Should we really abandon the Net Promoter Score?

Presented by Fred Reichfeld as “the only indicator you need to grow” when it was first created, the NPS has now come under fire, with more and more articles challenging its supremacy. But rather than questioning the measure itself, shouldn’t we change the business practices that are derived from customer satisfaction indicators? 

At the end of May, Gartner reignited the criticism of the Net Promoter Score with a report (1), which was picked up widely, predicting that “75% of organizations will have abandoned the NPS as a measure of customer service success by 2025”. The attack is therefore focused on a single stage of the customer journey. 

To make this prediction, the authors of the article relied on a survey of 42 Customer Relationship Directors. For 58% of respondents, the decision to use the NPS came from their executive committee. However, a third of respondents said that the indicator would be of little or no value in effectively managing customer service activities. The authors of the report recommend replacing the NPS with the effort score and focusing on finding the root causes of customer dissatisfaction rather than on the value of the score. 

This is not the first time that the supposed Holy Grail of customer experience has come under fire. The Wall Street Journal also published a long critique (2) which went so far as to call the use of NPS a “dubious” management method. The article pointed to the indicator’s growing importance in companies’ financial reports and its increasing influence on executive pay. In addition to analyzing the statistical limitations of NPS metrics, the authors highlighted the fact that once these metrics were implemented as a component of compensation, managers or employees were tempted to manipulate the results of surveys to their advantage. They cite the case of Best Buy employees who share tips on forums on how to get a higher recommendation score. 

However, the authors were more concerned about the importance of the NPS in companies’ financial communications, even though the correlation between this indicator and turnover is almost impossible to verify without access to individual data. There is no shortage of alternatives to the Net Promoter Score that could fit with brands’ strategic objectives. In addition to the effort score, recommended by Gartner for the customer service experience, one could mention here the overall satisfaction score and the loyalty score (propensity to re-purchase or loyalty to the service). 

Raphaël Krivine, director of customer relations at Axa Banque, recently proposed (3) the creation of a new indicator, the Love Brand Score, which would make it possible to distinguish between unwavering attachment to a brand – the communities of fans that brands such as Apple, Free or Nike manage to win over – and transactional satisfaction. 

The opinion of Vincent Placer, partner at Colorado Groupe

The NPS cannot be the indicator that dominates all other measures of customer satisfaction. It is certainly well known and undeniably allows, at a global level, the comparison between consumers’ experiences of different brands and/or sectors. In on-the-spot surveys, it is common to compare several complementary indicators for a more detailed view. At the same time, the correlation between these different measures is very strong. Verbatims often provide more additional information than secondary scores. No customer experience measurement system is perfect and it must be built according to what you want to monitor.

 

The ROI of these systems lies in the ability to flag customers to be retained (or ambassadors to be consolidated) and not in the production of reports. The NPS is neither unquestionably better nor unquestionably worse for achieving this objective. Between now and 2025, the disruptive innovation of voice-of-the-customer management systems will be less about renewing indicators than about the ability to exploit customers’ conversations with the brand to predict their degree of satisfaction.

 

1. “NPS Is Everywhere, but It’s Useless for Customer Service”, Gartner, May 2021
2. “The Dubious Management Fad Sweeping Corporate America”, Wall Street Journal, 15 May 15th 2019
3. “Engagement client : après le NPS et le CES… le “LBS”?”, www.relationclientmag.fr,May 21th 2021

 

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