NPS fits hand in glove with most firms’ Six-Sigma process-improvement efforts, so many organizations have appointed their process-excellence staffs to lead NPS implementation. This makes sense in many ways, especially in the early rounds of NPS program development and rollout. The process-excellence folks know how to measure, and they know how to analyze the root causes of what they’re measuring.
But I’ve observed a common problem when the process-excellence team becomes the primary driver of NPS. As you might expect, most of their effort goes into fixing problems. And where NPS is concerned, what counts as a problem is a detractor. So the teams design surveys to identify detractors, then create internal processes to analyze the root causes that turn customers into detractors.
That’s fine as far as it goes. But eliminating detractors is only one part of the challenge NPS addresses. Eliminating detractors may cut costs, free up resources, and end the energy drain that detractors create. But it can’t serve as the engine for driving growth. The key to faster growth is to create more promoters.
When I developed the Net Promoter Score framework, I even considered ignoring detractors, and measuring only the percentage of customers who were promoters. Many successful organizations do just that; their primary measure of success is the number of customers who are delighted. My decision to include both promoters and detractors in NPS reflected my view that most companies would be foolish to overlook the bad-profit policies and flawed processes that turn as many as half their customers into detractors. Upon reflection, I still believe this was the right decision.
But firms can’t achieve superior organic growth unless they also develop the right organizational processes to create profitable promoters. They need a separate process for understanding the root causes that create promoters. Then they need to prioritize innovations and investments designed to create more promoters, test them, and roll out the best programs.
The Six-Sigma team may not be the right part of the organization to carry out this task. Rather, the marketing department and the executives responsible for managing the overall customer experience should play more of a leadership role. Or maybe the delivery of an exceptional customer experience should be a core line responsibility of the business’s general manager. That makes sense to me.
One of the best solutions to this dilemma that I have seen was crafted by a CEO who recognized that Six-Sigma staffers would inevitably drift toward small ideas focused on detractor reduction. So he insisted that each business-unit general manger identify one or two major investments (“big bets,” he called them) that could create a quantum improvement in generating promoters. This CEO requires regular updates and detailed progress reports on these initiatives, just as he would for an important acquisition or cost-reduction campaign. By raising “promoter creation” to this level of visibility, he has been able refocus his company’s NPS efforts appropriately.
We would love to hear about other approaches that have been successful in generating more promoters, so please do share your experiences with the community.