NPS charmed the executives, but confused the employees

We’re facing a funny situation: Company executives are totally excited about customer experience, measuring NPS and promoting its importance everywhere, while employees are frustrated and confused, uncertain what to do and how to take the customer into account in their daily work.

Customer-centricity initially only a marketing phrase

The story begins from the beginning of the era of services. It was no longer the quality of products or the quality of manufacturing process that determined the success. Customers’ purchasing power kept on increasing and their demands for service quality accordingly. Companies had to find ways to understand their customers and receive feedback from them.

Executives were slow to understand this. Some smart minds in the marketing department began to conduct customer satisfaction surveys, and collect customer and market data, and feedback. The findings were used to make improvements in operations but the executives could see no clear figures and no business correlation. Customer satisfaction stayed as an important mantra and marketing sentence that also the executives used, but without any actual meaning in daily business.

NPS emerged, appealed and awoke the management

Then the NPS (Net Promoter Score) emerged. Of course we want our customers to recommend us! Easy to understand, easy to measure with one question, and especially easy to follow. The NPS indicator has been vastly researched and validated, which supports its value and its meaningfulness for business growth. What NPS says is true and we want this indicator – then we know what our possibilities to succeed in the future are.

NPS opened the doors for customers into the executive meetings’ agenda. In the organization everyone was pleased: Finally they understand that we need to be more customer-driven and let the customer experience to lead our development efforts! The importance of customer experience for business was finally acknowledged.

NPS as a figure only is not enough

Soon following the NPS figure became boring – we set targets but the figure was not changing. Aah – we need to motivate the employees to do a better job in order to provide a better customer experience. And so, NPS score became a matter of rewarding, for example, a precondition for bonuses or as an actual KPI of personal score cards. Rewarding should enhance the motivational levels of employees, and subsequently the NPS figure and sales should increase. We’re so excited – Now nothing can stop us!

Still, nothing happened. Why? Because the employees didn’t know what to do. They were given a clear target NPS figure to reach, and some guidance on what NPS is and how it is measured in our company. Now I just should know how to affect that damn figure!! Better customer experiences… How can I do that because I don’t even meet customers in my daily work. Customer-driven business, yeah right.

In worst cases some of the most target-oriented individuals have guided the customer to give them a high NPS score in the customer satisfaction survey so that they will get their bonus. They did not have any other ideas on how to affect the figure. All this uncertainty has actually affected negatively to the motivational levels and the employee experience.

Common understanding is the key to real customer-centricity

The excited executives owe it to their employees who feel at lost. It is time to create the understanding of how each individual of the organization affects personally to the customer experience and the NPS score. This effect can be clear and direct or indirect through a few causal connections; this just needs to be analyzed. Organization as a system can be harnessed to create higher value for the customer – but the answer is not to  solely follow the NPS. The underlying dynamics of the system need to be commonly understood, followed systematically, and actively managed. Individuals need a map to find the right way. A lone X marking the spot on an empty paper is not enough.

After you’ve completed the aforementioned parts, the NPS figure may start to increase significantly, followed by the business benefits. Then everyone will live happily ever after. Well.. Probably not for too long but at least the lack of understanding is no longer a worry.


Kirsi Niiranen is an analytical business developer with an optimistic and creative approach. Kirsi’s passion for customer experience management and her broad experience in different sectors ensure that her customers achieve their goals. Kirsi makes change visible and helps develop tools for systematic management.

kirsi-niiranen-NPS-blog