While I agree that customer experience is a superb indicator of future profitability, I do not agree that the NPS is the magic 8 ball, crystal ball or any other kind of miracle tool.
If you ask someone the likelihood of referring the company one of 3 things will happen (at least)
1. They’ll pick a random number to get out of the spot you’ve put them in. I usually say “7” which means absolutely nothing in NPS terms.
2. They’ll contemplate if anyone they know would use the product/service they just bought and if they answer is “no” they’ll rate you low (for example, there are very few of my friends/family who would buy the books or software I buy. Very few of them stay in the hotels I’m fortunate to be able to stay at. Very few live the lifestyle we live and so on, so if any of those companies asked me the likelihood that I’d refer someone to them I’d be way down on the low end of the scale.
3. They’ll say they’d recommend someone and never do.
As we all know, what we say we’ll do and what we actually do are very different. Therefore, the NPS score is far too simple to be used as a crystal ball.
Furthermore, the NPS score can be gamed — I know, I’ve experienced it myself many times. As the owner of an incentive company (we create sales incentive programs, customer experience programs, employee recognition and engagement programs) I’ve personally seen sales people game the system by offering perks to customers who give them a good score. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. The sales person achieves the great mark they are being incentivized to reach, the dealership (in this case) earns kudos and the manufacturer or head-office thinks everything is awesome when it’s not.
I’ve also been “bullied” into giving a great score at a mobile phone shop — just as I was leaving I was told that anything less than a 10 was a failure and they reminded me of all the things they’d done for me that visit and how this is a 10. I gave them a 2!
I had a similar incident on a cruise ship — on the last night, the night of the tips, there was a new “awkward”. The request for a perfect score and a reminder of how great they were (they weren’t) throughout the cruise.
The focus in these 3 examples, and there are many more, becomes one of “what’s in it for me” as in the person representing the company rather than the intention of the tool — to find out how they are doing with respect to the customer experience.
The better way to improve customer experience is to put the focus back on the customer — what do they actually experience throughout their journey? what do they like? what drives them crazy? what would they do if they were running the business? This is part of a Voice of the Customer program and, in my humble opinion, it gives you much more insight into where your business is excelling and failing to meet expectations.
Get out of the office — see what it’s like to actually be a customer. Shadow employees. Find out what drives them crazy too — what can be done to lessen their frustration and make their jobs easier.
Yes, this is a lot more work than simply asking one question but if you want to truly understand how to improve your profit you need to do the work to understand what it’s like in “their shoes”. Then, when you fix the problems, create more value and anticipate future needs you can be sure that there is less gaming, fewer false assumptions and more likelihood that you’ll see the long-term, sustainable results in terms of productivity, performance metrics across the board and, ultimately, profit.
Carol Wain is the founder and leader of many brands which help leaders to create more profitable businesses that transform lives and positively impact our planet. She is an author, speaker, trusted advisor and mentor who won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.
Carol is passionate about reinventing business to become a force for good — positive businesses which respect, appreciate, encourage and support the right employees who voluntarily use their discretionary effort to bring the vision, purpose, platform, personality, passion and core values to life; businesses which create useful, meaningful and valuable products, services and experiences which improve the lives of people; and businesses which support communities, take a stand and have a higher-purpose.