NPS Blog

The problem with pasta on a plane

It’s a long flight from the US to Singapore, where Bain recently held its fourth annual Asia-Pacific Loyalty Forum. And as it happens, on that trip, one of the attendees of the Forum had an experience that illustrates an important and all-too-common issue.

While in Singapore, I recorded a podcast with two long-time loyalty leaders―Brian Andrews, a former vice president at Intuit, and Linda Verba, head of service strategy at TD Bank―who were kind enough to sit down with me for a chat. Brian mentioned that on his flight, a deeply apologetic flight attendant had told him that all the other meals had run out and she could only offer him pasta.

It seems someone at the airline’s headquarters figured out the company could save money if the number of meals loaded on the plane exactly matched the number of passengers on board. The airline played the odds on how many people would ask for beef or chicken and then stocked exactly that number on the plane. The problem: The pennies saved on those meals came at the cost of an embarrassed employee and a potential insult to a business-class customer, who had paid a steep price for his ticket.

Fortunately for the flight attendant, she had found an understanding customer in Brian. He ate the plate of pasta and shared the lesson at the Loyalty Forum. To hear more about his “Where’s the beef?” experience, listen to the podcast at 28:30 (the second part of our two-part series with Brian and Linda). You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this page.

Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Do your customers’ have a predominant personality?

In the latest Net Promoter System℠ podcast, I chat with Kelly Conway, CEO of Mattersight Corporation. Mattersight’s applications combine analysis of customer conversations with data about those customers—as well as other aspects of the relationship—in near-real time to help employees serve those customers better. Its applications allow a company to do things like route customer calls to the reps who can best handle them or identify a customer who’s in distress and suggest ways to diffuse the situation.

I heard about Kelly and Mattersight from a member of the NPS® Loyalty Forum who had used Mattersight’s tools to improve customer service and sales. In this podcast, we explore just how much you can learn about how a call is going—and how to improve it—using Mattersight’s algorithms. We even talk about how customer groups at different companies have predominant personality types. And once you know what those are, you can hire employees to match them. I found what Kelly and his company do so fascinating that I had to share it. You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this page.

Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Lessons from long-time loyalty leaders

In our latest podcast, we bring you a conversation with two deeply experienced loyalty leaders, Linda Verba and Brian Andrews. Linda Verba is the EVP of Retail Operations and Service Recognition at TD Bank Group, and one of the prime architects of TD’s service culture. Brian Andrews was, until just recently, the Vice President of Customer Experience and Business Excellence at Intuit. He was an early member of the Loyalty Forum and has been a thought leader there for a long time.

In this, part one of our conversation, we reminisce about the early days of Net Promoter and how it has evolved from a score into a business system. We also look at some of the things TD Bank and Intuit have learned about how to make Net Promoter a powerful force for change in their organizations, such as branding it internally. Linda also describes some of the cultural reinforcements, such as TD Bank’s “1 to say Yes, 2 to say No” rule.

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this page.

Piloting change at Herman Miller

One of the biggest debates inside the Net Promoter community is about how many questions you should ask customers when you collect feedback. The fundamental issue is this: Should you try to include multiple-choice questions so you can do fast and easily quantified analysis?

Pam Carpenter of Herman MillerIn our latest Net Promoter System podcast, we delve into this issue and other common questions that practitioners face with the help of our guest Pam Carpenter, who is the employee communications manager at the office-furniture maker Herman Miller. We introduced you to Pam and her colleague Michael Ramirez, who is the senior vice president of people, places and administration, in an earlier podcast. They’ve agreed to let us follow them as they develop their Net Promoter System. In our earlier discussion, we talked about Herman Miller’s approach to customer loyalty and how the company chose Net Promoter.

In our latest podcast, Pam explores the challenges of getting the right kinds of feedback from customers. In classic Net Promoter style, the company has been asking customers two questions: “likelihood to recommend” and the open-ended “why?” questions. Now Pam’s team is debating whether to add more questions in the hopes of collecting more data.

You can listen to our discussion of this issue on iTunes or through the player on this page.

Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Creating a customer-centric company: Six paths to learning

Creating a customer-centric company: six paths to learningThis article originally appeared on

Creating a customer-centric company is tough in the best of circumstances. You have to rebuild your company’s culture, which means helping employees learn new ways of thinking and acting. You have to entrust frontline employees with the critical task of generating loyalty and enthusiasm among customers. And you have to teach employees the skills they need to achieve those results.

How to foster so much learning? The best companies rely on at least six tools to encourage employees in changing their behavior and then to reinforce those changes. Continue reading

Who keeps you jazzed about your job?

Who keeps you jazzed about your job?This article originally appeared on

“Fanatical” customer support is the mantra at Rackspace, an IT hosting company. Hype and fluff? Not so. Energized, motivated Rackers really do put in the discretionary effort that creates a better experience for customers. In turn, customers reward Rackspace with intense loyalty, contributing to the company’s 25% compound annual revenue growth and 48% profit growth since 2008.

To pull this off, Rackspace invests heavily in a culture of employee engagement, because making customers happy requires making employees happy. Importantly: Supervisors lead the charge. Rackspace insists that supervisors talk often with their groups to solicit employee feedback, identify the root causes of any concerns, and then follow through with meaningful changes to how work gets done. Continue reading

Like your job? Thank your boss

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Your boss has a lot to do with whether you like your work.

That may sound blindingly obvious, but surprisingly few companies treat direct supervisors and team leaders as the key to employee engagement. Instead, they delegate responsibility for engagement to corporate staff, usually HR. It’s a shame, because engaged, loyal employees play a critical role in delivering the kind of innovative and responsive service that earns customer loyalty.

Yet a broad study of 200,000 employees in 60 countries by my colleagues at Bain & Company in partnership with Netsurvey found that sales and service employees—those responsible for the most customer interactions—have the lowest level of engagement. Continue reading

Intelligent acts of kindness: Why it pays to be nice

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

I recently had to get a new cable box. Few companies can raise the ire of consumers like cable companies, with their DIY installation and sometimes weak service.

As the rep at my cable company’s local service location loaded me up with gear and forms, she took one critical step that would eliminate a hassle for me later: She wrote the serial code from the back of the cable box on the top of my form and circled it in red.

This is the number you need to phone in once you’ve hooked up your box and are ready for the company to turn on the service. But by that point, it’s usually in the dark recesses of your television cabinet behind an inaccessible tangle of wires, or, in my case, needs to be read upside down through bifocals. Continue reading

Introducing the Net Promoter System podcast

The Net Promoter System podcast

We’re always looking for new ways to help Net Promoter System practitioners around the world share their experiences as they try to build loyalty inside and outside their organizations. We recently launched a podcast on iTunes, in which I talk to veteran Net Promoter practitioners and industry experts about everything from employee engagement to the challenges they’ve faced on their loyalty journey.

My first guest was my colleague Fred Reichheld, who helped develop the Net Promoter System more than a decade ago.

A chat with Pam Carpenter and Michael Ramirez of Herman Miller, the office furniture maker, followed in our second podcast. Pam and Michael discussed Herman Miller’s approach to customer loyalty and how the company gathers feedback and uses it to improve its operations.  This is the first of several podcasts I’ll be doing with Herman Miller executives—they’ve graciously allowed me to check in with them every month or so about their Net Promoter journey.

Most recently, I talked to Gillian Smith, the chief marketing officer of City Year, the nonprofit that sends young people into urban schools to help struggling students succeed. City Year uses the Net Promoter System to gauge its relationship with its key constituents, including members of its corps, donors and the schools and communities it serves. What might surprise many executives is that City Year faces many of the same Net Promoter challenges as Fortune 500 companies.

Upcoming podcasts will feature guests from TD Bank, Vanguard and other major companies. We encourage you to check out the series on iTunes or listen on our website. You can also discuss these podcasts on Twitter, using the hashtag #npspodcast.

Why no one wants to take your survey

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Of the hundreds of survey requests you receive each year, to how many do you respond? How many times has a store invited you to take an online survey for the chance to win a gift card? (And have you ever received that winning card?) Does it really seem reasonable for a company to ask for your precious time, especially after a long work day, to log in and answer 10 or 15 questions about your shopping experience?

I always wonder who takes the time to fill out those surveys. Are they disgruntled and inspired to vent? Are they bored? I doubt it’s a representative sample set. I bet most of those receipts—the ones that belong to busy customers whose feedback really would be valuable—end up in the trash. Continue reading

Who inspires you at work?

Love your job? Thank your boss

When it comes to keeping employees engaged, few people are as influential as direct supervisors. Makes sense, right? You’re more likely to enjoy your job if your boss pays attention to your work, gives you the right tools for the job and listens to and addresses your concerns.

That may sound obvious, but surprisingly few companies treat direct supervisors and team leaders as the key to employee engagement. Instead, they delegate responsibility for engagement to corporate staff, usually HR.

In my latest blog post on LinkedIn, I look closer at this issue of employee engagement, an important factor in delivering a strong customer experience.

Read the post here: Like your job? Thank your boss


The four secrets to employee engagement

This article originally appeared on

How did you feel about coming to work this morning?

I’m sure many factors influenced whether you felt like digging right in, but one of the most significant was almost surely your boss.

It seems obvious: Direct supervisors who set their teams up for success, observe them in action, ask for feedback, identify the root causes of employee concerns, and then follow through with meaningful improvements have happier, more engaged employees. Continue reading

The oldest, best measure of customer happiness

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Customer service was simpler in the era before big box chains and online shopping. Back then, to delight his clients, a business owner simply needed to offer fair prices, convenient hours and honest advice. To really make an impression, he might deliver a customer’s purchases to his home or ask the shopper about her children. He probably knew most of the families he served.

Best of all, business owners had an excellent, instant measure of success: A customer’s smiling face.

Many transactions today involve very little human contact. Consumers can buy just about anything they want on their phones (after browsing online reviews and price comparison sites first, of course) while waiting in line for their morning coffee. And if a customer doesn’t like her latte, she may just dash off a complaint to the store’s Twitter feed instead of telling the barista. Or when shopping, if she’s not sure how a dress fits, rather than seeking honest advice from a sales clerk, she might post a photo on Instagram to get input from her friends. Continue reading

Don’t sit on customer feedback

This article originally appeared on

When you are driving a car, you get a steady stream of feedback from the road, from other drivers, from the dashboard gauges, and from the car itself. You know how to interpret the feedback and respond to it in real time, such as slowing down when the road feels bumpy. You may also begin observing patterns — the car begins to shimmy when you hit 35, say — and the patterns may lead you to other actions, such as making an appointment for repairs.

Meanwhile, dealers and automakers are gathering feedback of their own from you and millions of others and are making plans for fixes, improvements in the next model, even recalls. Note the close connection here between feedback and action. Feedback that doesn’t lead to action is meaningless. They are inseparable aspects of the same system. Continue reading

Leading by letting go

This article originally appeared on

If you are running a large company anywhere in the world, you have almost certainly asked yourself some version of this question: “How can we get tens of thousands of employees to deliver memorable customer experiences that enhance our brand, all at a reasonable cost?”

The answer many have latched onto might best be called “Tightening the Grip.” This involves making it easier for employees to deliver in the same way every time by prescribing exactly what they should do in all circumstances. In a customer service center, for example, you would create scripts for every possible interaction. You’d ensure quality by listening to recordings and holding service representatives accountable for meeting detailed standards, such as using a customer’s name a certain number of times on each call. You would recognize high performers, and you would discipline reps who didn’t measure up. You would also monitor average call time closely for every representative. To keep costs under control, you’d set goals for reducing it every year.

Jim Bush had a different idea, which I have now come to call “Leading by Letting Go.” I’ve mentioned him before in my blog posts, but I haven’t really told the whole remarkable story. Continue reading