We Know Our Net Promoter Score. Now What?


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In 25 years of working with leaders and business to focus on customers…what I’ve is often that the score is the end game. First it was garnering a great ‘satisfaction’ score, then one for ‘loyalty,’ followed by ‘experience,’ and now Net Promoter™.

The name of the game should be giving customers a memory and experience so great…that they’ll want to repeat it. Yet, corporations in their quest to drive customer focus have attempted to improve customer experiences by attaching things people want to the attainment of a good score. It’s the score that’s tied to people’s compensation and it’s the score that determines if people get that bonus to pay for braces or that trip to Disneyland or college tuition. Pavlov himself couldn’t have set up a better behavior modification system. The sad news is that the behavior modified is how to get the customer to give a better score, not taking the data to heart to change the company.

Net Promoter™ can break through and drive the change…
But ONLY if you break the cycle of what is classically done with the information you receive.

Any time business asks a customer how they’re doing it should be for the purpose of doing something with that information. But that’s just not happening today. Heck, companies are so exhausted and numbed from customer survey collection that just getting the report out is considered a great feat. And that’s where it lands—in a brick—that big 4 inch report of survey data lands at the feet of the people who are supposed to read the data, analyze it and understand how it relates to them, weep about it a bit and then go fix things for customers. But beyond the rigor of running surveys, there is not much rigor around doing anything with what’s learned.

There is a frenzied optimism on the simplicity and potency of the new NetPromoter™ concept. But beware, if your end game is simply pushing for the greatest NetPromoter™ score—know that at the end of the day this may just be the latest of your corporations’ customer scoreboards. As with any customer feedback system, it’s what you do with the information that’s key.

  • What will you do when a customer won’t recommend you? Will you find out why not?
  • Are you collecting all of that information from dissenters and identifying the big things that are broken in your business and fixing them?
  • Are you identifying and holding those who have declared that they would recommend you close and building stronger relationships with them?
  • Have you spent the time to find out what they really love about your business and then pinpointed which part of your operation and in what geographies those actions are coming from?
  • Have you created systems and processes to reliably replicate those loved experiences across your enterprise?

Here are 5 actions to determine if you’re moving in the right direction, and to gain the required accountability.

  1. Find Out: Is the Customer Commitment Real or “Memorex?” Is your commitment to customers real, or a jockeying for position on the latest customer score board? Remember that brilliant ad campaign from the Memorex audiotape people who challenged viewers to discern if the voice singing was real or a recording? Well, you’ve got to know if the commitment is there inside your organization. Determine if the appetite exists for digging into the operations of the business to make changes based on what you hear from customers. Are leaders ready to drive accountability, provide political air cover and insist on the corporate patience to do the work?
  2. Elevate Customer Counting as a Strategic Priority of the Business. Right now, you can probably recite where you are in meeting your sales goals. Do you know as much about your customer goals? These are the counts of customers in and customers out, a clear accounting for customers by revenue group, customers who renewed with you and why and an active accounting of “Promoters” and “Detractors” by customer segment. You need to recast the language of your business to be about defining your customers as the asset of your business. In my book, Chief Customer Officer, I call these the ‘Guerrilla Metrics’ because you sometimes need to wage a campaign to power the customer into the strategic conversations about how business success is defined.
  3. Use Your first round of Net Promoter™ feedback to prioritize and fix the top 10 things bugging your customers. To a large degree, sometimes inactivity from the survey data exists because people don’t know what to work on. Certainly in reviewing the data, everything seems broken. Whenever I ask customers questions, I always want to ask them how we are performing, but also how important the area is to them. That way, you can assemble a triaging system for the issues you’ve heard from customers. And by knowing the issues most prevalent to “promoters” and “detractors” you can prioritize and focus the issues.
  4. Conduct a monthly customer loss review. On a monthly basis, gather a list of detractors and customers who have left. Then engage company-wide leaders to call 5-10 of these customers. This gets the voice of the customer in the ear of leaders who need to understand the nuances of your operation that are driving the wedge that either makes them “Detractors” or drives them away. Compile the customer profitability information relative to these customers so there is a clear understanding of their impact to the business. Then, monthly or quarterly run a meeting to discuss, diagnose and attach accountability for resolving the issues. I can guarantee you; the memory of hearing customers expressing their pain from the treatment, combined with knowing the ROI impact will inspire action.
  5. Use Public Accountability to Drive the Action. Public accountability can be a powerful approach for getting action on what you hear from customer surveys, customer complaints and feedback from the web. Simply designate a room to be “The Customer Room.”

    On the walls of the room, map the customer experience, corresponding metrics, the trending of your customer issues, what you are hearing from customers on the web and the top ten operational metrics related to the biggest issues your customers want fixed.

    On a quarterly or monthly basis, the CEO and leaders should walk the room, standing before each category of information, then asking “Why is this happening, who will fix it, and when?” When the data is organized by region and/or operational area, the friendly horse race motivates people to move up on the stack rank of performance. Most importantly, this monthly or quarterly action moves the customer conversation into the everyday operational language of the business. THIS is when you get traction.


  1. Jeanne:

    Well said.

    What’s the point of having one measure that is high or low if you don’t know the relevant factors that will push the needle. While customer advocacy may be an interesting and worthwhile market research metric, what’s the point of having that singular measure if you don’t know the actions you should take to increase your score?

    A net promoter score of say 6.5 out of 10.0 is meaningless if your competition has higher scores and you don’t know what they’re doing better than you. While having one score might give you a general idea of where you sit vis a vis your customers, prospects or competition, it doesn’t give you a clue as to where to focus your efforts to get better or be more competitive.

    Beyond that you correctly point out management reticense in using research results to foster change. This may be the biggest problem of all and one that I wish more people would explore, try to explain and attempt to put forth solutions.

  2. I work in the Telecom industry and am subjected to NPS reviews. I tend to agree with the author that NPS can be a valuable tool if used as intended, however that requires a commitment to analysis and a thought process higher than required to be a company executive.

    In my particular company they take the NPS, but instead of looking at it as a company-wide performance metric, it is directly tied to employee performance. Bonuses, “coaching” and even employment are tied to “your” NPS scores. It’s treated as if the employee who last dealt with the customer is solely responsible for the customers’ opinion of the company.
    While it can, if comments are added relevant to the particular employee, be used as a tool for helping the individual improve, if no comments are left the employee takes a hit for the customers’ “passive” or “detractor” rating of their opinion of the company.

  3. As the saying goes … “be careful what you ask for because you just might get it” … is so true when entering the wonderful world of NPS.

    What if there’s a problem with shipping?

    What if there’s a problem with product/service performance?

    What if the customer doesn’t like the format in which they receive invoices?

    What if the customer declines purchase because the price is to ‘high’?

    The answers to these questions are both procedural and political. And really, doesn’t NPS beg for a internal ‘system’ to manage the push back process?

    Hummmm …

    Who are the internal stakeholders who will investigate and potentially resolve the feedback? Are they empowered to make change? … or are they merely a ‘super-delegate’ in a company’s PR machine?

    How do these stakeholders manage these touches?

    How is the outcome data consolidated for a big picture scorecard?

    My company is putting the final touches on the development of a web-enabled, automated NPS system. Think of this technology in the world of lead management. NPS surveys conducted via on-line and off-line tactics have a direct umbellical cord to to this NPS technology. Those NPS surveys requiring resolution ‘follow-up’ are automatically routed to the pre-assigned NPS stakeholder who ‘owns’ the negative feedback issue. Within this technology, the stakeholder is given the background information of the NPS feedback … as well as the tools to manage follow-up activities … just like if it was sales opportunity (lead)that needed prompt follow-up to make a ‘top of mind’ difference. Provide the tools … ‘touch’ date posting, call back alarms, etc.)

    Additionally, there is a consistent NPS follow-up disposition form that will create dashboards of status and resolution successes/failures. We also examined any business demographics and sales history to profile the characteristics of NPS results for pre-emptive strikes in internal improvements. Additionally, we use the NPS data within target segments to tweak advertising and marketing messages.

  4. In the past few years, I’ve been invited to take surveys that are clearly based on NPS. They always ask me whether I would recommend the product or service. But the times I answer no, I am never asked why not. When there’s a comments box, I comment—and hope that the company has some type of text-analysis. Too often, though, if I’m asked to comment at all, it’s on something unrelated. It’s as though they asked the NPS question just to create a score and really had no desire to improve the company.

    So I can’t believe these companies are going to get very much constructive out of their surveys if they’re asking customers only if they would recommend and not why they wouldn’t.

    Gwynne Young, Managing Editor, CustomerThink


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