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 marketing department began to run customer satisfaction surveys and collect customer and market data and feedback. Findings were used to make improvements in operations but the executives could see no clear figures and no business correlation. Customer satisfaction remained 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

Until 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. Indicator has vast research and validation to support its value and its meaningfulness for business growth. What NPS says is true and we want this indicator – then we know how are our possibilities to succeed in the future.

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! Importance of customer experience for business became acknowledged.

NPS only as a figure is not enough

Soon following the figure became boring – we set targets but the figure is not changing. Ooh – we need to motivate the employees to do a better job, to provide better customer experiences. And so NPS scores became a matter of rewarding, e.g. as a precondition for bonuses or as an actual KPI of personal score cards. Rewarding should enhance the motivational levels of employees and thus NPS-figures and sales to raise. We’re so excited – Now nothing can stop us!

Still nothing happened. Why? Because employees didn’t know what to do. They were given a clear target figure of NPS 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, I don’t even meet customers in my daily work. Customer-driven business, yeah right. In worst cases some target-oriented individuals have guided the customer to give a high score for the survey so that he/she will get the bonus. They did not have other ideas how to affect the figure. All this uncertainty has actually affected negatively the motivational levels and employee experience.

Common understanding is the key to real customer-centricity

Excited executives owe the lost employees. It is time to create the understanding of how each individual of the organization affects personally to the customer experience and NPS-score. This affect can be clear and direct or indirect via few cause-effect relationships, 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 only following NPS. The underlying dynamics need to be commonly understood, followed systematically and actively managed. Individuals need the map to find the way. Just a cross on an empty paper is not enough.

Just after that the NPS-figures may start to increase significantly, and business benefits will follow. Then everyone will live happily ever after. Well.. Probably not for too long but at least this 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.