Customer Satisfaction vs Customer Happiness – What is the difference?

Gary Bartley
Gary Bartley
August 18th 2019 - 4 Minute Read

Customer satisfaction is a term that’s been championed in the world of customer service for years. But what does it really mean? Is it enough to keep a company in business in today’s competitive marketplace?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. Customer satisfaction has had its time. Today’s customers want more. They need an experience that puts a smile on their faces, they want businesses to make them happy.

Customer Happiness is the new benchmark of business performance. Its aim? To help you answer The One Question that matters most to every business in the world “How happy are your customers?”.

So how do these two key performance indicators compare?


What does customer satisfaction really mean?

Over the years, companies have adopted ‘customer satisfaction’ as a measure of how well they are serving their customers.

But what does ‘customer satisfaction’ really tell you? That customers thought you were “OK”?  OK has to be one of the most uninspiring, lacklustre words in the world.  

That your product and/or service met their expectations? That could either be good or bad, depending on their level of expectation in the first place!

Will a customer who’s merely ‘satisfied’ tell their friends about their experience? Equally as important, will they tell you? Assuming no feedback is good feedback can be a dangerous game.


 “Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest churn. A lesson here is that companies should not view absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction.

The true enemy is indifference.”

Esteban Kolsky, thinkJar


So, is satisfaction enough to build brand loyalty and make a customer want to come back? Or will they just look elsewhere for the kind of experience that they really connect with?


Customer satisfaction without emotion is worthless

According to leading industry experts, it’s making that emotional connection with customers that’s all important. Customer satisfaction comes in a sloppy second. Research by Gallup goes even further and claims customer satisfaction is worthless without the emotional response that drives customer behaviour.

Businesses who want to get ahead need to focus on how their customers feel and design their customer experiences around creating that emotional response.


“If brands want to break away from the pack and become CX leaders, they must focus on emotion. Best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one.

Emotion is critical to a brand’s bottom line.”

Cliff Condon, Forrester


CX specialists, the Temkin Group, found that customer feelings also have a huge impact on customer loyalty. Compared with customers who have a poor emotional experience, those with a positive one are 6x more likely to purchase again, and 12x more likely to recommend a company.

Add to this the fact that the lifetime value of an emotionally-connected customer is more than twice that of a highly satisfied customer.

All in all, that’s a powerful case for focusing on how your customers feel when it comes to building a successful business.


Customer Satisfaction vs Customer Happiness - What is the difference?

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Customer Happiness – the true measure of business success

That’s where Customer Happiness comes to the fore. It’s about making that emotional connection that determines how a customer feels about their experience.

So forget about customer satisfaction. Customer Happiness is about so much more than feeling just OK. It’s about building relationships and making your customers feel valued f​rom their very first interaction with your business, and throughout their customer journey.

Creating a memorable customer experience takes more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Think about those brands who do it well. Notice how they take the opportunity to shape the customer experience; to surprise and delight their customers at every touchpoint. Translate some of that thinking into your own business. It will be worth the effort.

So how do you start implementing a business strategy that’s truly focused on Customer Happiness? We’ve put together a few of our top tips here.


Top tips for creating happy customers​

  • Give your customers a voice

Ask your customers how they feel about their experience and make it easy for them to tell you how to make it even better.

  • Listen to customer feedback

Listen to what your customers say and let them know you’re taking notice. When you act on their feedback, tell them what you’ve done and invite them to come and try it out for themselves.

  • Surprise and delight your customers at every opportunity

It doesn’t have to be something big and expensive. Even the smallest gesture will be appreciated if it’s timely and genuine.

  • Personalise your customer communications

There’s nothing worse than receiving a message that means nothing to you. Customers want something that speaks to them, not something that’s been thrown together for a mass audience.

  • Keep on top of customer complaints

If something goes wrong (and it will at some point) deal with it straight away. Acknowledge the issue and do your best to make it right. Your customer may not be happy, but they will appreciate your efforts and it could earn you another chance to impress and to avoid a negative review.


The customer feedback strategy that will grow your business

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Customer satisfaction versus Customer Happiness: which should you be using?

Customer satisfaction is no longer enough to create loyal customers in today’s competitive marketplace. Research has proven that purchasing decisions and brand loyalty are built on creating an emotional connection between a business and its customers and making them happy.

Happy Customers come back. Happy Customers spend more. Happy Customers recommend your business. Happy Customers are loyal.

In short, the success of your business is down to how happy you make your customers.

Focusing on Customer Happiness allows you to create and optimise the positive emotional connection that academics and industry experts now recognise as key to business success.

 For those companies that do, it can have a significant effect on their bottom line:


“Organisations that optimise this emotional connection outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.”

 The Disney Institute


The good thing is, every business has the opportunity to influence how customers feel about their experience and to reap the benefits this brings. All you need to do is make sure yours is one of them.


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Gary Bartley

Gary is on a mission to help businesses understand the role that customer and employee happiness plays in their success.

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