The ONE thing you need to know about Net Promoter …


Share on LinkedIn

… is that it’s not just about one number. At least, not any more.

Last week I had a very enjoyable time attending the Satmetrix Net Promoter Conference in Miami Beach. And no, it was not just because of the nice weather there (near 80 degrees). I flew in from San Francisco where it was nearly that warm, thank you very much.

Satmetrix was kind enough to invite me to share my latest Social Business research with their Client Executive Council (CEC). I spoke about the “inflection point” coming in the adoption of social computing in business. CEC members, like most companies in my research, are dipping their toes in the social waters, but there was much discussion about applications, adoption issues and ROI.

The Net Promoter conference, run concurrently with the CEC meetings, was excellent. But, faithful readers may recall that I have not exactly been a, um, promoter of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a loyalty metric derived from a likelihood-to-recommend survey question.

I wondered what I would find at this event. Chants of “NPS is all we need to know” to start each day? Burning incense in front of a statue of Fred Reichheld? A free NPS calculator under my pillow?

Thankfully, no. Instead, I found a group of managers fired up about loyalty and committed to the execution of Voice of Customers (VoC) programs. I asked at least a dozen different people about NPS and not one said it was literally the “one” loyalty metric they used. In practice, companies are asking more questions than just “would you recommend?” and including diagnostic questions.

More importantly, much of the conference was devoted to how to diagnose problems and make improvements. In fact, I’d say 90% of the content would be useful regardless of the loyalty metric used.

So let’s put a fork in the NPS debate, because it’s done. Yes, the metric is technically flawed. No, it isn’t the “best” metric for every company. But NPS has helped rally organizations around loyalty, and as noted I’m not finding companies literally implementing the just-one-question approach.

Innovation drives loyalty

As I wrote in my recent article (CEM: Past, Present and Future), most companies approach VoC as an opportunity to fix problems and refine what they’re already doing. That’s all well and good, but loyalty leaders also strive to innovate their products and services.

In his opening keynote, Satmetrix CEO Richard Owen told the story of how Netflix was inspired when founder Reed Hastings got frustrated with Blockbuster’s punitive late fees. The rest, as they say, is history. Owen advised that to “create armies of promoters,” you should strive to create entirely new business models, not just refine your current one.

Good advice, but easier said than done. Intuit is one company that knows how to innovate and break new ground in an industry.

Roy Rosin, Vice President of Innovation at Intuit, explained how Quicken Health Expense Tracker was inspired by one family’s challenges dealing with $1M in medical bills. Intuit launched the product in 2004, then kept enhancing it over a five year period. During that period the NPS score improved from from -19 to +77. Quicken Health is now used 100,000 times per day by 3 million patients and 33,000 doctors, according to Rosin.

Social Experience

No conference would be complete these days without a discussion of social media. Andy Lark, Dell’s VP of Large Enterprise, spoke about big shifts towards use of social media, search, and smart mobile devices. Recovering from its tone deaf “Dell Hell” days, the company now uses Twitter, Facebook and community forums to engage with customers, and sources new ideas with IdeaStorm.

Deborah Eastman, Satmetrix GM of Business Consulting, spoke about the opportunity to use social media to listen to the 3.5B brand conversations that happen every day. And while many marketers use social channels to blast out the same old marketing messages in a new medium, that misses the point, contends Eastman. Social media should be about people engaging with people, so use it to proactively “activate” your promoters to spread positive WOM.

Further reading:
* Customer Experience Management: Past, Present and Future
* Find the “Ultimate” Loyalty Metric to Grow Your Business

Disclosure: This post is not an endorsement of Satmetrix, Net Promoter (registered trademark of Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix) or the Net Promoter conference. Satmetrix paid my travel expenses and provided a free conference pass. Satmetrix has been CustomerThink advertiser within the past year.


  1. Bob,

    Great to hear that you’re mostly on-board with NPS. Truth be told it has never been a one question approach but that has often gotten lost in the hype.

    A few months ago I wrote a blog post pointing this out.

    Also, to me transactional Net Promoter Score is one of the best ways to get the people in organisations really engaged in listening to and acting on customer feedback. You simply can’t igore a continuous feed of real information from your customers on what you do well and poorly.

    Adam Ramshaw


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here