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The mixed message with Net Promoter

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the mixed message between our internal systems and the words we use to inspire customer-focused change. One simple example of this is NPS, or Net Promoter Score. According to the Net Promoter web site, NPS "is a straightforward metric that holds companies and employees accountable for how they treat customers." But, these words ,"how they treat customers," don’t seem to align with the specific NPS metric.

For those who are not familiar with the metric, NPS is calculated from one simple question, "How likely are you to recommend xyz company to a colleague or friend?" The graphic below is from the Net Promoter website showing how the metric is calculated.


So, here is the mixed message. The metric seems to say, how can you help me? But, customer-focused organizations are asking how can we help you succeed. I understand the logic that customers are more likely to recommend you if they are satisfied with the products and services you provide. I get that. But these words seem different than the metric. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I think asking intentions to recommend is an extremely important measure. This question should be a standard in all customer perception surveys. I’m merely questioning whether or not this metric should be used to incentivize and motivate customer-focused behaviors. What do you think?

Note: The post was originally published in Customer Connection on 3/9/2009.

About the Author

Leslie Pagel

Leslie Pagel

As vice president of customer experience, Leslie is responsible for incorporating the voice of Walker’s customers into the solutions development process. To do this, Leslie spends the majority of her time interacting with Walker account teams, clients, and prospective clients to understand their business challenges. She coordinates several listening posts that are used to drive strong client relationships and enhance our consulting and technology capabilities.

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0 thoughts on “The mixed message with Net Promoter

  1. Leslie,

    I totally agree that the priority for any customer-focused organization is to help customers ("you"). But without any kind of metric to gauge how customers feel feel about your organization, you’re really just guessing how to respond to customers’ needs.

    NPS is a terrific metric because it helps you understand what you’re customers are feeling about you, your product, or your service. If they don’t feel positive enough to recommend your service/product/company, then all the customer-focused changes or messaging you push out won’t be as effective.

    It’s like what Jerry Maguire said to his client — "Help me help you." That doesn’t mean you’re ignoring your customer’s needs. It means you’re getting the proper feedback so you CAN help them in the first place.


    Michael E. Rubin
    847-370-3421 // // twitter: merubin

  2. Michael,
    Thank you for the comment. I agree that NPS gives a sense for how your customers feel. Intent to recommend is an important metric and should be tracked. But, I question if NPS is the right metric to use for incentivizing customer-focused behaviors simply because the metric itself is not explicitly about the customer. Some examples of customer metrics that I’ve seen used include: a measure of customer financial performance, % of customers who agree that the product/service has had a positive financial impact, and a common metric used with customer support is first time resolution. While there is no perfect metric, I like how these emphasize the benefit to the customer. It says clearly – we’re focused on you.


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