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Metrics for metric's sake

Reasons to think twice before implementing the NPS (Net Promoter Score) question

How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague? 
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of how likely your clients are to recommend you to a friend or colleague. If you are not already using the NPS question in your organisation, then you may well have encountered this question as a consumer.

The NPS question is currently popular across a wide variety of organisations and sectors - and a lot of sales, client success, and marketing teams are held accountable for NPS responses. This also means that a lot of tech teams (including us at Day Digital) have been asked to implement the NPS question into client surveys, CRM systems, and business workflows. 

I'm a little sceptical about how useful this question really is, so it's an apt example of how critical

thinking from a tech team can lead to better results on a business project (see last week's blog post about the importance of where business meets tech).

The NPS question goes like this:

How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague?

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable
    to competitive offerings.

  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede
    growth through negative word-of-mouth.
The NPS Score Overview
Once a customer responds to the NPS question their score is typically used as a proxy for client 

satisfaction on their account (e.g. 'This person is a detractor' 'This person is a promoter').

Any detractor score (0-6), or even passive score (7-8) will invariably trigger a flurry of business 

rules – red flags will alert customer service to call these clients, their accounts may be deemed at risk of cancelling, and senior management want reports on their region's NPS scores.

The aggregated totals of NPS scores are also used to track performance across various individuals and teams internally (e.g. 'What's our NPS score globally?' 'What's our NPS score this quarter vs. last quarter?' 'What's this sales person's NPS score?' and so on).

If you've never come across the NPS question, then next time you call any of your household suppliers (gas, electric, internet, insurance) I'm guessing within 5 minutes of putting down the phone you'll probably have a text message or email containing an NPS survey.

Notice that companies will send you the NPS question (which essentially serves their own purposes) as opposed to something more useful to your customer experience such as 'Were we able to resolve the reason for your call today?'. Which brings us neatly to the next point.

The NPS score can be fairly straightforward to implement (a number of companies offer out of the box systems for sending surveys and calculating the scores), which might be one of the reasons why it's so commonplace.

But beware of metrics that have no real impact on your customer journey, and therefore no real relevance to your business.

Just to be clear I'm not saying the NPS question is never useful, or not part of a customer journey - I'm just suggesting the NPS question typically carries too much weight given the lack of insight it generates in most organisations.

A customer journey is in essence about how someone:
  • Finds out about your service
    (search engine, direct marketing, referral from a friend/colleague)

  • Decides whether or not to purchase your product
    (reads reviews, trials your service, speaks with your sales team)

  • Uses/places value on your product
    (use every day, use occasionally, purely functional use, or emotional connection)

  • Decides if they will remain as a customer
    (price, level of usage, customer service and so on) 

It's worth reflecting on the customer journeys you have, so that you can choose which touchpoints to focus on (social media, surveys, email marketing, phone calls, logging product usage, webinars and so on), and what business metrics you drive around these.

All told I think it seems odd that so many organisations decide what they really need to do is send their customers the NPS question on a regular basis, or even after specific interactions - such as when someone calls a customer service line.

It makes more sense to pick a nuanced interaction relevant to your specific customer journeys, and therefore your bottom line.

Last week I saw first hand a good example of a company that understands their customer journey.

I was about to place a job advert on a website. Just at the point of checking out, I realised the price was around double what I had expected it to be, so I ditched the process and left the site (I had already filled out all of my details). It would have been good to find out why the service was so pricey, but I was busy, so I didn't bother calling their customer service line.

A few hours later I received an email from a customer service rep saying:

I just wanted to drop you a line, as you recently came online with [Name removed] careers to look at purchasing a job advertisement slot, but didn't quite complete the process.

I was keen to follow up and ask if you had any questions or if there was anything in the process that you were unsure about?

The email contained a named person and a direct phone number, so I called up to explain what had happened. They told me more about their pricing model and why they charge a premium, and based on my needs they offered a slightly different package. 

I thought this was a nice touch, as they contacted me at a useful point in my customer journey, and did something that helped me. Based on this positive experience, it's likely that I'll place an order with them next time around.

As you can see there are a lot of reasons to think twice before implementing the NPS 

question. There may be more value in tracking different interactions in your customer journey, and putting in business roles to help facilitate these touchpoints.

In the case of the job posting example above, the company's time and effort spent nurturing potential leads is probably time better spent than stressing about existing clients who scored them 6 or 7 on the NPS question.

If you already use the NPS question – then it's by no means a disaster, it's just worth reflecting on what steps in the customer journey you are not paying attention to, what questions you are not asking your customers, and what opportunities you might be neglecting as a result.

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