How to Maximise Completion Rates for a CX Programme?

B2B Customer Experience (CX) programmes are our bread and butter at Deep-Insight and we’re used to handling questions on how to make CX programmes more effective.

One of the questions we often get from first-time clients is: “What completion rates can I expect from my CX programme?” Another common question from longer-term clients is “How do I improve my completion rates?”

Let’s deal with each question in turn.

“What completion rates can I expect from my CX programme?”

Let me preface this by saying that we are talking about business-to-business (B2B) relationships so there is an inherent assumption in the question that our clients have some existing – and hopefully strong – relationships with their clients and that the contacts in the client organisation will be receptive to a request to give feedback as part of that ongoing relationship.

This is usually the case but clients – particularly senior clients – are busy people so it may not come as a surprise to hear that the average participation rate in a B2B customer assessment is around 35%.

But that 35% figure is an aggregate score and there’s a little more to it than that, if you have a look at the graph below.

completion rates CX Programme

It turns out that the most of the CX programmes that we are involved in have completion rates in the 26-30% but we have a smaller number of clients – typically clients who have been running our Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) assessments for many years – who regularly achieve completion rates of 50% and higher.

If this is your first time running a customer assessment – either a simple Net Promoter Score survey of something a little more complex like our CRQ relationship assessments – you can expect completion rates of less than 1 in 3.

This may sound OK if you regularly run consumer surveys where a 5% completion rate can be a good result, but for an existing long-standing B2B client relationship, it looks paltry. And yet we have been running customer assessments of all sorts for nearly 20 years and these are the actual numbers.

So now let’s get to the second question: “How do I improve my completion rates?”

“How do I improve my completion rates?”

The starting point is to understand why some B2B companies sometimes get low completion rates and others consistently exceed 50%.

Our lowest-ever completion rate (4%) came from a first-time UK software company where the quality of contact data was simply terrible – people who had left their companies three years earlier, people who had never even heard of our client. That’s because the Account Managers did not personally sign off the client contact names. You get the picture.

Our highest-ever completion rate cam from a company that has been a client of Deep-Insight’s for 10 years and whose customers view the annual CRQ assessment as an important part of their ongoing strategic relationship with our client.

But there are other reasons for low and high participation rates – here’s a quick summary of the profiles of our clients that fit into both categories:

completion rates CX Programme

Try these 6 steps in order to improve your completion rates for a CX programme:

  1. Make It Strategic. If the CX programme is CEO-led and driven from the top, it will not be seen as another box-ticking exercise. Make sure this is a key item on the Executive agenda.
  2. Put in Governance Structures. By this we mean things like: a) Account Directors should supervise and sign all contact names, not just pull them from the CRM system; b) the Sales Director should personally sign off all Strategic Client contact names.
  3. Don’t call it a Survey! At Deep-Insight, we ban the use of the term “survey” . For us, a CRQ assessment is a strategic ongoing conversation with the clients and their views will be taken seriously.
  4. “Warm Up” the Contacts. An invitation to complete a survey should not come out of the blue. Ideally, it should be introduced by letter or by email by the CEO or Country Manager, and while an assessment is “live”, the account manager will know to stay in touch with the client and urge them to complete the assessment.
  5. Close the Loop. This is critical. If you ask for feedback, you need to share that feedback with the client, agree the actions that BOTH PARTIES will take to improve the relationship.
  6. Repeat. Get into a rhythm where your clients and your sales/account teams know that every February or October (or whenever), the annual strategic assessment will take place. You may want to run frequent assessments. Some companies have quarterly Net Promoter or Pulse assessments – but don’t overdo the frequency. Your organisation needs time to put remedial actions into effect.

If you are interested in reading more about running a CX programme effectively take a look at our process or contact us at sales@deep-insight.com.

What? Zero is a good Net Promoter Score?

Deep-Insight works with clients spanning all industries – and our results show that it can be tougher to deliver services consistently well (and build strong relationships) in some industries than it is in others.

One particularly tough industry is the provision of Outsourcing services. These services include IT, payroll, finance, manufacturing, call centres, washroom services… in fact, there are very few functions and processes that have not been outsourced. This phenomenon is not just confined to the private sector – some of the biggest outsourcing deals involve the provision of services to local, regional and central government clients.

Over the past two decades, outsourcing has become commonplace as companies have focused on their core areas of expertise and hived off other functions to specialist organisations that can provide those services better, faster, cheaper than they can. Unfortunately, many of these arrangements fail to deliver the expected benefits, and many service providers get badly burnt when large contracts that they have bid for, and won, run out of control.

I spend a lot of my time with senior executive teams – including those in the outsourcing industry – helping them understand what their major corporate (and government) clients think of them. When I present their customers’ feedback to these leadership teams – in the format of Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – one of the most common questions I get asked is “Are those scores typical of our industry?”

Put it another way: they want to know what a ‘good’ CRQ or NPS score is for their industry.

SOME INDUSTRIES ARE DIFFERENT

Many executives tell me that their industry is different. My stock response is that the nature of a business relationship is the same regardless of what industry you operate in. If the fundamentals of a business relationship are the same from one industry to the next, there should be little difference in CRQ or NPS scores across different industries.

And yet, in practice, we do see significant differences in certain industries. For example, corporate banks seem to find it easier to build strong relationships with their corporate clients than companies that provide complex outsourcing solutions.

So why is this? Why does it appear to be so difficult for service providers to get really good customer feedback results and scores? And – back to the title of this blog – what is a ‘good’ Net Promoter Score if you operate in the Outsourcing industry?

7 DEADLY SINS OF OUTSOURCING

Several academics such as Jérôme Barthélemy have tried to address this question. Jérôme has identified the “7 Deadly Sins of Outsourcing” – the pitfalls that companies blunder into when they make a decision to outsource a process or entire function to a service provider. These seven sins are:

  1. Outsourcing activities that should not be outsourced;
  2. Selecting the wrong vendor;
  3. Writing a poor contract;
  4. Overlooking personnel issues;
  5. Losing control over the outsourced activity;
  6. Overlooking the hidden costs of outsourcing; and
  7. Failing to plan an exit strategy (i.e., vendor switch or reintegration of an outsourced activity)

THE TERRIBLE THREE

It’s not just the company that’s doing the outsourcing that’s at fault. The vendors – or outsourcing service providers – are also guilty of their own deadly sins, the most common of which (the Terrible Three) are the following:

-The Sales – Delivery Gap. This typically happens when a vendor has a ‘bid team’ – a professional sales and commercial group – that bids for new contracts. Before the ink is dry ve to be able to on the contract, the bid team has moved onto the next major deal, having handed over delivery and implementation to a completely different team that looks at the contract and shouts: “WHAT? You expect us to deliver that? With those resources? And for that cost?”

-The Efficiency Challenge. Outsourcing providers need economies of scale to make money. The unit cost of providing payroll services to 10 companies is lower than to a single company, but only if the service provider can establish a large efficient ‘factory’ for the delivery of these services. In most cases, the ‘factory’ managers operate on principles that are based on efficiency and cost containment rather than on delighting the customer.

-The Offshoring Issue. As discussed above, service providers must run an outsourced operation at a lower cost that the company doing the outsourcing. One way of achieving that is offshoring – locating the ‘factory’ in another part of the world where labour costs are significantly lower. So the UK service provider moves the IT development to India, or the Australian service provider transfers the call centre functions to the Philippines. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s meticulously planned and executed. Often it’s not, and even when it is, there are always teething problems.

SO WHAT’S A GOOD NPS SCORE FOR AN OUTSOURCING COMPANY?

In a previous blog I said that an ‘average’ Net Promoter Score for a European B2B company is in the region of +10% and that scores in excess of +30% are truly excellent.

Our experience is that an ‘average’ NPS score for Outsourcing companies is negative – typically in the region of -10% and that any NPS result in positive territory can regarded as a good result.

So there you have it. Zero CAN be a good Net Promoter Score for some European B2B companies.

If you are a senior executive in a company that provides outsourcing services, you can settle for mediocrity and target your staff to achieve a zero or slightly positive NPS. Alternatively, you can work with your clients to make sure they avoid the 7 Deadly Sins (as well as making sure you avoid the Terrible Three internal sins), thereby outperforming the competition and making much greater profits for you and your shareholders.

Why B2B Benchmarking is NOT a good idea!

If I got a penny for every time a client has asked “How do we compare against our competitors?” or “How are we doing against the benchmark for our industry?” I’d be a rich man.

Most of our clients want to know how they are doing against the benchmark score for their industry. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them: “If you really aspire to being a mediocre company, then I’ll tell you what the average score is for your industry and how you compare against the average. But you can do better than that. You can be UNIQUE.”

In fairness, some of our clients have latched on to the message that they should ignore the competition and focus purely on being indispensable to their customers, but it’s still tempting to see where you stand in a league tables against your industry peers.

So let me ask a few questions about why you want to do benchmarking.

-What exactly is your industry? Are you in the insurance industry, or the insurance broking industry? Or both? Or are you an outsourcing company that specialises in insurance third-party processing? These are all different industries, with different dynamics. And there are differences in average scores from one industry to the next. For example, we know from experience that IT and BPO outsourcing companies tend to get lower than average scores from their clients, while corporate or business banking companies tend to get slightly higher than average scores. Firms operating in niche markets sometimes find it easier to be seen as different and unique.

-If I say you’re at the industry benchmark, will you really be happy? If you aspire to hit the average score for your industry, or your country, or the globe, you’re setting the bar pretty low. What you’re telling me is that you want to be an average company. To take my point to its extreme, benchmarking is little more than a recipe for mediocrity.

-Do you realise that international benchmarks are inherently flawed? This is not just because the insurance broking or widget-manufacturing markets in the Netherlands have a completely different structure than they do in Australia. It’s also because Dutch and Australian clients have completely different approaches to the way they answer customer surveys. There are some good academic papers on how different nationalities are pre-disposed to answering questionnaires differently. Let me give just one example. Some people will claim that the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for B2B companies is between 25% and 30%, regardless of industry. However, these figures are heavily skewed towards US companies. Our experience of gathering NPS scores across 86 different countries since 2006 is that the average NPS score for any B2B industry is closer to 10%. But then again, our clients are more heavily weighted towards European and Australian respondents, who generally tend to score less positively than their American counterparts.

If you really do want to benchmark yourself, then let me suggest that you approach the subject of benchmarking in a slightly different fashion:

  1. Start by setting the bar higher. Aspire to be the best, or at the very least to be ‘Unique’ in the eyes of your customers. Our database at Deep-Insight shows that only 10% of B2B companies are considered Unique by their clients, but these Unique companies have significantly stronger relationships – and retention rates – than the ‘average’ company. Unique companies typically have twice the number of ‘Ambassadors’ and have NPS scores of 30% or more.
  1. Benchmark yourself against your own performance last year. That’s a much more reliable way of seeing if you are becoming more customer-centric or not. The journey to becoming a customer-centric organisation is a long one – don’t think you’re going to achieve it in anything less than three years – so be sure to check your progress formally on at least an annual basis.
  1. Benchmark yourself internally. See what your clients think of you, compared to the scores that are achieved by other divisions or business lines within the same company. If you’re an international company, benchmark yourself against other geographies (but watch out for the cultural differences between, say, American and European divisions.)

Good luck!

What is a ‘Good’ Employee Net Promoter Score?

Last year, I wrote a blog post entitled What is a ‘Good’ B2B Net Promoter Score? which turned out to be surprisingly popular. I’m guessing that was because there’s a lot of nonsense posted on the Internet about companies achieving a NPS (net promoter score) of +62% or even +78%, or about people being hugely disappointed because they only achieved a score of +25%.

Meanwhile, some of our own clients at Deep-Insight clients used to get upset when I would tell them that their NPS was only marginally positive or – ever worse – negative.

The two simple messages in that blog post were:

“Be careful about how you interpret NPS figures” and

“A Net Promoter Score of around +10% is the average for European B2B firms.”

In that blog, I was discussing NPS as a measure of customer advocacy but more and more, it is also becoming the de facto standard for measuring employee advocacy and employee engagement. So this blog will address the question: “What is a ‘Good’ Employee Net Promoter Score?”

Before I let you know what that magic number is, it’s worth digressing slightly to explain the basics of how NPS is calculated. If you’re already a net promoter aficionado, you can skip the box below.

HOW IS THE NET PROMOTER SCORE CALCULATED?

For the uninitiated, a company’s Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is based on the answers its employees give to a single question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?” Employees who score 9 or 10 are called ‘Promoters’. Those who score 7 or 8 are ‘Passives’ while any employee who gives a score of 6 or below is a ‘Detractor’. The actual eNPS calculation is:

Net Promoter Score = % of Promoters minus % of Detractors

Theoretically, companies can have a Net Promoter Score ranging from -100% to +100%.

So think about it. The only Promoters you have in your company are those employees who are prepared to give you a score of 9 or 10 out of 10. In the average American company (remember that the whole Net Promoter concept originated in the USA) that makes sense. Americans tend to score very positively when they are satisfied, so having a high cut-off point is appropriate. However, if you’ve grown up and live and work in a European country, you approach the Net Promoter question from a different cultural perspective.

Many – nay, most – Europeans regard 8/10 as a very good score. Some will argue that 9s or 10s are only handed out in exceptional circumstances. This is culturally ingrained into us Europeans through our schooling system and particularly through our university grading system, where score of 80% (8 out of 10) and higher are almost unheard of.

These cultural differences have to be taken into account when interpreting whether a particular Employee Net Promoter Score is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

So what is the magic number?

We have been measuring NPS and eNPS since 2006, mainly for European and Australian companies, and the average Employee Net Promoter Score across all of our clients during that time has been a paltry -10%. Yes, that really is a negative sign before the 10.

Minus Ten Percent!

Put it another way: achieving a positive Employee Net Promoter Score is a solid achievement for most European firms, and only very rarely have we seen eNPS results in excess of +20%.

So there you have it. If your company, or department, has just received a negative eNPS in the latest employee survey, don’t feel too bad. You’re in good company!

 

To find out more about Deep-Insight’s employee assessments, click here.

* Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks and Net Promoter SystemSM and Net Promoter ScoreSM are trademarks of Bain & Company, Satmetrix Systems and Fred Reichheld

What is a ‘Good’ B2B Net Promoter Score?

So what’s a good Net Promoter Score* for a B2B company?

It’s a question we get asked a lot. Sometimes the question comes in a slightly different form: “What NPS target should we set for the company? 25% seems low, so maybe 50%? Or should we push the boat out and aim for 70%?”

Well, it all depends. On a number of different factors. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, it can even depend on factors such as whether your customers are American or European.

We can’t state often enough how crucial it is to understand how these various factors (we’ll discuss them in detail below) impact the overall Net Promoter Score you receive, as the NPS calculation makes it incredibly sensitive to small changes in individual customer scores. Be aware of these factors when deciding on a realistic NPS figure to aim for.

HOW IS THE NET PROMOTER SCORE CALCULATED?

For the uninitiated, a company’s Net Promoter Score is based on the answers its customers give to a single question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?” Customers who score 9 or 10 are called ‘Promoters’. Those who score 7 or 8 are ‘Passives’ while any customer who gives you a score of 6 or below is a ‘Detractor’. The actual NPS calculation is:

Net Promoter Score = The % of Promoters minus the % of Detractors

Theoretically, companies can have a Net Promoter Score ranging from -100% to +100%.

Most Europeans consider a score of 8 out of 10 as a pretty positive endorsement of any B2B product or service provider, but in the NPS world, a person who scores you 8 is a ‘Passive’ and therefore gets ignored when calculating the Net Promoter Score (see box above).

Here’s the thing. If you can persuade a few of your better customers to give you 9 instead of 8, then suddenly you’ve boosted your Promoter numbers significantly. We know more than a handful of account managers who carefully explain to their clients that 8/10 is of no value to them whatsoever and that if they appreciate the service they are getting they really do need to score 9 or 10. Sure, there’s always a little ‘gaming’ that goes on in client feedback forms, particularly when performance-related bonuses are dependent on the scores. However, we find it intriguing to see the level of ‘client education’ that account managers engage in when the annual NPS survey gets sent out!

What Factors Impact Your Net Promoter Score?

We said at the outset that the Net Promoter Score you achieve is dependent on a number of factors. So what are they?

1. Which geographical region do your customers come from?
We’ve covered this point in an earlier discussion with Professor Anne-Wil Harzing – Americans will score higher than Europeans – probably 10% higher and possibly even more.

2. Do you conduct NPS surveys by telephone or face-to-face or by email?
In the UK and Ireland, we don’t like giving bad news – certainly not in a face-to-face (F2F) discussion. Even if we’re talking over the phone, we tend to modify our answers to soften the blow if the feedback is negative. Result: scores are often inflated. In our experience, online assessments give more honest feedback but can result in scores that are at least 10% lower than in telephone or F2F surveys. This gap can be smaller in countries like the Netherlands and Australia where conversations and customer feedback can be more robust. It’s a cultural thing.

3. Is the survey confidential?
Back to the point about culture – it’s easier to give honest feedback if you have the choice of doing so confidentially, particularly if the customer experience has been negative and you have a harsh message to deliver to your service or product provider. Surveys that are not confidential tend to give a rosier picture of the relationship than those that are confidential.

4. Is there a governance structure in place to determine which clients (and which individuals in those client companies) are included in the survey?
At Deep-Insight, we advocate a census approach when it comes to customer feedback: every B2B customer above a certain size MUST be included in the assessment. No ifs or buts. Yet we are often amazed by the number of companies that allow exceptions such as “We’re at a very sensitive stage of discussions with Client X so we’re not going to include them on the list this year”or “We’ve just had a major delivery problem at Client Y – they certainly won’t appreciate us asking them now what they think of us”. In many cases, it’s more blatant – customers are excluded simply because everybody knows they are going to give poor feedback and pull down the overall scores. In some cases, it’s a little more subtle, particularly where it’s left to the account manager to decide which individuals to survey in a particular account. A proper governance structure is required to ensure ‘gaming’ is kept to a minimum and that the assessment process has credibility. If a company surveys its Top 100 accounts annually, senior management must be given the final say over which clients are added to or taken off the list. It’s not feasible to have the MD to approve every single client, but at least make sure the MD understands which of the major accounts – and which individuals in those accounts – are to be included on the list.

5. Is the survey carried out by an independent third party, or is it an in-house survey?
In-house surveys can be cost-effective but suffer from a number of drawbacks that generally tend to inflate the scores. For starters, in-house surveys are rarely seen as confidential, and are more prone to ‘gaming’ than surveys that are run by an independent third party. We have seen cases where in-house surveys have been replaced by external providers and the NPS scores have dropped by a whopping 30% or more. Seriously, the differences are that significant.

So What Is a Good Score?

Now, coming back to the question of what constitutes a good Net Promoter Score in a B2B environment, here’s our take on it.

Despite the claims that one hears at conferences and at the water coolers that “we achieved 52% in our last NPS survey” or “we should be setting the bar higher – the NPS target for 2015 is going to be 60%” these types of score are rarely if ever achieved. We’ve been collecting NPS data for B2B clients since 2006 and we have customer feedback from clients across 86 different countries. Our experience is that in a well-run, properly-governed independent confidential assessment, a Net Promoter Score of 50% or more is almost impossible to achieve. Think about it. To get 50%, you need a profile like the one below, where a significant majority of responses are 9 or 10 and most of the others are pretty close to that level. In Europe, that simply doesn’t happen.

Our experience of B2B assessments is that a Net Promoter Score of +30% is truly excellent, and that means you are seen as ‘Unique’ by your customers. A Net Promoter Score of around +10% is par for the course – consider that an average score. A negative NPS is not unusual – approximately one third of our B2B customers are in negative territory and one in ten of our clients score -30% or even lower.

In fairness, Deep-Insight’s customer base is predominately European or Australian so we also need to be careful about how we benchmark different divisions within the same company that are in different regions or markets.

In our opinion, the best benchmark – for a company, business unit or division – is last year’s score. If your NPS is higher this year than it was last year, and nothing else has changed, then you’re moving in the right direction. And if your NPS was positive last year, and is even more positive this year, happy days!

* Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks and Net Promoter SystemSM and Net Promoter ScoreSM are trademarks of Bain & Company, Satmetrix Systems and Fred Reichheld