The power of NPS

Net Promoter Score does funny things to marketers. I’ve seen jumping up and down enthusiasm directed towards the scoring system, which measures customer satisfaction. Just a simple rating from 1 – 10 can tell a marketer whether their customers are lovers or haters of a particular brand, according to Frederick Reichfield the inventor of NPS.

When I profiled Geert van Kuyck, chief marketer at global electronics business Philips, a few years ago, he preached to me with the enthusiasm of a born again Christian about the merits of being able to track the advocates of his brand. At the time of the interview van Kuyck was able to log on to his computer and effectively listen in to what his customers were telling him about the brand. He could compare how different brands within Philips were performing. And he confessed that he spent at least one hour every day doing this. I guess being able to observe what your customers think about your work in real time is an addictive pastime for a committed marketer.

And judging by the comments left underneath MaryLou Costa’s comprehensive look at NPS, there are passionate advocates and detractors to the method. Our associate editor, Branwell Johnson, summed it up nicely when he said that the reaction to Marketing Week’s NPS special report can be compared to parents’ reactions to Gina Ford, the controversial advisor on child rearing. Forums are awash with people who love her routines and equally those who rant about how they absolutely can’t stand her parenting methods. And NPS seems to evoke similarly extreme responses.

I was surprised when columnist Mark Ritson dedicated his column to rating it.

When I found out he would be penning a piece on NPS, I assumed that in Ritson’s usual style, he would fervently disagree with the method and tell us why it was such a flawed method to measure customer satisfaction. But, no, he is a 10 out of 10 advocate of the tool. He argues that the simplicity of the tool allows brands to compare themselves against other brands. So, for example, according to NPS, O2 is a better mobile phone service than Vodafone because customers are more likely to recommend O2 to others.

The success or failure of NPS is really in the hands of businesses. Because if you use the measurement tool in isolation I think it’s a little bit pointless. If your brand “sucks” as Ritson puts it, then you can’t find out how to fix the problem through NPS.

But, I think Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), has got it spot on when he says that marketers should use it as a springboard to prompt more in-depth research. NPS seems to be a decent starting point in terms of finding out what your customers think but it should never be the end point.

Market Research editor MaryLou Costa is currently on holiday

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