The concept of the net promoter score is great (if you don’t know what it is, you can find an explanation about the tool from Satrmetrix here). The concept is simply to find out how likely something is to refer or promote your company or product. It’s a two question survey – how likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend – and then, why?
The real power of the survey is in the second question – the why. But, in our opinion, so many companies have distorted the survey process, many of the scores that companies tout are completely worthless.
Here’s what has happened – as an illustrative example. A company, say a software publisher, decides that they are going to use the net-promoter score as part of their reseller satisfaction ranking. They embed the net promoter questions as part of a larger survey that asks about their software, their reseller’s performance, their support performance and then they ask the 2 net promoter questions.
Then, they send out the survey. The resellers, wanting to get the best possible ratings, start telling their customers about the survey and they will get asked how likely they are to refer the software publisher. Then they tell the customers that they would appreciate a 9 or 10 rating and that anything less than a 7 makes them look bad.
So what happens? Of course the really upset customers give bad ratings, but customer opinions may also be confused by the other questions asked in the survey or they may be unclear if the survey is asking how likely they are to refer the software publisher OR the reseller. Then, some of the customers remember the request from the reseller and the ones that are just satisfied, give a 9 or a 10, as do the ones who are truly thrilled.
Now the results no longer matter in terms of net promoter – because the results are completely diluted or invalidated by the multiple questions in the survey and by the reseller’s request for the 9 or 10 rating. The software company has numbers, but they don’t really give an accurate reflection of satisfaction and cross-resellers measurements are worthless because some resellers game the system and some don’t.
We’ve seen this happen with car companies and their dealers, with restaurant franchises and the list goes on.
So, if you want to use the net-promoter concept to improve your business and to truly understand who your evangelist customers are, then great, use it. But don’t poison your results by explaining the rating scale or asking for certain scores. And please don’t base compensation or rewards on the scores, because then the people or groups being measured will poison your results in their favor.