NPS Blog

Want royally happy customers? Never skimp on service

Want royally happy customers?Ever wonder why Ritz-Carlton hotels serve afternoon tea? You know, that light “meal” with the fussy cucumber sandwiches and miniature eclairs on tiered platters that seem more fitting on Downton Abbey than in a 21st-century hotel restaurant.

After all, a proper tea service is undoubtedly expensive to do well when you factor in the cost of pastry chefs, formal waiters and maybe a classical pianist to set the right ambience. For a fixed price, patrons can linger, talk and sip a pot of tea—not order the finest bottle of pinot noir or some artisanal charcuterie.

Tea service is a relic from a bygone era, but hotel legend Horst Schulze would never think of getting rid of it. As he explains on the latest Net Promoter System podcast, afternoon tea lends an air of opulence that lets people know that his hotels are the best in town. In Net Promoter-speak, it gives people a remarkable experience – the kind of story they’ll want to tell their friends.

Horst would know. He’s one of the masterminds behind the Ritz-Carlton “mystique.” During his 20 years at the hotel chain, he helped cultivate an impeccable level of service that set the gold standard for high-end accommodations. He even coined the often-quoted motto, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Now he’s bringing his philosophies to a new breed of luxury hotels under the Capella brand.

Horst is a straight-talking and compelling advocate of involving front-line employees in running the business. And he believes deeply in trusting employees to do the right thing, as long as you’ve hired the right people in the first place. He even empowers staff members to spend as much as $2,000 to keep a customer happy. If he gains a lifelong customer in the process, he considers it money well spent. He knows how much that customer is likely to spend over a lifetime.

You can listen to our lively discussion on iTunes, through the player below or on our podcast pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Busting the myth of the Lucite block: What does it take to change a culture?

Too many leaders seem to wish that culture change would just happen organically, effortlessly. In their minds, all they need to do is develop a well-worded mission statement and a vision for the future that fits on a nice PowerPoint slide. Get the organization to understand the statement and buy in—maybe even involve some employees in crafting it—and then put it on wallet cards, posters and the company’s intranet. Maybe they’ll buy some Lucite paperweights to place on employee desks to remind everyone of this new perspective each day.

Pam Carpenter of Herman MillerAnd then these leaders move on to the next issue, the next crisis, the next budget meeting, hoping that the organization will change now that everything is so well articulated and prominently displayed. But, as we all know, that’s not how it works.

Culture change requires hard work and patience. You not only need a clear vision of the future, but you also have to define the new set of behaviors people will have to exhibit. Maybe more important, you need to create mechanisms, processes and policies that reinforce those behaviors. You must find ways to ensure that decisions are aligned with the company’s objectives and values, and craft procedures to make the new behaviors easy to adopt, which often requires technology or process support. There are dozens, even hundreds of details to address.

So who does all that work? Most successful Net Promoter companies create a central team that leads the effort. This team goes by different names in different companies. One NPS Loyalty Forum member calls their company’s team the Advocacy Program Office, while another calls it the Customer Champion Organization. Whatever the name, this group provides the expertise that supports a robust Net Promoter System.

In our latest episode of the Net Promoter System podcast, Herman Miller’s Pam Carpenter returns to talk about the office furniture maker’s NPS implementation. We’ll discuss the roles of a customer advocacy office and the progress that Herman Miller is making in selecting a technology vendor that supports their Net Promoter System. Listen in and hear about their progress.

You can listen on iTunes or through the player below or on our podcast pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Why your banking experience is likely to get better

How banks are bringing back the loveBanks are working hard to cultivate loyalty just to keep pace in an ultra-competitive market. In the process, they’re doing many things right, as I explain in my latest post on LinkedIn Pulse.

They’re using technology to make easy transactions fast, and beefing up their branch expertise to make difficult transactions less painful. More importantly, they’re gathering regular feedback, listening closely to their customers and making the changes that create a memorable customer experience. For these reasons, I think we can look forward to better and better banking experiences in the future.

Read the post: How banks are bringing back the love

Letting feedback speak for itself

Suppose I’m a customer of yours. You and I have recently interacted. I was a little disappointed in how you served me and my company. I have some feedback about my experience―how it made me feel and what I think you might be able to do better in the future. For example, I might have a particular point of view about how prepared you were for our phone call or how you handled a specific question I asked.

Amy Pressman of MedalliaBut I’m not going to share it with you. Instead, I’m going to share it only with your boss.

It will be up to your boss to decide whether to pass along my feedback. Maybe she will. Maybe she won’t. Perhaps she’s worried that you are having a bad enough day, already. Or maybe she’s not having such a great day herself and wants to avoid the hassle of delivering even constructive feedback to one of her employees.

Moreover, it’s up to her to decide whether to pass along my feedback exactly as I provided it, or to sugar coat it, softening the blow to you and obscuring some of the details.

How would you feel knowing that your customer had shared feedback with your boss, but being unsure what, exactly, that customer had said?

If you’re like most of us, you’d be frustrated―unless you have the opportunity to hear the customer’s feedback quickly, directly and in the customer’s own words. Even if it hurts a little bit initially, you want to know you can do a better job in the future. The truth is the best employees just want to do a great job for their customers, and honest, direct and immediate feedback helps you do that.

So why do so few companies provide simple ways for frontline employees to hear feedback directly, immediately and in the words of the people they serve? It’s a challenge that our next guest on the Net Promoter System podcast has set out to address.

Amy Pressman, cofounder of the customer experience software maker Medallia, says that companies should always share customer feedback with frontline employees, even if it’s awkward. She has a wonderful perspective on how great companies incorporate customer feedback into their day-to-day operations, and she offers some of the best practices of customer-centric companies.

Medallia and other providers of technology, as well as other support for the Net Promoter System, can be found on the vendor section of the Net Promoter System website.

You can listen on iTunes or through the player on our podcast pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Putting an end to pointless surveys

Putting an end to pointless surveysSo many companies today suffer from survey diarrhea, constantly bombarding their customers with long, pointless surveys. These surveys usually ask for 10 or 15 minutes of a customer’s time and rarely lead to any meaningful changes.

My latest post on LinkedIn delves into this pervasive problem. The next time you get a survey, ask yourself whether it’s worth your time to fill out, and whether you expect anything to happen if you do. If either answer is no, do what I do—throw it on the electronic trash heap.

Read the post: Why I deleted your survey

Scaling up or scoping out at Herman Miller

Michael Ramirez and Pam CarpenterSo you’ve run some closed-loop feedback pilots using the Net Promoter System. You’ve learned a few things. Now what do you do?

That’s the question Pam Carpenter and Michael Ramirez face as they bring Net Promoter to Herman Miller. We’ve been following their progress on the Net Promoter System podcast all year, and Pam and Michael are back in the latest episode to discuss some of the challenges they’ve faced and lessons they’ve learned.

Questions we explore in our discussion include: How fast should the office furniture maker move forward after its initial NPS pilot? What should be the process for expanding its efforts? Should the company scale up from the initial prototype within a particular business unit or should it widen its scope by bringing the system to other parts of the business? What kind of IT support will the system need?

Pam and Michael are also grappling with some common issues that companies that sell to other businesses typically face. It all makes for a thoughtful and interesting discussion.

You can listen on iTunes or through the player on our podcast pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.


The benchmark is dead! Long live the benchmark!

Net Promoter System podcast“Can you please provide benchmark Net Promoter Scores for psychoceramics companies operating or selling at the high end of the Mauritanian market?”

Net Promoter practitioners love to talk about NPS benchmarks. They want to know how their companies measure up against “typical” or “comparable” companies. A well-constructed benchmark samples all target customers for a certain product or service, including those of competitors and even alternatives. Competitive benchmark Net Promoter Scores provide an objective and fair basis for comparing your company’s feedback with the feedback your competitors earn. Done right, they can provide the basis for goal setting and prioritization at the highest levels of a company.

But too many companies misuse benchmarks. Almost every day, it seems, we see another press release or blog post in which a company (wrongly) proclaims its NPS superiority over Apple. As a result, there’s been a pretty strong backlash against NPS benchmarks. And I’ve personally locked horns with some of the people who have been most critical of using them.

My next guest on the Net Promoter System podcast is one of those people with whom I’ve locked horns in the past. He says that many companies should ignore benchmarks altogether, especially small companies for whom an appropriate NPS benchmark might not even exist. Adam Ramshaw, founder of Genroe in Sydney, Australia, says it’s better to focus on increasing a company’s score over time and building a system of constant improvement. Adam discussed his position in a recent post on Genroe’s blog. At the end of the day, it turns out, he and I agree that benchmarks are useless if you’re comparing apples to oranges.

Adam’s firm helps other companies implement the Net Promoter System and advises them on customer service.

In our discussion, Adam also shared his perspective about how NPS can help service companies bring total quality management-like approaches to their operations. Total quality management—a philosophy that relies on statistical process control and simplifying operational mechanisms to eliminate production variables at factories—helped Japanese automakers gain an edge over American companies in the 1980s. These tactics helped Japanese car companies sell high-quality cars at shockingly low prices.

You can listen to our lively discussion on iTunes or through the player on our podcast pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Finding the opportunity in a broken chair

Pam Carpenter of Herman MillerIf you’ve ever had a job where you interacted directly with customers, you know how hard it can be to deal with someone who has had a bad experience. Frustrated customers engage in a range of behaviors, from mild protest to begging, bargaining, asserting their rights or importance, or simply enraged venting. Whether the cause was a defective product, a mistake or poor service, your gut probably told you to try to calm down the customer, smooth over the situation and move on.

In fact, once you finished with that interaction, you probably just wanted to put it out of your mind. Certainly, the idea of re-engaging that customer—calling back to discuss the situation, ask for details and learn more—was probably not high on your list of things you might enjoy doing. But sometimes that’s the only way to get to the root cause of a complaint so you can learn more effectively, repair the relationship with that customer and even address issues that might be more pervasive than you realize. Fixing the problem and letting the customer know—a process we call “closing the loop”—is a critical part of the Net Promoter System and a powerful way to build loyalty.

In the latest episode of the Net Promoter System podcast, Herman Miller’s Pam Carpenter returns to tell us about the progress the office furniture company has made so far. During our conversation, Pam reviews some of her team’s early experiences with follow-up calls to customers. She also discusses an interesting experiment the company is conducting with a customer who agreed to let Pam’s team observe his efforts to get a broken chair fixed, allowing them to see the complaint process through the customer’s eyes.

Pam has also been wrestling with some typical questions Net Promoter practitioners face at this stage of the NPS journey: How do you improve response rates? How should you address customer experiences that span multiple interactions? How do you improve the quality of the feedback?

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this page. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Can a company pay it forward?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

We’ve all heard of “paying it forward”—the idea that one thoughtful act on someone’s part can touch off a chain reaction of good deeds. I’ve posted before about how companies can get into the act through intelligent acts of kindness. These are simple, inexpensive gestures that brighten a customer’s day and generate loyalty.

But some commenters on my post questioned whether companies can ever be expected to act in a generous spirit. Others wondered whether a company can really hope to engender this kind of behavior in their employees. Continue reading

Why your customers break up with you

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Recently a colleague’s son decided to cut the cord to his cable provider. He bought a Roku stick so he could stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, Hulu and others. He installed a high-quality antenna so he could pick up over-the-air channels from neighboring cities. “I was surprised,” my colleague said, “because he’s a big Red Sox fan, and those games are the one thing he can’t get. But he was completely fed up with the cable company’s terrible service and the expensive bundled pricing.”

In cutting the cord, the young man became part of what service providers call churn, meaning turnover among customers. When my Bain & Company colleagues recently studied churn, they found that most telecommunications and media companies lose between 2% and 2.5% of their customers every month. For a company with 5 million customers, that churn rate means that about 1.3 million customers and $2 billion in revenue vanish each year and must be replaced. Continue reading

Breaking down the “invisible fence”

Every company needs rules and traditions, but if left unchecked, restrictive policies can stymie creativity. They can give rise to what my next guest on the Net Promoter System podcast calls “invisible fence syndrome.”

Net Promoter System podcastLike a dog that’s been zapped too many times while trying to go beyond those invisible electrical fences so popular in suburban yards, employees with this affliction stop offering new ideas because they assume the response will be negative. Employees stuck in a culture of “no” start to feel that their contributions don’t matter. If employees don’t feel heard by their managers, it’s likely that customers also feel this way. It’s a dangerous situation for companies trying to build loyalty.

In the latest episode of the Net Promoter System podcast, we speak with Tony Ezell, who has worked to thwart invisible fence syndrome at Eli Lilly. During his more than two decades at the pharmaceutical giant, Tony has been responsible for adapting Net Promoter for the company’s scientists, sales teams and managers. He’s exceptionally candid about some of the challenges he encountered and how he would have tackled them differently now that he’s been through the experience.

Success in big pharma has always been associated with the discovery, development and marketing of new drugs. So why is a global powerhouse like Eli Lilly thinking about customer loyalty and the Net Promoter System? Find out in our latest podcast.

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Closing the loop in the real world

Every now and then you hear about a company that gets it right. They listen to customer feedback. They act on it. Sort of gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling—except that you wish it wasn’t so unusual.

The other day, a colleague of mine came back from a trip to the Washington, D.C., area. I asked him how it went. “The trip was fine,” he replied, “but the hotel stay was terrible. I was up half the night listening to the A/C unit cycling on and off. Every time it came on, it sounded like a jet plane.” Continue reading

Dishing up real-time feedback for restaurants

I eat out in restaurants a lot. Objectively, it’s fair to say that I eat out too often, sometimes as many as 15 times a week. While I wouldn’t say that I’m a restaurant snob, I do pay attention to lots of little things like how genuine the initial greeting feels, or whether the server is attentive or how confidently they talk about menu items.

Does the server make recommendations that I find compelling? Do they sense what I’m looking for and try to figure out how to pace the meal? And maybe most important, do they keep my water glass filled?

You might think it odd for a guy who is so focused on customer feedback for a living, but I’m also a little bit shy about providing direct feedback to my servers. I don’t know why, but unless there’s a real problem I tend to suffer in silence. And at the end of the meal, I tend not to vary the tip all that much based on the quality of service because I don’t think tips offer a very efficient way to provide feedback.

In the newest Net Promoter System podcast episode, we hear from two people who have recognized this dynamic and are trying to do something about it. Bernard Briggs is the CEO and founder of Humm, a company that provides systems for collecting customer feedback at restaurants, stores and other retail environments. Robert Irvine is a restaurant owner and the host of the popular Food Network show, Restaurant: Impossible. He has actually put the system to use at his restaurants.

I love watching Robert’s shows, and I find it both fascinating and gratifying that he’s using the Net Promoter System in his own restaurants. Moreover, I love the simplicity of the solution that Bernard and his team at Humm have developed. I’ve never actually used it myself, so I can’t attest to how it works in practice yet. But I love the concept and hope that companies like Humm continue to innovate and make the process of delivering real-time feedback easier and more frictionless for both customers and companies.

For more about Bernard Briggs and Humm Systems: Humm Systems website. You can learn more about Robert Irvine: Robert Irvine website.

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player on this pageClick here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

We have catalogued many companies providing Net Promoter System support here.

No gains from your loyal customers? Five questions to ask

If your company has earned high Net Promoter Scores, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll outperform your competition. But sometimes that doesn’t happen—at least not right away. If you’re wondering why your strong service hasn’t yielded better-than-average performance, here are five questions to ask:

  1. Do you know what makes your promoters enthusiastic about doing business with you? Your best customers have experienced you at your best, and they can often provide useful insights into which of their needs you are best able to serve. That allows you to understand the value you provide to customers and, if necessary, to sharpen your focus.
  2. Do you have the right products at the right prices? Customers may love what they have already bought from you, but if your other products and services aren’t what they need or aren’t priced competitively, they’ll look elsewhere. Make it easy for them to choose your products.
  3. Are you selling effectively? Underdeveloped sales capabilities can keep you from translating customers’ good feelings into more business. Your high scores indicate that your customers are probably willing to buy more from you. But you might not be offering them what they want at the right time or in the right way.
  4. Are you giving your promoters tangible stories to tell? People tell stories about their exceptional experiences with companies. They say to their friends, “You won’t believe what just happened to me.” If your customers’ experiences are good but unremarkable, don’t count on happy promoters to bring you more business.
  5. Have you provided a platform on which to tell those stories? Delighted customers can always tell their friends in person, but if they have a forum (either online or in the real world) for sharing it with other like-minded people, they can tell many more.

High Net Promoter Scores alone won’t guarantee profitable, sustained growth. True loyalty leaders develop the skills and the capabilities necessary to give customers more of what they want: opportunities to make their lives better and to bring their friends along for the ride.

Learn more: Converting loyalty into economic advantage

Paying it forward to customers

Companies can and should contribute to positive experiences in the world, and it’s good business practice to do so. The trickier question is how to foster a culture that achieves these aims without seeming cloying or artificial.

We all know the Golden Rule—treat others as you would want to be treated. But what does it take to get your employees to consistently live up to this standard and genuinely care about your customers? I look at this issue in my latest blog post on LinkedIn.

Read the post here: Can a Company Pay It Forward