definition of happiness –the ability to create "a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." To achieve this, we must be able to fulfil the basic needs of customers –every time– whilst demonstrating that we are able to do things that unexpectedly give them joy from time to time.

If customer happiness is going to be achieved, it is critical that an organization possesses the skills and competencies to make it a reality. The experience a customer has with an organization is what will determine their state of happiness. Customer experience management is something that cannot happen by accident. It requires skilled professionals working with and embedding a framework, to ensure an organization can work towards the delivery of the desired customer experience– the experience it wants its customers to have.

It is also critical to understand, that to create customer happiness, it is equally as important to create employee happiness. The emotional component of the experience –the way an organization makes its customers feel– is most likely to be influenced by the employees the customer interacts with. In fact, the customer culture of an organization is defined by its people– which is why the way your customer feels are most likely to determined by the actions of your employees.

The words, customer happiness, are ones that all organizations should be focusing on understanding. Understanding what will lead to customers being happy and whether it is being achieved. To deliver a world where customers are happy –consistently and sustainably– the following must be in place;

  • A clear understanding of who your customers are, and their needs and wants
  • An understanding of what you want their experience to be– how do you want them to feel
  • An understanding from all employees of the role they play in delivering the customer experience
  • A focus on treating your employees in the same way you expect them to treat your customers
  • A structured framework to continuously manage the customer journey– increasing its ability to meet the needs and wants of customers

If you do not know whether your employees and customers are happy, then you must ask them. Creating a strong emotional connection with both employees and customers and acting on their concerns, will very likely enable an organization to not just survive, but to achieve a long future of sustainable growth.

Ian Golding is a keynote speaker at the Customer Happiness Summit and Awards 2018. For more details, click here:

Related: The How-To: A Guide To Building An Excellent Customer Experience Strategy

Ian Golding

Certified Customer Experience Professional

Ian Golding, Certified Customer Experience Professional, International Keynote Speaker, Blogger, Columnist and Writer, and keynote speaker at the 2018 Customer Happiness Summit and Awards.

Ian Golding is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. In his corporate career spanning 17 years, he has worked with The Royal Bank of Scotland, GE Commercial Finance, GE Reinsurance and Brake Brothers Foodservice. In his last permanent role as Head of Group Customer Experience, Ian developed and deployed the Customer Experience strategy for one of Europe’s largest online retailers – Shop Direct. Ian has published over 500 articles on the subject and delivered keynote speeches globally.

Ian also served on the inaugural Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). Ian was the first person in the world to be authorized by the CXPA to teach the CCXP accreditation. In 2015, Ian became an Advisor and featured columnist for CustomerThink– a global online community of business leaders striving to create profitable customer-centric enterprises which attracts 80,000+ visitors per month from 200 countries.

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