Kevin P. Dincher
While assisting a client company with its first customer satisfaction survey recently, I was asked by their marketing group who was driving the survey what I thought about the question: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to your friends and colleagues?” My response: great question. Not ground-breaking—there have been articles recommending using this simple question to measure customer loyalty for at least a decade—but a good question which may actually have greater significance today than it did ten years ago.
The would-you-recommend-us question originates in the theory that willingness-to-recommend correlates to satisfaction and loyalty.
- Customers who are highly likely to recommend your company—scores of 9 and 10—are highly satisfied and are potential promoters of the company who will likely generate positive word-of-mouth
- Customers who give low scores—0 through 6—are somewhat to highly dissatisfied and are potential detractors of the company who will likely generate negative word-of-mouth.
- Customers who give scores of 7 or 8 are passively satisfied. Although they are generally satisfied with the products and services they receive, they are not going to be detractors of the company—but their level of satisfaction is not so high that they will be promoters of the company either. They probably aren’t going to trash talk your company, but they are going to promote you either.
Your net promoter score is the difference in the percentage of customers who are promoters and the percentage who are detractors. [For example, if 20% of your customers are promoters and 50% of your customers are detractors, then your net promoter score is -30.] There is supposedly a close correlation between net promoter scores and a company’s revenue growth. Obviously, the higher the net promoter score, the more likely your buyers and customers are to generate positive word-of-mouth.
The Growing Impact of Word-of-Mouth
The impact of word-of-mouth—positive or negative—has never been greater. The proliferation of mobile devices combined with the rise of social media is creating a world where your customers and potential customers are always online, always connected and always sharing their reactions and impressions. Increasingly, your customers and potential customers are making up their minds about your company, products and services based upon what is being said about you online. Your biggest hurdle may no longer be your competitors; it may be the ability of potential customers to learn about you on their own from online reviews, posts, blogs, yelps and tweets—making it increasingly difficult for you to control the message. Therefore, managing the customer experience so that it generates positive word-of-mouth is increasingly importance. The would-you-recommend-us question can give you some insight into how well you are doing that.
The worry is that companies ask the would-you- recommend-us question without doing enough follow-up to understand what it is they are doing right or wrong. In fact, my client’s marketing group wanted to keep the customer satisfaction survey “super simple”—they just wanted to ask the one question: would you recommend us? It took a surprising amount of work to convince them of something that seemed obvious to me: they needed to ask why a customer would or would not recommend the company. Otherwise, how would they know what to keep on doing and what changes to make. Changes? Who said anything about making any changes?
The Cardinal Rule of Customer Satisfaction Surveys
The cardinal rule of customer satisfaction surveys is a simple one: if you are not prepared to make changes based upon customer feedback, then do not do a customer satisfaction survey.
Conducting customer satisfaction surveys contains two inherent dangers. The first is that you are asking your customers to remember annoyances, difficulties, problems, etc.—things that they don’t like about your company. Asking your survey questions can actually lower your customers’ sense of satisfaction. This makes the second danger all the more critical: if you do not make changes based upon the feedback your customers provide, your message to them is that you do not really care about either their feedback or the difficulties they have experienced. Customer satisfaction surveys can have a negative impact on customer experience—and actually increase negative word-of-mouth.
So, “would you recommend us?” can be an incredibly useful question to ask customers—if you ask the follow-up questions to find out why or why not—and if the answers generate change. Otherwise, don’t ask.
Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education, counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.
LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher