NPS Blog

Introducing The Promoter Flywheel

About 18 months ago, I had an experience with Hertz that illustrated some of the challenges companies confront trying to move beyond simply calculating a Net Promoter score to pursuing the Net Promoter system. If you’re interested, you can read about it here (An unfortunate experience with a rental car return).

My experience provides a great illustration of how a company’s policies and procedures around bad profits can impact employee engagement and loyalty, and the pernicious doom loop that ensues. In this case, a system had been set up to ensure the revenue associated with bad profits was collected. No care was taken to avoid insulting customers or calling them liars. Far too many companies engage in similar behavior, not only angering customers, but demoralizing employees.

At Bain, we’ve been doing more and more client work around the link between employee and customer loyalty as part of the Net Promoter system. Several clients now measure employee NPS (sometimes called “eNPS”). Most have learned the value of devoting just as much effort to earning employee advocacy as customer advocacy, and the virtuous cycle that can create.

Promoter Flywheel is a service mark of Bain & Company, Inc.

We call this virtuous cycle “The Promoter Flywheel.” We chose the word flywheel with some care. In engineering terms, a flywheel is a heavy disc or wheel used to store energyto dampen variation in the speed of an engine and to maintain forward momentum when the engine’s force is at its lowest or even could run in the wrong direction. In the Promoter Flywheel, companies store goodwill (energy) in the form of Promoters among both customers and employees. When the inevitable mistake, error or bad judgment happens, Promoters keep the loyalty engine of the company moving in a positive direction, protecting the company’s interests. They defend the company against the accusations of Detractors (or competitors), and they suggest ways to improve the situation.

Contrast how Hertz handled my car return with the actions of employees at jetBlue and Southwest Airlines. Why is it that employees of Hertz feel they must stick closely to rules almost certain to create a horrendous experience?  Why don’t they seem very often inclined to go to any real trouble to help out a customer in need? Why do jetBlue ground crew members spend their own personal time writing songs about safety, creating a video about it and sharing it with the world? Why do Southwest flight attendants spend time and energy finding creative ways to deliver the FAA-mandated safety instructions?

Our work shows that companies who master the Promoter Flywheel consistently create the right conditions in which their employees have the authority and accountability for creating more promoters among their customers. These companies stimulate “micro-innovations” in which employees experiment with new approaches to creating promoters. Employees can engage in these micro-innovations because they have clarity about the objectives (creating more promoters) and guidelines within which they can operate (company values, regulatory requirements, etc.). Clarity about the objective fuels their imaginations. Clarity about the guidelines and values frees their creativity from close supervision and the constraints of creativity-killing approval processes.

Fred Reichheld and I will be writing more about the Promoter Flywheel in one of our upcoming books. The the techniques and tools we have been uncovering through our client work at Bain and through members of the NPS Loyalty Forum will prove crucial to many companies and leadership teams.

(I spoke about this topic at the Net Promoter conference in Miami. You can read a blog post about it here.)

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