Ask The Expert: Article

Q: How can my company convert more customers into NPS “advocates”?
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The standard approach to improving net promoter scores (NPS) focuses on reducing the number of “detractors.” Companies typically invest resources to understand and fix the problems perceived by this disgruntled group. But there is another frontier in customer experience – for many companies, a second wave to be addressed once the detractor defect-fixing is addressed – that focuses instead on the “neutrals.” In this next frontier, companies seek to evangelize advocates by converting neutrals into “promoters.”

To implement this strategy, companies must start by segmenting NPS neutrals to identify the most relevant neutrals and focus efforts where the highest return is anticipated. High potential neutrals include those that have high overall customer value (e.g., lifetime value), those that yield considerable influence (often gauged by data on profession/business ownership) and customers that are more likely to be easily converted (e.g., former advocates). See Figure 1.

Once identified, the needs and expectations of these high return neutrals must be understood. Companies should seek to identify the touchpoints that offer the greatest opportunity for forging improved relationships. We find that, while product issues play a key role in creating detractors, it is service and delivery factors that provide the most leverage in creating advocates. It is also important to note that the most NPS-relevant touchpoints are those with very high frequency and perceived importance. Companies typically employ surveys, focus groups and other primary research to uncover the key levers.

Proactively uncovering and turning around silent customer dissatisfaction is critical in converting neutrals to advocates. Closed-loop customer feedback and complaints management are designed to identify the needs of vocal customers. In order to delight and convert silent NPS neutrals, however, their customer experience defects have to be proactively uncovered.

To create real impact, companies should seek to inspire not only advocacy, but also action. NPS asks if a customer would recommend a business, not if he/she does recommend it. A sufficiently large promoter pool should be groomed to develop advocates into action-oriented advocates. There are a number of tactics companies can use to turn advocates into action-oriented advocates, for example targeted referral and brand champion programs. See Figure 2.

Companies should magnify the impact of customer experience improvements by going into action on their own behalf. For example, an organization that has invested in and benefitted from improvements to key touchpoints can use social media to emphasize the progress. They also can seek to optimize performance in highly visible third-party customer satisfaction rankings.

Many companies, having spent considerable time and resources on defect-fixing, are now ready for this next wave of customer experience.

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