La Quinta “Gaming” Highlights Flaws in NPS

I’m in Las Vegas to watch some NBA Summer League games (Go Celtics!), and am staying overnight at a La Quinta near the airport. I found this note on the table next to the bed.

While there’s no problem with a nice thank you note, one section caught my eye…

*********
You may be receiving a guest satisfaction survey from La Quinta in the near future and we hope you feel confident that you may answer the question “Would you recommend us to your family and friends” with a 10.

If you should be surveyed, La Quinta uses a 1-10 scale (10 being the best). Although the scale ranking is from 1 to 10, scores of 8 or below results in a negative impact on the overall rating for this hotel.
*********

First of all, this is what I would call “gaming” the system. Anytime you ask for a specific score or range of scores, it’s gaming. Instead of getting a true response from the customer about his/her experience, the customer is forced to balance her honest feedback with a request for a specific score. Some customers are likely to be intimidated, since they may think that the hotel has visibility into their specific response. This would lower response rates and alter true feedback.

The second problem this highlights is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) calculation (since this is clearly an NPS question). As you probably know, NPS segments responses into three categories: Detractors (6 or less), Passives, (7 or 8) and Promoters (9 or 10). Is there really that much difference between an “8” or “9” on this scale? I think people giving either of these ratings would think that they are saying that the experience was good, but not the best that they’ve ever had. The choice of an “8” or “9” may be more driven by an internal rating gauge (that is different in each person), then it is being caused by a distinctive difference in the actual experience.

[Side note: La Quinta’s NPS is 9 points below the hotel industry average in Temkin Group’s latest NPS benchmark study]

The final, more substantial problem is how the metric is being used. My guess is that La Quinta is using NPS to substantially impact the compensation of some hotel employees. This pushes people to focus on “the number” as opposed to what’s really important, the ability to continuously improve.

To be honest, the issues I discuss above are not NPS-specific. I’ve seen them with a variety of metrics, and we work with many companies that are successfully using NPS. So let me share some advice for improving your use of CX metrics….

I wrote a post a few years ago that listed these five rules to stop employees from gaming your feedback system:

  1. Don’t mention or refer to a score
  2. Don’t mention specific survey questions
  3. Don’t mention any consequences
  4. Don’t say or imply that you will see their responses
  5. Don’t intimidate customers in any way

Check out my most about nine recommendations for NPS programs:

  1. The choice of metric is not as important as people think
  2. Driving improvements is what’s critical
  3. Promoters & detractors need their individual attention
  4. Sampling patterns really, really matter
  5. NPS is for relationships, not transactions
  6. NPS is for teams, not individuals
  7. Compensation can be a real problem
  8. Target ranges make more sense than single numbers
  9. There are four loops to close

The bottom line: CX metrics need to focus on improvements, not numbers

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

6 thoughts on “La Quinta “Gaming” Highlights Flaws in NPS”

  1. Bruce, the other flaw I see with the La Quinta survey is in the first sentence where they say “We are here for YOU!” Then they turn it around and make it all about them. In my opinion they did not earn the score. Too many businesses focus on the score not the right to earn the score.

  2. Bruce, this is just another example of why I am a subscriber to your list!

    My favourite line is …” what’s really important, the ability to continuously improve.”. Our customers, no matter what the industry, product or service (in my opinion), will not be with us for long if we don’t focus on CQI of their experience.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Yes Gaming the system like this damages the intent all together. You want to know what the customer is really thinking and feeling. You can decide if worthy it action or not, it’s your business to lose or to grow. It is icky for as a customer to be pandered to. And the worst offenders have a direct connect to firing and compensation of the lowliest employees leaving the executive ranks to feel like they acted in the customer interest but really they are making sure no one is human in the organization.

  4. Bruce, this “gaming” happens to me all the time in various institutes in Thailand. It probably works well in country where people over here are kind and have lots of empathy. Surely they will get their score and their executives will be happy but it really hurts the organization not getting the “truth”.

  5. Your term, “gaming” is probably a bit more polite than the one I use. I call this behavior “survey begging” since the one or more employees are effectively begging you to give a positive survey score.

  6. How sad that companies abuse the very system to invoke improvement action. This type of behavior sours your opinion of a company that seemingly has no intention to improve.

Leave a Reply