How to use NPS to improve customer experience

Behaviours at the front line are being driven by the need to deliver a score rather than an experience.

As I sit in the car showroom waiting for my invoice to be printed out, the Sales Advisor passes me an iPad and asks if I’d mind completing a customer satisfaction survey.

He explains it’s from head office and it’s really important for him. He then explains that in the next few days I’ll receive a dealership survey from the car manufacturer and that the scores from the manufacturer survey make a big difference to the dealership (which is true – given how manufacturers reward dealers).

Hang on! So this whole wonderful purchase experience is now overshadowed by the need to complete an NPS survey so that the dealership gets a good review…and the person I’m reviewing is sitting right in front of me.

Shouldn’t the whole purpose of measuring my satisfaction be to improve my experience? Yet, here I am feeling under pressure, a bit uncomfortable and frankly a pit peeved that I’m having to undertake more paperwork - simply to ensure the right ‘score’ for the dealership.

I know this is not specific to one particular dealership or car manufacturing as a sector but it is symptomatic of the increasing focus on NPS or CSat scores as both a measure of customer satisfaction and a proxy for improved performance.

The attraction of a 20% improvement in Customer Satisfaction increasing revenue by 15% (McKinsey & Co) or 86% of buyers being willing to pay more for a better experience (Forbes) is a no brainer. However, it now seems that behaviours at the front line, where it matters the most in terms of the customer, are being driven by the need to deliver a score rather than an experience.

Meanwhile, back at head office, they will be nodding sagely as scores increase, thinking that the business is improving or, perhaps more likely, wondering why improving NPS scores are not translating through to the promised business benefits. And therein lies the dilemma.

Measurement is clearly important, but what’s far more important is how any measurement process is used to drive behavior at the front line and head office. Instead of a broad brush tick box exercise around measurement, which will only ever result in a quantitative ‘survey’ approach with your customers (as well as an aftertaste of annoyance), businesses should be thinking more qualitatively to use their NPS process to change specific activities and actions.

Here’s our top five things to think about to ensure your NPS or CSat measurement process actually improves your customer experience:

  1. Be specific - discuss and agree at Head Office what particular processes need to be looked at and focus your measurement approach on talking to customers about how they would like these to be different

  2. Provide training - train and monitor your frontline staff on the behaviours you want and expect to see for the benefit of the customer, including how to approach the customer satisfaction measurement process

  3. Educate people - Remind all of your people that NPS or CSat is simply a tool to help focus on what’s important and not an objective or outcome in it’s own right. The objective is a happy customer not a completed survey

  4. Reward the right behaviours – Ensure the reward model drives the right behaviours that does not rely solely on the scores. Look instead at the outcomes and behaviours that determine the scores

  5. Engage the whole business – It’s not just front line employees who can impact on customer satisfaction. Ensure that approporiate customer measures are embedded across the organisation.

We all know about the carrot and stick syndrome. It's human nature to do what gets measured. If you want to get the desired results from a customer experience point view, take the target of NPS away and embed a more holistic approach to customer satisfaction insight instead. After all any NPS scores are only ever directional, pointing out the areas that, from a customer perspective, require attention.

The next time you look at your customer experience measures, NPS or CSat, reflect on how these numbers and importantly, the process that generates them, are tangibly helping to improve the customer experience or are they simply being viewed as a target to be hit?