Our Founder, Lindsay Willott, met with CX consultant and author of Punk CX, Adrian Swinscoe, to help us understand a little more about how to get the best from using Net Promoter Score surveys to measure customer satisfaction.
Often, people are strict users of either NPS or CSAT, but Customer Thermometer offers the flexibility to use both at appropriate stages of the customer journey. But what are these appropriate stages, and what’s the best execution for a NPS survey compared to a CSAT one?
Lindsay and Adrian have helpfully provided some answers for us… click below to listen to two of the top experts in the field – grab a coffee and enjoy!
Our top 3 takeaways
1. Find the right time for NPS and CSAT
The issue with using NPS and CSAT interchangeably is that they have different ‘tells’ on loyalty. So, as Adrian mentions, CSAT asks how you’re feeling at the moment of transaction or of using a product, and asks how ‘satisfied’ you are. NPS, on the other hand, indicates to the surveyor how the customer feels on a broader, more long-term basis. We know that NPS surveys tell us about the loyalty of the customer through their likelihood to recommend, so it’s unwise to use it on the regular basis that many currently do. If you’re currently relying on it as your only method of surveying, it might be time to consider being more flexible and responsive by switching it up.
2. Over-surveying can come across as inconsiderate
If you think about it from your own experience, having received plenty of boring ‘click here to fill out our survey’ links, with countless questions on seemingly irrelevant topics, it really does come across as inconsiderate and potentially detrimental to the customer journey you are trying hard to deliver. You’re never convinced that taking the time to respond will avail to anything, and quite often you’ll give up long before the end of the list of questions. It can be so tempting to ask an additional question or two, or three, when you’re sending out a survey. Why not try to get the most out of your efforts? Take a second to think about it from the recipient’s point of view, consider what it is you truly want to understand about them, and – most importantly – keep it short.
3. It’s all about closing the loop
It harks back to our previous point – if you really don’t have faith that filling out a survey is going to make any difference, why would you bother? It’s the same for your customers who never hear back on any responses they give. After their first response, if there’s no actions taken and communicated back, it’s nearly impossible to keep your respondents engaged. Similarly, if your employees aren’t having their hard work recognized, and aren’t being supported when improvements are needed, how can you expect them to feel motivated by your feedback strategy? Make closing the loop an essential asset to your customer feedback process and you’ll reap the rewards.
Our top 3 quotes
1. “That concept of it being a two-way process, of the fact that by asking a question you’re then opening a communication channel, is still not necessarily widely understood.”
2. “When you get to a certain point you might lose a bit of the visceral emotion in something, because you end up with sentiment analysis and picking out keywords, and you end up with a high-level view. My fear with that is that you end up putting distance between you and the customer.”
3. “Much of the surveying stuff gets influenced by other agendas in the organization, people wanting to know stuff and gather their own data, and ultimately it’s really selfish. It comes across as selfish and not respectful, and customers see right through it and they respond by not responding – this big wall of silence that happens.”
Here’s the full lowdown…
Lindsay Willott: Hello, my name is Lindsay. I’m the founder of Customer Thermometer, the micro survey company. As part of our work providing customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score surveys for brands all over the world, we often get asked for our insight and guidance on what is best to ask, when is best to ask it, and what the difference is between Net Promoter, customer satisfaction, customer effort score, etc. We wanted to bring you some expert guidance and advice on this. So joining me today is Adrian Swinscoe. Welcome Adrian. As well as writing two brilliant books on customer experience, Adrian writes for a number of leading publications including Forbes, and advises leading brands on customer experience. He’s seen these surveys and measures in place and operating in different companies all over the world.
Adrian Swinscoe: Net Promoter came out of a piece of work that Fred Reichheld did when he was at Bain & Company and wrote a book called The Ultimate Question, and he posited that customer satisfaction scores were fine if you wanted a gauge for, “How have we done in the moment? How was your food? How was your hotel stay? How is this, how is that? Are you satisfied or not?” So it’s just basically a view in the moment. Whereas he posited, actually we’re more interested of what happens, a future state around that sort of satisfaction. So are you willing to or are you likely to talk positively about us or negatively about us? Because that’ll have an impact on the future state of our business, so in terms of referrals and positive talk, or converse, the opposite as well. And so I think CSAT is like the old favorite and NPS is like the new church.
LW: It’s definitely that evangelical thing that we see quite a lot. It’s applied quite strictly in quite a number of organizations, I guess because there’s a view, isn’t there, that it has some sort of tell on loyalty as well. That because of that future guidance that it gives, essentially that you can see how loyal customers are likely to be in the future. But also that we certainly get a lot of people requesting it or surveying it because they want a benchmark.
AS: Satisfaction is the key there in CSAT. It’s like, “Are you satisfied?” And it’s quite a binary thing. You are or you’re not. Or you’re greatly satisfied or you’re kind of duly dissatisfied. And it’s almost a bit like you’re commenting on the status quo. Not about what you’re going to do with something, you’re commenting on the status quo with, “How do I feel about the product or the service that I’ve received?” Or, “How have I felt about my stay in a hotel or my meal in a restaurant? Are you satisfied?
AS: Fine. So that’s obviously almost as a reflection. It’s not about what you’re going to do next. There’s no future dimension to it, which is different from Net Promoter because it’s actually about promotion and it’s trying ask you to take a future view of what’s happened with regards to, are you willing to talk about something? So there is a future dimension to it. I think that’s what makes it different. One is about, how did we do? Enough? And one is about how did we do and are you willing to go further with that? Are you willing to talk about us? Are you willing to recommend us? Are you willing to promote us or not?
AS: You get such loyalists and fanatics, in many ways, of NPS that they’re applying it all over the place, and sometimes it feels like they’re applying it in the wrong place, the wrong place and also too much. And so there’s almost like an emergence of a NPS-itis coming. It’s almost a bit too much in many ways.
LW: Yeah. I think we see, and this probably is never anything that Fred Reichheld wanted to happen, but we definitely see that companies who perceive themselves as a Net Promoter Score company will only seek to measure that question across the business no matter what the interaction, what the application, what has happened even internally, that they are only able to measure the Net Promoter Score and only able to do that on a zero to 10 scale. So ultimately an 11 point scale. And obviously it has this talent and loyalty, and obviously it has a huge impact from a benchmark perspective. But certainly I always advise people to just go a bit carefully when it comes to applying everywhere.
LW: One thing we definitely see is that companies who perceive themselves or set themselves up to be at a Net Promoter company, and who publish their Net Promoter Score publicly or give that out as something that they want to be benchmarked against, because that’s a big driver in NPS as well, is obviously it’s one number you can benchmark against other people in your field. But one thing that we definitely see is people saying, “Because we measure Net Promoter, we can only ask the would you recommend us question all the way through the customer journey, and we can only measure that on an 11 point scale.” We definitely see that very strict application of Net Promoter, sometimes, in my view, to the detriment of the customer’s experience. But I’ve just wondered what you thought about that and whether you see that too.
AS: Well, that that becomes more about the metric than about the experience. And so you’re more interested in the number that you get rather than actually what somebody has experience has been. And that’s wrong, because then it’s a bit like, “Oh, I’ve got this tool that I’ve got to figure out where to apply it.” It’s like a spanner. “I’ve got a quarter inch spanner, now I need to look for a quarter inch nut.” Right? And it’s like trying to fit things together. It just doesn’t work.
LW: I think where I’ve seen it work well, and it harks back to your point earlier about when Promoter adds the most value, is that where I’ve seen poor response rates to Net Promoter, it’s been when people are using it at the very start of a process. So they’ve mandated in that promoted journey, and before somebody has even actually gone forward with that brand, they’re saying, “Would you recommend us?” And I’ve seen some surveys go out and come back with a poorer response rate because people have said, “Well, if I say I would recommend, you is somebody going to call and try and get me to recommend? Is someone going to say, ‘Brilliant, great. Can you give us 10 of your friends that we could leverage?'” And that there hasn’t been enough of an experience.
LW: I think where I’ve seen it used well, particularly in a service desk environment, is a regular, “How are we doing,” kind of a thing. Just allowing people to have an opportunity to give feedback. And then once they have been established as a customer of that service desk or of that brand for a while, using the, “You’ve been a customer for three months, six months, we really value your custom. On the basis of how we’ve done for you, is it something that you’d recommend to others?” And I’ve seen that work probably better, I’d say.
AS: Many people are asking for feedback, and there’s a number of things. One, they’re asking for feedback and it becomes a bit of a tick list or checklist exercise. And I’m continually surprised that people are asking for feedback and not doing very much with the results, and not closing the loop. Even though we know we need to close the loop, and you can go back to customers and go, “You said this, we listened, we thought about this, we did this and here’s what happened. Thanks very much.” I don’t see enough of that happening on a regular basis. It’s shocking and appalling in a really human way. It’s a bit like just not calling your friends, asking for their opinion again and again and again, and then just not telling them what you’ve done with it or how things are going.
AS: So there’s that sort of thing. It’s almost like not doing a good job of that. But also, I think that there’s another more fundamental problem, is that people are asking for measuring things. They don’t really understand why they’re measuring stuff. Because it becomes almost metric-led and they’re chasing scores. And I think that’s a challenge for many service and experience initiatives is that if you ask them about what they’re about, they’re like, “Oh, we do this and we’re great at that,” sort of thing, but it’s not really connected to the business. So I have a view is that it should be strategy first, then outcomes, and then metrics and measures is allow you to figure out, are you achieving the outcomes that you want to achieve, that’s going to enable your strategy? And that’s how you get it all connected, and I’m pretty sure it’s not that way round. It’s usually metrics first and then they’re thinking about how it affects things rather than it being strategy led.
LW: Yeah, I think we see that a lot. I think we see that the dashboard is the desired outcome, and that joining that to individual customer experience and rectifying and following up on that isn’t necessarily what was top of mind. But if I look at the customers of ours who I know get the best feedback in terms of the highest scores and also the most engagement with their feedback surveys, it’s the ones who routinely reach out whether information coming back is good or bad to say, “We’re really sorry you’re unhappy, here’s a replacement,” or, “We’re really pleased that you loved the service. John’s been given a voucher for the cinema,” or whatever else and actually feeding back to customers on the rectifying actions that have been taken. They normally fall off their chairs, the customers.
AS: It’s outstanding.
LW: Yeah, it is outstanding. And it’s lovely to see. And it generates better engagement with the surveys, from what we see.
AS: If someone’s reaching out to a service desk, then it’s probably problem-related. They’re already a customer and it’s problem-related. Therefore, to ask a promoter related question, sometimes that could be appropriate, particularly if you’re thinking about service recovery type of things, and how if you recover really, really well, then somebody’s level of satisfaction or likelihood to promote or to talk positively about you is greater post-recovery. But you have to ask yourself, is it really a promotion opportunity or is it actually a moment of distress for a customer? “I just want to fix the problem, and actually the thing that I’m really interested in is fix my problem.” If I think about it from a sense of loyalty, research shows that 90% of all loyalty is generated by two different points of the journey. So about 50% of it is around the point of transaction, the buying process. “Make me right,” as it were, “Make me feel good about spending my money.”
LW: Practice reinforcement, yeah.
AS: Yep. And then, “Don’t make me wrong,” sort of thing when things go wrong. Right? So like, “Save me. When stuff goes wrong like I know it will go wrong, rescue me as quickly as you can.” If you get those two things right then it’s pretty much all of the loyalty. So promotion and positive thinkings and loyalty is all wrapped up in the whole experience, not just the one bit, I think.
AS: Much of the surveying stuff I think gets influenced by other agendas in the organization, people wanting to know stuff and gather their own data, and ultimately it’s really selfish. It comes across as selfish and not respectful, and customers see right through it and they respond by not responding. This big wall of silence that happens, particularly when people go… They find the idea that single digit response rates on surveys is acceptable. You look at it and go, “Oh my word, that’s acceptable?” When you contrast that with other people who do very, very simple, very quick, very in the moment things at the right point in time and can get anywhere from between 50 to 75% response rates. You’ll know this, you’re in the business. It’s the art of the possible, right? And when you’re on this scale, you have single digits, generally you’re not timely, you’re too long, you’re lazy, self-indulgent, not respectful, etc, etc. And this one is exactly what it says it is: easy, it’s impactful, relevant, etc, etc.
LW: I’d definitely chime with that. I think we see the most engagement and the highest response rates from people who’ve put a lot of effort into when it’s sent, how it feels, and the information that’s followed up off the back of it. Because customers will answer something once, and if you then say, “Here’s what we’ve done as a result of it,” they’ll answer it again and again and again. And if they’re just met with the answers, particularly if they’ve had a bad experience and they take the time to tell you and that information disappears into a black hole and gets spat out in a report a quarter later, nobody fixes it, the customer’s never going to be incentivized to do that again. So I definitely chime with that. I think we see dramatically different response rates based on the sensitivity and the creativity with which the technology is deployed.
AS: I think the best, and they’re still in the minority, are the ones that are actively closing the loop. I saw a piece of research from years ago, I can’t remember who it was actually from, a company possibly called Customer Champions or something. And they had a piece of research that said 95% of companies claim to survey their customers, ask for feedback. And then it goes, “We collect it, we disseminate that information, and then we think about it, and then we action it, and then we communicate back to it.” And then the number goes from 95 and it descends and descends and descends back to, only 5% report back to customers about what they learned, what they thought about, what the action, what happened to actually say, “Thank you for your feedback, here’s what we did with it.” I’m pretty sure those numbers haven’t changed very much. Even though people talk about closing the loop, I don’t see many companies doing very well at closing the loop and doing it on that quick basis. People talk about being agile and adaptable and everything else, but oh my God, is it slow.
LW: If you think about where surveys came from, I definitely see… When we started, the average customer feedback survey was anonymous because it was still very much seen as almost market research rather than feedback. I think that the world has changed now with social media and everything. People expect it to be two-way, and yet I think most people’s concept of a survey is, “I ask you some questions, you give me the information and I say thanks very much, and off I go with that information I may or may not do something with it, but I’ve looked at some nice bar charts.” And that concept of it being a two-way process, of the fact that by asking a question, you’re opening a communication channel, it’s still not necessarily widely understood.
AS: Nope, not at all. And you see that by that whole, not understanding how about closing the loop. And people talk about having a relationship with their customers, and that’s part of it. Some people are going to want to have that sort of relationship. Either, “You ask which is great, thank you very much. And if I tell you, then you’ve got to show me that you value my opinion and you got to show me by proving to me that you’ve done something with that. Otherwise I’m just not going to do it again.”
AS: If you are a company that is dominated by millions and millions of transactions and also customers, then you’ve got to think about scale solutions that give you that sort of insight. And that can be, when you get to a certain point you might lose a little bit of the visceral emotion in something, because you end up with sentiment analysis and picking out keywords and things and you end up with a high-level view. And my fear with something like that is you end up putting distance between you and the and the customer and the emotion in it. And I think that becomes a challenge for big companies in how to get that right kind of balance. Because people talk about emotions are the most important thing, how to connect with people, but if you’re not really connected with people in that loop, then it’s hard, particularly if you’re operating at scale.
AS: But then you see smaller companies who are just going… They get a positive response, somebody scored. Let’s say that they sent out a great NPS survey and somebody scored them a nine and wrote a lovely comment, and within 24 hours they’re on the phone going, “Lindsay, thank you so much.” There’s one story for one company who I think just got this absolutely nailed, is they do that, but what they’ve done is they started to implement a system where they got senior leaders involved in calling back people that give high level… No wait, you’ll love this bit. This is the extension. People that scored them on nine or 10 on an NPS score with a comment.
AS: So they call them up within 24 hours of comment about, “Hey Lindsay, thank you so much. I really appreciate your feedback and your comment. Now, I know that,” say, “Sarah helped you the other day.” This is an insurance company, a real example of an insurance company in Australia, saying, “Sarah helped you the other day, and if I was to go back and thank Sarah on your behalf, what would you like me to say to her?” And they have a little card and they write down the response, and then that leader walks around, finds Sarah and says, “Sarah, I just spoke to that customer.”
AS: And the whole organization lights up. That’s doing some tremendous stuff around closing the loop. I mean, I think that’s off the charts. So simple, but so outside of people’s comfort zones in how they respond to that, and it’s how you can add that human layer impact both inside and outside. One, the customer is completely blown away, because Sarah goes, “Hi, this is Adrian calling from such such insurance group,” and Sarah’s going, “Yeah, what are you trying to sell me?” “Oh, by the way, I’m the CEO,” sort of thing. “Yeah, what are you trying to sell me? I’m in trouble now.” They go, “No, I just want to phone you to say thank you, and if you were to pass on something…” Just blows them away. They’re blown away, and Sarah who served the customer is completely blown away too.
LW: That’s a fabulous example. Yeah, really lovely. And it just demonstrates to the team what good looks like as well. You bring that information back into the organization as part of it.
AS: And you create stories, things that people talk about.
LW: Corporate folklore is so powerful.
AS: All that sort of stuff, both inside and outside. Imagine the customer turned around and is going, “You’ll never guess what happens to me the other day. I got this thing, did this thing, got this survey, gave him a good mark because I thought he was great. Then they called me up!”
LW: Yeah. “The CEO rang me…”
AS: “And asked me, can I give him a quote so he could fill out a card and give it back to them, give it back to the person who surveyed just to say thank you and so they’re rewarding for a job well done.” Simple. It just takes time and a bit of effort and a bit of creativity.
LW: I think that’s a good place to draw our conversation to a close, so thank you to Adrian for that fantastic insight. We really appreciate it.
AS: Thank you, my pleasure.
LW: I’m sure that all of our customers and prospects will have got a lot out of how they can not just adapt their frameworks, but measure more effectively and a little bit more wisely as they go forward, so thank you very much.