Settling the Score
4 min read

Settling the Score

Are you driving your NPS metric, or are you letting the metric drive you?
Settling the Score

Do you do everything you can to get a great NPS score?

If you answered yes, then I’ve got something very important to tell you. Are you sitting down?

You’re doing it wrong.

I know, I know. You’re saying one of several things to yourself right now:

  • “No, I’m doing it right. NPS scores are important metrics and I need to keep them high.”
  • “No, I’m doing it right. NPS scores determine my future raises or bonuses.”
  • “No, I’m doing it right. I keep my NPS score high because that’s all my organization cares about.”

Those are all pretty valid answers, but you’re still doing it wrong.

The Score isn’t the thing. It’s the thing that gets you to the thing.

Too often, organizations are wagging the dog when it comes to NPS. Instead of using it to find out what’s happening right (or wrong) on the CS team, they use it as the goal.

I’ll say it again: If you’re viewing a high NPS score as the goal, you’re doing it wrong. A high NPS score means that you’re most likely doing some things right. A low NPS score means you’re doing some things wrong; these things could be poor communication, poor policies, or problems with the product that CS just can’t address.

Sometimes, the job of Customer Success is to get people to the right solution, and not necessarily the to the solution the customer thinks they want or need. Properly used, NPS is a metric of how well you’re doing communicating what the right solution is with the product you have.

But… what’s the difference?

This is a perfectly valid question. If your goal is customer loyalty, and NPS is a metric that tells you what the customer loyalty metric is, isn’t the metric what I want to drive?

To answer, allow me to tell a story from my time at the Apple Genius Bar.

One of my colleagues, we’ll call her Sylvia (not her real name), struggled with her NPS score. It was virtually entirely in the detractor-and-passive range, 0-8. Why?

Sylvia handled mostly iPhone issues, which can range from a variety of software issues (80% of cases) to hardware issues. When software issues occur with an iPhone, a solution often is to erase the phone, and even, sometimes, not restoring from backup.

Sylvia took most of the troubleshooting steps she needed to, but she wasn’t great at communicating with the customer, letting them know how software could be the issue, and not explaining why she wasn’t just replacing a phone or an iPad, which was usually what customers expected to happen.

In order to improve her score, she did the only thing she knew to make customers happy - give away stuff.

Now, instead of troubleshooting the software for problems and using her soft skills to gain agreement from the customer for the solution, she would just rush through her appointments, and end up replacing many more phones. This made customers happy! Her NPS shot up!

But a few months into this, our Lead Genius sat down to have a chat with Sylvia. Why was she giving away so many replacements? Internally, we knew that 80% of problems we saw at the bar were software issues.

Slowly, people would also come back to the Genius Bar because after a restore of a backup to their phone or iPad, the initial issue they came in for would return - because it was a software problem, and Sylvia’s solution that she thought would make them happy - a free replacement iPhone - wasn’t the right solution.

Ultimately, what needed to happen was that Sylvia needed to learn from her NPS score and comments, and look to them to divulge the secret to increasing her score: do a better job gaining agreement from the customer on the right solution.

This approach works even if you work on a SaaS product. You might have customers that come to the platform with the expectation that you'll do all their initial work for them. Instead, the right solution is to show them how to do the initial setup work; this is a better solution, because they're ultimately responsible for their data, and need to be enabled to use the software themselves. Maybe in the moment they're not happy, but if you have a great product, in the long run, they've got the right solution.

When you do the right thing, your score will go up, because doing the right thing, solving problems, and communicating well builds customer loyalty, which naturally brings your score up.

The score is not the goal, it’s a tool.

And that’s all it should ever be: a tool to help you learn where your customer’s loyalty is at, and and to help you learn where you're doing well at that and where you're falling short. Promoters will praise you when they find success with your solutions, even if they've walked away from the initial interaction with uncertainty. Detractors will warn others away from you, even if they've walked away from the initial interaction with glee that they got something free from you.

Don't get the NPS paradigm backwards. Give fantastic support in the right way, and those promoters will pile up.