NPS Blog

How Qualtrics stumbled on the Net Promoter System—and then turned it on itself

Finding out how your customers feel about you used to mean calling in a team of experts. It was costly and often time-consuming, so the results were inherently stale. With the advent of online survey providers, it became possible for companies to collect their own customer feedback. A few keyboard clicks, and anyone from an intern to a CEO could instantly tap into the wisdom of the crowd.

Giving people access to statistical tools doesn’t necessarily transform them into statisticians, however. That’s what Ryan Smith, cofounder and CEO of the online survey platform Qualtrics, discovered a few years ago when he investigated how his customers were using the Net Promoter Score. He recently joined me on the Net Promoter System Podcast to discuss the company’s history and strategy, and how Net Promoter practitioners use its tools.

Ryan Smith of QualtricsA few years ago, Ryan realized that there were 130,000 different versions of Net Promoter surveys in the Qualtrics system, all using the “likelihood to recommend” question. The Net Promoter Score had become wildly popular, yet there was little consistency in its application. Naturally, that was creating a lot of angst for Qualtrics customers.

“It didn’t seem like they really felt comfortable implementing a huge program [like the Net Promoter System] without some serious guidance and help,” Ryan says.

Last year, Qualtrics partnered with Bain & Company to create a standard Net Promoter survey template that conforms to Bain’s standards for best practice. Qualtrics also developed a suite of services to support customers using the program. Now, both start-ups and large multinationals use the platform to build customized surveys with expert help.

Qualtrics has been a customer-centric company since its inception. The platform started out as a tool for academic researchers and was cofounded by Ryan and his father, a professor of marketing at Brigham Young University who was looking for better tools to support his own research. Over time, the online survey platform has expanded and adapted to serve businesses as well as universities. It now has more than 5,000 customers who send out over 1 billion surveys a year.

As it grows, the company risks becoming more distant from its own customers, so Ryan uses the Net Promoter System to get real-time feedback from the company’s customers and stay close to their needs and desires. Qualtrics asks the “likelihood to recommend” question after every deal closing and every customer support experience. It uses that data to guide how it reshapes its products and help customers use the platform more independently and connect their Qualtrics data to their other operating systems and data.

Being a statistics company, of course, Qualtrics is always scrutinizing its own Net Promoter process. “We’re constantly running experiments on our NPS, on our open rates, making sure that our sample size is right. Because we’re making big decisions based on this feedback,” Ryan says.

You can hear more about Qualtrics and the way it looks at NPS by listening to my conversation with Ryan on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcast episodes.

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