Some people claim that the key to earning loyalty is to WOW your customers. I don’t know about you but to me that language seems a little bit over the top. “WOW” sounds like a mantra from some pop-culture guru, not a serious business proposition. And yet any company implementing NPS must find a way to convert customers into promoters. This usually requires doing something noteworthy—something so surprising that customers take notice and talk about it to others.
Why so? Isn’t it enough to remove defects and consistently satisfy customers? Given the way the human brain is engineered, unfortunately, there is a good chance that customers will come to expect that flawless execution—and hardly notice it. With so much data pouring in from our five senses, the only way our brains can cope is to rely on pattern recognition. Instead of registering every bit of data, the brain simplifies its processing requirements by recognizing patterns. Then it can attend to other issues, paying little attention to individual bits of data or events—unless they are inconsistent with the pattern.
So if the customer’s experience fits a perfectly predictable pattern—perfect, that is, from the perspective of a zero-defects engineer—it is probably boringly predictable to the customer and will therefore be ignored. That raises the bar. To create promoters, companies must not only minimize errors, they must also innovate. They must break out of the pattern that their customers’ brains have come to expect.
The New York Times recently ran an article about some research on successful relationships. A leading social scientist who had been observing marriages concluded that for continued harmony, a spouse needs to positively surprise his or her partner an average of five times for every disappointment. I’m not sure if this 5:1 ratio is the same for successful long-term business relationships, but it makes sense that we need to provide positive surprises for customers far more often than we disappoint them. And given that we are all human, we will certainly deliver negative surprises upon occasion no matter how much we work toward zero defects.
So finding innovative (and economical) ways to delight customers is a vital process for earning loyalty and creating promoters. But is it wise to refer to this core process as WOW? Doesn’t this serious idea deserve more serious language? A quick poll at our last meeting of the NPS Loyalty Forum (a group of NPS practitioners that meets quarterly to share best practices and solve implementation challenges) identified a range of different labels they use for WOW customer experiences: positive outlier, differentiated, premium value, extraordinary, delightful, remarkable, noteworthy…..the list goes on.
I wonder which of these names does the best job of capturing the essential idea. Maybe the name is inconsequential. But naming things implies a taxonomical hierarchy of relationships. This framework then underpins the creation of knowledge. For example, scientific progress in biology didn’t take off until Linnaeus created a process to assign a single name for each species. Would the six sigma process quality efforts have achieved such powerful reductions in error rates if the program had instead been labeled OOPS? WOW just might lack the gravitas required to achieve serious management attention. We can’t afford to let this vital process get pigeonholed as vacuous marketing-speak. I would welcome comments from any netpromoter.com community members who have suggestions regarding the best language for labeling this process for generating the positive surprises required to create promoters.