I’ve finally figured out my problem with NPS

This article was first published on TheCustomer and is re-posted here with permission. NPS remains hugely popular, but this article has elicited a bunch of responses agreeing with the concerns. With that said, what are your preferred alternatives?

If you ask executives at Fortune 500 companies how likely it is that they would recommend the Net Promoter Score to their friends and colleagues, you’d probably get a pretty positive response. After all, in the 18 years or so since it was introduced, NPS has become ubiquitous – firms use it to gauge departmental progress and determine individuals’ bonuses, embed it into their operations, and cite it in earnings calls, .

But, if you’ve spent any time in the Customer Experience world, you’ll know that NPS is not without its detractors. Critics point out that the methodology measures intention, but not behavior. The fact that someone would recommend something doesn’t mean that they do recommend it. It also doesn’t indicate whether the customer will buy again. Others complain that it doesn’t capture real detractors – customers that actually discourage friends or family from using a product or service, as opposed to not promoting. Meanwhile, it is frequently abused by companies – whether intentionally or unintentionally. Still other detractors point out that the score lacks multi-dimensionality – for example, it can’t distinguish the fact that you might recommend a product or service only to some people or only in certain circumstances.

But, I have a more fundamental reason that I’m not a fan. Despite the fact that NPS is promoted and lauded throughout the Customer Experience industry, and despite the CX emphasis on companies being “outside-in,” I don’t believe that NPS provides an outside-in perspective.

As broadly used today, NPS is the equivalent of the apocryphal party boor who realizes they’re talking too much about themselves and blurts out “enough about me, what do YOU think of me?” There’s limited listening and no insight into what customers value and expect from a company or their peers.

An outside-in perspective should uncover your customers’ “why” – their attitudes, values, and their expectations of the relationship or the interaction. And, when captured effectively, this insight provides the framework for the brand to align with their customer expectations and meet their needs.

At the end of the day, the “ultimate question” just doesn’t provide the ultimate answer. Unless you’re doing real research into customer’s attitudes, values, and expectations, all NPS gives you is a number to allow executives to channel their inner Sally Fields and delight that “you like me.”

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