Net Promoter Score (NPS) turns 20 later this year.
What Bain consultant Fred Reichheld first introduced in a HBR article in December 2003 is now ubiquitous. The “how likely are you to recommend” question is asked endlessly after customer experiences, large and small. The metric that this question generates is now tracked by two-thirds of the Fortune 1000.
Former IBM CMO Michelle Pelusa had this to say about Net Promoter Score a couple years ago:
“It’s more than a metric. One could use the word, ‘religion.’”
And yet, its simplicity can hamper its utility. Many companies treat Net Promoter Scores as an end in and of itself, not following up with other questions that can lead to real insight.
Others set up skewed incentive systems with NPS tied to individual bonuses, resulting in people gaming the system or openly begging for higher scores.
Net Promoter Score also spawned a legion of copycat metrics that chase customers after each and every transaction.
I like how Ian Bogost captured the current state of ratings fatigue in the Atlantic last week:
“The demands for input multiply. Companies might implore you to review the delivery, the product delivered, the vendor that made it, the retailer of platform that sold it — and then maybe the support or return experience as well.
“What you might perceive to be a simple transaction with a singular company burgeons into a whole ecosystem of departments, divisions, partners, and providers, each with their own business objectives, bureaucracies, key performance indicators, and associated surveys, rankings, and metrics…
“And then it happens all the time, for everything you buy, forever. A $500 air fryer, or a $5 power strip, a months-in-the-making medical procedure or a yen for crab rangoon — each demands rating on a five-point scale.”
The result of all these customer experience surveys, in aggregate, can actually detract from customer experience.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: