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March 26, 2017

Net Promoter Scoring is Asking the Wrong Question

By michaelpace on February 4, 2014

Yoda Smarts

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play

I’m not a huge fan of Net Promoter Scoring (NPS).

Nope.

I am sure this sounds like blasphemy from a Customer Service professional. 

Too bad.

I would not recommend a family member, friend, or colleague to blindly use Net Promoter Scoring to understand or forecast the retention of their customers. 

I’d give NPS a Net Promoter Score of 7 (Passive).

Take a second and answer these questions about Net Promoter Scoring:

  • What do you do with the score?  Individually and in aggregate?
  • What are you really trying to understand by collecting this information?
  • If last month you scored a 27, and this month scored a 28, what does that mean?
  • Is the verbatim on the general survey more important than the scores?
  • Should or do you alter retention or net add forecasts if your scores change?
  • What is the action if the score drops?
  • Do your customers know the difference between a 6, 7, or a 9?
  • How often do you ask yourself if this is a waste of time, energy and money?

Net Promoter Scoring is a good system.  It’s better to collect NPS than to not at all.  Since it’s relatively generic, it allows you to benchmark your industry and others.  It will provide a sense of your customers’ emotional connection to your company.

Why does “Ultimate Question” ask if you would recommend someone who is near and/or dear to you?  It is clearly looking for an emotional relationship versus a behavioral relationship because you would not recommend a commodity company.  I know the end goal is to get the recommendation or referral, but the real underlying question is quite different, and may be more powerful.

What Net Promoter Score is really asking is:

Do you trust <company X>?

Answers should be simple: Yes, No, or Sometimes

If a participant answers “Yes”, theoretically you are recommendable.  I say theoretically, because many companies make it difficult or complex to recommend.

If the answer is “No” or “Sometimes”, the likelihood of achieving a recommendation is low.  Would you recommend a company you do not trust or only sometimes trust?  Why do you think Financial Services, Healthcare providers and cable companies have such low scores?  – No Trust.

How might things be different if you asked, “Do you trust <company X>?”?

(For the score freaks out there, let’s pretend a “Yes” is +1, while “No” and “Sometimes” are -1)

  • How would your CEO respond to a low Trust score versus NPS?
  • Would you find more companies in the negative?
  • There is no question of whether a 7 is a 9 in another person’s opinion. It’s clearer to the participant.

Again, you will still need more context of the answer.  Regardless, if you ask NPS or Trust, this is always harder for participants to explain.  The areas of the brain that handle limbic functions such as liking, loving, referring, emotion, and trusting are not “connected” to the area that handles speech (Broca’s area).  That is why it is hard to describe why you love someone.  However, with help, participants can break down why they do or do not trust <company X>.

I believe trust is a combination of three factors:

  • Sincerity
  • Competence
  • Reliability

If someone does not trust you or a company, you are falling short on 1, 2 or all of the 3 factors above.  Follow up questions, should gather their feelings on your sincerity, competence, and reliability.  By understanding where you are weak in trust, you can take corrective action.  I am sure my cable company means well (sincere) and know how to do their jobs (competent), but their reliability or at least the perception of their reliability is poor.  People love Zappos and USAA because we believe they care about us or service, provide valuable advice, and deliver consistently. 

There are many ways to skin a cat, and other ways to determine the likelihood your customers will stay and even recommend.

More on Trust & Net Promoter Scoring

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