The Happiness Halo

The unexpected benefits of applying behavioral science to experience design

What do you get when you combine behavioral economics, breakthroughs in brain science and healthy doses of armchair philosophy and pop psychology? A new business mantra.

Appeal to customers’ reason and they’re yours for a day.  Appeal to customers’ emotions and they’re yours for a lifetime.

Happiness Halo

In other words, emotions matter. They drive decisions. “The brain decides among alternatives by ‘marking’ one alternative as more emotionally salient than another,” neurologist Antonio Damasio points out. Even what we consider “logical reasoning” requires emotion.

Not surprisingly, then, a wealth of research reveals that the emotional component of customer experiences (how customers feel) is a better predictor of loyalty than the cognitive component (functional aspects like effectiveness and ease).

More precisely, happiness matters. Customers spend more than double with the brands that make them happy. Long-term brand loyalty — the kind of willing stickiness that lasts past transactions — is a gift from a cheerful giver.

So how do we make customers happy? For decades, companies have taken for granted the notion that focusing relentlessly on improving customer interactions will lead to greater loyalty from the people who buy their products and services. The relevant metrics usually pertain to familiar questions: How well am I delivering in the moment? How are customers experiencing my brand across a range of touchpoints — call centers, websites, social media, mobile apps, in-store? What will make customers deliriously happy when they’re directly engaged with my brand?

This focus on improving interactions has not worked. In a Forrester survey, more than 80 percent of leaders say their companies are focused on boosting customer experience through incremental or radical improvements. Yet in 2013, only 8 percent of the companies in the Forrester Index achieved excellent customer experience scores.

To resolve this dissonance, we at Lippincott conducted an in-depth study of customer happiness. We learned a lot, most importantly that we’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the “customer experience.” Companies are missing moments when engagement might be more exciting and compelling for consumers: before and after the interaction. Happiness researchers find that upwards of half of someone’s happiness is built in moments of anticipation and remembering. Happiness is as much about how we look forward to and look back on an event as it is about the event itself — what we at Lippincott are starting to call “the happiness halo.” Radiant brands exude the joy of anticipation and the warmth of remembering, making them glow in the hearts of customers.

To learn more, download the report.

The Happiness Halo