Driving Net Promoter® in your company: 3 must do’s

I recently read a great article from Bain about the motives and barriers to the Net Promoter System℠ adoption across the enterprise, regarding the so-called “inner loop” and “outer loop”.

As they described it, the “inner loop” relates to a person or team who initiates Net Promoter Score surveys for their own use. In other words, to gather customer feedback that they themselves have the ability to address and resolve.

The “outer loop” pertains to enterprise-wide adoption of NPS, including all of the departments that might be called upon to make improvements in response to Net Promoter Scores and customer feedback. I’d equate the “outer loop” to enterprise-wide adoption.

The challenge is that enterprise-wide adoption of the Net Promoter System is both the source of the biggest gains and the biggest challenges.

What does it take to reach enterprise-wide adoption? Consider three things.

Leadership commitment

Much has been written about this already, but it bears repeating: Leadership must embrace Net Promoter and mean it.

First, executive commitment to the Net Promoter System does not mean a commitment to sending customer feedback surveys. Rather, it means a commitment to respond to the feedback with operational improvements. No matter where or why they originate.

Second, it means a long-term commitment. Truly meaningful changes to drive improved Net Promoter Scores require many operational improvements delivered over a period of time. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

Third, it means avoiding Net Promoter Score infatuation – the mistake of executives using NPS as a single metric by which to run the business. Many other metrics are relevant, especially financial ones such as Lifetime Value, Customer Acquisition Cost, Retention Rate, Churn Rate, etc.

Departmental buy-in and alignment

The beauty of NPS is that it’s capable of surfacing opportunities to improve across many areas of your business; including sales, support, product and account management / customer success.

However, this is where most NPS programs get bogged down. One team is enthusiastic about measuring Net Promoter Scores, but another seems uninterested, uninvested or even uncooperative.

Why is this?

Anytime I encounter resistance from another team, I start by asking questions about their incentives. What are they being asked to do that takes higher priority? What are the measures of that team’s success? How are their goals set and accordingly compensated?

When there is misalignment with the NPS program, then the executive team needs to decide if they are going to change the goals and incentives of the team that’s not cooperating, or live with the mis-alignment. In some respects, ensuring goal alignment is a test of executive commitment to the Net Promoter initiate itself.

Customer follow through

Engagement with survey respondents is critical. It’s the start of a conversation, not the end.

For example, knowing that somebody is a proponent isn’t enough. A customer like this is a tremendous asset. You want to know why they are happy, and other ways they might help your business grow. For example, a proponent might:

  • buy more from you
  • serve as a customer reference
  • join your advocacy program
  • refer friends to you
  • tell you why they’re a promoter in the first place

However, a promoter won’t do any of these things – until you ask. So, it’s your response that matters most.

Passives are another interesting audience. What would it take for them to become proponents? The answers to that question can surprise you, and sometimes it’s trivial things to do on your part. Again, the follow-up to the survey response is how you discover and address those needs.

Last, we tend to focus on detractors, and for obvious reasons. Getting to the root cause of what made somebody so unhappy is important. People have a greater propensity to complain than praise, so negative word-of-mouth is a real business risk. 

One of the most interesting insights that comes from engaging detractors is spotting product mismatch. In other words, customers with needs that your product wasn’t designed to fulfill.

One thought on “Driving Net Promoter® in your company: 3 must do’s

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. Having run NPS for a large enterprise software vendor, I would like to add two points to the excellent ones made by this post.

    First, NPS is not an actionable metric. Assigning its improvement as a goal to front-line employees will invariably leave them wondering what they should do in order to accomplish their objectives. Similarly, relying exclusively on customer follow through and qualitative, as recommended in the post, usually provides only anecdotal information, which is hard to confirm, quantify and prioritize. Rather, the only way I am aware of to derive actionable information using NPS is to correlate the survey results with the underlying operational data using rigorous statistical analysis. This analysis will help identify the most critical drivers of loyalty and of churn which can then be turned into actionable goals for customer facing teams (e.g., reducing support case resolution time, increasing invoice accuracy). This, obviously, does not eliminate the need to interact with customers as suggested by the post, or with internal stakeholders as recommended by the Bain paper referred to. However, this conversion of operational data into executable goals can help convert teams reluctant to use NPS, as mentioned in the post’s second point.

    Second, in enterprise technology, it is important to remember that there are multiple individuals interacting with the vendor at any given time, and each of those may have a different perspective on that interaction. This was even identified as a challenge to NPS in the original Harvard Business Review article that launched NPS. It is therefore important to identify the role each respondent plays and the influencing factors on that specific role, otherwise there is a significant risk of losing the decision makers’ voice in the noise of multiple other users. The criticality of doing so increases with the the complexity and the size of the product implemented.

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