The Ultimate Question


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Is this. Has anyone actually read this book?  Or, engaged Fred Reichheld or Bain & Co.on a consulting engagement?  Now clearly there are more than a few that have.  The book is #7,260 on Amazon’s sales ranking.  Behind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at #6,799.  But still, not bad.

So why am I even raising the question when this topic has been pretty well exhausted?  Its because there seems to still be an increasing number of customer service practitioners talking about NPS and staking a significant portion of their customer service time and resources on collecting it.  At the same time, oversimplification of the concept is epidemic, creating a clouded view of the company’s performance vis-a-vis the customer’s perception.  And, like I’ve experienced in responding to over 30 customer satisfaction surveys this year, I’m having a hard time finding anyone that knows how to create specific action from the information; beyond the quant jocks at behemoths like American Express, P&G and BearingPoint.  Ok great! So, Mr Jones is a net promoter.  Now what? 

Sure, there’s a one sentence definition.  “Net Promoter is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships”.  But, come on.  Mr. Reichheld didn’t spend the rest of the 210 pages of the book waxing about migratory habits of Emperor Penguins (March of the Penquins – awesome movie! I’m a naturalist.  Forgive me).  There is some heavy stuff in here; serious statistical analysis.  Not to mention, since originally published in the 2003 Harvard Business Review article, there has been much research that has poked gaping holes in the statistical validity of the theorem.

So why, 8 years later am I finding more and more organizations asking customers variations of the question.  It seems every question on every one of those surveys I’ve answered is based on an eleven point scale.  Not that those questions have anything to do with net promotion, but now that scale has taken on a life of its own and has been adopted for every conceivable type of question.  

When it comes to the customer experience and loyalty, don’t you really want to know how you connected with that individual customer, at that particular time, during that single interaction?  Isn’t that the point?  Not, “hey can you go pitch us to your friends”; like we’re running some sort of multi-level marketing program. (disclaimer: I believe in the power of word-of-mouth)

How about “Did we delight you and exceed your expectations today?”  Think about the actionable information available from the answer to that question!

We need to take a cautionary lesson from Deep Thought, the super computer from The Hitchhiker’s Guide who oversimplified the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything with his answer “42”.  Net Promoter Score is not the end all, be all key to understanding customer loyalty.  As in Deep Thought’s case, the ultimate question is often ultimately meaningless.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


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