NPS Blog

Podcast: Want to Empower Employees? Start by Letting Go

Lee CockerellHow do you get the best out of employees? Scripted interactions and oppressive rules are never the answer. The best companies hire the right people and set the right expectations, and they trust their employees to use their judgment to make customers happy. When executives step back, employees provide more authentic and empathetic service.

Former Disney executive Lee Cockerell returns to the podcast to share his tips for striking that balance between loose and tight control. At Disney, Lee ran a operation with tens of thousands of employees who were spread across a huge physical space and represented many operational and service functions. What does it take to create a magical experience on that scale? Strong hires, high expectations and trust.

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

If you missed Lee’s first interview, you can check it out here: At Disney, the Show Must Go On 


Podcast: What Do You Call the Space Between Your Company and Mine?

CA's Dayton SemerjianWhat do you call the space between you and your customer? According to Dayton Semerjian, that’s where you’ll find the true value of a customer relationship. Dayton is general manager of global customer success and support at the IT services firm CA Technologies.

CA’s customers tend to be large companies, and the decision to buy its software and services is usually made by big groups of people armed with heavy analysis. Customer relationships can be very complex, involving many internal teams that handle sales, implementation and tech support.

It’s not that uncommon for some customers to feel like they’ve fallen through the cracks in situations like these. In this episode of the Net Promoter System Podcast, Dayton shares what it takes to earn promoters in complex client relationships.

You can listen to our discussion on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Learn more: Do Your B2B Customers Promote Your Business?

Podcast: Inside the Four Seasons Approach to Five-Star Service

Barbara TalbottHotels didn’t always give out free toiletries. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when a Four Seasons hotel in London first started offering shampoo in showers that other hotels started following suit. And Four Seasons has been setting high standards for luxury travel—and hospitality in general—ever since.

In the latest Net Promoter System Podcast episode, Barbara Talbott, former chief marketing officer at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, shares how the company grew from a small chain to a global luxury brand during her two decades with the company. She left the company to start GlenLarkin Advisors in 2009, and now shares her keen sense of customer experience with other companies.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

When a Company Wins, Everybody Should Win—Even the “Losers”

fred-reichheld-everybody-wins-npsWhen a company shifts its internal investments around, employees who get the short end often feel like corporate losers—marginalized and demoralized. Employees might even stop caring about the company’s mission or the needs of customers, and that’s when real damage sets in for any company.

But what if a company considered a team’s sacrifices just as important to its mission as a team’s achievements? In that scenario, hard-working employees and managers would be heroes for doing more with less. What if having a smaller budget was as much a sign of professional success as a large one?

In my latest post on LinkedIn, I apply a loyalty lens to the Founder’s Mentality. Read the post here: When a Company Wins, Everybody Should Win—Even the “Losers”.


Podcast Shorts: Employee Engagement—Fostering Energy, Enthusiasm and Creativity

Rob Markey

Employees need to see the fundamental connection between the work they do every day and its impact on customers. They must experience firsthand the deep satisfaction of earning their customers’ heartfelt gratitude and loyalty. If they don’t, then their jobs are just jobs—they may do as they’re told, but they won’t bring much energy, enthusiasm or creativity to the workplace.

This short podcast episode looks at the ways companies can create an environment where employees bring their best to work every day on behalf of the company. You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Learn more: Energetic, Enthusiastic and Creative

Podcast Shorts: Closing the Loop in the Net Promoter System

Rob MarkeyTo close the loop is not only to let customers know that you have heard their feedback but also to bring the customer’s voice right inside the organization. Employees get a direct line to the people they are serving. They see and hear how they are creating or destroying loyalty and what they can do to improve the customer experience.

This short episode explains why this step is a central element of the Net Promoter System. You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Learn more about closing the loop in this Loyalty Insights brief: Closing the Loop

Podcast Shorts: The Value of Prototypes

Rob Markey

Creating a pilot or prototype is an essential part of designing a robust Net Promoter System. These small-scale efforts allow a company to experiment with the system’s essential elements, helping the company to create an effective program it can expand to other parts of the organization. This Net Promoter System Podcast short shares some best practices for prototypes.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Learn more: The Value of Prototypes

Why Good Surveys Still Matter in a Big Data World

good-surveys-220x207Why bother customers with surveys now that businesses have Big Data analytics to guide their customer strategies? And if we don’t need surveys, don’t loyalty metrics and programs such as the Net Promoter System become far less relevant?

In reality, it’s not so simple. The Net Promoter System is not based on surveys but rather on regular customer feedback in many forms. Big Data analytics, by capturing and integrating those many forms of feedback, can make the Net Promoter System more powerful. Big Data also makes it feasible to define the relevant groups of customers—promoters, passives and detractors—more accurately.

In my latest post on LinkedIn, I explain why surveys still have a valuable role to play—that is, if they are fewer and shorter—as a proven way to find out why customers would recommend a company (or not).

Read the full post here: Why Good Surveys Still Matter in a Big Data World


Podcast: When Customers Speak Their Minds

Fred ReichheldA number rarely tells the whole story. That’s why leading Net Promoter companies ask customers to discuss their experiences in their own words.

Bain Fellow Fred Reichheld returns to the podcast to talk about the shortcomings of multiple-choice surveys, the power of verbatim feedback and some common customer service myths.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Podcast: The Art of Human Connection

Jordan Harbinger of Art of Charm

Some people have a knack for forming genuine human connections whether it’s with customers, colleagues or employees. They have a gift for making people feel special. The ability to speak with authenticity and authority might come natural to some people.

Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned, says Jordan Harbinger, cofounder of The Art of Charm, a program that teaches people how to improve their social skills. I recently talked to Jordan on the Net Promoter System Podcast.

Why should this matter to Net Promoter companies? These skills are critical to delighting customers and engaging employees as Jordan explains in this episode.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

Great Customer Experience Requires More Than Just a Script and a Score

script-score-220x207A version of this blog post originally appeared on CX Cafe.

It was the eighth week in a row checking into the same hotel in downtown Philadelphia. I recognized the attendant behind the preferred status check-in counter—he had checked me in a few times over the last two months and never missed shouting the obligatory “Good morning!” in my direction as I started out for the day. This was clearly the expected behavior of the front-house staff as everyone would address me in the same practiced way. Despite our previous interactions, it was clear the attendant didn’t recognize me now.

He thanked me for my loyalty upon verification of my identity and, when prompted by the check-in system, for my return business. While he confirmed my details (which hadn’t changed since my first stay), I played his script through in my mind, anticipating each question: Points or breakfast? Did I need my loyalty benefits explained?  Help with my bags? Was I familiar with the hotel and amenities?

On this occasion there was one new question: Did I want my room serviced, or would I prefer a new “green” option that meant no housekeeping during my stay? I considered the option, but while I am generally happy hanging my own towels and making my own bed and am in favor of limiting my personal carbon footprint, I appreciated the convenience of housekeeping given we were working fairly long hours. And I wasn’t receiving any discount on my fairly pricey room, so I declined the more environmentally friendly option in favor of a fully serviced room. Continue reading

Podcast: What Makes Customers Buy? It’s Not Always What You Think

Angela Lee of NorthwesternIn the US, we’re used to seeing sale signs that tout 40% discounts. However, consumers in China are more likely to see signs that promote the percentage a customer will have to pay after the price cut. This seemingly subtle shift speaks to the underlying motivations that inform a customer’s buying decisions, says Angela Lee, a consumer psychologist and marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

In the latest episode of the Net Promoter System Podcast, Angela discusses how culture and emotions influence brand loyalty and buying choices.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

New on the Podcast: The Gift of Brutally Honest Feedback

Kim Scott - Radical CandorHave you ever found it hard to tell an employee that his work simply wasn’t cutting it? Maybe you were afraid of hurting the employee’s feelings or creating tension, so you decided not to say anything.

Kim Scott, an executive coach and former Google executive, considers these situations missed opportunities for growth. She argues that honest criticism that’s shared with sincere concern can empower employees at every level of a company.

In the latest episode of the Net Promoter System Podcast, Kim discusses her Radical Candor framework and the power of saying what you think. You can listen to the episode on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to view more episodes.

The Financial Fact Founders Can’t Forget


Unlike professional business managers at many incumbent companies, company founders can never forget this simple fact: Revenue doesn’t come from thin air; it comes from customers.

This way of thinking, it turns out, is essential to sustainable, profitable growth. In their upcoming book, The Founder’s Mentality, my Bain colleagues Chris Zook and James Allen found that, since 1990, returns to shareholders at public companies where the founder is still involved are three times higher than at other companies. Moreover, among the elite companies that Bain identifies as sustained value creators—that is, those that have achieved a decade or more of sustained profitable growth—two-thirds clearly exhibited the traits of Founder’s Mentality, whether or not the founder was still at the company.

In my latest post on LinkedIn, I look at how the customer focus that comes with a Founder’s Mentality can help a company succeed.

Read the blog post here: The Financial Fact Founders Can’t Forget

Set Perfection as the Goal: Leadership Lessons from Former Vanguard CEO Jack Brennan

It’s common wisdom that your goals should be achievable. In fact, a popular goal-setting acronym, SMART, holds that goals should be specific, achievable, realistic and time-bound. (In some permutations, “relevant” is substituted for realistic.)

jack-brennan-210x250Jack Brennan, though, suggests almost the opposite. Rather, the former CEO of mutual fund giant Vanguard and current board member of several large, public companies including GE, claims that only by setting unattainable goals do organizations realize greatness. “I found with time that setting perfection as the goal is motivational. And there are people who don’t agree with that, by the way. But to set perfection as the goal and then creep your way towards it … to have perfect client retention—what a great objective,” he says.

Jack has always believed in a loyalty-based strategy because he has seen firsthand how it can power a company’s growth and profitability. Under his leadership from 1996 to 2008, Vanguard continued its meteoric rise to the top of the mutual fund industry. Jack followed a very deliberate client and asset retention strategy. In fact, under his leadership, Vanguard was an early adopter of the Net Promoter System. He used it to reinforce the mutual fund’s core loyalty-based operating principles. He pushed employees to ask, “Is it in the best interest of the client?” until the question became second nature to them. The goal was always to keep clients for life and to never acquire a client they couldn’t keep very long.


Through years of leading Vanguard’s loyalty-driven culture, Jack has dozens and dozens of practical lessons to share. During a recent Net Promoter System Podcast episode, we reviewed just a few of them:

Measure the right things the right way. Financial statements don’t recognize the value of customer loyalty, but smart investors do. And corporate leaders must, if they want to build sustainable businesses. At Vanguard, the Net Promoter Score is one of the key competitive benchmark metrics executives report to employees. Using it right means asking the right people for feedback and measuring it regularly, not just when the timing is right to get a good score. “Great leaders of organizations have their own metrics beyond GAAP [accounting],” Jack says.

Make loyalty relevant to every employee. In a big company, not everybody is going to understand the business model. A leader’s job is to communicate in clear, simple terms why a particular metric matters. For example, Jack translated the percentage of assets that left Vanguard every year into dollar terms, so employees could see how much they had to sell just to stay even. He then encouraged them to reduce the churn, so the sales could produce growth. “We might have to sell $7 billion of mutual funds to stay even, but what if we got that down to $5 billion? Then if we sell 7, we grow,” he would say. Going one step further, Jack advocates tying some compensation for every employee to how well the firm performs on customer loyalty.

Get more of (only) the right customers. Vanguard is steadfast about turning away clients it can’t keep for a lifetime. Somewhat shockingly, that means the firm never advertises based on fund performance, and often closes funds to new investors when they become too “hot.” The promises of performance-based ads “are the fastest way to attract new customers and also the fastest way to get them out the door,” Jack says.

Don’t confuse customer service and customer loyalty. It used to be that Vanguard employees didn’t ask questions when customers wanted to withdraw money; in the spirit of great service, they would process the request as quickly as possible. That meant customers would sometimes move money to competitors’ products without even realizing that Vanguard offered a similar product, and often at a much better value to the client. “It was a big aha! for us” when leaders realized that employees were missing opportunities to educate customers and potentially earn more of their business, Jack says. As a result, “we took a great service mindset and made it a loyalty mindset, and that changed the nature of the business model.”

Leverage the power of the CEO to focus the organization. “There’s no question there’s a special role for the CEO,” Jack says. “People look to that person and they will emulate what that person does, good or bad.” To that end, he made it a point every month to work the phones in Vanguard’s call centers, asking for help from the employees who worked them every day. “The message was, there’s nothing more important today than that phone call coming in, where we can help that person secure their financial future better,” says Jack.

Few leaders have lived the principles of customer and employee loyalty as completely—or inspired an organization as effectively—as Jack Brennan. He has plenty of other inspiring ideas for those who are leading modern loyalty revolutions. You can listen to our conversation on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System Podcasts.