If you want to join a really hot debate, get into the discussion about how best to measure how happy your customers are with your brand. On the one hand you have the gurus of Net Promoter Score (NPS) – the simple measure that takes the percentage of people that say they will recommend your brand to their friends and subtracts the percentage who say they won’t, to give you the net result. On the other hand is the set of people who think NPS isn’t the most robust measure and who advocate traditional customer satisfaction measures and any of 1001 esoteric variations.
If you are a marketer you probably just want all the researchers to argue amongst themselves – you’d rather get on and do something about how your customers feel about your brand. Me too. After more than 15 years measuring and managing customer satisfaction indices of one kind or another, I’ve concluded it’s too easy to get lost in theoretical debates, and much more important to take what you know about your customers’ views and actually do something about it!
NPS is a great place to start. Whatever the theoretical arguments, most of us would agree that having a load of customers out there actively recommending our brands would be a good thing. The key thing is how to get that to happen. As you can see in this great blog on customer experience, NPS scores vary hugely and usually correlate pretty well with business success. Once you have an NPS score, there is a whole industry offering to measure, analyse, create multi-variate analyses of your data and more. Some of that might even be useful, but here are a few action-related points I find to be true in most cases – they might just work for you too:
NPS is about your individual experience. Whether you recommend that brand of car or of washing powder is about the personal experience you had – buying it, using it, dealing with the company behind it. When you take this as your starting point, you realise that driving NPS isn’t about big marketing campaigns or process re-engineering programmes. Those might be ingredients, but only in as far as they impact the individual customer’s experience. The right starting point is to understand that experience from the customer's point of view.
NPS is incredibly fragile. It only takes one rude sales agent or call-centre agent to put a customer off recommending your brand to their friends. A recommendation is a big big deal – if I recommend to you, I’m putting my own reputation on the line and the thing I want least is to be embarrassed that I made that recommendation – so if I have any reason to believe a brand might not deliver for my friend, I will not recommend them. As I wrote in Marketing Madness, the collection of individual customer experiences creates my impression of a brand – they need to be both positive and internally consistent.
NPS needs language. I’m going to talk more in a later post about the language of marketing and the importance of words to our customers, but NPS is a particularly interesting case. As consumers we don’t generally go around recommending brands to each other – it just doesn’t come up in conversation all that often. So for a brand to get a positive NPS score we need to give consumers active reasons to recommend us – things that they personally can “brag about”- “look what I got because I’m a brand x customer”.
NPS can’t be bought. The flip side of giving customers reasons to recommend us is that it’s very hard to bribe them to do it. There will be cultural differences in different markets, of course, but I remember vividly the first time I launched and then researched a “recommend a friend” scheme – we realised that offering a big financial benefit for introducing a friend actually reduced recommendation, because customers did not want their friends to think they were so easily for hire.
Conclusion? NPS of course isn’t the be-all and end-all. As Valeria Maltoni says in this post, you need to get behind the simple figures to really understand what is going on in your customers’ minds. A great start, though, is to consider the customer not as a statistic but as an individual. Are you delivering experiences to individuals that make them inclined to recommend your brand – not just at the big marketing and sales touchpoints but in the everyday contacts which really matter to the customer?
What do you think? What brands do you recommend and why, and what practical lessons would you add to mine for brands to consider?