In a recent interview, Richard Owen, CEO of Satmetrix, said that companies who don’t see benefits from improving their Net Promoter Score® are probably not measuring Net Promoter Score correctly. He says poor sampling is to blame:

“They may have very poor response rates, or have selective data. So they could be looking at the data and thinking they’re improving when actually what they’re really suffering from is poor quality of data.”

Richard Owen is right: lots of surveys suffer from a multitude of sampling biases. But that doesn’t explain why companies can have high Net Promoter Scores and sinking sales. In fact, as a prominent study by Timothy Kenningham (of Ipsos Loyalty) explains, companies may not see benefits from tracking Net Promoter Score because NPS often fails to correlate with revenue.

INTERACTION THINKING APPLIEDnet-promoter-score-is-tired

The team at Interaction Metrics hypothesizes that there are many reasons why Net Promoter Score does not necessarily correlate with profitability. But above all, it’s a tired, generic question that may not even be appropriate for some companies to ask. “Me-too” questions rarely produce information that will drive the insights needed to actually improve companies.

Because so many organizations—from Trader Joe’s, to Sony, to B2B firms—use the NPS question, customers have become bombarded by it. When you drone on in ways that don’t engage with customers, customers may feel like you don’t really care about their survey answers—and may respond accordingly.

It’s like when a stranger asks you “how are you doing?” No one takes the time to give a thoughtful answer—they just say, “fine.” It’s the same for your customers. When you ask, “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” they may not take the question seriously. Instead, they often just say, “Sure, I’d refer you,” regardless of how they actually feel. I know I’ve been guilty of this when hurrying to check out at Enterprise Rental Car.

Companies may think things are great, but if their customers are giving off-hand answers, then those customers’ voices aren’t really being heard.

There is a way to avoid this problem and preserve the simplicity of NPS: ask questions that are relevant to your customers and their specific experiences. When your customers feel listened to, they’re inclined tell you what they really care about—and you’ll be able pinpoint opportunities to improve your customer experience, your business, and your bottom line.

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