NPS Blog

The three qualities of the Net Promoter System’s “outer loop”: Answering the call for culture change at AT&T

Net Promoter System podcast“We have over 5,000 customer experience initiatives currently in flight across the organization. I know two or three of them are probably going to be really high impact. I also suspect that while most of them are really good things to do, I am almost certain a large percentage are just a waste of time. Here’s the problem: I don’t know which two or three will really move the needle. And I can’t stop the thousand or so that are just a waste of time.”

The above statement was made by the president of a business unit at a large insurance company, explaining his frustration with his organization’s ability to make progress on improving the customer experience.

True loyalty leaders solve this problem by creating a portfolio of high-impact investments that will make a big difference for their customers. They assign talented resources to tackle each one, develop a clear implementation plan and cultivate support from across the company. In a large organization, creating and managing this portfolio requires a process for identifying and prioritizing the opportunities that need improvement and allocating the right resources toward that end. True loyalty leaders don’t just tackle the right priorities, they also communicate their progress and results with employees, building trust and pride.

In the Net Promoter System, we call this mechanism the “outer loop.” It identifies, prioritizes, allocates resources to and manages the customer-friendly changes that employees and teams can’t make on their own. The outer loop works in tandem with the Net Promoter System’s “inner loop,” which is the process for fostering rapid individual learning and customer intimacy through immediate, tangible feedback, coaching and follow-up.

A strong outer loop has three qualities:

 It’s robust, using input from customers, employees, benchmarking data and other sources to guide decisions.
 It’s rigorous, so it can gauge how a given initiative might affect retention, revenue and other measures.
It’s transparent, so it inspires confidence among employees who can see the company’s efforts to improve.

John Dwyer of AT&TJohn Dwyer, the senior vice president for customer experience at AT&T, joins me on the latest episode of the Net Promoter System podcast. He and his team have developed a robust, rigorous and transparent outer loop at AT&T that has enabled the company to become a J.D. Power leader in wireless customer service and purchase experience.

AT&T has used the approach to evaluate network upgrades, service improvements and the ways it supports its frontline employees. Its process is so finely tuned that the company knows the 13 tasks that customers need to be able to complete to be happy with their mobile phone service. That allows the company to size up projects based on its potential to deliver what really matters to customers.

AT&T has also forged one of the most well-developed employee “suggestion boxes” that I’ve ever heard of. When a frontline employee faces a question he can’t answer or a problem he can’t immediately fix, he can use AT&T’s homegrown “Hero” system to request a suitable solution from an internal expert. If the employee isn’t happy with the expert’s response, he can challenge the expert to find a better answer.

“There are two kinds of employees inside our company: Those who support our customers and those who support those who support our customers,” John says. “We’ve got to make sure that those frontline employees feel that sense of support within the business.”

When executives use the outer loop effectively, like they do at AT&T, they let employees know that the company supports their efforts to serve the customer. To learn more about the outer loop, check out our latest issue of Loyalty Insights, which explores some of the common challenges and pitfalls that companies face as they develop an outer loop.

To hear John discuss AT&T’s approach to customer experience and the process of improving service at a large company, check out the podcast on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Subscribe to the Net Promoter System podcast on iTunes

Comments are closed.