And does it make a measurable difference in a customer’s loyalty to a good or service?
For the first 18 years of my career in the cable TV business, I believed the answer to both of those questions was “Yes”, and said so whenever given the opportunity in front of my staff and teammates. But I could never offer a direct numerical “proof” to support that belief.
I realized that being able to do this would have a huge impact, because of simple human nature. Humans like to measure their success. Why else would we have invented math, and statistical analysis? My teammates wouldn’t have to just assume they were making a difference. They would KNOW they were. That would be “customer service gold” to me.
Sure, I could attempt to tie interaction value to things like profit, cash flow, gross margins, return on investment, total customers, market share etc, etc, etc, but it was difficult to separate the effect of the service with the effect of the interaction in any of those numbers.
That is, until 5 years ago, when I discovered the Net Promoter Score (NPS) , and what is known as the Ultimate Question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend X service to a friend or relative“.
I could now ask customers that question, and calculate the results as the NPS. You take the percentage of 9s and 10s (“Promoters”) and subtract the percentage of 0-6s (“Detractors”) to get the score. 7s and 8s are considered “Neutral”, and are thus not considered. (For a more detailed explanation, go here).
So I had a number that gave me a “value” of the overall customer experience. But while I still didn’t have the “proof” of the specific value of the human interaction, I knew we were onto something that ultimately could produce it.
To get there, we ended up asking the Ultimate Question and getting the NPS score in three different time frames:
- 7 days after we installed a new service or upgraded an existing one
- 7 days after we completed a service call (that is, a customer had a problem and we came out and fixed it)
- After 6 months (0r more) of no interactions whatsoever with any of our staff (in other words, the customer just paid their bills, had no problems, added no services, and never had a reason to talk to anyone) – let’s call it “smooth sailing”.
Now, before I tell you how all this came out, take another look at these situations – how do you think they would “rank” in NPS scores. Which would be highest and which would be lowest?
You’d have to figure that installs would be pretty high relative to the other two – if you can’t please a new customer, then you’re in the wrong business.
But how about service calls versus “smooth sailing”? Wouldn’t the customer who had no problems at all be “happier” than one who just had a problem?
This was really the “a-ha” moment.
Here’s what happened. The NPS for installs was the highest number – it was in the high 60s. But lo and behold, the service calls were in the low 50s (a quick aside – the inventor of the NPS noted that “anything over 50” was very good ).
As for the “smooth sailors”? In the 20s. Not more 0-6s, just a lot more 7s and 8s – the “not quite enthusiastic” customers.
Bingo. I had it. Interactions versus no interactions was worth at least 30 percentage points in NPS. Even in an interaction where the customer starts out with a problem.
I now had numerical proof that a positive customer interaction with an employee would make a huge difference with that customer. More so than the service itself.
And you can bet I made a really big deal out of this with my teammates. A really big deal. It had the effect I wanted – it made the scores even better.
That’s why I’m now a big believer of the NPS, and the Ultimate Question.
It’s customer service gold.