Net Promoter Score is the mother of all customer satisfaction metrics. Created by Bain partner Fred Reichheld 16 years ago, NPS is the two-digit number generated by the ubiquitous one-question survey that now seems to trail just about every customer interaction — “How likely are you to recommend this brand to your friends and family?”
Ironically, this most popular mechanism for gauging customer experience can itself lead to some pretty annoying customer experiences. I was struck by how Fred described the state of Net Promoter Score recently:
“There are way too many companies who obsess on the aggregate score as if it were magic and link bonuses to it, make decisions based on it and they don’t even know how to measure it…
“By linking it to frontline bonuses they’re distorting the experience itself by all the pleading, gaming, manipulating and selective sampling that goes on. The more you tie it to frontline incentives, the less useful it becomes in reporting the truth or for decision-making.”
The last time I bought a car through a broker, the account rep carefully and methodically prepped me for the 10-question customer survey I would soon receive from the dealer. He showed me exactly what the survey looked like and pointed at the scores I should give, telling me that their ability to get low prices depended on receiving these high scores.
Yet he never asked how I actually felt about the customer experience or was there anything that could be improved. Their only focus was the score.
As marketers, it’s easy to get blinded by the metrics and miss opportunities to learn from actual customer experience. Although Fred is best known for a quantitative metric like NPS, he actually encourages people to be more qualitative.
As he put it: “It’s those customer verbatims, that’s the magic.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: