You don’t need to inhale to be doing Net Promoter. You don’t need to ask only one ultimate question. You don’t even need to call it Net Promoter. To be a Net Promoter practitioner, there are just three things your organization needs to be doing:
1. Systematically categorizing customers into promoters, passives, or detractors. If you prefer, you can call them loyal advocates, fair-weather friends, and adversaries.
2. Creating closed-loop processes so that the right employees will directly investigate the root causes that drive customers into these categories.
3. Making the creation of more promoters and fewer detractors a top priority so employees up and down the organization take actions based on their findings from these root-cause investigations.
If you are doing these three things, you are doing NPS.
What about the ultimate question—wasn’t that the title of the book? Isn’t it the quintessence of “true” NPS?
In fact we might have called the book The Net Promoter System, except that few readers were familiar with the term “Net Promoter” when the book was published. We wound up calling it The Ultimate Question because it really is possible to categorize customers effectively with one question, and doing so helps make the system extremely practical. But fixating on just one question misses the real point.
For example, I recently discovered one major firm whose executives denied they were using NPS, even though they were intently focused on getting more promoters and fewer detractors. Indeed, they passed all three of my criteria with flying colors. The reason they claimed not to be NPS practitioners was that they used an index with several questions to categorize promoters, passives, and detractors. In some of their diagnostic surveys, moreover, they asked multiple questions, not just one “ultimate” question.
Well, plenty of NPS companies utilize multiple-question surveys to sort customers into correct categories, and even more use multiple-question surveys as one of their diagnostic tools. Indeed, Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s system, on which the NPS framework was originally based, relies on a two-question survey, but the key is to be economical and ask only for relevant feedback. Some NPS practitioners start out with a several-question index and then discover that one question works even better. FileNet, the content management software firm (recently acquired by IBM), began its customer focus effort this way: the company started with a five-question index but soon evolved to a score based on one question. Even in the multi-question phase, the firm made outstanding progress. And FileNet’s managers certainly consider themselves NPS practitioners (as attendees of the FileNet presentation at our most recent NPS Conference in London can attest).
Some companies mistakenly conclude that they are not doing Net Promoter because they use a question other than the original “would recommend” question. They have found that their question provides a better solution for categorizing promoters, passives, and detractors. They should reread my book, which makes it very clear that not every firm should use the “would recommend” question. We noted that about 20% of firms will find that another question better correlates with the customer behaviors that drive growth in their business (repurchase, increased share of wallet, and referral). The key to a reliable NPS is the use of the right question or questions for a specific company, not whether the question used is “would recommend.”
More common than companies doing NPS and claiming not to be are the numerous firms now claiming that they are doing NPS when in fact they are not. They may be surveying customers with a question such as, “How likely is it you would recommend us to a friend?” But most of the root-cause analysis is done by statisticians at headquarters, who are searching for broad drivers of customer scores. There is no closed-loop follow-up between line managers or supervisors and individual customers. These companies are ignoring the power of the bottom-up feedback loops that are central to the NPS approach.
So before announcing to the world that you are doing Net Promoter (or not), I hope you will review the three criteria at the top of this blog. That is the only way to know whether you are really following the precepts of this powerful system —and whether you can reasonably expect the resulting benefits of accelerated and profitable organic growth.