Net Promoter Score is a window into jobs-to-be-done fulfillment


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I’m a big advocate for better understanding customer needs, particularly in the jobs-to-be-done form. Companies should spend more time on this, instead of the all-too-common approach of implementing someone’s vision in a near vacuum. Although I admit it isn’t easy to do. Focus groups are a start, but are both logistically and financially hard to scale, and fraught with their own issues. So the state of getting customer insights is still fairly immature.

So I was interested when I received this email invitation from American Express:

See there? AmEx wants to better understand my needs. Charge cards fall into that overall payment realm which includes PayPal, Square, Stripe, Google Wallet, etc. It’s a deep part of our society and something we can all relate to.

Sure, the most basic job-to-be-done is:

When I am purchasing something, I want to provide payment to the seller. Success means I complete the purchase.

But is that all there is? No, of course not. I have jobs around paying off AmEx, understanding my spending habits, merchandise assurance, along with emotional ones like a feeling of assurance I can buy when I want to. AmEx even works on fulfilling a status-based job-to-be-done. Extending out from there, there are adjacent jobs related to the purchase decision process before the transaction and better understanding my financial activity after the transaction. Heck, I’ll bet AmEx could come with more areas where I have relevant jobs-to-be-done.

I click on the Begin Survey button in the email, passing through three set-up screens first:

Now, if you look at those three screens, that’s a good amount of setup. An intro screen, a list of “helpful hints” and finally confirmation of the product I’m using. Feels like I’m about to undergo a weighty exercise.

Well…no. Rather, this is the meat of the entire survey:

A net promoter score question. NPS has become more and more popular, and is a simple report card on how your customer perceive your product or service. Customers who click 9 or 10 are called Promoters, 7 or 8 are Passives, and 1 to 6 are Detractors (read more on net promoter scores). For the record, I picked ‘7?. AmEx is a fine card, but in my wallet I can’t really distinguish it from my Visa or Mastercard. It’s the only charge card Costco takes, so I can recommend it based on that.

But a broader question occurred to me. What will AmEx do once they have all the NPS’s collected from customers? Say the NPS comes in averaging ‘9?. They’re done, right? Pretty much nailing it. If it comes in around ‘7?, they’ll wonder what is wrong, why people aren’t more gung ho.

Assuming they will take action based on the NPS collected from us customers, I can see a few paths here for what happens next.

Marketing focus: Product is fine as-is, it’s the messaging around it that we need to improve. also, we’re not reaching customers where they are. TV is declining, we need new ways to get across why our card is better. That will get our NPS’s up.

Internal product development focus: Work on ways the card features and experience can be improved. Smart people work at AmEx, and they can come up with some interesting approaches. Focus group the ideas after they’ve honed them down to a few. That is, get customer insight after the fact.

Jobs-to-be-done focus: As Steve Blank espouses, there are no facts inside your company’s walls, get outside of your purely internal focus. Initiate a program of exploring jobs-to-be-done by customers. Incorporate customer wants into determining the design of new products. This is insight before committing to any ideas.

Indeed, the NPS is a great first cut on identifying customers to approach about getting deeper insight. Each person’s NPS is essentially a window telling you how well AmEx Green matches their particular jobs-to-be-done.

What do you think AmEx will do next?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hutch Carpenter
Hutch Carpenter is a Strategic Consultant with HYPE Innovation, where he helps clients get the maximum value from their innovation programs. He's a firm believer in the concept of jobs-to-be-done, which stresses the importance of understanding customers' wants and needs. He also sports a 2:57 marathon PR. Dad to two awesome kids.


  1. which will improve the customer experience, and leverage positive downstream behavior, is a worthwhile objective for any transactional survey – – but is NPS the most actionable way to help with key priorities? I’d suggest that there are significantly more financially relevant and accountable ways of getting there, such as customer advocacy measurement:

  2. The ultimate question was followed by Why!
    What is the main reason for your answer given.

    And this could be followed by another 2 clever questions, which would have avoided all kind of useless analyses of the NPS score by the marketing department…

  3. I am very surprised that American Express did not also ask the “Why” question as to the reasons for the customer’s score. Knowing something about their programme and having seen key people from the organisation present at Net Promoter conferences, they are very knowledgeable and deft in collecting customer data and using this to massively improve their services. Their focus truly is a taking action on the data focus – not a collection of data just to put a tick in the box.


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