Net promoter score (NPS) – or how do you think about customers.

First of all, I’ll start with the credits: The Net Promoter Score, or NPS┬« was developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix in 2003. (See The One Number you Need to Grow). It assumes that all customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.

It seems that the big idea was who you should concentrate your marketing on. There are your loyal recommenders, who will buy your stuff pretty much whatever, there are the people who don’t really care one way or another, and there are the people who had a bad experience with you. Given a limited budget, where should you concentrate your efforts?

You will notice some sympathy with triage. I think the human brain is naturally comfortable dividing things into three groups. Like Gaul. (For anyone who has neither read Asterix or De Bello Gallico, that is a reference to Caesar. Caesar’s title is not a reference to his summer holiday in beautiful Gaul, but to the Gaulish wars. I love faux amis, or in this case, armies.) Back to triage. This used to be the battlefield technique used to decide who to save and who to leave. The ones that you saved were the ones that you could save and who would not survive if you did nothing. How does this relate to customers?

You don’t want to spend much effort on your loyal supporters. They don’t need it. You don’t want them to resent you (see the bad publicity that accrues when people realise that new customers are getting better deals than old faithfuls) but you don’t need to woo them either.

The people who hate you hate you. There are those who bad-mouth you, which has a major effect on your business, and those who only chose you because you were the last one left in the playground. Who can you safely sacrifice and who is worth turning around?

This is where one number doesn’t cut it. Bye bye NPS. It’s a fair measure if all the bodies on your battlefield are privates, but we all know that what counts is the power that the body wields. You’re obviously better getting a loyal high-spender than a low-spender, turning round the opinion of someone who whose opinion is listened to than that of a dead end Derek. The thing is, you can never be quite sure who that is. First, you can see who in the middle section has money and is worth investing in. Secondly, you can see what the cost of attempting to fix the problems are. If it’s going to cost more to fix than you’re going to gain in sales or spend in support, then consider leaving the problem as a straightforward problem. People do it all the time. Look at the list of known bugs. Look at that well-known bug category of “won’t be fixed”. So long as it isn’t a deal breaker, you can ignore it.

Finally, be honest to yourself. Remember that everyone likes to think that they’re important. If you can convert someone, they may turn out to be your strongest supporter.

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