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Eight Principles for Improving Customer Experience with NPS

In my last piece I shared my thoughts on the why Net Promoter Score is so popular. I’ll now share the NPS program model I recommend. It’s intended for the novice NPS program owner, as well as the veteran NPS program owner who isn’t getting the expected traction or results. This model has evolved since the four years when I implemented salesforce.com’s first ever NPS program across 15,000 employees. I’ve since modified it to make it more agile to fit the needs of small and mid-size clients.

While this process may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Remember to take it in incremental phases. As mentioned, this framework was honed over four years when I originally implemented it at salesforce.com. It didn’t happen at once. Year one, we just focused on the mechanics of effectively collecting feedback and closing the loop. Year two we set up a cross-functional committee to derive insights and recommendations. Year three, we had a decent baseline and began to conduct more robust analysis. And so on… 

Eight Principles for Driving Change with NPS

  1. Take the time to understand your customers’ journey, key touchpoints or moments of truth. Use this as a framework for determining how to measure the overall experience and where it is appropriate and most effective to assess likelihood to recommend.
  2. Design a feedback collection strategy to produce results that are reliable and representative. This requires attention to things like audience segmentation, customer maturity, and market segmentation. Also consider the effectiveness of the delivery channel, which impacts response rates. I also recommend frequent collection cycles with suppression rules to avoid respondent fatigue. This is where having a real time or in app feedback collection methods can be extremely beneficial.
  3. Make the feedback actionable not only at the front lines, but also for senior leadership who can influence changes in policies and procedures. Determine the best method for pushing the feedback into respective channels. This will enable you to get the desired outcomes such as service recovery for transactional engagements or changes in products, programs or processes for more strategic improvements.
  4. Avoid the “black hole” effect and respond to customers. There are many different approaches to this. It’s also a great place to get fun and creative about how you follow up on customer feedback whether that’s directly with the respondent or en masse through newsletters, social media, or the like. This lets your customers know their feedback is being listened to and acted on and increases the likelihood they’ll continue to share their feedback. It’s also an excellent way to improve customer empathy in the business by getting everyone involved in the activity, from senior leadership through front line employees.
  5. Strive for real insights. In the early stages of rolling out an NPS program, the sheer act of closing the loop and disseminating verbatim comments can build customer empathy and awareness. This is a great start if it isn’t already part of the culture. But to avoid internal NPS fatigue and disinterest over time, the goal of analysis should be to uncover key customer experience drivers, response and behavior patterns and themes, and links to profitability. The analysis should also mirror program maturity. The depth of insights will likely be pretty basic early on, but over time the analysis can become more robust. Many customer experience management platforms have analysis capabilities built in. For those not using those platforms, beg, borrow, steal or outsource the analyst resources.
  6. Develop an action plan. Once you’ve determined key issues and themes shaping the customer experience, engage managers and subject matter experts in a cross-functional dialogue to determine the root cause of the issues and determine strategies for improvement. This activity alone helps to break down departmental silos, increases organizational awareness, and creates customer experience advocates across the business. Equally importantly, having varying perspectives weighing in on the discussion adds depth and breadth to the understanding of the issues and resulting recommendations.
  7. Commit to a plan. Driving real improvements often requires some level of investment in the form of resources and/or funding. Relatedly, while changes to policy or process don’t always involve additional people or budget, they do require a change management effort to ensure they are effectively adopted throughout the business. Executive sponsorship for such a change efforts is a critical. Leverage the power of the cross-functional process in step six to make your case to leadership for the necessary investments. And get leadership bought in and supporting the plan however necessary.
  8. Measure and adjust. Establish a way to keep track of improvement targets, and regularly measure progress. One point of caution here. It’s not always possible to find a direct linkage between improvement X and resulting changes in the NPS score. It would be great if that were the case, but this is where I refer back to focusing on the system over the score. In the end, the goal is to improve customer engagement and experience. Just because that’s not showing up in the score doesn’t mean it’s not impactful or important. Cycle through steps six and seven regularly and adjust improvement strategies as needed.

I often say that customer experience is a place where science and art meet. Nowhere is it more relevant than when embedding NPS into the business. While there are definitely fundamentals to adhere to, it’s also a fun and powerful position to be in. Treat the program as a space to get imaginative about increasing customer empathy, engaging your customers, and being a change agent.

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