I have witnessed first hand the power that Net Promoter System (NPS) can have in transforming corporate cultures and customer advocacy for the better. This only happens when the investment goes beyond the score. There are many divergent opinions about the accuracy of NPS as a metric, but that's a different article. Rather, my goal is to share the framework I recommend for turning this customer loyalty metric into something much more.
This model has evolved since I implemented salesforce.com’s NPS program at scale. I regularly modify it to fit the needs of small and mid-size clients. While the process may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Remember to breathe and take it in incremental phases. I honed this approach over four years, and it all didn't happen at once. Year one, we just focused on the mechanics of effectively collecting feedback and closing the loop. Year two we set up a cross-functional committee to derive insights and recommendations. Year three, we had a decent baseline and began to conduct more robust analysis. And so on…
Eight Principles for Driving Change with NPS (or any other CX metric)
- Resist the urge to immediately send out a survey. First, take the time to understand your customers’ journey, key touchpoints or moments of truth. Use this as a framework for determining your approach to measuring your customers' experience. This includes determining where and how it is most effective to ask for feedback and what to ask. Even a quick-fire journey mapping session will do wonders in improving the resulting data and insights you'll get.
- Design a feedback collection strategy to set you up for success in getting results that are reliable and representative. This requires attention to things like audience segmentation, customer maturity, and market segmentation. Also consider the effectiveness of the delivery channel, which impacts response rates. I also recommend frequent collection cycles ("drip" monitoring if possible) with suppression rules to avoid respondent fatigue. This is where having a real time or in app feedback collection methods can be extremely beneficial.
- Make the feedback actionable for all organizational levels. Get the front line teams in on the action, but also senior leadership who can actually influence changes in policies and procedures. Determine the most effective method for pushing the feedback into those respective channels and getting their attention. This will enable you to get the desired outcomes such as service recovery for transactional improvements vs. changes in products, programs or processes for strategic improvements.
- Avoid the “black hole” effect. Respond to customers. There are many different approaches to this. It’s also a great place to get fun and creative about how you follow up on customer feedback. This lets your customers know their feedback is being listened to and acted on and increases the likelihood they’ll continue to share their feedback in the future. And for goodness sakes, don't limit closed loop call back activity to frontline teams and management. They talk to customers all day long! Make sure senior leadership and executives get involved as well. Even one or two calls generate empathy, understanding and customer connectedness.
- Build robust insights over time. In the early stages of rolling out an NPS program, the sheer act of closing the loop and disseminating verbatim comments can build customer empathy and understanding. This is a great start if it isn’t already part of the culture. But to avoid internal NPS fatigue and disinterest over time, the goal of analysis should be to uncover key drivers impacting the experience and investigate links to profitability. In essence, the analysis should mirror program maturity. The depth of insights will likely be pretty basic early on, but over time the analysis can (and should) become more robust. Many customer experience management platforms have analysis capabilities built in. For those not using those platforms, beg, borrow, steal or outsource the analyst resources.
- Develop an action plan. Once you’ve determined key issues and themes shaping the customer experience, engage managers and subject matter experts in a cross-functional dialogue to determine the root cause of the issues and determine strategies for improvement. The end goal is to have "the business" making improvement recommendations rather than the NPS program manager. But this activity on its own helps to break down departmental silos, increases organizational awareness, and creates customer experience ambassadors across the business. Equally important, having varying perspectives weighing in on the discussion adds depth and breadth to the understanding of the issues and resulting recommendations.
- Commit to a plan. Driving long term strategic improvements often requires some level of investment in the form of resources and/or funding. But even if the requested changes to policy or process don’t involve additional people or budget, they will require a change management effort to ensure they are effectively adopted throughout the business. Executive sponsorship for such a change efforts is a crucial. Leverage the power of the cross-functional process in step six to make your case to leadership for the necessary investments. And get leadership bought into supporting the plan long term.
- Measure and adjust. Establish a way to keep track of improvement targets, and regularly measure progress. One point of caution here. It’s not always possible to find a direct linkage between improvement X and resulting changes in the NPS score. It would be great if that were the case, but this is where I refer back to focusing on the system over the score. In the end, the goal is to improve customer engagement and experience. Just because that’s not showing up in the score doesn’t mean it’s not impactful or important. Cycle through steps six and seven regularly and adjust improvement strategies as needed.
I often say that customer experience is a place where science and art meet. Nowhere is it more relevant than when embedding NPS into the business. While there are definitely fundamentals to adhere to, it’s also a fun, creative and powerful exercise to take the business through. Rather than a focus on the score, I recommend first approaching it as a space to get imaginative about increasing customer empathy, engaging your customers, creating brand advocates, and driving long lasting change for the business.