It’s Not the Number Stupid: Net Promoter® is not a Numbers Game

   by  DonkeyHotey
   by  DonkeyHotey

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  DonkeyHotey

I’m sure you’ve heard of Bill Clinton’s famous, but unofficial, 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the economy stupid”. His chief of staff wanted to focus everyone on what was most important in the run up to the election.

That was a great approach but today I’m championing an anti-version of that slogan:

Net Promoter – it’s not the number stupid! [Tweet This]

The reason is that recently I’ve had several conversations with senior managers of small, and not so small, businesses, which are looking to implement Net Promoter.

Great idea, until they tell me it’s with the specific purpose of tracking the performance of their staff.

Typically these businesses have grown to the point where senior managers are not able to be everywhere at once. They worry about company reputation as they grow increasingly disconnected from the day to day interactions with customers.

This increasing distance is not bad per se, there are only some many individual customers the CEO of a major bank can meet in person. What is bad is trying to insert a metric (any metric) into to the process with the idea that it will keep everyone in line.

True, on the surface it seems quite rational; run a transaction survey, associate the relevant (sales, support, etc.) staff with the response and then report on the individual’s score. Use the score to hand out bouquets or brickbats at the end of the quarter or year. We do it with sales, why not Net Promoter Score?

Because it’s not the same. Sales are an absolute number. Net Promoter is not because it is assessed subjectively by people and surveying, so it it subject to a range of sample size caveats.

Net Promoter is a great tool but great tools can be used to cause great harm when applied in the wrong way. Just ask Alfred Nobel about the invention of Dynamite.

Here Are the Problems With A Simplistic, By The Numbers Approach

Score begging

The problem with focusing the entire organisation on just the score then doubling down by including it in the bonus system is that it drives the wrong behaviours.

You might think that providing a front line sales employee with a bonus for a high personal NPS make them focus on improving their score.

And it does. So, what is the easiest way to improve the score – just ask the customer to rate them highly when they receive the survey. It’s called score begging. Simple and worthless to the business.

If you doubt this happens just listen the next time you pick your car up after a service. In many cases you will be asked directly or indirectly to give the service a “9 or 10” in the survey. Or, the next time you stay in a hotel, check out the variety of ways they beg for scores.

Not only do these tactics make customers feel uncomfortable but you lose all value in the information you are receiving.

Is that 10 a “real” 10 or a “10 that should have been a 7”. Now all of your data is tainted.

The Focus Should be on Improvement

Improving your score by asking the customer for a better number, does not drive ongoing improvement in the business. By taking the shortcut you have lost your ability to understand how to make change and drive improvement in the business

Systems Drive Most of Your Score Not Staff

With very few exceptions, your business systems, not individual staff, drive the majority of the customer experience in a business.

Most staff are looking to do the right thing by the company and its customers. If they are unable to deliver an excellent service it is not normally because they are unwilling but because they are unable due to company systems.

Put another way, focusing on motivating staff to somehow do their job better drives much less improvement in Net Promoter, or customer satisfaction or Customer Effort score, or whatever other metric you want to use, than driving change in business processes.

How to Do It Right

Report Mostly on the Improvement Process

You are probably already (or planning to) report the NPS® or customer satisfaction score in the weekly, monthly , quarterly management report. That’s good because you need to track where you are but you need to lower the focus on the score and elevate the importance of the improvement projects.

This can be done by simply reporting on, at the same level and in the same place, the continuous improvement projects that the data from the voice of the customer process is creating.

In the reports you can, and should, include information on the expected ROI of the improvement process.

This will change how people view the score from a retrospective tracking of performance to a proactive way to drive change in the business.

Target Response Rate Not NPS for Front Line Staff

Instead of giving front line staff (customer service, sales, support, etc) an NPS target, give them a response rate target. That way they don’t have to beg for scores and it shifts that focus to collecting as much information as possibles.

Staff will stop asking for a 10 and start asking just for a response, which is what you really want.

Drag Your Feet Adding NPS Targets to KPIs

To me it’s simple: if you don’t include NPS in the company KPIs and show that it is at least as important as revenue and profit staff will never become engaged. They will forever see NPS as something nice to have but when it comes to deciding where to spend their time its revenue and profit this quarter that matters.

However, add targets to your KPIs too quickly you will make one or both of these mistakes:

1. You Will Set The Target Too High

Many, many times senior managers caught up in the excitement of Net Promoter will set targets almost as soon as the first survey responses come in. In their excitement and with their lack of insight into how the score will evolve, they set targets that are too high, normally, way too high.

Wait for a few months, six at least, before setting Net Promoter or Customer Satisfaction targets. Report and track the data from day one but don’t add targets until much later.

2. You Will Not Know How To Change It

If you set targets without out knowing what drives the score it’s just a lottery.

The problem with lotteries is that you can’t develop a strategy or action plan to succeed, beyond buying lots of tickets and crossing your fingers. Nothing you can do will change the odds of success.

In this situation staff engagement with the idea of Net Promoter and continuous improvement will plummet because they can’t see how they can impact the outcome. So it becomes a number they can ignore. If they win the NPS lottery great, if they lose there was nothing they could do about it anyway.

Take a Step Back

So, take a step back for a few minutes right now.

Why are you implementing your customer feedback process?

If it’s to drive continuous improvement in the customer experience, that’s great. If you are simply trying to look over the shoulder of each employee as they engage with your customers, maybe you need to review things a little.


The Ultimate List of Net Promoter® Best Practice Tips

Automate your process

Automate your process

Net Promoter was launched in 2003 and since then many, many organisations have used the methodology to drive change in their business. With so much time invested, lots of lessons have been learned.

So you don’t have to re-learn those lessons the hard way I’ve pulled together this massive list of Net Promoter best practice tips.

Note that these tips pretty much apply to any Voice of the Customer or Customer feedback (but not market research) process. So regardless of whether you are using Customer Effort Score, Customer Satisfaction or NPS® you can apply them to your business. [Read more…]

Zappos Service is for Zappos, not You


We’ve all heard the stories of famously customer focused organisations where staff have gone wildly above and beyond customer expectations to create raving fans.

At Zappos, one famous (albeit perhaps apocryphal) tale is the story of a customer service person having pizza delivered to customers who were sitting online talking to their contact center. [Read more…]

[Guest Post] Employee NPS: An Early Warning System for Managers


employee-net-promoter-scoreI’ve talked before about Employee NPS (eNPS) as a great way to collect feedback on how your staff feel about the organisation.

However, as I’m not an expert in organisation design it’s been difficult for me to muster the arguments for replacing or even augmenting the existing very long annual employee engagement surveys so often used by organisations.

But recently I was chatting to Beatrice Hofmeyr, who is an expert in organisation design, and she was just as keen about eNPS, and for the same reasons!

Beatrice agreed to discuss using eNPS and how/why it is so effective. [Read more…]

Most People Don’t Understand Sample Size


bigstock-young-business-man-holding-his-53002933You’ve spent weeks working through the numbers to unpick what customers are saying. After checking through the data and analysing a range of root causes, you have created a really practical plan to solve a key customer issue.

The PowerPoint presentation you’ve created nails each of the points you want to make. It starts right up front with the bad news: Net Promoter data for the business group in question.

Before you walked in, you were fully prepared for this meeting, so how is it that 3 minutes in you’re under attack on the very first slide? A senior manager is pointing accusingly at the screen: “I don’t believe that NPS – you don’t have a big enough sample size.” [Read more…]

Surprise: Rob Markey and I agree on Net Promoter® Benchmarking


delight-the-customerAnyone that has been reading this blog for more than a couple of weeks knows that the subject of Net Promoter benchmarking gets me fired up.

In talking to clients and prospects the question of “what’s a good Net Promoter score” almost invariably arises. Many times I have had to choose my words carefully when I tell people don’t waste your time on external Net Promoter® benchmarks.

I’ve also been careful to explain that not everyone agrees with my views on this topic.

One of the people who disagrees with me is Rob Markey (Bain Partner and co-author of The Ultimate Question 2.0). Clearly he knows something about the subject.

Well, recently when chatting to Rob for one of his Net Promoter System podcast interviews he took me to task on my anti-benchmarking views and, surprisingly, we came away in a violent agreement.

He outlined the specific scenarios where Net Promoter benchmarking is useful and I agreed with every one of his points.

[Read more…]

[Guest Post] 4 Insights Into Building a Better Organisational Structure With Customer Feedback


Auto_mechanic_toolsThe only reason we collect customer feedback, including Net Promoter ® is to understand how we can improve the customer experience and lift profits. Often this impacts the organisational structure, but driving change in this area can be difficult.

Beatrice Hofmeyr having identified this issue and is doing something about it. She is currently collecting practical, best practice techniques from real Australian organisations. In today’s guest post Beatrice provides some great early findings from the project.

Please welcome Beatrice Hofmeyr…

[Read more…]

The Practicalities of Giving Frontline Staff Net Promoter Targets


bigstock-Dart-in-bulls-eye-of-dartboard-16555100“If you don’t give us a 9 or 10 on the survey you receive it will mean we have failed”. On the surface it was an odd way to end my check out process at a well known hotel chain but one I suspect that many of us have experienced. It’s called score begging and it’s an indication of poorly set front-line customer satisfaction targets.

One of the critical success factors for NPS or customer feedback success is ensuring that everyone in the organisation has the score in their personal goals. But applying that idea to front line staff is difficult and if done poorly, as you can see, it drives the wrong behaviours.

To me it is clear that you must link NPS/CSAT to performance review outcomes at least as strongly as you link other hard metrics: revenue, average handle time (AHT), etc. If you don’t staff, quite rightly, deduce that NPS is nice but what you really care about is AHT and sales at all costs.

Not having a strong CSAT/NPS goal is at the heart of many issues in the customer experience. If you’ve ever been relentlessly handed off between operators in a contact centre you have felt the effects. You know they have a tight AHT goal and it’s more important to keep their personal AHT down by shuffling you to another operator than to solve your problem. [Read more…]

Customer Journey Maps Must Come Before Transactional Customer Feedback


Transactional customer feedback is a very effective way of improving business performance. With it you can diagnose problems and processes that are driving customers away and reinforce the drivers of customer loyalty in the business.

But how do you decide which transactions should be included?

What is a Customer Journey Map?

Customer Journey Maps document the interactions that customers have with your business before, during and after their relationship with you.

With so many practitioners using them, there are many different forms of customer journey maps; none of them right or wrong, just used in different ways.

[Read more…]

Writing the Perfect Customer Feedback Survey Invitation


bigstock-Vintage-Typewriter-41977552You already have a great survey invite subject line and now you need to follow that up with an email body that drives people to start the survey.

The invite doesn’t have to be long and complex, in fact it should be short and to the point but to be most effective it must include some key information.

At all times remember the goal of the invite: to persuade the respondent to provide their feedback on your organisation. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t add words into the invite that do not directly help you achieve that goal. [Read more…]