This week is the Net Promoter Conference in London. Since these events often spur a ton of questions about Net Promoter Score (NPS), I put together one of my periodic posts about NPS. If you’re not familiar with NPS, it’s based on asking customers a question like this:
How likely are you to recommend <COMPANY> to a friend or colleague?
Respondents are categorized as “Promoters,” “Detractors,” or “Passives” based on their answers. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters (Passives are ignored).
My take: Let me start looking at NPS with some data points from the report, The State Of Customer Experience Management, 2011:
- 48% of large companies (more than $500M in revenues) are using NPS
- 67% of those using NPS report positive results (15% say it’s too early to tell)
- 84% of large firms with voice of the customer programs (including those that use NPS), report success from those efforts
NPS can be a valuable metric, but only when incorporated within a strong voice of the customer (VoC) program. Here are a handful of overall recommendations about NPS:
- Stop dreaming about an “ultimate question.” Having worked with dozens of organizations on their NPS efforts, I can tell you that the NPS question is not nirvana. Even the most successful users of NPS ask customers a series of questions and get feedback through a portfolio of mechanisms.
- Look for magic in the “why.” To some degree, it’s useless to know if someone is likely or unlikely to recommend you if you don’t also understand why they feel that way. So you need to make sure customer feedback helps you understand why customers feel the way that they do. Which leads to my next recommendation…
- Focus on improvements, not questions. Feedback is cheap, but customer-insightful actions are precious. The goal for any feedback mechanism (like NPS) is to drive improvements in your business. Successful NPS programs have strong closed-loop VoC programs that go from detection of customer perceptions to deployment of improvements (see my post about the 6 Ds of a voice of the customer program).
- Don’t lose sight of segments. An overall NPS score across your customers may be a good metric for aligning focus across the company, but it’s not very diagnostic. A good VoC program needs to track this type of data across key customer segments and understand which interactions (“moments of truth”) are driving those scores.
- Understand the elements of experience. When it comes to making improvements, you need to understand the three core elements of any experience: Functional, Accessible, and Emotional. A good program needs to provides insights into how customers perceive each of these elements.
- De-emphasize the “N” in NPS. NPS improves by eliminating Detractors or by increasing Promoters. but those changes can also offset each other. So the “netting” of the scores removes important clarity. Companies need to look at the rise and fall of Promoters and Detractors independently, since the changes needed to affect these areas are often quite different.
- Tap into the power of the language. There’s a lot of data to suggest that other measures such as the ACSI’s satisfaction index are as good as NPS (many people argue that it’s better, but I don’t want to enter that debate). What sets NPS apart is the wonderfully clear language around “Promoters” and “Detractors.” Make sure that the education across the company focuses heavily on those terms.
- Build a strong VoC program, with or without NPS. The overall program is more important than the choice of a metric like NPS. So make sure you focus on building a strong VoC program whether or not you use NPS (check out our VoC resource page).
- Remember, this is a long-term journey. Companies can make short-term improvements with superficial changes, but long-term success requires institutional capabilities. Start by understanding the 6 laws of customer experience and create a roadmap for building four customer experience core competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness.
The bottom line: Successful NPS implementations require strong VoC programs