The Complete Guide To Feedback Terminals

March 22nd, 2021

All the questions you've ever had about smiley feedback terminals answered.

Feedback terminals can help you get 20x more feedback than other alternatives. Whether it’s a battery-based smiley pod or a tablet-based terminal, using feedback terminals helps you understand your audience in real-time -- without intruding on their lives.

There are some aspects you should think about when deciding what feedback terminal is right for you. This guide will give you a comprehensive understanding of the different options available, and will help you make an informed decision.

Large vs Small Smiley Feedback Terminals

Smiley terminals come in all shapes and sizes. Thus, there’s a smiley pod for each situation. With so much choice, it can be confusing to know whether or not you’re choosing the right smiley terminal.

There’s a lot that goes into the decision, but answering this question might help: “How visible will the pods be?”

If you know that people will easily see the pod -- such as in a narrow hallway or at a countertop -- then a smaller pod could well be right for you. For larger spaces -- such as a food court or at a large department store -- a larger pod is more easily visible.

alt text

alt text

Small Smiley Pods

  • Best when capturing feedback in a small space, such as a reception, lobby or information desk.

  • Most are the size of a postcard (A6).

  • Longer battery life, as they require less energy to operate.

Large Smiley Pods

  • Best when capturing feedback from high-footfall areas such as an exit, a public restroom, or an office common area.

  • Generally the size of a standard page (A4).

  • Depending on usage, battery life is 1 - 3 years.

Smiley-Faced vs Multiple-Choice Terminals

Smiley pods need not be smiley pods at all. The same feedback terminals can be equipped with multiple-choice buttons.

Which option to go for will depend on your scenario.

Smiley-Faced Terminals

  • Suitable for sentiment questions where you ask users to rate a thing or an experience.

  • No language or cultural barriers. Everybody understands what a sad face and a happy face means.

Example use case:

You are the local manager of a supermarket. You have just implemented a streamlined checkout process that should make everything easier.

Right at the exit, you place a terminal with smiley buttons asking the question “How was your checkout experience.” After a few days, you understand customers’ general sentiment towards the new system, and can take action if necessary.

Multiple-Choice Terminals

  • Suitable for examining what is causing a particular phenomenon to occur.

  • Suitable for understanding which of the options is most or least favorable to the user.

Example use case:

You’re an HR manager analyzing the results from this year’s company-wide employee satisfaction survey.

Sifting through the responses, you found that air quality, cleanliness, availability of food items at the cafeteria, parking space and coworkers have an impact on employee satisfaction.

You have a limited budget, so you need to understand which of these would bring the most benefit if fixed.

In the office common areas and exit points, you place a smiley terminal with the following setup:

Question: “Which of these have the most impact on your workday? A) Air Quality, B) Cleanliness, C) Food choice at the cafeteria, D) Parking space, E) Coworkers

Buttons: “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, “E”

alt text

After a few days, you see that an overwhelming majority of responses are for C) Food choice at the cafeteria. You now know where to focus your attention in order to improve the employee experience.

Smiley Design

Smiley terminals don’t all come from the same place. Different providers have different manufacturers, markets and target groups that inform the design of their feedback terminals.

Consider the buttons themselves. Some smiley terminals have the buttons as an appendage to the actual device. In theory, you could remove them and place them back in as you see fit.

Here’s an example of one such terminal

Other smiley terminals are completely flat. The options are printed on an interchangeable layer which can consist of smileys, multiple-choice options, or something else.

alt text

Whether it’s better to have a protruding button or a flat surface depends on your scenario. For example, your audience might be groups of children with disabilities that need to feel actual movement and click of a button. Your pod could be receiving thousands of responses a day, in which case having a flat surface would prevent protruding buttons from breaking down.

Protruding Buttons:

  • Best for when your audience needs to have a full button-press experience.

  • Best for low-traffic areas, as the buttons wear off with use. Easier to vandalize.

  • Harder to sanitize. You might be able to remove the buttons and wipe them, but you’d still need to cover all the nooks and crannies around the buttons with other instruments.

Flat Surface Buttons

  • Best for high-traffic areas, as there is no risk of buttons wearing away and falling off.

  • No buttons to remove, therefore not as attractive to vandalize.

  • Easy sanitization. All you need is to wipe the panel, and the pod is 100% clean.


The great thing about smiley pods is they can be easily customized. You can change the color scheme of the pod, as well as the look of the buttons to match your branding.

alt text

You can easily do the same on a tablet-based smiley terminal.

alt text

3 , 4 , and 5-Button Options

You know that smiley pods come in all shapes, sizes, and can be customized to your ideal look. This includes the number of buttons. The prevalent options are 3, 4 and 5-button smiley terminals.

Which one is right? It depends on how precise you want your data to be, and if data quality is an issue for you.

No matter the number of feedback buttons, all pods will give you a temperature reading of a user’s experience. But let’s assume you want to go beyond just a temperature check, and start understanding the data a little more.

Using a terminal with 4 feedback buttons might seem just as good as a pod with 3 or 5 feedback buttons. In reality, there’s a chance your data might not reflect your audience’s true sentiments.

Assuming the 4 options are Happy, Not so happy, Sad and Not so sad, you’re forcing people to make a choice. A sizable amount of your audience will have no strong opinions about your service. When presented with the smiley terminal, they don’t see a “neutral” choice, so they’ll either walk away or lie.

Your data now risks being polluted with false responses, or responses from extremely happy or extremely dissatisfied customers.

We cover this topic more in-depth in this article.

Tablets vs Battery Feedback Terminals

So far we’ve covered battery-powered feedback machines. There are also tablet feedback systems.

alt text

Using a tablet, your audience will interact with it by using a screen instead of a physical panel. Tablets also allow for follow-up questions and logic branching.

Consider the following scenario: Your Google rating dropped from 4.0 to 3.9. This is a disaster, as 50% of customers will not consider a business below a 4.0 rating. Your business will also be less visible on Google search results.

You need a way to capture feedback, promote the good and address the bad.

Here’s how you could do it with a tablet.

  • You’d place it at the exit point of your business asking a smiley question “How was your experience today?”.

  • If someone chooses a sad face, the follow-up question “Sorry to hear that! Could you tell us how to improve your experience?” appears.

  • After their response, you can follow-up by providing a way for them to reach you personally.

The same would happen if it’s positive feedback.

  • If someone chooses a happy face, they get prompted with “Great! What made your experience a happy one?”.

  • You can then ask them if they want to publish their comment directly on a public review site.

The tablet captures the feedback for you, stops negative reviews in their tracks and streamlines the positive ones.

While tablets allow for smart automation, they do come with some drawbacks compared to a traditional feedback terminal:

  • Tablets need to be plugged to a power source. Feedback terminals are battery-powered.

  • Depending on how they’re set up, they can be hard to move around. With feedback terminals, you can move them around and test where they bring in most feedback.

  • Common surface: Even if you invest in antibacterial screen protectors, people might still be wary of interacting with common surfaces. There are touchless options for feedback terminals.

Touchless vs Traditional Non-Touchless Feedback Terminals

There are touchless options for smiley feedback terminals. While the mechanisms might differ, they do achieve the same goal: No need to touch the smiley pod to leave feedback.

With most touchless pods, the user hovers their hand slightly above the desired button, and a quick beep would indicate to the user that their response has been recorded.

Which to choose depends, once more, on your audience. With 47% of people wary of touching common surfaces, it makes sense to go for the touchless pods. In a medical setting such as a hospital or doctors’ office, strict hygiene procedures means that the only real choice is for touchless pods.

As a store owner, you might want to show you have customers’ safety in mind by displaying a touchless smiley terminal.

Your audience might also have use for a touch-based pod. Here at OMBEA, some of our customers are charities working with kids with disabilities. Some of these children might not respond to verbal or visual prompts.

For an audience like this, being able to touch a surface is part of the way they interact with the world. Thus, having a touch-based pod would make sense.


The cost of a smiley terminal isn’t a straightforward calculation. Smiley terminals are normally part of a feedback analysis platform, where the pods function as just one of many feedback collections sources.

Here are some factors that influence the cost of a feedback terminal:

  • How many touchpoints do you want to measure?

  • Is it just one exit in one building, or is it every single aisle in your supermarket?

  • Do you want to ask follow-up questions?

  • Do you need personal branding or specific customization?

  • What sort of data do you need to see?

  • Does your data need to interact with other IT systems?

Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation of smiley terminal cost

Find out more

Give us a few minutes and we will let you know how organizations just like yours have increased their revenue and engagement.