Photo: Elizabeth Williams

Net Promoter Scores Aren’t Enough

Why B2B Marketers Need to Ask a Few More Questions

I think Net Promoter Score (NPS)is a flawed view of things, particularly if that is all you use to measure customer happiness.

I don’t think it’s awful; I think it has its place and that place has limits, and we need a few supplemental questions to get at some other important stuff the NPS diet can’t deliver.

For reference, followers of the NPS system consider the ultimate question to be: how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Now that is powerful stuff, loaded with more nuance, dread and repressed memories than most of us will care to acknowledge, but it also assumes you like and respect your friends and colleagues.

NPS has other flaws too, but I think we can all make do with it, if we just add a few other questions to control for other factors in B2B. Here are my suggestions:

If a fairy godmother could wave a wand and move you painlessly to another supplier, would you change? This is likely to unleash a few spiders from your customers’ brains but it nicely controls for the barriers to exit we create with hideous migration paths, expensive cancellation fees and the general bother of changing business suppliers. On the other hand, it also does a nice job of measuring desperation, a metric I have long advocated for on my CSAT dashboards.

A good follow up question to this is: On a scale of one to ten, please rate the extent to which you feel like a hostage versus a customer.

The next thing I might ask is this: If you could change three things about your relationship with us, what would they be? This doesn’t ask for three things about our product or service; it’s about the relationship. This is a good control for the minor irritants like an account manager who chews pens or invoices that make no sense. It will also help flag any interpersonal flash points.

For this, a nice follow up might be: Thinking back to your last yeast infection or sore throat, by comparison, how irritating are we to do business with? This offers a base line of fairly acute irritation and helps you easily understand how you stack up. A personnel change might be in order depending on your score here.

If you have ever given a reference, you will recall that a standard question asks if you would hire that person again. I think we need to ask our customers something similar, like this: If you went to another company would you hire us again? This goes way beyond recommending to a friend you may or may not like; this is asking a professional to describe the extent to which they would risk their reputation. Remember, B2B purchases are inherently more emotional and more risky than consumer purchases.

B2B marketers love to make assumptions about how essential their products are to their clients. This, of course, is predicated on the idea that your clients are not using multiple products to do the same thing or quietly test driving a competitor. That’s why I think a great question is: Are any of our products considered mission-critical by your company? This is a loaded bit of nastiness that tests both likelihood to switch and the degree to which you mess them up them if you fail. These are good things to know.

Having introduced the idea of a corporate fairy godmother who makes bad vendors just fu*k off, it seems fitting to end with this: If you could wave a magic wand and fix three things about our product or service, what would they be? Sometimes we get all up our own bums about what we think our customers like and dislike but we often forget to check in with them to see if the thing they recently complained about was actually a big deal or just a yeast infection. This question gives your customers license to ignore inconvenient truths about budgets and project managers and get to the stuff that really ticks them off.

You can follow up with this feel-good question: What are three things we should never change about our product or service? There is some risk they will laugh and laugh and laugh, but there is a greater chance that you will learn a thing or two about why you matter to your customers.

Previously published on the BizMarketer blog

BizMarketer is written by Elizabeth Williams.
I help companies have better conversations

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