Global Expansion and Navigating Challenges in New Markets
Miika Mäkitalo, CEO of HappyOrNot
In this engaging podcast episode, Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at WYTLABS, interviews Miika Mäkitalo, CEO of HappyOrNot, a SaaS platform specializing in customer feedback and analytics. Miika shares insights into his professional journey, emphasizing his three-year tenure as CEO at HappyOrNot and previous experience at M-Files. HappyOrNot’s unique selling proposition lies in providing valuable, frictionless customer feedback, setting it apart from competitors relying on email-based surveys. Miika recounts a success story where a customer witnessed a 4 percent increase in sales through strategic changes based on HappyOrNot feedback. The conversation explores the platform’s data collection methods, the significance of employee engagement, and the role of AI in enhancing results. Miika sheds light on the challenges and strategies involved in global expansion, emphasizing the importance of local partners. The podcast concludes with Miika discussing customer retention strategies, highlighting the significance of customer success management and the customer academy. Throughout the discussion, Miika’s passion for customer satisfaction and the innovative use of technology in the field becomes evident, making for an informative and inspiring conversation.
HappyOrNot is a SaaS platform known for frictionless customer feedback and analytics, offering valuable insights for strategic business improvements. The innovative technology it provides empowers businesses to enhance customer satisfaction and drive positive results.
Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of WYTPOD. My name is Harshit and I’m the director of business alliances at WYTLABS. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and e-commerce SEO. And I’ve got Miika with me today. He’s the CEO of HappyOrNot an amazing SaaS platform with a mission to help companies engage with their customers through the simple press of a smiley button and turn feedback into profitable actions. A big welcome to you Mika and I’m so happy to have you with me today.
Harshit, Thank you for the invite. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Mika, before we dive into HappyOrNot, can you please let the viewers know a little about you and your professional journey? You are involved in a lot of other businesses. I would love to know more about them, please.
Yeah, sure. Thank you. Happy to start with that. So, I’ve been working for three years at HappyOrNot as CEO. Before that, I was serving on the board of the company, so I knew the company quite well what I was joining.
Before HappyOrNot, I worked for 10 years, mostly as CEO at an information management company called M-Files. That company just passed the 100 million ARR limit. So, becoming a central wasn’t quite right before that, when I was young, my professional career, was working in the Finnish government.
And while jump might seem far from the government to IT work, I was working a lot of with. With IT systems leadership and processes, was something I started working then in, in the software and SaaS companies, making sure that the strategies budget planning, and leadership were to hit the goals and targets we, for ourselves.
My background is business studies, PhD on, on that front, so that’s my background quickly.
I would love to know now, let’s talk HappyOrNot what sets it apart from the market. How does the company’s Unique Selling proposition resonate with the businesses and its customers?
Yeah. Happy to tell. So, what we do, is we are a feedback insights company and analytics for customers for bigger profits. So, we give our customers a frictionless way of receiving a lot of feedback from their customers and nonbuyers alike. And the amount of feedback helps the customers turn into insights, thinking about how to change processes so they can either save money or sell more.
We have some direct competitors. Typically, local businesses lack many of our capabilities and analytics. And then we have some bigger companies that are more like email-based SMS space that are blasting lots of emails out, but the response rates, are awful. So, where we really shine and what is setting us apart is indeed valuable feedback, the amounts of quality of feedback, and the actions, and insights, they’ll see from that data and they can put your work.
Okay, that makes sense. And I would love to know, any, success story that you would like to share where the business fully utilizes your feedback solution. And would you please also highlight the impact on the customer satisfaction and the business performance info?
Yeah, I hope you have three hours for me to cover a couple of pilots.
Let’s pick your favorite one, one of your most favorite case studies.
So, one of the recent customers, they were running a proper A-B test. So, they have many of their retail places with HappyOrNot, and they were making changes to their business based on the feedback.
And then many of the locations without HappyOrNot. So, they had an external partner assessing evening out everything. So, what’s the impact? And the places where they were happy or not, they were selling 4 percent more. So, 4 percent jump. With the top line on the places, they had our service and it was, they saw data they didn’t see beforehand.
They were basing many of the decisions on a gut feeling, guessing what customers need want, but they didn’t have data. So, with our data, they saw that, hey this should be the changes. We should try. And those were working and that’s one of my favorites. And, when talking with the VP, he told me that, yeah, if we are not rolling out HappyOrNot to every location, we’d be saying bye-bye to millions of incremental revenues next year.
Makes sense. And because you’re you just mentioned data, I would love to know how the platform collects data and, contributes to informed decision-making within the organization and what role it plays in shaping the customer experience and strategies altogether.
Yeah, we are offering different kinds of collection fabrics to our customers. So many might recognize the four buttons, where the company started, but roughly half of our customers are using a tablet version where you can say you were happy, or unhappy with a course, maybe follow up and open feedback.
Of course, the latter version is so much richer when comes to content, of course, with the buttons, you can change the question and see data and many of our small customers are happy with that with our analytics platform, they can see how they are doing, but the bigger the customer is, the more likely it is that they are running some analytics on a BI platform like Tupler or Power BI, where they’re combining The customer experience data with other data sources, like labor dates locations amount of visitors, customers cash register, all of this.
And that is where it’s super interesting. So then combining those that, hey, how we are doing customer experience versus the amount of staff, amount of sales we do. And then seeing that, hey, Clearly, we haven’t been training, onboarding our employees in that location. Hey, in those five locations, we have a problem with visitors.
We don’t have enough folks coming in. Hey, on those places, for some reason, the basket size is too small. And then they are thinking that, hey, what are our brand best practices? So, we are putting those fixes in place, a place there, but it’s all about data. Reading data and making that kind of data combinations.
Often companies love to do that on their own, and we are just to help them. But then certain customers want to rely on our expertise, making sure that we are unlocking certain insights for them. And they would be then, of course, carrying the conclusions and, changes in the operational process that they are they are working on and do it.
That’s a very interesting use case that you’ve shared And I would love to know because you know Your platform is catering to a very diverse range of industries. How does the platform adapt? It’s an approach to meet the specific needs and challenges of different business verticals altogether.
of course, it’s similar when they are customers. So, it doesn’t depend on oil and gas to retail, or nonprofits that the customer is king and there are feedback issues. Or processes, and they love to give feedback on that. So, it is maybe understanding how to set up the questions often.
Sometimes customers know that this is what we want to do. Sometimes customers ask us what are the industry’s best practices for the questions. But clearly, we wanted to make sure that we are serving the verticals we are serving the most. And we are focusing that we are experts in those fields.
And of course, when talking to tens and hundreds of customers, seeing the business. Benefits business issues, the key KPIs, we tend to learn quite a lot of those and those customers. And of course, we are happy to share the best practices we are seeing in different industries. There are certain industry measures questions, what to do, and what are key KPIs and we are happy to help there.
But overall, the world is today that the customer is the king.
I do understand this because when you talk, concerning marketing, you cannot target multiple industries because then, you work with limited resources and everyone is narrowing doors is a niche niche-down strategy that works mainly for almost every SaaS company out there, right?
And I would love to know what industries are you primarily targeting with your platform. I understand it does present for the other industries for sure. But what are your main focus industries, your main target ICBs?
Yeah, we used to be one of those companies and of course, you might guess that everybody was approaching us of course, we are proud that we are serving multiple industries, whether nonprofits, small or big, but any SaaS company at a point starts to think that where we are scaling the fast, what are the industries we are picking the most tangible benefits.
Measurable business value. Therefore, we’ve found out through no surprise data analysis that retail healthcare services are the customer groups that are benefiting from our service. Of course, others as well. But that is what we are targeting. So, retail number 1, others, of course, are important as well.
And we are serving customers, especially in the U. S. of course, elsewhere. And luckily, we have a lot of partners globally that, of course, can serve customers in their respective markets.
Yeah, that makes sense. Now beyond collecting feedback, how does happy or not encourage businesses to actively engage with the feedback received and implement improvement in creating a continuous loop of feedback?
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. And that is where customers are seeing the long-term value. There is some, I’d say even minimal value that a company says that they love their customers and we are listening and hey, we have 90 percent of our customers are happy, but, if that’s the value, almost like I’d like to skip that kind of customer, it’s indeed, understanding the customer feedback, making continuous changes in the operations.
Thanks. And it’s a long path. There are some quick wins. Customers can see, but the target groups may change. The customer needs may change. So, this is something we have to have a thing on the customer’s pulse all the time. And this kind of, the continuous feedback loop is required because that is the way how we can unlock the benefits for our customers.
That is what we are recommending customers to do to make sure they are making changes, say, almost weekly, monthly, and annual level because that is when they are serving their customers in the best way.
Makes sense. Okay. Now emphasized employee engagement what are the best practices or strategies that your platform recommends for an organization looking to enhance their internal feedback processes?
This is one of my favorite topics. Yeah. So, all I’d say, and I just thought told you that the customer is the king. Yeah. But the service for the customers is delivered by employees. And if employees are feeling bad, they are not excited about the work of the visible customers and think about the other way around if the customer if the employees are on fire, of the company on the path of the mission, what the company has.
And they are thrilled to serve the customers. They can’t wait, to get to work and serve customers. The difference is massive. This is also a reason for companies think that how we’ll expand how we will improve customer experience is also to measure employee experience, thinking what we can do there.
Because the reason might be that we haven’t been onboarding training employees at the proper level, or there could be some things. That they feel that we have not been addressing. So, when we are addressing the issues employees see wherever, in the organization, then of course, we are giving a signal that you are important.
We are equipping you to serve customers well, and when they do that, the customer satisfaction experience will go up. Therefore, it is important to think about how we’ll measure. Employee experience and they, of course, annual or quarterly service, what we do with some of our customers that they continuously measure.
Employee experience, so they have our buttons or tablets for employees asking, how was your day or did you feel that you had all the tools to serve your customers today and then analyzing that feedback. And again, making changes to processes, how we onboard, how we train, what kind of support tools we give our employees.
So, they could be the best employees and customer service reps. They can be excellent points.
All alright, And I would love to know concerning customer experience and you are at the forefront of that. And I would love to know any innovations or, any specific technology trends that the company is leveraging like your company is leveraging to benefit your customers.
Is there anything that you’re working on in that specific area?
Okay. There are many elements, but I could mention maybe a couple of aspects. Of course, there are currently no companies or SaaS companies aiming to become massive players without investing in AI, and that is how we are using AI and ML to get better results, broader results, more depth to data, and how we are processing that for customers.
So, it would be easier to concentrate on the process changes. So that’s an element of what we are doing. Another element is that many. Many industries like retail, where we are concentrating, they are drowning in data. So, there is no lack of data. It’s almost like the opposite. There’s too much data, so much that they can’t process it.
So, our task there is while I talked earlier about the importance of combining data, but combining so that it is actionable. Our customers can draw conclusions, see trends, and understand those. And of course, without all those capabilities, we offer our customers through our solution to see that these are things we need to do.
Not, plastering dumb data for the customers, and they are having even deeper issues with what to do with that, but making sure that we are. Having a lot of data, but forming clear conclusions and recommendations. So, it would be easy and simple for the customer to act on it.
Expanding globally comes with challenges. What are some of the notable challenges that your company has faced while expanding into different countries and how are these challenges overcome?
Yeah, I wish I could tell you that we’ve been different than other companies that are entering new markets thinking being optimistic about the revenue growth in the new market and pessimistic about the cost because that’s typically what, companies face that they call to go with high hopes to new markets thing that we are spending a dime and getting massive benefits. And it’s the opposite. So, I think it’s super important to manage this, making sure that we enter markets when we have enough money to do it. So not hiring 1 resource, but rather hiring a team to make sure that they are equipped to be successful in the market.
And I think, especially on this front, less is more. I would say that would be good too. Make sure that the new country operations are running super well before opening new countries as if a company goes to multiple countries at the same time, it’s easy to run out of money. So that’s my lesson for all others.
And I want to follow myself that investing to the markets where we are. Getting out of max out of that versus entering new markets every month. And then the other topic is partners. So, if there’s appetite going to new markets. I recommend and what we are doing is having partners that are reselling our technology for their customers.
And then that allows us to expand our global footprint.
So, when you say partners, what exactly are these businesses? Are these individuals who are working on affiliate revenue with you, like revenue sharing with you, affiliate partners, or is it like some different vertical of, businesses that are helping you succeed in new markets?
Yeah, there are different kind of kinds of partners, but typical is that let’s assume that there would be a retail consultant that is helping companies improve their operations. And then they are thinking about what else they could bring for those customers. They could sell, and then they could become our reseller.
So, they would be selling our technology to help them to use that, but also doing consultancy on the site. Then we have partners that are doing nothing else but selling happier not for their customers. So, they are different kinds of partners, but indeed the model days that they are reselling our technology are delivering possibly some extra services on top of that for the customer.
Okay. Maybe I would love to know because I’m sure what’s the challenges of working in a new geographic region and I’ve seen it for many companies this strategy is something which works that is hiring local talent and it could be like around marketing, they’re helping you generate the content Which works brilliantly for the local market or, hiring salespeople to do direct sales or, account-based sales or whatever so that study does well. Do you have a similar approach or, do you leverage mainly your partners to build a market for you? New location
In the new location., I think the best thing that we are learning from our partners, is how to fish, not carrots feeding them that these are the leads for you.
And this is how you operate, but making sure that they can stand on their own and they know how to do it, and we are sharing the best practices. And then on the global expansion, I do believe that when anyone is operating, and if we have our partner managers working with the partner, local talent is always best.
Then we know how that business, how that market works, and we can help them, or if we are working in the country that we are hiring sellers, marketers that are local to the market. So, it’s much better like that.
Makes sense. Okay. Now I would love to know because your space is way too competitive there are a lot of players out there in the market how exactly customer retention is done in your company?
What are the key strategies that are working? What are the programs that you have in place to facilitate and have at least a decent show altogether?
Yeah. Since we are working in the customer experience field, this is, an important topic for us that we aren’t drinking, Kool Aid or eating our dog foods.
And this is like you mentioned, all SaaS companies should be focusing on retention, what to do there. So then of course it boils down to that we have the organization responsible for that. So having renewals. And customer success that is making sure that they are doing their work I think it’s important that customer success knows what they are doing.
Their task is primarily to ensure that the customers are receiving the strategic value they bought originally. Yeah, clearly. There are some tactical questions and talks and tips and tricks, but I think it’s `important we regularly visit the question are you seeing the benefits you wanted to do with the investment?
Do you see another? Why? Because when the customer is happy with the value of the inside operation changes, and if they see savings in the operation model, they are selling more. They want to continue because it’s a long journey. But if the customer says, yeah, we like it, but we are not visiting the results that often, then we know the customer is at risk and we need to start working with the customer.
So, it’s a. Of course, having strategies and processes, how we work with different kinds of customers, small, big, and so forth makes sure that we are sharing also our best practices where the customers during the CX maturity journey. That they know what to do best. And also, built a customer academy, making sure that we are giving the customers to do a bit to be successful.
But this is a vital topic for any SaaS company. As I said, we are working as C experts, we must be brilliant in this element and any company can always do better. And it’s of course a challenge for us also that we’d be there every day, delighting our customers. I have to say, I’m super proud of our team, and how we are working with our customers but they are customers or companies that have shown 0%.
0% Okay. And what’s the average you know, Lifetime in months for a typical customer in your company?
There are different kinds of customer groups. And of course, the pandemic was quite a difficult time for us because then of course it wasn’t sure how the pandemic and the virus spreading.
But say typically customers. They have been using us for years and years, but then certain customers took on us for a project or a certain fixed time. And sometimes, of course, like I was talking to some customers if they don’t see the value, if they are not using the system so much and are making process changes.
Then, of course, there is no business case for the ROI, and that’s, of course, something we want to make sure when we are talking with the customer success or renewals or anyone from our organization that we try to help them to understand the insights to make the changes to have the business benefits.
Makes sense. We’re coming to an end and I would love to have a quick rapid-fire with you. Are you ready for that?
What Guinness world record do you have a chance at beating?
Oh, okay. Are you more cautious or bold?
Okay. What is your hidden talent?
Running, but maybe that’s not that hidden,
maybe like on your LinkedIn. I don’t see you running. So that’s a hidden, at least for the business community. Like what, what never fails to make you laugh?
See my family, seeing, playing kids, that’s super fun.
Okay. Now coming to a very last question. What is your last Google search?
What would be the optimal fuelling strategies in the long run?
Okay. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time. All the lessons, all the wisdom, all the information that you shared about the company. And, in general, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
It was my pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation. It was inspiring to talk about these topics with you. Thank you.
We are a Value-driven Marketing Agency Working Exclusively for SaaS and E-commerce Businesses.