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...
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be involved with some of the largest - and smallest - Voice of the Customer (VoC) and Net Promoter(tm) programmes. I’ve had the privilege of being part of some great successes, but have also worked on initiatives to rectify some epic fails. Each experience gave valuable insights in what works and what definitely doesn’t.
So when my colleague, Marina Natanova and I sat down to compile a checklist of what real Champions of the VoC game do to make their programme a success, I thought it might be relevant to share some of the lessons learned in this post.
Some of the points raised are obvious. Some are more advanced. I’d be curious to hear how many boxes you are able to tick :-)
#1. Make the customer voice a C-suite topic
Too many VoC programmes live in the realms of service improvement. Surveys go out, alerts are raised, loops are closed, reports are published. While all of these activities are critically important, there is a bigger prize to be had.
The real - big picture - value of VoC lies in the way it can influence C-Suite decision making. Getting senior executives to truly understand the power of the customer’s voice and use it as the basis for their decisions, can create business value which eclipses that of any efficiency or improvement programme.
VoC Champions aren’t satisfied with a run of the mill VoC programme. They make it their explicit goal to use solid data and a lot of persistence to get every C-suite member on the bus.
#2 Show the business the money
Responding to customer feedback costs time and money, while the ROI of the actions taken is often intangible. As one CEO told me, “People get paid in Euros, not in happy faces". So for VoC programmes to resonate with the business, they need to clearly make the link between customer comments and money made.
VoC Champions realise this and make an effort to turn customer value theory into reliable data. They do this because they know that - once available - this data quickly shifts the conversation from being nice to customers, to maximising ROI. In fact, I have seen the right numbers convince some of the most hard-nosed CFO’s to become avid customer advocates in the span of hours.
#3 Accept that VoC is a work in perpetual progress
When establishing (or reviving) a VoC programme, many professionals want to get it right. They want to buy the best software, come up with the most elegant processes and get life down to a handful of metrics. VoC Champions accept that this won’t happen overnight.
They accept that they live in a world of insufficient time, budget constraints, corporate politics and therefore … compromises. Rather than fight this reality, they embrace it and consider their VoC programme as a work in perpetual progress. Not by lowering standards, but by deliberately (and formally) implementing a programme to continuously improve the way they collect data, conduct surveys, close loops, make reports and influence the business.
This way they don’t just get over the compromises, but they also eliminate their own bias and keep their programme in tune with the latest developments.
#4 Make sure that the business practices active listening
The raw voice of the customer can shift organisations. However, if it’s not acted upon, the customer's words aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed. Worse, if you ask for customers’ opinion and then don’t act on what they’ve said, you might even give them more cause to be annoyed with you than they already were.
VoC Champions relentlessly keep an eye on this hygiene factor. They make sure that the loop is closed on every single customer comment, every single day. In doing so, they go beyond merely responding to customers which have offered up some of their valuable time to give feedback.
They also make sure that employees can contribute their perspective through a quality Voice of the Employee (VoE) programme and use these combined insights to make sure that the business improves at every future customer interaction.
#5 Focus your technology on what matters
Unless the business decides to outsource their VoC programme as a managed service, it's going to have to deal with technology. VoC Champions make sure that this technology delivers information which is:
VoC Champions understand that as long as the technological platform they choose delivers the above, they'll be safe. If it doesn’t, or isn’t flexible to accommodate, at some point in the future they realise they'll run into trouble.
#6 Keep the people on the VoC bus
Beyond C-suite strategies (see above), business success is made up of hundreds or even thousands of small decisions and daily actions.
To make sure that each of these small steps are aligned to the customer’s needs, VoC Champions make sure that employees are willing, skilled and able to listen and act on the customer voice. Not just in sales and service, but at every level of the organisation. Financial teams, marketers, logistics specialists, HR and IT all need to be exposed to their relevant part of the customer voice and be encouraged to get involved.
That is why VoC Champions set up awareness and engagement programmes (backed by operational KPI’s) which ensure that customer conversations stay top of mind. They share success stories that make customer engagement fun and encourage further participation. And those Champions that are really on the ball even work with HR to align the employee experience to the experience they want their customers to have.
#7 Consider VoC as a way of life, not a programme
I know it sounds lovey dovey and smells of apple pie, but VoC isn’t about the processes, technologies and tools. It’s a state of mind. It’s about employees pro-actively reaching out to customers to solve problems and better meet their needs. It’s about leaders getting out of their chair to go into the market and expecting their teams to do the same. It’s about various departments sitting around the table to jointly address customer insights as part of their decision making or innovations.
VoC Champions get this. They focus their efforts on building a culture that does the above, realising the various tools of the VoC trade remain important, but almost become incidental.
They do this because they know that if their people haven’t got the customer vibe, the sleekest of technologies, best documented processes and most swanky reports, won’t get the job done.
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.