“What is the latest NPS score?”. This was probably the most common question I used to hear in my CX leadership roles – and typically one asked by an executive director.
I was obviously very proud of the fact that I succeeded in establishing NPS as a key metric in the corporate dashboards, raising it to the same status as Revenue and Profit. NPS had conquered its own primary space in all the regular reporting, from the monthly Group Executive and Functional dashboards, down to daily team and individual performance ones. It had graphs with trends and a RAG status against its own annual target, having become a key pillar of the company-wide remuneration framework. A clear success in my customer-centricity mission.
However, the battle could not end there. The focus on that simple number was not enough.
Is all about one number?
Let me explain with a story. I grew up in Italy, in a family with origins in the countryside between Bologna and Rimini. A famous area for great food and wine, the land in those days was primarily covered by agricultural fields, vineyards and orchards. On the maternal side, most of my uncles and aunties were indeed farmers and we would spend many weekends in their estates helping them to pick fruits and feed the chicken and the cows. At the end of the day, the reward for the kids were some fantastic homemade cookies and cake (I can still remember the amazing smell of my auntie’s cantuccini!) and for the adults a glass (or a few) of recently produced red Lambrusco. An occasional added treat for the younger ones was to accompany my uncle to the pig-sty at the rear of the farm, to see how much the pigs had grown. To my little feet, it always felt like a very long way, along the stables and through the vegetable plot, round the pond, avoiding the ducks and the mud, filled with the growing excitement and anticipation for what the answer would have been to the same question: “Uncle Alfonso, how heavy is the pig now?”
Indeed, the weight of the pig was a matter of primary importance, as it determined its readiness for slaughtering. To us kids, reaching that target meant we were close to eating some super-fresh and super-delicious salame – and that was all we really cared about. However, Uncle Alfonso would explain that it was not only about the weight, but more important factors were what the pig was fed, for how long and whether it had grown free to move in an open environment, as that would determine both the quality and the quantity of the meat, independently of the weight.
Reporting the NPS score is like weighing the pig. The number itself and its growing trend are obviously important. However, even more attention should be given to its drivers and those underlying factors which determine its fluctuations.
A number of CX reports behave like BBC News headlines, “NPS grew by 3 points during the last period, reaching an all-time high of 40” or “Dramatic drop of NPS overnight”. So what? These statements do not say anything about what actually caused the changes, therefore don’t indicate what the root causes were and what action could be taken to improve them.
Focusing on the drivers of CX
The first challenge of an effective Voice of the Customer programme is to understand what impacts the customer experience. The problem is that the performance drivers are not always obvious upfront, nor is their relative importance and correlation to the NPS. This is why the initial set up of the surveys should allow for testing different quantitative metrics, as well as capturing qualitative feedback through verbatims. Not only these add extra flavour and clarity to the numerical results, but they also allow the identification of any other performance factors which are important to customers and may have been overlooked in the initial questioning structure.
In my experience, the CX drivers can be identified by looking at the experience through 3 lenses, Product, Service and Price, and by using a combination of functional and emotional questions. Channel touchpoints offer yet another perspective, as the experience may vary across different ones. For example, the understanding of product features may be easy when explained by an agent on the phone, but less clear when the customer buys the product online. But there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ or ‘off-the-shelf’ survey answer. I believe that, in the end, the complexity of all this needs to be simplified by focusing on what matters the most to the customer and to the individual company’s brand and objectives.
Once agreed, the NPS drivers should be measured and analysed in a consistent way over time to allow for statistical accuracy and period-to-period comparability. However, they should not be set for life. Fast-changing societal, environmental and technological factors, coupled with growing competitive pressure, cause a continuous evolution of customer needs and expectations. These forces will also impact and change the drivers of the customer experience and should be considered in regular reviews of the Voice of the Customer programme.
But in the end, simply generating the best NPS data and insight is not enough, if it is not shared with the people who can act on it. I have seen several organisations with expensive VoC capabilities failing to drive benefits because of poor reporting. Every NPS dashboard should always include also insight on the main performance drivers and other key metrics like the Customer Effort Score.
In conclusion, the most important thing to understand is not how heavy the pig is, but how its weight is changing and what is causing it.