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March 29, 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

“Well, it’s all about Trust”

By michaelpace on January 8, 2013

Last week my friend passed away.  He wasn’t only my friend; he was a peer, my manager, a career changer, a mentor, and overall great guy.  Larry (Streeter) and I had met up the Friday before Christmas to catch up and talk customer service and leadership shop.  As it often did, the conversation turned to retention strategies, support, loyalty, and advocacy programs.

x

Me: “Well, it’s all about trust.”

x

Larry: “But what does that really mean?  You sound like someone who has guru at end of your title.”

x

(Good point)

x

Me: “What does trust mean to you?  And you can’t say what it is not, or how you break it or earn it. That’s not a definition buddy.”

x

We continued on for about another hour, until we started going off on tangents that will remain our own business.  But, looking back it is fitting that one of our last conversations was about Trust.
So what is Trust?  How do you impact it? And is it important to almost every facet of your business?

x

My Definition: Trust is the confidence that a party/company/person/group is sincere, competent and reliable to meet the customer/person or affected group’s expectations.

x

Sincerity, Competency and Reliability – I like to think these drivers are analogous to a 3 legged stool. If one of the “legs” is broken, the stool is going to rock or come crashing down (just like your trust).

x

Sincerity: Asking your “customers” if they believe you care about them, are not deceitful, honest or have their interest at heart.

x

Competency: Do you or your company have the ability (or competency) to deliver as expected? I am sure we all run across someone or a company that has the best intentions and is always available but their end product or service is just lacking. Sometimes lacking in this driver is due to poor operational processes, training, general knowledge or expertise.

x

Reliability: Do you deliver on time, per spec, within budget of your customer’s expectations consistently? This key driver is probably the easiest for you or your “customer” to measure, because it is very tangible. Did the delivery company show up on time? Has a company given you the right product? Did it cost more than the sticker on the box? Internally, companies can ask if they met their SLA’s (service level agreements) and how often. They can look at their uptime/downtime of their website. They can monitor and track billing issues.

x

Trust Drivers

3 Critical Use Cases involving Trust

People & Talent Management

I can do a lot of amazing things, but I cannot do them all myself.  Great leaders have people they can trust to get things done, and done well.  But have you ever stopped yourself from delegating a task to someone?  Why?  Somewhere along the line, you do not trust that associate to complete the task as you believe it should be done.  One or more of the key drivers of trust is not meeting your expectations.  Do you believe the person/team wants to complete the assignment to a high degree of quality or do they care about the initiative? (Sincerity)  Do the individuals have the competency or skills to get it done?  Have they failed you in the past on a similar project? (Reliability)

x

Understanding where you feel an individual or team is falling short here, is critical to their development.  If Reliability or Sincerity (or both) are not up to your standards, an open conversation about your fears is needed.  If Competency is lacking, find ways to develop those skills within the project or outside of it for the future.

x

Building a Social Business

You cannot build a social business without Trust; simple.  A social business requires that the organization trusts its associates to conduct its business over social networks with a high degree of autonomy and structure.  Usually Sincerity is not the main issue here, except in those incidents of associates ripping the company in public.  Usually, “the owners” of the social channels do not believe individuals, teams, or departments have the Competency (social and community management skills) and the Reliability (or consistency) to work in a highly competent manner.

x

The great news is that both Competency and Reliability can be corrected.  Developing Competency is all about continuous learning and training. Create training programs that give them the ability to work socially.  Build process and governance models that outlines boundaries.  Once competent, provide lower risk opportunities to prove Reliability (then audit and measure for quality).

x

Customer Trust

Maybe the Ultimate Question is not “How likely are you to refer Company X to your friends, family and colleagues?”, maybe the new ultimate question in today’s world is “Do you trust us?”  After all, you probably would not refer anyone to a company you do not trust.  In this social landscape, trust may be the most valuable commodity your company can offer.

x

As mentioned before:

Sincerity: Asking your customers if they believe you care about them, are not deceitful, honest or have their interest at heart. You may ask them to review your site, materials, products, etc.. to learn if they believe you have their interests top of mind or even if you understand them. Audit yourself as well. Drug and Oil companies seem to consistently fall short on this driver.

Competency: Do you or your company have the ability (or competency) to deliver as expected? I am sure we all run across someone or a company that has the best intentions and is always available but their end product or service is just lacking. Sometimes lacking in this driver is due to poor operational processes, training, general knowledge or expertise. I see consultants and inexperienced people/companies falling down on this attribute most often.

Reliability: Do you deliver on time, per spec, within budget of your customer’s expectations consistently? This key driver is probably the easiest for you or your customer to measure, because it is very tangible. Did the delivery company show up on time? Has a company given you the right product? Did it cost more than the sticker on the box? Internally, companies can ask if they met their SLA’s (service level agreements) and how often. They can look at their uptime/downtime of their website. They can monitor and track billing issues.  We trust FedEx here; rarely do we trust the USPS.

x

Yes, I understand there may not be a silver bullet metric for trust. The customer service world as a whole is the same, no one metric can provide the clearest indication if you are doing it well. However with Customer Service, we do have proxies, and we do understand what drives exceptional service. At a conference I recently attended, it was clear the wave of social media talk (within our social media bubble-very important distinction) is ending, and the discussion is moving to the question of “How do you operationalize and manage this space well?”  We will need to stop saying things like “You need to build trust with your customers”, and move to “How are you defining and measuring the trust your customers have of you?”

x

More on measuring Trust

I’m sad that I won’t be able to have another conversation like this with my friend, but I trust that he is looking down now and is happy the conversation continues.

Are there any other factors you think that drives Trust?

How many times in a day/week/month are you not delegating, because you do not trust someone on your team?

Can “Do you Trust us?” be the next ultimate customer question?

The Best Twitter Advice I Ever Received

By michaelpace on September 12, 2011

Twitter profile

For the past couple years, much of the chatter and content on/in social networks has been about authenticity, trust, and not being “all about you”.  I am a big promoter of this philosophy, and truly believe this type of open content is the cream that will rise to the top.  But how do you know you are creating authentic sounding and trustworthy content? Or doing it well?

In the Twittersphere, each tweet is often just a moment of thought, sharing, promotion, or piece of silliness.   The roots of context, reliability and sincerity are difficult to ascertain.  Whether you tweet 1-2 times a day or 20-30, people on the other end of your feed build an impression of you.  It might be fair. It might not be.  You may have a different impact than your intent.  You may not realize how often you tweet about your job, promote your workplace, complain, distribute cat videos, or share other’s content.  Or the worst, you could be boring. So how can you tell or at least get an idea of how others see you?

The best twitter advice I ever received: 

Periodically, read through your sent messages and perform a self quality assurance check; a minimum of twenty tweets or a few weeks worth depending on your frequency.

(Paraphrased advice from Jim Storer of the Community Roundtable)

 If you have never done it, open up another browser tab and do it now! (But come back)

  • Be objective about yourself
  • Would you want to read You?
  • Is this the persona you want to portray?
  • What do you really tweet about?
  • Are you boring? Or untrustworthy?

I review my prior month’s worth of tweets usually at the beginning of the following month, religiously.  I block out the time on my calendar (and I am not an organization freak at all – come see my desk at work).  I block it out, because it is important.  If your personal or corporate brand is not important, please skip the rest of this post, I hear there is a new talking fruit video online now.

So what did my twitter feed look like last month (August):

Twitter topics

My thoughts on my own “performance” last month:                                                                 n=518

  • Happy to see General Friend Conversations and Relationship Building as my largest category – these are @ responses or starting conversations with friends or new people
  • Slightly surprised by amount of Twitterchat/Conference tweets from last month, but much of the total came from hosting #CCDemo11 (Prep for call center conference in Oct.)
  • 27% of tweets I consider professional (my blog or event promotion, Constant Contact promotion, retweeting educational material, and Job postings/referrals/retweets)
  • Could promote Constant Contact a bit more
  • I tell people where I am, what I am listening to, and what I am watching a bit too much
  • Qualitatively, I could tweet a bit less from bars after 3 or 4 beers

You need to decide and determine your own balance for yourself and your brand (personal or corporate).  My general theme is to provide edu-taining content while providing a small glimpse into who I am as a person.  The specific goals of my tweets are to;

  1. Establish myself as a Customer Service leader
  2. Become known as a leader in social business
  3. Meet/form relationships with interesting people

While this post has been predominately about me, it’s intention to push you to get introspective about yourself or your brand.  A tweet has a relatively short shelf life on the web, but it only takes a few seconds to create an impression.  That impression can be the difference between people believing you to be authentic/trustworthy and being seen as a corporate shill, fake or boring.

Does anyone know of an easy service to collect information on yourself?  I do a lot this manually.

Let me know if you learn anything about yourselves that you didn’t realize before you reviewed your tweets.

Random helpful twitter resources similar to this topic:

Power 50 Twitter Tips by Chris Brogan

ProBloggers 35 Twitter Tips from 35 Twitter Users

Social Media Quickstarter for Twitter

Straight from the Unicorn’s Mouth

By michaelpace on July 11, 2011

Unicorn's mouth

“How do you guys do Social Media Customer Service and do it well?”

I might be paraphrasing, but that is probably the most common question that has been asked of me during the past 2 years at Customer Service and Call Center conferences.  In this post, I thought I would have my team at Constant Contact give their top tips to executing Social Media Customer Service and how to manage these team members.  So straight from the Unicorn’s Mouth*

Top Tips from Community Host & Social Support Associate Jarrad:

  1. Response Time – Customers on Social Networks are looking for answers fast, especially on Twitter. Minimize any delay in a response. We try to respond to any @ or general Constant Contact comment within 2-5 minutes.
  2. Keep the Customer Informed – If you are experiencing downtime or a problem, address it immediately. Be proactive and honest. This is a great way to build brand loyalty.
  3. Content – It is not all about reacting to customer issues.  You can help them before they even contact you.  Try to provide content that your customers want and are interested in reading or watching.  If you see an article that relates to your client base send it out to them
  4. Support – Not all answers can be solved by a simple tweet. There may be some back and forth, but try to solve the problem online rather than having them call in.
  5. Call The Customer – If an issue cannot be resolved online, don’t pass it off to your phone support. Make the call yourself and do as much as possible to resolve the incident at that moment.
  6. Research – If a customer has a blanket statement like, “I hate your company” see if you can find out what has prompted this tweet. Check their website or email address and see if you can locate the customer’s account. Find out the “Why” before responding.
  7. Ask for Feedback – If someone is considering canceling their account or stopping business with you, rather than leaving it alone, ask them for feedback. Not only does this show you value their opinion; it can also help retain customers.
  8. Personality – Try not to sound too robotic or stale when answering customers. Be social. Talk to them casually and personally and at the same time, keep it professional.
  9. Experiment – Social Media is still new and trying new ways to interact with your customers is important.  You never know what will work and what will not until you try it.
  10. Visibility – Be aware that everything you say on a Social Network has the potential of being seen by millions of people. Don’t respond to trolls and don’t post anything your company would be embarrassed by.
  11. Empathize – Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. (How would you like your favorite company or brand to address your concerns?)

Top Tips from Community Host & Social Support Associate Marissa

Acknowledge as soon as possible

  • You don’t need to have an answer readily available, but at least if you acknowledge you saw the tweet or post and you’re looking into it, people can be very appreciative.

Be empathetic

  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re reaching out to. You may not agree with what they are saying or have ever been in the situation, but at least try to understand.

Don’t argue

  • If someone says something horrible about your company, don’t start a fight and tell them that they’re wrong. Something as simple as “Was there something I could help with?” can go a long way.  I even had a Blog Post written about it!

Curate content you know about

  • Don’t just tweet articles you haven’t read, make sure you can answer questions on them if need be.

Know your audience and your brand

  • Make sure the content you’re curating for them will provide value.  Don’t waste their precious time with useless noise.  Find information they can use, find entertaining or can learn from.
  • Different customer service brands have different voices, you need to know yours.  For instance, Zappos and Tiffany & Co. provide great service, but have very different voices.

Thank your followers

  • Whether someone re-tweets what you say or if someone gives you great content, tell them thanks.

Don’t be afraid to have conversations

  • Don’t just answer questions.  Start a conversation with those that ask questions.  You’ll be surprised what you may find out.  I was helping someone the other day and even though they weren’t local, they told me about a local restaurant to check out!

Top Tips for managing Jarrad and Marissa by Ros

  • Transitions between team members is critical. If you have multiple team members tweeting or managing social support, the customers shouldn’t be impacted by a shift change.
  • “Social Influence” is an indicator but not the goal. From the help side, your number of followers and retweets are not the primary metrics. Your Klout or influence is AN indicator not THE indicator. Socializing this with your internal team and executives is important.
  • Trust is key. As a manager, you must trust that your team’s intentions are good and support their risk taking.  Social Media is changing everyday and some mistakes will be made.  It is important for your team to know that you support them even if they stumble.
  • Hiring curious people is key. Social Media is fast moving and having people eager to learn is more important than having people who have all the answers.

 

*Unicorns are prettier than horses

Exercising Responsible Freedom

By michaelpace on May 15, 2011

Exercising Responsible Freedom

In 2008, I fell in love.  No silly rabbit, not with the man playing the piano or even another woman, but with the phrase “Exercising Responsible Freedom”.  I began to pattern my entire managerial style after this powerful phrase, and believe it is more relevant than ever in today’s Customer Service and Social Business world.

So what is it?

I discovered the phrase in a book by Chip R. Bell & Ron Zemke called Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service.  It’s a great book for the Customer Service Leader who looking for direction that spans both strategic and tactical, combined with real life stories.  (I am not a “Raving Fan” of uber theoretical books like Raving Fans)  Exercising Responsible Freedom is simply knowing the right thing to do, understanding the risk, recognizing your proverbial guardrails, having solid rationale, and most importantly doing something.   Sounds a lot like empowerment, but I rarely choose to use that word anymore.  Here’s why:

Somehow the word empowerment turned into something that you can give to another person, like a magical gift.  Empowerment is like energy, I cannot physically give you mine; it is already resides in you.  If you believe you can actually pass it along, you may be essentially passing over nothing.  However, if we believe empowerment is something that I (your manager) can help unlock within you (associate), we can take the appropriate steps unleash it.  So instead of talking about empowerment, I talk with my reports about how I can help them exercise their responsible freedom, and how they can help their reports exercise theirs.

How do you do it?

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T (sock it to me): Have the respect for your associates to treat them like adults.  Far too often, I encounter people leaders who act more like parents than business leaders.  Your associates typically have mortgages, rents, insurance, bills, children, and a whole host of other responsibilities, they can handle more than you think.  If they can’t, you probably need to reassess their future and the time you invest in them.
  2. Paint the Vision: You cannot expect people to know and do the right thing if they do not know what direction you are going.  Describe to your associates what the realistic future looks like, and have conversations (two way) about what it means to them.
  3. Provide the Flexible Guardrails: Talk about what would be going too far, and talk about what is too safe.  Use examples of what is in scope and what should remain out of scope.  In regulated industries, providing this detailed information is critical for wary associates.
  4. Discuss Possible Outcomes: Have a discussion about if something did go wrong.  Develop operating agreements that provide a safe zone for both you and the associate to review lessons learned.  I find myself often saying to people, if you had a good rationale for actions, you will never been in trouble.  But if I asked “why”, and their answer is “I don’t know” or “I just did it”, we will need to talk more.  And don’t forget to talk about the incredible things that can happen if they take the appropriate leap.
  5. Let them know you TRUST them: Just overtly saying to associates, “I trust you to ….”  is amazingly powerful confidence builder.  It reaches them on both a professional and personal level.  See prior post on Trust for more info.

Why it is so important in today’s Customer Service and Social Business world?

It is evident that service and relationship building are key differentiators between similar businesses.  Customer’s expectations are pacing with the speed of technology and process innovation.  If you provide scripted and/or automated responses to customers, they will repay you with the equal amount of passion.  If your social support team is tweeting right out of the traditional public relations handbook, you will most likely anger or disenfranchise your customers.  Same goes for customer service representatives who must use the caller’s full name 3 times in a call.

We need to hire, develop and foster our associates (and our associates’ associates) to think critically, do what they believe is the right thing for the customer, and not feel they have done something wrong by erring on the side of the customer.  When they exercise their responsible freedom, they engage customers on a human level, they build strong relationships, and they have the true opportunity to “WOW” a customer.

Do you help your associates Exercise Responsible Freedom?  Are you with me in jumping off the empowerment bandwagon?  Are you given Responsible Freedom?

 

Image credit: Mike Caine


Stop talking about TRUST, measure it

By michaelpace on May 1, 2011

Sumo trapeze

This post is a piggy-back from Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) written thoughts after her discussion panel at the Social Media and Communities 2.0 Strategies conference, go to PerkettPRsuasion.com for more of the original conversation.

The topic of TRUST has been a personal soapbox item recently. I read 30-40 blog posts daily and attend a number of social business/media events each year, and just about every day I hear how important trust/building trust/earning trust/maintaining trust is to relationships with our customers and communities. However, nobody ever defines trust; it’s a subjective term like love or truth. If you don’t have a firm grasp of what it is, how are you ever going to be able to measure it?  And everyone knows, if you are not measuring it, you are not actively managing it. Finally, I come full circle; if you are not managing it, it’s either not important or you are missing something BIG.

I am assuming it’s the latter.

Just like I tell my reports, identification of an issue is good; bringing solutions to the party is great. So here is my take:

My Definition: Trust is the confidence that a party/company/person/group is sincere, competent and reliable to meet the customer/person or affected group’s expectations.

How can you measure trust? The simplest answer is probably to just survey and ask your customers directly. This sounds a bit uncomfortable (for both surveyor and recipient), and may lead to biased results. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is also a viable option. Asking the question “How likely are you to refer Company X to your friends, family and colleagues?” implicitly asks for the level of trust in a party. However, the core NPS question can be interpreted to mean your product, your service, your price, or your value, and still will not let you know if you are a trusted partner.

Another way to measure trust (and possibly moved the needle) might be through the measurement of its core drivers, as I defined earlier – sincerity, competency and reliability. I like to think this methodology is analogous to a 3 legged stool. If one of the “legs” is broken, the stool is going to rock or come crashing down (just like your trust).

Sincerity: Asking your customers if they believe you care about them, are not deceitful, honest or have their interest at heart. You may ask them to review your site, materials, products, etc.. to learn if they believe you have their interests top of mind or even if you understand them. Audit yourself as well. Drug and Oil companies seem to consistently fall short on this driver.

Competency: Do you or your company have the ability (or competency) to deliver as expected? I am sure we all run across someone or a company that has the best intentions and is always available but their end product or service is just lacking. Sometimes lacking in this driver is due to poor operational processes, training, general knowledge or expertise. I see consultants and inexperienced people/companies falling down on this attribute most often.

Reliability: Do you deliver on time, per spec, within budget of your customer’s expectations consistently? This key driver is probably the easiest for you or your customer to measure, because it is very tangible. Did the delivery company show up on time? Has a company given you the right product? Did it cost more than the sticker on the box? Internally, companies can ask if they met their SLA’s (service level agreements) and how often. They can look at their uptime/downtime of their website. They can monitor and track billing issues.  We trust FedEx here; rarely do we trust the USPS.

Yes, I understand there may not be a silver bullet metric for trust. The customer service world as a whole is the same, no one metric can provide the clearest indication if you are doing it well. However with Customer Service, we do have proxies, and we do understand what drives exceptional service. At a conference I recently attended, it was clear the wave of social media talk (within our social media bubble-very important distinction) is ending, and the discussion is moving to the question of “How do you operationalize and manage this space well?”  We will need to stop saying things like “You need to build trust with your customers”, and move to “How are you defining and measuring the trust your customers have of you?”

This is clearly only my perspective. I would love to understand if anyone else is questioning the TRUST verbiage, how do they define trust, how are they measuring or planning on measuring? Maybe this is just a personal rabbit hole that does not have an answer, but I like the question.

Hopefully, as more posts are provided, you will begin to trust me in my sincerity, competency and reliability to deliver insightful and thoughtful information to your inbox.

Image courtesy of http://verydemotivational.memebase.com/