The dangers of giving NPS goals to everyone in your business


Why the philosophy of 'NPS for all' can have a negative impact on organisational culture.

15th Jun 2020
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If all your employees are using Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a measure of success, your business could be in trouble.

This also applies to any other score for customer satisfaction. This article is not about the discussion around which score is good or bad. It is about how the dynamics of an organisation can change if everyone is focused solely on this score.

I understand the motive: customers should be a high priority for all employees. They should not lose focus on the customer. No matter if it's in management or the processing department - everyone should pull together in one direction.

I also understand that instilling customer-thinking throughout an organisation is hard. If you have established NPS goals, then you've achieved a lot and shouldn't be discredited. The path to this goal is mostly rocky and probably took many months to get to. But now you're at this point, there are some challenges to overcome and questions to ask.  

NPS sandwich

The biggest danger of 'NPS for all' is the cultural impact in your organisation. I like to call it the NPS sandwich: Back office staff expect front office employees to do their jobs properly so that they can receive their bonus at the end of the year. The pressure on the front, which is usually already high anyway, is increased even more. Instead of employees better understanding what influence they have on this goal, the opposite often happens: they see it even less.

Getting NPS as a goal is about as motivating as a sales or profit goal for all: sometimes not motivating at all.

"I'm only one person, I have no influence on this score". This is how most of the thoughts that all normal employees have can be summarised. For the management it is of course different, because the goal corresponds to their competence and sphere of action. But for the rest of the staff there is a big discrepancy. Goals should fit the level, the competencies and the tasks.

Scores are open to being 'gamed'

The truth is, employees AND customers can both over-influence surveys. There are many examples of employees trying to influence customers to give a 9 or 10 in the survey. Take this VIDEO for example:

But also customers can change their behaviour if they know that the NPS is a goal of the employees they're speaking to, or a closed-loop system behind it. For example, they give an extra 0 to encourage the company to take action because they know they will get extra attention or even a goodie, as a result.

These are scenarios that you as a customer leader have to manage. Here's how:

Minimise your ability to influence the survey

Let's start from the beginning: to avoid clients or employees falsifying a survey, contact a professional in the field. Let them check your survey concept. A first simple measure is to supplement the survey with a question: "How would you explain the experience to a friend?" The customer then explains her experience, which hardly leads to falsification. In the analysis, e.g. with emotional language analysis, the results can be checked, validated and also gain very valuable insights for improvement measures.

Minimise frustration and pressure within the organisation

You need to measure and target what everyone in the organisation can influence at NPS: the value chain. To do this, you must first understand what the real value chains look like. What is triggered and where, when a customer contacts you?

I am not talking about a meta-level analysis of organisational and operational structure, or a target concept like Porter's Five Forces. I'm talking about raising the chain as it is, understanding it in detail.

Understanding how the business really works

From 20 years of experience I can tell you: most businesses don't work in the way that's defined in their processes. Imagine the company as a living being. You find ways, you know people, there are workarounds. Does everything sound familiar? Exactly. It is exciting and enlightening to understand how your company really works.

You have to understand and analyse the most important value chains. How complex are they? How much do they deviate from the defined processes? Why? What are the most important delivery results? This often leads to insights for improvement measures. Build a feedback system that is triggered at the most important parts of the value chain is critical. Connect your feedback system in the value chain with the NPS and with employee satisfaction surveys. In this way you will achieve a holistic view of the entire dynamics within the company.

What benefit does this bring you?

  • You can give the teams goals along the value chain. These results can influence them and strengthen their customer orientation.
  • The concept of "treat internal customers as well as external customers" immediately comes to the forefront and brings the entire company a big step forward in customer orientation. The whole dynamic is changed. You push the proactive cooperation, the solution-oriented approach, you break silo thinking.
  • It is possible that this feedback system will predict the NPS over time. As an example: I was able to predict the NPS 6 months in advance to 0.5 points on the NPS scale with my system. In these cases you can see exactly where the problems are and address them in time BEFORE they reach the customer.

Join me at 16:00 BST on 16th June for a Live Q+A webinar on the topic of NPS. The webinar will be streamed live here on Instagram or you can sign up here:


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