Let’s get the rant part of this blog out of the way right up front: I am not a fan of Net Promoter Score (NPS®)1 for the contact center. No hidden agenda here. I am tired of the topic coming up and wish it would go away. But I will continue to engage in thoughtful discussions about it, because that’s what consultants do, and because I’m not going to get my wish.
For those not familiar, NPS is a one question survey tool using a 0-10 scale that asks whether the customer would recommend the company to others. It then applies a single calculation to the percent of ratings on the high end (9 or 10 – the “promoters”) and low end (0-6 – the “detractors”) to come up with one number. [Note that it ignores those in the 7-8 range.] It was initially created by Fred Reichheld in 2003 to focus on growth and customer loyalty. It has been implemented by countless companies, with or without the engagement of NPS experts. Google NPS and you’ll find numerous articles touting the strengths of NPS and another slew beating it up in a variety of ways. Part of the debate is whether and to what degree it correlates with company growth.
We often see clients using NPS as part of a corporate initiative. The contact center becomes engulfed directly and/or indirectly – the former by using an NPS question (or some variation) in its post-interaction surveys, the latter by discounting contact center metrics because it’s all about NPS. We’ve had clients say things like, “It doesn’t matter what our other metrics are as long as our NPS is good.” I bristle when the abandon rates are high, service level low, or other metrics are screaming for attention. We’ve also seen situations where the center’s focus is on improving NPS. In thoughtful discussion, I will quickly argue that there are many factors outside of the center’s control that can influence customers’ views of whether or not they would “promote” the company. I will also point out the many factors at play in an interaction – the menus endured at the start, the speed to answer, routing, agent training and tools, the number of transfers, etc. Each interaction is arguably more complex than one question of customer promotion can capture. And I’ll point out that if your charge is to manage a center efficiently and effectively, grow revenue, improve service, and/or cut costs, this one number is not going to give you much insight on where to focus.
Silver Bullet: noun. A quick solution to a difficult problem
I think “silver bullet” is a big part of the intrigue and staying power of NPS. Leaders want one easy metric to tell the whole story. On the surface, NPS seems like it could deliver. But NPS is intended to measure brand loyalty, not the customer’s experience on a contact center interaction. For that, we need “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) or Customer Satisfaction measurements, typically gathered by a survey immediately after (or nearly so) a call (or chat or…). These measurements generally have a few questions and include the opportunity to leave comments, which are invaluable and do not nicely fit into ANY calculation. The questions reflect the agent performance and the overall experience, including things like whether the contact addressed their needs fully. VoC is an essential part of a balanced metrics strategy that also addresses productivity factors like occupancy, customer experience indicators like Service Level and First Contact Resolution (FCR – which multiple studies correlate highly with customer satisfaction), quality monitoring, and ideally financials such as cost per contact.
I was recently presenting a session on, “Making the Grade: Benchmarking, Best Practices, and Other Tools to Assess Your Center” at a contact center conference hosted by the Credit Union Association of New Mexico (CUANM). We had a very engaging discussion about NPS (see, I told you I can behave!). All those scenarios I mentioned above came up. Heads nodded, people smiled. One person even offered up a new “silver bullet” question I hadn’t heard (and similarly don’t like – but we’ll save that rant for another time), something like: “If you had your own business, would you hire the person who just helped you?”
The search for the one metric will continue. I will keep beating my drum for a balanced set of metrics to manage centers effectively and gain insights into target areas for improvement. Will you join my drum circle?
A long-time friend and colleague of mine from the contact center industry, Jay Minnucci, wrote an article (“To NPS or Not NPS”) in the February 2015 issue of Contact Center Pipeline on this topic. I thought he positioned it well and have repeatedly pointed people to it. I encourage you to read it and keep a copy handy for the next time you get drawn into a thoughtful discussion of NPS and the contact center.
Other resources to give you more insight on alternatives to NPS that pursue great insight and lead to action and improvements from customer feedback include our affiliate Interaction Metrics (www.interactionmetrics.com) and Customer Relationship Metrics (www.metrics.net).