While talking with service enthusiasts about NPS, it's usually easy for us to predict what those with lower scores really believe about customer service. We seem to know the reason intuitively and can follow it up with “Wish they would listen to me” or “It will not change until we do…”. My personal belief is that a negative equals a positive only in physics, but not in Customer Service. We need to take a harder look at the survey strategy, work culture and customer communication to see what's going wrong. Even bits and pieces of changes in these line items will help in meaningful transformation within an organization.

I've had the opportunity to work through these business transformation exercises and wanted to share my knowledge. I hope a similar approach or an evolved version can help service leaders around the world.

The Fundamentals: NPS = Net Promoter Score

NPS is a sentiment tracker of your customer base that tracks the answer to just one question, “What is the likelihood of you recommending our product or company to your friends?”

The scale is from 0 to 10. On this scale, scores between 0 and 6 are considered detractors, while 7 to8 are passive supporters and 9 through 10 are promoters. Needless to say, your company needs more promoters than detractors. The NPS score is an absolute number between -100 and + 100 calculated by the math expression %Promoters - %Detractors.

For this post, I won't focus on how to run an NPS/VoC program. (If you're interested in that, I recommend this blog post that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading for the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘why not’ questions around NPS. My philosophy around NPS feedback is that the score is great for marketing purposes, but the feedback is the real meat.

With that informational foundation, let's jump to my transformation journey.

Problem: Survey Results Show Negative Sentiment

When you get a negative sentiment result, you'll need to work quickly and intelligently to fix the customer experience. The right team and a solid strategy can help you get back on track and truly execute an effective transformation at your company.

1. First, review feedback (comments) from all past surveys and identify a list of Top 20 gaps. Keep in mind that: 

  • You have enough tools out there to work the magic on data analytics and show sentiments. Confirmit helped us pull customer sentiment from comments using tags on specific adjectives
  • While objective data (Score based on segment, region & products) is important, for this part of the exercise you just need to focus on comments.

2. Now, you need to assemble a SWAT/Tiger team to work on fixing the Gaps. Here's how:

  • Form a team to identify which gaps have been fixed already and which ones you still need to work on
  • Assign gaps to be fixed to respective functional leaders
  • Set target dates for completion
  • Assign a project coordinator to track the progress and help the team stick to important milestones

3. Next, communicate your plan to the customer:

  • Email all your customers and let them know that you've heard their feedback and are taking steps to address the issues(you might want this message to be addressed by your CEO or CCO)
  • List changes that have happened so far
  • List changes that are planned/to be worked on and provide a time frame for future changes
  • If future changes take more than one quarter, communicate again to your user base and be sure to share your progress
  • If possible, share your team's names in the email so your customers can see that you've dedicated staff to the project's success

4. After communicating with your customers, it's time to revisit survey questions, contact lists, and strategy:

  • Review and revisit the survey questions with the tiger team:
    • It's important to limit the survey to actionable items while avoiding rhetoric and focusing questions so that they're relevant to your organization
  • While you review your contact list for the survey, make sure it has:
    • Accurate data– No typos, correct emails, first names, company names, etc
    • Current customers list- No ex-customers. Remove them from your list before sending your survey out.
  • Review your strategy:
    • I understand most NPS methodology suggests you use a periodic survey model to send to decision-makers. I would argue, though, that it does depend on your business model. If you're a retailer, you depend on every transaction being an important experience to track, and not just once-a-year overall experience. If applicable, start including NPS questions into your transaction surveys. Make sure you do transaction surveys in every touchpoint with customers(sale, renewal, and service)
    • Having a periodic survey on top of this is ok, but if you do both it might impact your response rate
    • Make sure you color code or add images to the scale for the NPS question to represent the sentiment factor. Basic arithmetic taught us 5 is the median for 0-10. Most customers swing towards 5 because it's normal for human beings to go for the average and avoid extreme answers at either end of the spectrum unless they're motivated by strong sentiments to choose a high or a low number. However, in NPS, a 5 means a customer is a detractor. This means we need to make this very clear to the survey responder so they can see what is passive Vs detractor Vs promoter in the scoring methodology
  • Attract your promoters:
    • If you've had a long history of product or company evolution, your attractors might shy away from responding thinking they have already spoken
    • Bring them forward to provide feedback by incentivizing with a gift card, VIP tickets to your company events or even loyalty discounts
    • Remember NPS = Promoter%- Detractor%
  • Communicate your progress and kick off the survey
    • Before you survey, share what’s already been improved by the tiger team and kick off the survey campaign
  • Result, Rinse and Repeat
    • You will see improvements and would see gradual improvement. Learn from the feedback and keep improving

Guess what? That's it!

For me, the game-changer was:

  1. Communication on improvements and forward plan 
  2. Ensuring we take feedback seriously and make quick improvements
  3. Attracting promoters
  4. Clarifying the scale for scoring

I didn't stop there and I continued to focus on customer feedback, working with the tiger team to work on the feedback received. Our negative score started diluting with few drops of positivity thanks to our hard work. Over time, it's now fully positive. In my case, it's Negative and Positive = road to Positive Sentiment

Happy transformation!