Improving your Net Promoter Score

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We’ve covered the basics: What is NPS, and how do you calculate it?

Now you’re up and running, this this section of our guide contains eight ways to improve your Net Promoter Score. Every single one comes from our own experience in industry, or from the experience of the heroic customer contact teams that we’re privileged to call our customers.

But there’s a catch.

Before you use any of these tips, we need you to be 100% sure that improving your NPS is the right thing to do.

We’re serious.

We covered this in the Intro to NPS, but it’s important to remember that NPS is a means, not an end. It’s a score which can help you check that your customer loyalty efforts are on-track, but it’s not a customer loyalty effort itself.

Anything which promises an increase in your NPS but does not actually make your customers’ lives better is a false economy.

Bad metrics are one of the biggest threats to a successful customer satisfaction improvement project.

It’s totally possible to increase NPS by statistical means, especially if an executive’s bonus depends on it reaching a certain level. (Seriously, we’ve seen it happen). But that doesn’t reflect any improvement for customers. It reflects an unhealthy culture.

An increase in NPS should only ever come from genuine team effort, driven by customer feedback. In turn, those customers must ‘feel’ the benefits of the better service claimed by the higher score

Make things fantastic for your customers, trust that revenue growth will follow, and use NPS to check that your initiatives are having the desired effect.

1. Ask at the right time

Want to know how to ruin a first date?

Asking “do you love me?” is a great place to start.

But that’s exactly what many companies do with the Net Promoter Question.

The NPS Question

It’s a question specifically designed to measure loyalty. So it’s a question that you should only ask when you’ve given customers a chance to become loyal.

Asking it of brand new customers is just like the proverbial “do you love me”? In the absolute best case scenario, customers will give you a ‘polite’ answer that doesn’t reflect their true loyalty. In the worst case, customers will be annoyed at the question and score you a ‘0’.

It’s a good idea to ask new customers for feedback, but don’t use NPS to measure it. Other metrics are available.

2. NPS Champions: Take 1

One of the most powerful, but least-discussed benefits of getting verbatim customer feedback is the effect it has on your team.

But as a manager, you don’t need to take on all this responsibility yourself.

Of course, you need to handle some aspects of your feedback process personally, most notably discussing negative feedback with the team member who caused it.

But designating a member of your team as a ‘NPS Champion’ is a great way to set the tone that customer feedback isn’t something passed down on high from management, carved on stone tablets – it’s something owned by everyone.

We’ve seen our customers use NPS champions as cheerleaders for the customer feedback process, for example circulating a summary of the team’s best feedback from the previous day, or setting up internal ‘NPS league tables’ so teams can have a little friendly competition to drive up standards.

3. NPS Champions: Take 2

Customer experience isn’t just delivered by your front-line staff.

Customer experience is the sum total of all the interactions a customer has with your organisation.

You can drill your customer contact teams to within an inch of their lives, but if your accounts department are monsters straight out of Ancient Greek mythology, terrorising your customers; satisfaction levels are going to suffer.

There’s two ways to address this, and it essentially depends on where you sit in your company’s org chart.

…You’re in charge

If you’re responsible for implementing NPS across an entire organisation, then it’s important that you realise that getting everyone behind the objective of improving loyalty is one of the most important concepts of implementing NPS.

Your entire senior team need to buy into this, whether or not their direct reports are responsible for directly interacting with customers or not.

We’ve seen ‘NPS Champions’ embedded in non-customer-facing business units, and they work brilliantly. It’s their responsibility to own the NPS project in their area of the business, even if customer-facing teams are sending surveys and receiving feedback.

These ‘champions’ make sure that feedback relating to their division gets dealt with. Rude payment chasers? It’s up to your Finance Champion to organise training and make sure things change. Missed appointments by your field technicians? It’s up to your Operations Champion to drive the process improvement that stops this happening.

…You’re not in charge

If you’re trying to establish good customer feedback practice on a team, or division, and you don’t have the authority to influence the behaviour of the wider organisation, it’s not the end of the world.

You just need to set the tone, and give context to your team. Help them understand that (for example), there’s a chance they’re going to interact with a customer who’s angry at something out of their control, and so, whilst 100% NPS isn’t possible, they can still make a huge difference by trying to delight each customer as they interact with them.

Never stop advocating for the customer. Show the leaders that you report into how your customer feedback system has led to a sustained increase in customer satisfaction, get them on board with what you’re doing, and make it easy for them to ‘sell’ NPS to the rest of your organisation.

4. Ask more (and better) questions

We discussed this in our guide to NPS surveys, but it bears repeating and looking at in more detail:

There’s nothing wrong with including a handful of customer-centric scored questions on your NPS survey. It’s a win-win for you and your customers.

It‘s not much use simply asking ‘if’ somebody would recommend you, without asking ‘why?’. That’s why the traditional NPS survey consists of the NPS question and a free-text followup.

The problem with only asking for text feedback is that customers who don’t have especially strong feelings won’t tell you anything. Which is fine! Remember that this is first and foremost a chance for them to tell you how they’re feeling, so you can fix it if needs be – not a data capture exercise.

But it turns out if you ask questions that customers have an interest in answering, questions which are aligned with the things they want you to be fantastic about, they don’t mind answering them:

Abandon rate is lowest for surveys of 6-9 questions

There’s a hidden benefit to these extra questions: They can improve the customer experience. If a customer’s feeling negative about your organisation, but positive about the interaction they’ve just had, just asking “would you recommend us?” puts them in a tight spot. They’ll feel bad about giving you a low NPS score, even if they genuinely wouldn’t recommend you.

It sounds trivial, but people hate being forced to choose like this. So don’t make them: Ask the NPS question, and ask some easy-to-answer questions about their experience.

The answers to the free text question then become more useful. You don’t need to rely on error-prone text analytics to work out what customers want you to do, your scored questions are already telling you. Each free text reply is either a customer asking you for help (so help them), or qualitative data to flesh out the picture that your scored questions are painting.

5. Don’t Incentivise Anyone

This is a strange tip to include in our ‘guide to improving NPS’, as it may lower your NPS score – but by doing so, it can raise customer satisfaction, which as we’ve discussed is your ultimate goal.

You should never, ever incentivise your staff or your customers in your feedback process. That means no Amazon vouchers for customers, and no bonuses linked to NPS targets for staff.

Don’t incentivise your staff

This is one of the many, many areas of customer feedback where you can easily fall victim to Goodhart’s Law, if you’re not careful:

Goodhart’s Law

It’s fine to measure how satisfied your customers are. But as soon as you make it a target, and link bonuses to that target, people will come up with ways to hit their target – whether or not it’s sensible or ethical to do so.

If you incentivise your staff on customer satisfaction, get ready for your staff inventing ‘creative’ ways to hit high NPS scores, including, but not limited to: fake feedback submissions, begging customers for high scores, ‘forgetting’ to ask unhappy customers for feedback, or even bribing customers by giving them better deals than is commercially sensible.

Don’t incentivise your customers

This one’s simpler to explain.

How honest do you think customers are if they believe their chance of winning an iPad (or Amazon vouchers, or a new set of golf clubs, or a holiday in Malibu for two) rests on how much they flatter you?

Don’t offer to enter your customers into a prize draw in exchange for their feedback. Even if you’re hoping to improve response rates.

It’s perhaps OK to offer everyone a reward for completing a feedback form, but it’s not really necessary.

Remember, the point of your feedback process is to give customers a chance to let you know how they’re feeling. They don’t need a bribe to do that – the biggest incentive of all is that you’re listening, and you’ll fix their problems for them.

6. Have a great process

It was all going so well.

You sold the customer the product they wanted at a price which was unbeatable. They had a few post-sales queries, so they called your team, and were blown away by the service they received.

And then.

Then you sent them a link to your survey via SMS. The SMS interrupted a special family dinner, which was annoying… But they remembered the message the next day and clicked the link.

The survey they saw didn’t work well on mobile – they had to scroll left and right and pinch and zoom, but OK… You had done really well for them, so they wanted to let you know. Oh, and they really wanted to let you know that the IVR software they’d had to deal with before speaking to you wasn’t working well.

Except… none of the questions you asked them were about that. The questions you asked all seemed to be written by your marketing team. They answered a few, and skipped a few more that sounded more like brainteasers than opportunities to give honest feedback.

Then, finally at the end of the 5-page survey, you slipped in the Net Promoter question. Angry and goodwill-exhausted, they rated you ‘6’. And never told you about the problems with your IVR.

Which is a pity, because it turns out that the IVR is so bad that 25% of your customers give up without ever getting through to your team. If only you’d known!

Your customer feedback process is itself a customer experience.

If you care about great customer service, you need to build a great customer feedback process. It’s no good focusing all your attention on eye-catching initiatives like staff training and a shiny website – your customers care as much, if not more, about how good you are at listening to them.

If you want to know how to build a brilliant customer feedback process, our book is the best place you can start.

7. Follow up

The biggest lie in customer feedback is that “you can’t respond to every bit of customer feedback”.

We’d turn this on it’s head:

The only reason to ask for customer feedback is if you plan to respond to it. The best companies know this and use it as a competitive advantage.

There is value in using NPS to monitor the success of your customer experience improvement initiatives, but if you don’t close the loop and reply to feedback where necessary, your NPS surveys are undermining the initiatives they’re trying to measure.

Some people thinking about trying this worry that it adds cost. On the contrary, the amazing contact teams that we work with report that it generates profit.

No customer fills in a feedback form hoping to be ignored.

If you’re just running text analytics on your feedback comments, or worse still disregarding them completely, the simplest improvement you can make to your NPS program is to stop making excuses and start replying to customers.

8. The Outer Loop

Following up with customers is only one of the two loops in the Net Promoter System.

NPS Closed Loop Diagram

The other loop, the ‘outer loop’ (using customer feedback to steer your process improvements) is also important. Our customers tell us that few things are as powerful at motivating change as real, verbatim customer feedback, so be sure you pass customer comments to your organisation’s process improvement teams.

But beware – although process improvement is vital, it will never deliver 100% customer satisfaction.

Why?

Because something can always go wrong. Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s IT systems, sometimes it’s all sorts of other things that mean a great process fails somehow.

The only way to know if this is happened is to ask your customers and give them the chance to tell you, so that you can put it right.

So whilst the outer loop is important, don’t attempt it until you’re up and running with a customer-centric feedback process, which treats every one of your customers as a potential source of repeat business and referrals, but most importantly, as a human being.

In Summary…

There’s one sure way to improve your NPS. Treat every single customer as an individual, don’t guess if you’ve done a good job for them, check, and put things right if you haven’t.

If only it were as simple to do as it is to say, there would be a lot more amazing customer service in the world.

But by keeping it as your objective, taking the customer’s side in every decision you make, and fighting their corner to others in your organisation, you can go a long way.

In his book which introduced NPS, Fred Reichheld goes to great pains to emphasise one of the main reasons to do NPS is because “it’s the right thing to do”. Behind every record in a CMS system is a real human being, with enough going on in their life that they don’t need the added burden of dealing with companies who don’t care about them. It just happens that when you do genuinely care your business becomes more profitable.

We hope these guides make it easier for you to make your team, or organisation more customer-focused, but if you need more bespoke advice, we love talking to people like you, so drop us a line and tell us what’s on your mind.

Where next?

NPS Surveys

Your survey is fundamental to getting NPS right - learn with examples and templates the best practices for an NPS survey.

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NPS Benchmarks

Looking for NPS Benchmarks? Don’t bother. Learn why not, and what you should be doing instead.

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Have we answered your questions?

Helping people use feedback better is what gets us out of bed on a morning. No matter if you’re new to this or a feedback guru, you can call us – we’d love to hear from you.