Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

Beyond the Net Promoter Score

Facts-About-Sunflowers

As published on SmartCompany, Tuesday 22 February 2011.

Ever think about how your expectations as a consumer drive the performance of your service providers? If you phone your service provider and update your home address details with a call centre agent, would the fact that they did as you asked be enough for you? As a customer you achieved what you set out to achieve. As a service provider, they responded to your request – all good, yes? Well, I am not so sure.

In Australia our expectations as a society around customer service are pretty low when we compare ourselves against other countries.

For many years, measures such as Customer Satisfaction and more recently Net Promoter Score (NPS) have dominated management’s attention. They have been used as the indicator of the ‘temperature’ of our customer base and in the case of NPS, an individual’s willingness to actively promote you to someone else. Interestingly, businesses today use these measures as lead indicators for future performance. The logic for selecting such a measure is that a dissatisfied customer is generally one who won’t last for long. Over time, if you leave a trail of customer dissatisfaction behind you, your business performance will be bogged down with costly remedial effort, not revenue-winning effort.

Please be careful using these measures as the key yardstick for how you’re performing. Satisfaction is a good measure of ‘temperature’ and for broad process performance. However, they’re best used as one input to a deeper look into the real opportunities. Loyalty is a tough gig and it requires going beyond expectations, consistently. If an organisation is not constantly monitoring at a detailed level how consumers understand and respond to all the service experiences in their lives, it’s all too easy to fall behind, fast.

Let’s go back to the simple example about updating your home address details. Yes, the mail arrived to your new address and you’re happy that your request resulted in a positive outcome. If someone were to measure how satisfied you were, I would guess you would have given a positive response to the data collector. A big tick! Well, not necessarily. There are many opportunities that might have been missed.

Firstly, the organisation now knows that you’re moving house. How could they have improved the interaction with you? Maybe offered some support in your move? If they were a telco they could have asked you whether you needed to optimise your current broadband services for that new home. A bank could have directed you to your local bank manager. If they were a utility provider then offering discounts with an electronic whitegoods partner may have been useful. Not one of these ideas is difficult, but in each example you will feel better looked after – that someone is thinking about how they can be relevant and valuable to you and your situation.

As marketers we are constantly striving to produce products that customers are willing to ‘walk over hot coals’ for. Take the case of the iPad and the long lines outside Apple stores! In an increasingly commodotised world with a decreasing range of options to differentiate, it is the customer experience that organisations can rely on in order to win.

When you next want to know about how well your organisation is doing, maybe start with asking yourself about the measurement tools you’re using. Why not measure yourself against what you could do for the customer not just what the customer expects. Measure and evaluate how well your people and website supports customers when they’re attempting to complete a task with you. I guarantee you that your performance data will be much more targeted and the insights from your measurement will be more actionable. Remember, our expectations as customers are pretty low, so big changes are possible for those organisations who set and pursue aspirational performance targets.

By Greg Muller, Chief Executive Officer

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