Pardon my skepticism, but is the new found religion around NPS (net promoter score) a bona fide trend toward higher levels of customer-centricity or an adoption of a simplified customer satisfaction statistic to add to the KPI (key performance indicator) dashboard? Frankly I have seen instances with clients that fall into either category. The organizations that I have observed that fit into the former are impressive in the way the customer relationship has become front and center of the organization. I like what I see. As a longtime advocate of the benefits of internal brand building I know that customer-centric cultures build strong brands. It seems to me that making a connection between internal brand building and improving NPS scores can provide useful insights for the benefit of both.
(In case you are not familiar with the concept of net promoter score here is some more information. A quick Internet search will produce a number of case study examples of different organizations that have incorporated NPS into their organizational development.)
Implicit to the notion of NPS is that clients who are willing to refer (register a high NPS score) are high performing customers. Many savvy organizations have modeled the impact of NPS on customer performance, measured by customer KPI’s. The KPI’s of a high performing customer differs based upon an organization’s strategy. Generally the KPI’s revolve around customer revenue, margin contribution, number of products used by an individual customer, customer penetration across an enterprise, number of users and assorted other transactional data. Many organizations have modeled how current KPI’s predict future business performance. The KPI modeling helps organizations put some hard numbers to thinking about customer relationships as “assets” to be managed, adding a strong rationale for managing NPS.
Strategies to improve the NPS score generally come in three flavors. One is a defensive, risk mitigation strategy focused on the “detractors“ that gnaw away at NPS. Another is tantamount to gaming the system. The other is a more holistic approach focused on increasing the level of “promoters.”
The most common of the NPS management best practices is to respond to those customers who log an NPS score of 6 or less, which categorizes them as a detractor. The process is known as “closed loop” remediation. When the customer reporting a low score tells the market research staff person the researcher reports the low score to someone in the organization. An employee or manager from the organization contacts the customer (detractor) in an effort to remedy the problem in an attempt to neutralize the customer’s negative feeling. The intent is to eliminate the detractor from future NPS measurements and limit the amount of negative references to family and friends. This practice is an effective “protect the lead” risk management strategy.
The next “strategy” boils down to gaming the measurement system. You may have experienced the retail approach when you have purchased a durable good (e.g., a car). The salesperson asks what else they can do to ensure that when the researcher calls you will provide a score of 10. Besides being irritating, this preemptive management of the score seems to belie the intent and power of NPS.
The most innovative organizations employ a two-pronged, holistic strategy to continually improve their NPS. In addition to a closed loop remediation program, these organizations focus on creating customer-centric cultures as an organizational development-driven strategy to improving NPS. They incorporate customer relationships into all key business processes and use a positive growth in NPS as their KPI. Following are best practices from business processes focused on proactively improving the “top-line” of NPS:
- Personalize the NPS framework so frontline employees can internalize its meaning and purpose. Helping employees empathize with customers who report a high and low NPS is helpful for them to internalize the concept.
- Provide employees with an understanding of how behaviors that result in “promoter” NPS scores (9-10) enrich customers’ lives.
- Demonstrate how positive NPS behaviors are supported by and are an expression of the organization’s core values and operating principles (simply characterized as its brand promise).
- Demonstrate how employees’ intentions and behaviors to make a difference for customers are in alignment with the organization’s values and operating principles. This results in supporting a customer-centric culture that is authentic in its desire to create NPS promoters.
A common thread through these best practices is tapping into the authenticity of the employee and the organization to create NPS promoters.
So how does internal brand building fit in? A credible internal brand-building program has at its core the alignment of employees’ behaviors with the organization’s strengths and intentions to build loyal customers relationships. (More information on internal brand building here.) When an employee’s personal brand values are in alignment with the organization’s brand values, customers benefit from a relationship that consistently meets or exceeds their expectations, the intrinsic driver of higher NPS.
At the core of a business culture that consistently improves NPS are engaged employees who believe they can make a difference for a customer and feel enriched when they do. When an employee believes and trusts in the personal/organizational values alignment they are energized to go the extra mile on behalf of a customer – the root cause of driving consistently high NPS.
Internal brand building is a process designed specifically to consistently deliver on the organization’s distinctive value proposition (its brand) – the best it can do for a customer. Brand by its very nature is about customer relationships and in its best form is based upon authenticity and depends upon internal alignment. An organization’s brand strength is based upon how well it applies its values and unique qualities to make a meaningful difference for a customer. We can measure how well an organization is delivering on its brand potential by measuring NPS.
Internal brand building is a business process that is uniquely qualified to drive the behaviors that improve NPS. At the same time NPS is a practical metric for measuring how well an organization is delivering on its brand potential and making the difference customers expect of them.