Net Promoter programmes have rightfully become a staple of many businesses. But as can be seen from CustomerGauge's recent NPS benchmark report, every programme can be improved.
So, as 2017 is looming on the horizon, I want to propose five areas in which you might want to check whether your Net Promoter programme is up to scratch. Or - if it isn’t - whether you should start planning some improvements in the coming year.
Any NPS programme requires a degree of housekeeping which isn’t always easy to do in complex organisations. Customer contact details are sometimes hard to get. Databases don’t match. Business rules get in the way of the number of surveys that can be sent. And then there is always that VP who thinks that you should add "just a few more questions” beyond what is strictly required. So, as a first check you may want to do a proper review whether your NPS survey still ticks all the boxes, and whether you’re surveying the people you should (rather than those who are convenient to reach).
2. Closing the loop on customer comments
Without actions, surveys are pointless. If someone spends precious time telling you what they think of your business, they deserve a more than being a tick on a bar-chart or a dot in a word-cloud. So check again whether your NPS programme follows up on every customer that requires attention, and whether this is done in a quality way. At a minimum these are the ones that were dissatisfied (detractors), but ideally they also cover those who are promoters of your business. I even know of one company which considers passives as a failure to delight and wants to take appropriate action.
3. The Willingness to Act on Insights
Beyond following up on individual customer comments, your organisation needs to act on the bigger issues and opportunities that emerge from the customer’s voice. Many companies lack the processes, incentives and communication platforms to make this happen across organisational silos. If this is the case in your business, you may want to double-check the willingness of the various leaders in the business to organise themselves around the customer. If this willingness exists, you can get started on the process track. If it isn't, you may want to reconsider your programme.
4. Engaging Information
If you’re a customer geek like me, you get excited about customer comments, NPS data and bright and shiny dashboards. For the other 98% of the population, this is not necessarily the case. This can lead to breakdowns. If people think the customer voice is boring (or worse), they will not engage with it. Subsequently, they will not take it into account.
So it's always worthwhile checking whether the way you share your NPS information is seen to be exciting and engaging. If it is, so much the better. However, if it comes across like most spreadsheet/barchart/coloured map programmes I’ve seen, you might want to make it a bit more fun.
5. Show the Money
Finally, no matter how tight a ship you run, it costs money to address customer issues and opportunities. When there is enough money around, this can be swept under the heading that you care for your customers. But when the going gets touch the budget cutters are bound to come out.
That’s why the last action can be a check to see whether the business case underlying your NPS programme is strong enough. NPS economics allow you to treat customer investments like any other development activity, but you do need to make sure that the decision makers clearly see this business case and use it in their decision making. If they don’t, you may find your efforts cut when your business needs them most.
While these 5 checks will not magically turn your Net Promoter programme into a global case study, they will make sure that you focus on the things that matter most. So may the Customer Force be with you...
If you are responsible for the customer experience (CX) in your business, you probably spend a good part of your days looking at Voice of the Customer (VoC) data, closed loop processes, journey maps and - if you’re really good - organisational capability assessments. You battle silos. You update KPI’s. You deliver presentations proving that customer-centricity really does make money.
This is all great work, and it should remain at the top of your agenda. It's what makes good companies great, and keeps them competitive.
But there is another part of the puzzle that should be considered.
While you’re improving today’s business, who is looking at your company's longer game? We live in a world where sci-fi sounding buzzwords like the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, blockchains, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering and mixed reality happily blend with ecological, political and socio-demographic shifts. Each of these topics on their own can be world-changing. What happens when they converge, no one can predict.
But in almost none of the customer experience projects I have seen, these topics are given adequate (any?) air time. All accept reality as it is today.
On the one hand, this is understandable. Most CX programme leads are so busy fixing the basics that anything that goes beyond the next fiscal year seems to take place in another life time.
But on the other hand, it’s also wrong. While we shouldn’t buy every story the Silicon Valley merchants peddle, the signs are clear that the next 5-10 years of technological and subsequent behavioural change will make the internet revolution look like a walk in the park.
While improving today, CX professionals also need to start planning tomorrow. This is important for very practical reasons. If you’re investing in new retail space or a rapid-delivery warehouse with a 5-10 year amortisation, you want to know the likelihood that your great idea of today will still be relevant in 2025. But it also matters strategically. In a world of ultra-rapid change, any existing experience will become a target for disruption as soon as the right start-up finds the right capital. If you are not proactively challenging the way your business engages with its customers, someone will start doing it for you. At which point you’re on the back foot.
So where do you start? Here are three suggested steps:
1. Make sure you’re up to date.
If words like IoT, blockchain or AI bemuse you, start reading up on them. If you’re already informed, keep learning more. No one really knows how the future will unfold and there is plenty of commercial hype (aka. branded content) to confuse us all. So build your own understanding of how technological and socio-demographic trends might impact your customer’s experience.
2. Start developing customer scenarios
Once you have oriented yourself, develop CX scenarios which let go of today's orthodoxies and look at customer life the way it could be. Like car companies create concept cars, start thinking of concept experiences. They don’t need to be feasible today, but the mere fact of thinking them through can inform your actions for tomorrow.
Don’t stay in the land of dreams and theory, but do stuff. Create a safe zone where you can experiment freely with new business and experience concepts. A place where you, and your colleagues, can interact with customers in new ways and learn. And when ever you hit something that works for your business, integrate it and roll it out (or spin it out if that's more realistic). If you don’t do it, someone else will.
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.