The NPS and You

Every entrepreneur understands how critical it is to take care of the customer – that’s old hat. We know that unhappy customers will cause our businesses to suffer. This fact has been magnified by social media and how a few damaging reviews can really cause severe and long-term problems. If your organization is like ours, you are regularly sending out customer satisfaction surveys. Much time is spent parsing the verbiage and trying to determine exactly the right questions to ask. All this is fine and good – we need to ask a number of questions to better understand who our customers really are and what they prefer. But how do we get an overall handle on exactly what our customers think about us and our product(s)? Enter the NPS.

OK, you are probably wondering what NPS means. It stands for Net Promoter Score and is a tool that measures customer loyalty. The Net Promoter Score was developed in 2003 by Fred Reichheld, the private equity firm Bain and Company and Satmetrix (and is also a registered trademark of these individuals and companies). It is based upon the theory that our customers are either detractors or promoters. A detractor is someone who is unhappy to the point that they can drive away other customers. Promoters do just the opposite. The NPS is calculated based upon the response of a single question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or a colleague?” The numerical answers to this question become an index ranging from -100 to +100. A raw score of six or less puts the respondent in the Detractor category. Passives are those who give a score of seven or eight. And Promoters give a score of nine or ten. The NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractor respondents from the percentage of Promoter respondents (Passives are disregarded). Generally, an NPS of +50 or greater is considered outstanding. 

In January 2018, our companies implemented the NPS. It’s fascinating how focused we have become on trying to move the number. Incentive compensation plans can be tailored to include the NPS – especially for team members who are in a position to greatly influence customer satisfaction. What we’ve learned is how very important it is to have as large a survey response as possible. Sending out 500 surveys and generating 15 responses that lead to an NPS of +60 may be very misleading. Smart companies have figured out techniques to boost the number of responses including drawings for prizes and continuous follow-up with the customer until a response is rendered.

For the NPS to be most effective, customers need to be identified when responding to a survey. This does present a bit of a dilemma as some customers are reluctant to share their true feelings when a survey is not anonymous. But the value of being able to follow-up and resolve issues that may have been encountered by the customer is well worth the extra effort to solicit responses for non-anonymous surveys. The goal is to ultimately convert Detractors and Passives into Promoters.

Hundreds of large companies including Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Citigroup, Best Buy, Sony, GE, Apple, American Express, Four Seasons Hotels and AT&T are using the NPS. A large percentage of entrepreneurs with whom I’ve spoken are unfamiliar with NPS. Having a universal methodology to measure customer satisfaction and enable “closing the loop” with the customer does not have to be limited to the big boys in the business world. And, software is available that can help take the NPS question from survey results and calculate a running score.

This is a new journey for us and we’re still working to get “buy-in” from all of our team members. One of the advantages of NPS implementation is that everyone can see the difference they make – positive or negative – with customer satisfaction. If the product is defective; the bathroom in the store is dirty, or the service is sloppy – all can show up in the survey results. The “weak link” in the chain may drag down the score from nine or ten to a six. We expect accountability from peer pressure will improve over the next few months and years.

Our customers are the lifeblood of our businesses. We can become more precise at measuring their satisfaction with our products and services by utilizing the Net Promoter Score.

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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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