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HomeInterviewsCXBUZZ interview with Miika Mäkitalo, CEO at HappyOrNot

CXBUZZ interview with Miika Mäkitalo, CEO at HappyOrNot

Hi Miika, can you tell us about yourself and your background? 

I am the CEO of the smiley-faced feedback company HappyOrNot. I am passionate about technology businesses, growth and company cultures. Based in Tampere, I have been working as a leader for almost twenty years. My career began in the 2000s when I joined the Finnish Rail Administration as a research scientist, and over the next couple of years I became a unit manager, before later running a major department.  As an avid ultra-runner, I am always looking to push myself. This mentality led me to complete a PhD on the side of work, and make a career move into the private sector. To satisfy my interest in technology, I then joined software heavyweight M-Files and helped the company to grow its revenue over ten-fold during my leadership. It was here that I began developing and applying my skills in management to the tech sector, before moving on to HappyOrNot during the pandemic. I’m a big fan of podcasts, so when I’m not working, I am usually listening to shows about software growth, running or House of the Dragon. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from my work, and a great deal of it comes from working with an amazing team who I am very proud of.

How did you start working in the customer experience space? I worked in a timber and hardware store during summers when I was in high-school and witnessed first-hand the massive difference there was when employees were thinking about customer experience. Working for Government agencies and being responsible for serving the public’s interests, was another good starting point. I realized that to improve the Government’s public operations and welfare, it was crucial to acknowledge that everyone was our customer. Therefore, every decision and policy we implemented needed to consider the entire demographic.  During my time working in the transport industry, I also had the chance to study the various stages along the customer journey. By observing these stages, I was able to understand and appreciate the dynamic nature of customer experience focused operations. More recently, through working in the SaaS and IT sector, I’ve been captivated by the relationship between CX, data processing and organizational performance.   

Can you tell us how you implement CX thinking in your day today? As a company, HappyOrNot is all about elevating customer experience, and more specifically giving businesses the tools to do so. Therefore, the team and I are constantly asking ourselves what businesses need to excel at CX. We are drinking our own Kool-Aid, meaning we measure our own customer service and strive to delight customers.  We are hyper-aware of the positive correlation between employee experience and customer experience. It’s clear that the happier and the more excited employees are, the better customer service they can provide, therefore we make it a priority to actively measure day-to-day employee experience to continuously improve our company culture. 

How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?First, rather than assuming their gut feeling is always right, companies need to rely more on reliably sourced data. We’ve seen a ton of cases where companies have assumed one thing, meanwhile their CX data is pointing in a different direction. So for companies wanting to improve their operations and performance, I would recommend data-driven insights as the best starting point.  Next, it’s all about data hygiene. In the last few years, companies and brands have realized that customers genuinely care about relaying how they feel. This has led to brands implementing all sorts of solutions to gather thousands of data points about their customers. This is great, however, when it comes to applying these insights, 99% of the time these businesses have no idea how to interpret them.  Why? Well often it’s because the tools have been rushed in. Despite what people think, more isn’t always better. Trying to decipher what matters to a set of customers, with too many data points is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, organizations need to think about what insights are most useful. Isolating a few metrics that are relevant to your organization is how companies can really listen to their customers.

What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?I’m very excited about solutions that combine CX data with other relevant data sources, such as the number of visitors and revenue levels. This consolidation of different data sets opens a whole new world of insights where triggers, trends, and results can be better understood. It is an area that we ourselves are actively working on, with support from our partners and customers.  It’s also impossible to ignore the ever-increasing power of machine learning tools. Given that we are in the business of data, the application of artificial intelligence to analyze millions of insights in seconds is an exciting area and is one that I’m following closely. 

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric? It has to be customer satisfaction or CSAT as the industry knows it. Not only is it what our products are built upon, but it is also the most to-the-point metric. Along with being one of the most popular, CSAT is also the central metric from which many other insights can be gathered and contextualized. Knowing the time, age, and product that a customer has bought is pretty limited without knowing if they were satisfied with their service. As soon as you know who the happy (or not) customers are, you can begin to identify the causes, and start acting on the insights! It’s simple, but so many businesses still haven’t got the hang of it.

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