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Are You Delivering Happiness?
by JoAnna Brandi
Recently I had the opportunity to do the closing keynote address for Merit Direct's private user conference. Once a year this company gets its customers together and provides two and half days of learning, playing eating, dancing and even... karaoke. They pull together a roster of industry experts to teach and stimulate lively conversation among the catalog companies and internet marketers that attend. Even competitors relish the chance to be pushed, prodded, enticed, nudged and invited to improve their businesses and get out of their comfort zones.
That makes me, well, happy.
I'm a little bit of an outsider in the sense that I don't talk much about marketing. I don't talk much about getting the sale. I do talk a lot about what happens AFTER the sale is made, and how a company bonds with its customers to create loyalty and positive word of mouth. This year I titled my keynote "What's Your *ROH?" ROH stands for Return on Happiness.
My intention was to wake everyone up to the one thing that would help them accomplish all they learned this year at the co-op - and that one thing is an engaged, passionate, and committed workforce. I asked - as I do in every talk I do - where we expect people to leave their emotions when they come to work and they answered predictably, "At home" and "At the door."
Therein lies the problem. We need emotionally intelligent people bringing all of themselves to work in order to create the kinds of consistently positive emotions that keep the customers coming back, with money and with friends. Every company I know has already cut costs to the bone - now it's time for Positive Leadership strategies and generating more value.
Just take a look at the story told in Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh's book, "Delivering Happiness." It tells of Tony's journey to his goal of a billion dollars (met in 2008 two years before his already ambitious goal date of 2010.) It's an easy and compelling book to read and gives some real insight into how the now famous Zappos culture was built.
Tony didn't do it alone. He shares this accomplishment with his team, his suppliers and his customers. They work together to create positive experiences and well- being for all involved. Employees feel good about coming to work because they helped craft the culture, customers feel good doing business with the company because it's easy, fast and fun. Suppliers, treated well, are working overtime to come up with ideas for their partners.
Sound idyllic? It's not. It's hard work but doable with the desire to create positive customer experiences and positive emotional states for all involved. There's a value oriented focus.
Remember my definition of the Customer Experience? It's the sum total of the feelings a customer has as a result of any interaction at any touch point in the company. It's based on the customer's perception of the value you delivered - tangible or intangible. And - and this is important to remember - it's felt as emotion - either positive or negative.
Given that - let's stop thinking about creating "satisfaction" as an end state and start thinking about creating deeper emotional bonds.
Positive emotional states -like joy, happiness, ease, contentment, security - create some interesting positive physiological effects in the body. While experiencing "positivity" our bodies produce more endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, neurotransmitters, t-cells, and other chemicals that "undo" the effects of stress and build immune function. That's not all.
Recent research shows that positive emotions "broaden and build" our ability to think more openly and wholistically. We're more creative and solve problems quicker when we are in the state of positive emotion. That's big news! The brain works better and faster when you are happier!
Negative emotional states - frustration, anger, disappointment - kick off the ancient flight or fight response and pump out chemicals that depress the immune system and narrow brain function to looking for what's wrong.
Which state do you want your customer in?
Happy, loyal, engaged customers are critical to long term profitability and are linked to happy, loyal and engaged employees. The Service Profit Chain connects them. You simply don't get one without the other!
How happy are your customers? If they're not as happy as you'd like them to be, you'd best be first asking your employees about their happiness.
For the last six years I've been an "Authentic Happiness" Coach and work with the Positive Workplace International. You might say studying happiness has even become a hobby, since I think it's fun.
One of the main things I've learned is that happiness is not just a warm fuzzy state of mind, it's a specific measurable state of the body with distinct brain activity, heart rhythms and body chemistry.
Happiness has three "faces" - pleasure, engagement and meaning. (Zappos uses the terms pleasure, passion and purpose. - which says it very well too.)
Looking to increase your bottom line? Look to your people first. An increase in employee engagement and happiness links directly to your customers and your bottom line.
Is there a return on happiness? You bet! Customer engagement, higher productivity, performance, better teamwork, more innovation, resilience, and health, higher profitability, more referrals, positive word of mouth are just some of the benefits of working to increase the "positive capacity" in your organization.