By Steve Offsey

Customer Experience metrics like Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) clearly matter. NPS has gained a lot of traction in recent years and is now the most widely used CX metric. But now that you’re measuring it, how do you improve NPS? In this post, I’ll provide a detailed look at how to improve NPS.

Why You Should Make It a Priority to Improve NPS

A 10% improvement in a company’s customer experience score can translate into more than $1 billion in increased revenue.

— Forrester

In a Bain podcast, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Charlie Herrin, said that when he joined Comcast his first step was to focus the company on NPS:

“I wanted a customer measure that we could incorporate into our business thinking. Just as we make business decisions at a revenue and profit and product perspective, I wanted a customer measure to be part of that discussion. So that was goal one. Number 2 is improvement against that metric and others. And the third was…what can we take out of our business that is costing us money, causing customer’s frustration, and it’s just not productive.”

Charlie Herrin, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Comcast

NPS can quantify how your customers feel at a particular moment in time. But it doesn’t reveal what made them feel that way, how to change the way they feel or how to prevent them from feeling that way in the future. 

It’s impossible to know which actions you should take to address a weak or declining score without first understanding the factors driving NPS. Nor is it possible to decide whether to prioritize small incremental changes or introduce sweeping company-wide measures.

How can you overcome these challenges? Let’s jump right in and explore 7 strategies that leading CX teams are using today to improve NPS.

1. To Improve NPS, First Establish a Baseline

The first step to improve NPS is to determine your starting point. If you’re not already measuring NPS, a variety of tools are available. These range from survey tools like SurveyMonkey to purpose-built NPS platforms like Promoter.io. Enterprise customer feedback management platforms are available from Medallia, Qualtrics, Clarabridge and others. 

Once you’ve picked a tool to measure NPS, don’t just send out an email to all your contacts and call it a day. Take the time to embed it in every customer touchpoint, including your website, your online applications and mobile apps. And make sure that you’re capturing the exact time the response was provided and which customer provided it.

7 CX Strategies to Improve NPS eBook

2. Analyze NPS within a Journey-based Context

“An understanding of customer feedback doesn’t tell you all you need to know about your customers’ experiences. To get the full picture, you also need to understand actual customer behavior. Customer journey analytics is an approach to insights and measurement that examines customers’ behavior not just at individual touchpoints, but along the paths they take as they attempt to accomplish their goals and tasks.”

Kerry Bodine
Kerry Bodine
CEO
Bodine & Co.
Co-author of Outside In

Strengthened performance on customer journeys has been shown to correlate with increases in customer satisfaction and key organizational metrics such as revenue and retention. So, it’s not surprising that leading companies are now taking a journey-based approach to improve NPS. 

If you’re using a software platform to measure and analyze NPS you may think you already have this covered. But, most voice of customer (VoC) platforms calculate NPS without considering when it was captured within each customer’s unique journey.

You need to know where NPS is being measured within each customer’s end-to-end customer journey to truly understand its root cause. Most CX teams make the mistake of focusing only on the last one or two customer interactions instead of looking at the entire customer journey. In reality, customer experiences and opinions accumulate over time, and trust and resentment in customer relationships build over years. 

To truly understand what is driving your Net Promoter Score, it is essential to take a journey-based view. Customer journey analytics provides the power to look across millions of actual customer journeys spanning touchpoints, channels and time.

Example: A Retail Bank Uses Journey Analytics to Prioritize Customer Experience Improvements

A retail bank uses the Pointillist customer journey analytics platform to measure NPS for specific customer journeys, so they can identify and prioritize areas for improvement. Watch the video below to see how they do it.

What About tNPS?

If you’ve already implemented Transactional NPS (tNPS), you may think you already have this covered. Transactional NPS is a specific form of NPS. It’s meant to determine the customer’s opinion on a certain business transaction, such as placing an order online. While NPS simply asks a customer how likely they are to recommend your business, tNPS asks them to rate your company based on their most recent purchase or order.

Transactional NPS provides feedback based on a specific transaction, but doesn’t address more complex customer journeys. It doesn’t help you understand, for example, the impact of an interaction further back in time. Nor does it predict the effect of customer behavior variations across multiple channels and segments.

3. Discover the Journeys that are Driving Net Promoters and Net Detractors

Many consultants advise that the best way to improve NPS is to:

  1. identify Net Detractors (i.e. customers whose scores range from 0 to 6)
  2. Find a unifying trend (e.g. do they all use a specific customer service channel, a specific product, or a specific portion of your site that customers with higher NPS scores don’t?)
  3. Fix the problem

The difficulty lies in step #2. How do you find unifying trends? Hunt and peck? Even if you’re able to assemble a large enough dataset to look for statistical correlation between all of your variables and NPS, do you believe you’ve found the answer?

As your statistics professor no doubt told you, “correlation does not imply causation.” To truly understand the root cause of your customer’s individual score you need to understand what each customer was doing before they provided it. 

A Wealth Management Firm Use Customer Journey Analytics to Pinpoint Drivers Behind NPS Promoters and Detractors

Customer journey analytics provides the capability to rapidly analyze billions of individual customer interactions over time. It’s a powerful tool for analyzing NPS drivers and finding the root cause of unexplained changes in NPS.

A wealth management firm uses journey analytics to determine which customer service journeys lead to more Promoters versus more Detractors.

They found that 22% of customers who set up a new IRA Account via the web portal eventually became Promoters. They also found that 10% of Customers who set up a new account via a Branch employee become Promoters, as well as 20% of those that set up their account through their Wealth Advisor.

A wealth management company uses Pointillist to determine which customer journeys are driving more Promoters.
A wealth management company uses Pointillist to determine which customer journeys are driving more Promoters.

When they looked at Detractors, they found that 11% of customers that set up a new IRA Account via the web portal eventually became Detractors. Similarly, 5% of Customers who set up a new account via a Branch employee and 10% of those that set up their account through their Wealth Advisor became Detractors.

The analysis showed that the happiest customers set up their IRA using the self-sevice web portal (NPS = 11), while the least happy work with a branch employee (NPS = 5). Based on this information, the team decided to encourage more customers to use the web portal, while they took a deeper look into the branch experience.

A wealth management company uses Pointillist to determine which customer journeys are driving more Detractors.
A wealth management company uses Pointillist to determine which customer journeys are driving more Detractors.

Pointillist AI Provides Actionable Insights to Improve Your NPS Scores

Pointillist AI explores billions of data points in places you’d never think to look and finds every relationship in the data that exists. Unlike other ‘black box’ AI tools that present results without context, Pointillist AI is truly your analytics partner. For the first time, you can learn precisely what impacts your NPS scores.

Simply indicate that you’re looking to increase NPS (or any other CX metric). Pointillist AI will discover the customer behaviors and attributes that have the highest impact, within the context of your customers’ actual journeys.

You can focus on evaluating insights and deciding which ones to act on first, rather than spending time managing data.

Pointillist AI Provides Actionable Insights to Improve Your NPS Scores
Pointillist AI Provides Actionable Insights to Improve Your NPS Scores

4. Link NPS with Operational Data

Voice of the Customer programs yield far more significant insights when VoC data is combined with operational data residing in CRM, POS, billing, fulfillment and other internal systems. These variables can provide insights about “why” an interaction occurred and can inform approaches to improvement.

However, it can be time consuming to manually add metadata like customer profile information to NPS survey data. Fortunately, this process can be automated by using a customer journey analytics platform that includes identify resolution to seamlessly integrate customer VoC data, such as NPS surveys, with operational data.

By linking customer feedback with operational data for each customer, CX pros can avoid asking questions they already have answers to. For example, a wireless provider can use information such as store number, visit date, time of transaction, device number and salesperson ID to analyze each customer’s post-visit feedback. This enables VoC teams to more effectively assess the root causes of dissatisfaction and make operational improvements, like retraining or coaching staff on problematic experiences.

A Global Insurer Links NPS to Premium Income

Insurers are traditionally low-touch, low-engagement companies. However, one global insurer found that customer engagement is linked to policy renewals, which is a key performance indicator for revenue growth. The CX team found that frequent customer engagement boosted satisfaction and NPS. This led to a higher policy renewal rate and increased customer profitability without requiring a substantial investment. In addition, the CX team was able to show that Promoters purchased almost three times as many insurance products and contributed significantly higher premium income.

5. Calculate the ROI of Your Initiatives to Improve NPS 

50% of CX professionals say they are unsatisfied with their organization’s ability to quantify the impact of customer experience on business KPIs like revenue, churn & lifetime value.

2019 State of Customer Journey Management and CX Measurement Report

The importance of calculating the return on investment (ROI) of your initiatives to improve NPS cannot be overstated. VoC leaders, for example, often have a difficult time obtaining budget increases because they can’t show a quantitative ROI. All the time and effort you spend to design a modern voice of the customer program can go to waste if you can’t prove the value that brings to your organization.

In order to put VoC initiatives on a level footing with other business programs, it isn’t enough to simply provide the soft benefits. You need the quantitative ROI to make a strong business case and obtain approval for continued investment.

A Major Retail Bank Uses A Customer Journey Analytics Platform to Make NPS Actionable

A CX team at a leading bank is using Pointillist to determine the ROI of a new customer onboarding initiative. They found that tNPS for customers using the new onboarding approach is 5 points higher compared with the existing approach. In addition, customer service calls have been reduced. The lower call rate can save $2.3M if the improved onboarding process is applied to all new accounts.

A CX team at a leading bank uses Pointillist to determine the ROI of a new customer onboarding initiative.
A CX team at a leading bank uses Pointillist to determine the ROI of a new customer onboarding initiative.

6. Automate Proactive Cross-Channel Customer Engagement for High-Impact Journeys 

After you identify journeys that have a high potential impact on NPS, you should proactively communicate with customers. Focus on preventing potential issues and minimizing damage in their aftermath. You’ll also want to pay particular attention to negative experiences.

The longer an issue takes to resolve, the more customer satisfaction is likely to decrease, along with NPS. One way to avoid this is to design targeted, rule-based customer communication initiatives. These aim to engage customers when they encounter a key obstacle that can impact their satisfaction. Delivering a helpful and timely solution to a problem can have a positive impact on satisfaction. It can also impact your customers’ overall perception of your brand and their level of trust.

Because customers’ preferences can vary greatly, sending important communications through a single channel will often fail. Instead, CX leaders will launch proactive outreach programs through multiple channels to successfully reach the customer in a timely manner.

One challenge with this approach is that it is difficult to deliver a consistent, personalized, cross-channel customer experience. CX leaders overcome this by using a journey analytics platform to orchestrate personalized experiences when customers reach key moments in their journeys.

A Major Telco Uses Journey Analytics to Identify Priority CX Issues and Orchestrate Cross-Channel Engagement

A CX team at leading Telco used the Pointillist journey analytics platform to analyze customer behavior across multiple channels. They discovered that a high percentage of NPS detractors were experiencing the same service issue. This issue was taking an average of five days to resolve and was likely a key driver of decreased NPS.

After finding a simple solution that would allow customers to quickly and easily resolve the issue themselves, the CX team used Pointillist to orchestrate communications. They sent messages across email, SMS and automated phone calls to customers just seconds after they experienced the issue. 

As a result, 65% of the customers who received the outreach campaign resolved the issue in less than a day, which led to a 5 point increase in NPS.

A leading Telecom provider uses Pointillist to identify high impact CX issues and orchestrate proactive cross-channel customer engagement to improve NPS.
A leading Telecom provider uses Pointillist to identify high impact CX issues and orchestrate proactive cross-channel customer engagement to improve NPS.

7. Democratize Access to NPS data

Every employee plays a role in the experience your company delivers. So, it’s critical to put VoC data, like NPS, into the hands of employees. For example, one financial services firm made it its mission to make NPS data visible to all employees. This empowered front-line employees to act to improve each customer’s experience and, as a result, improve NPS.

Why Leading CX Teams Look Beyond NPS

Although NPS is an effective means to obtain customer feedback, it shouldn’t be your only way to measure customer experience. Some customers may be confused by the survey or give you unclear descriptions of their problems. Many respondents omit an explanation of their score, which is vital to understanding each customer’s unique experience. 

There are many other ways to measure customer experience beyond NPS. By using NPS alongside other CX metrics, you’ll be able to develop a more complete picture of your customer’s experience.

Now It’s Your Turn

Here are the 7 strategies that you can use today to improve NPS:

  1. Establish a Baseline

    The first step to improve NPS is to determine your starting point. If you’re not already measuring NPS, a variety of tools are available. These range from survey tools like SurveyMonkey to purpose-built NPS platforms like Promoter.io and enterprise customer feedback management platforms like Medallia, Qualtrics and Clarabridge.

  2. Analyze NPS within a Journey-based Context

    You need to know where NPS is being measured within the context of each customer’s end-to-end customer journey to truly understand its root cause. Use customer journey analytics to analyze NPS across millions of actual customer journeys spanning numerous touchpoints, channels and time periods.

  3. Discover the Journeys that are Driving Net Promoters and Net Detractors

    Use customer journey analytics to uncover the journeys that lead to Promoters (and those that lead to Detractors), so you can pinpoint their root causes.

  4. Link NPS with Operational Data

    Voice of the Customer programs yield far more significant insights when VoC data is combined with operational data residing in CRM, POS, billing, fulfillment and other internal systems. Analyzing responses with these variables at hand gives insights into the “why” behind the interaction and can inform approaches to improvement.

  5. Calculate the ROI of Your Initiatives to Improve NPS

    In order to put VoC initiatives on a level footing with other business programs, it isn’t enough to simply provide the soft benefits. You need the quantitative ROI to make a strong business case and obtain approval for continued investment.

  6. Automate Proactive Cross-Channel Customer Engagement for High-Impact Journeys 

    Because customers’ preferences can vary greatly, sending important communications through a single channel will often fail. Instead, CX leaders launch proactive outreach programs through multiple channels to successfully reach the customer in a timely manner.

  7. Democratize Access to NPS data

    Once you are able to identify journeys that have a high potential impact on NPS, especially for negative experiences, you’ll want to proactively communicate with customers in key moments to prevent the issue(s) or minimize the damage. 

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred