Turning NPS Detractors into Promoters

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you know I’ve been exploring Net Promoter Score, a system of measuring customer loyalty developed by Fred Reichheld and described in his 2006 book “The Ultimate Question.” You also know I think it’s an invaluable tool for improving your business and building client loyalty. In this post, I’d like to discuss what could be the most valuable way to work with the NPS, i.e. using it to turn your company’s detractors into promoters.

The simple fact that this transformation can be effected is where I’d like to begin because far too many people think a bad Net Promoter Score is the end of the road with a given customer. They see their initial NPS from a customer as a final exam grade and give up on a business relationship. That’s a self-created failure. Learn to think of the NPS as a mid-term grade. The score is not abstract data; it’s frank feedback from a real person with whom you can communicate.

Steven Salta

Steven Salta

As I’ve stressed before, NPS is dynamic and actionable because the customer who grades you also gives you, succinctly, his key reason for the grade. Armed with such information, the last thing you should do is give up. It’s time to get to work repairing your client relationship, and in my experience, this is usually not an insurmountable task.

At my company, when a client gives us a low score—and sometimes harsh criticism—the first thing I do is phone the client, express my concern over their dissatisfaction, and try to set up a personal meeting. When I sit down with them face to face, I let them do the talking, and I never argue the merit of the score they gave us.

Surprisingly, it’s at this early point that I often begin to see very positive results. I’ve found that in about eight out of 10 cases, the client is so happy with the personal contact—and impressed that someone is both reading their feedback and willing to correct a problem—that they’re already willing to give us another shot at their business. Frequently, they even take back some of their criticism. All this before I even propose a solution. It’s a compelling lesson in the power of outreach.

Second, I usually learn that the problem is indeed actionable. Maybe there had been a relationship issue between the client and someone on the team—something very easy to correct. Or we might have made a promise that wasn’t kept, scheduled a project improperly, or simply set the wrong expectations. I can’t recall a single instance in which a client’s feedback suggested, and my inquiries confirmed, that we as a company hadn’t been up to the task.

That second lesson takes us right back to the first. We never found that we were in over our heads; the problems were ones we could correct. And it was simple outreach that repaired the agency/client relationship. I’d add any personal touch possible when I met with a dissatisfied client. In years past, I included my home phone number on my business card, and told the client they were free to call me directly if there were further problems. No client ever actually called me at home. But my efforts at personal outreach turned many initial detractors into promoters.

The most successful example I recall was a meeting I set up because a valued client had given us an Ultimate Question score of 5 on a project. As always, I let the client do the talking, I resisted every impulse to argue or disagree, and by the time I left the meeting, the client had given us an additional $100K in business.

Again, be sure to see your initial NPS as a mid-term evaluation, and then move into action. A potential promoter is waiting for you. The biggest mistake you can make is to interpret a low NPS as a verdict and walk away from a customer.

Steven Salta is co-founder and CEO of Ascentium, a digital media and interactive marketing agency. Steven has overall responsibility for the agency’s revenue, profitability, customer loyalty, and corporate culture.

About Steven Salta

Steven Salta is co-founder and CEO of Ascentium, a digital media and interactive marketing agency. Steven has overall responsibility for the agency's revenue, profitability, customer loyalty, and corporate culture.

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