Listening to the Voice of the Customer – are we asking the right questions with Net Promotor Score/ what are we really measuring?


I wanted to follow up on a piece written by John Dawes Ehrenberg-Bass  in 2018. The article had huge popularity and I imagine this was driven by the popularity of the NPS as a generally accepted best practice measure of the likelihood of positive WOM for a brand.  But John argues that it usually follows one or two questions to the customer about their recent service interaction so in that context it is more likely to be a measure of the satisfaction with the service experience than a measure of the likelihood of recommendation.  I totally agree. It might make senior management feel good that they have a high NPS but it’s next to useless if that number isn’t tan accurate reflection of the likelihood of positive work of mouth.


I’ve taken on a personal crusade against the way this question is framed and I’m sure it has absolutely no impact at all but it just feels good to have my say by giving high scores for my service interaction (if that is the case of course) and to then I jump ridiculously low for the NPS question.  I am then asked why that is the case and so my tirade begins. Like I said, I doubt anyone reads my tome but it feels better having had my say all the same.


John suggests asking “Have you recommended the company?” with some time frame such as a week or a month binding the question.  I think the recent interaction combined with the well-researched inability of consumers to recall anything with very much accuracy might provide some reliability issues and what we’re really concerned about here is validity.  Is the question measuring what it claims to measure?


I guess we first need to ask if the NPS question is asked because the company is looking to see how a recent service interaction has impacted an individual’s NPS (in which case we’d need to know what it was before the last interaction) or it is just a mean/global score that the brand hopes to increase over time and report back to the Board with a gazillion decimal places (another bug bear but for another time)?  Of course any increase would no doubt be attributed internally to superior service interactions but you’d have to be hopeful of a positive impact on market share for it to hold weight.


Maybe getting it right (or just a little bit better) isn’t too hard if the idea is to understand if the recent interaction is going to drive high levels of recommendation.  My concern as a brand-owner would be that regardless of how well I service a client, if that client is not in the habit of recommending a superannuation fund/airline/supermarket to family and friends, my brand might still end up with a low NPS.  I don’t think it requires too much more than some context. Perhaps we could expand the question with this approach “Based on this last interaction, if a family or friend asked you to recommend a superannuation fund, how likely would you be to recommend this fun?”  What do you think?


Take a look at the original article from John. https://rwconnect.esomar.org/why-net-promoter-score-is-actually-a-bad-tool-and-what-to-use-instead/






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