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

5 Generic Actions to Drive up your Relationship NPS Scores

We run B2B customer assessments for large corporate clients in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Very often I get asked questions like this after we deliver the customer feedback to senior management:

“OK, you’ve told us what our customers think of us, but what do we do about it now?”

“Tell us what we do in the next few weeks so that we don’t lose momentum.”

So here’s what I tell them:

1. BRIEF YOUR PEOPLE.

Typically, you need to brief at two levels and both are equally important:

– Executive Team. The senior executives in your organisation need to ‘own’ the overall results. If the customer feedback is negative or requires fundamental change, only the executive team can decide on the appropriate actions.

– Account Managers. These are the people who need to ‘own’ the results at account level. They are also the people you need to set up and run the account feedback sessions (see below).

Make sure to get the senior executives to read all the verbatim comments and see if their summary of the top issues agrees with the Deep-Insight analysis (they will understand the context better than we can). The most effective way of increasing Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) and NPS scores is to have the programme driven by the executive team. Without the drive and passion at this level, the programme will fail.

2. DISCUSS THE RESULTS WITH YOUR CLIENTS.

Typically this happens in two stages:

– Stage 1. Within 2 weeks of the assessment results being delivered, you should get a general communication to all customers that you invited to give feedback. This should include a general ‘Thank You’ message for participating in the assessment (OK, not everybody completed it – our completion rates are typically 35-40% – but let’s not be mean!) as well as a message that their account manager will be in touch to arrange a feedback session to discuss the results (the overall results plus the specific results for their account)

– Stage 2. Within 8 weeks (or whatever target you set – but you must set a target), the account managers should have completed face-to-face meetings with all key customers. Ideally, they will have used that discussion to create a ‘Joint Action Plan’ setting out what both parties need to do, in order to address any issues unearthed in the assessment. Remember that the actions are on both sides – the account manager may need the client to change certain things as well.

3. FEED THE RESULTS INTO THE ANNUAL BONUS SCHEME.

If you haven’t done so already, think about incorporating the CRQ or NPS scores into account managers’ annual targets and bonus plans. If you have done so already, pay out the bonuses! This is probably the second most important driver of success in any customer experience programme. What gets measured and rewarded, gets done.

4. PLAN THE ACTIONS.

Again, do this at two levels:

– At corporate level. These are typically the key themes mentioned in the verbatim comments. Choose one or two big initiatives to work on during 2015. Keep it focused – any more than one or two initiatives will result in a dilution of effort.

– At client level. Each client will have its own specific set of issues including some ‘quick wins’ that can be addressed immediately.

5. MOST IMPORTANT, MONITOR PROGRESS.

If the results are poor, consider an interim assessment in 6 months (we call this a ‘Healthcheck’) but definitely repeat the feedback assessment after 12 months. If you don’t do this, you won’t know if you have achieved success.

None of the above five items are rocket science, but it strikes me as odd that some clients fail to take these actions. I know from 10 years of delivering Deep-Insight customer feedback to clients in the UK and the Netherlands, I know that these actions will result in better customer experience and improved feedback scores.

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 posting, 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, but 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 constantly 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

Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems! (Part III)

The last time we met Susan and Bill, they were discussing survival tactics. Thankfully, they have managed to get the company back on an even keel – excuse the boating pun – over the past few months and now have a new challenge to face.

At the last board meeting, the CEO asked them to prepare a strategy that would transform the company from an ‘Even Keel’ company to becoming a ‘Leading Edge’ company.

“I don’t want us to be competing on price. I want us to be seen by our clients as unique, innovative, really easy to do business with. Now it’s up to you two to make that happen. Get back to me by 23 September with a strategy. And it better be good.”

Unfortunately, Susan and Bill are at loggerheads trying to plot a course towards that Leading Edge organisation that their CEO so desperately wants to become.

Different Views from Sales and Marketing

Susan“Leading Edge is a simple sales concept. Leading Edge = More Sales. It really is as simple as that. We can become Leading Edge if Bill provides me with market-beating products. That’s the thing he can’t seem to grasp.”

Bill:“Leading Edge is a complex brand concept. It’s how you are seen vis-à-vis the competition. We’re a services business and the differentiating factor is the quality of our service and account teams, not the products. That’s what Susan fails to grasp.”

Susan’s view is (as usual) plain and easy to grasp: “Give me decent products/services and I’ll sell them. If the products/services are Leading Edge, we’ll sell more of them. It’s not really my job to DESIGN them, so don’t go asking me about transforming this company into a leading edge organisation.”

Bill has a slightly more nuanced view. He accepts that it’s his job to translate customer needs into the sorts of products and services that the clients will love and buy, but he also makes the valid point that he and Susan are in a B2B services business, and that Susan’s account teams (as well as the Service/Delivery teams) have a key role in making the service a Leading Edge one in the client’s mind.

Bridging the Gap

As usual, Bill is half-right. And so is Susan.

But let’s start by bringing a little clarity on the terms we are using. Let’s begin with a definition of what a ‘unique’ brand is in the business-to-business world.

In the B2B world, the uniqueness of your brand is dependent on a combination of whether you provide a unique Solution for your clients and whether they find the Experience of working with you to be uniquely satisfying.

Deep-Insight defines Solution as a combination of innovationleading edge and value-for-money. These are three related but slightly different concepts but if you score well on all three, the chances are that you have an offering that can help your clients improve their standing in the marketplace in a way that none of your competitors can provide. When we talk about ‘solutions’ we’re not just talking ‘product’. As Bill says, it’s as much about how the account managers, sales and delivery teams position your company’s product or service, as it is about the product/service itself.

Experience is a measure of how easy you are to do business with and if you are seen as a trusted partner. You can have the best products or services in the world but if your clients can’t work with you and don’t see your people as trusted partners, your brand is going to suffer.

So when Bill and Susan’s CEO talks about wanting to be a unique, innovative, leading edge company, he’s really talking about building a B2B brand that excels at all the different elements that we group under the headings Solution and Experience. And that means the Bill and Susan need to work together to get all those elements right. But as the methodology above shows, you can’t build a unique B2B brand without having an excellent service to underpin it. So Bill and Susan and going to have to rope in the Operations Director as well. We wish them well on their journey.

Ultimately, the real definition of Leading Edge will be dictated by your customers. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask them.

Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

The Susan & Bill Trilogy

When we launched Deep-Relationship-NPS in early-2014, we created a storyline around two fictitious characters called Bill (a thoughtful but somewhat introverted Marketing Director) and Susan (a more aggressive low-attention-span Sales Director). They may be fictitious but they bear more than a passing resemblance to some sales and marketing directors we have met in client organisations in the past.

Episode 1 finds Susan and Bill having relationship problems. Well, their problems are primarily related to understanding the relationship their company had with its main corporate clients but there is also some evidence of tension between Susan and Bill themselves – the sort of natural tension that exists between Sales and Marketing in any large organisation.

EPISODE 1: Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

Susan. Sales Director.

“I want some real customer feedback that helps my sales managers manage their key accounts for the long-term. All Marketing are interested in is some box-ticking exercise for the folks in HQ.”

Bill. Marketing Director.

“I need to provide HQ with Net Promoter Score (NPS®) metrics. It’s our corporate policy. For some reason, Sales just don’t seem to get it. NPS is a useful tool if they would only figure out how to use it properly.”

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple easy-to-use metric for measuring customer loyalty. Many large, well-known companies now use it as a key business metric. The concept behind NPS is simple: loyal customers are more willing to recommend you to a friend or colleague. To find out how loyal your customer base is, measure their willingness to recommend; the higher your NPS score (% willing to recommend less % not willing to recommend), the more loyal your customer base is.

The problem is that while NPS is easy to calculate, many sales directors find it hard to turn the answer to a single question “Would you recommend Company XYZ to a friend or colleague?” into a clear set of actions that can be used to improve a complex web of relationships in a large corporate account – or across your full customer portfolio.

Does NPS work for B2B Organisations?

Yes!

NPS provides a good starting point for understanding complex B2B relationships but it must be supplemented by other metrics that help account managers take action at an INDIVIDUAL account level, as well as helping senior executives focus on a small number of strategic initiatives across ALL accounts.

Deep-Insight already has a unique B2B methodology – Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ™) – that helps Sales Directors identify which of their major accounts are its greatest Ambassadors, and which on the point of defection (Ambivalents, Stalkers and Opponents).

More important, the CRQ methodology identifies – for each account manager – what needs to be done to transform an Opponent to an Ambivalent, and a Rational to an Ambassador.

Deep-Relationship-NPS combines the power of our CRQ methodology with the internationally-recognised NPS benchmark. NPS tells you if you have a problem, CRQ tells you what the problem is and how to address it.

Back to Susan and Bill

Bill needs NPS data in a comparable format to data from other parts of the organisation, with feedback on brand, image, product and pricing. With Deep-Relationship-NPS, Bill gets his NPS data in exactly the way he needs it. That keeps Bill and his Marketing team happy.

On the other hand, Susan gets detailed account-level customer relationship feedback for her sales teams, and by looking at levels of trust and commitment, Susan can avoid any surprises when contracts come up for renewal. That keeps Susan and her Sales team happy.

Join us next week for Episode 2.