Five key insights on improving Net Promoter Scores

Net Promoter Score or NPS is a big deal in customer experience measurement. Right now it’s a critical marker in the banking world.  As banks grapple with how they re-build consumer trust and confidence NPS is being used as a marker of trust. I was asked to do a deep-dive into NPS within the Westpac Banking Group and come up with some recommendations.  While I can’t share the findings and recommendations here I can share some insights gleaned from my research. So here they are:

Insight 1. Don’t chase ghosts

NPS is a subjective marker of customer service derived from asking the question “How likely are you to refer this organisation to friends and family on a scale of 0 – 10”.  Respondent giving a 0 – 6 are regarded as Detractors (likely to say something negative about your brand), 7 – 8 are Passives (not likely to say anything about your brand) and 9 – 10 are Promoters (likely to promote your brand). An NPS is derived by subtracting the percentage of detractors from promoters (ignoring passives). Simple enough, but given the nature of the numbers there must be a sufficient number of responses to have any certainty over any change in your NPS results over time.   If you’re tracking NPS performance over time and have less than 150 responses…you could be chasing ghosts.

Consider also how external factors might impact the propensity to score an eight or a nine. Did your sporting team just win? Was Donald Trump mentioned just prior to the question? Is it Christmas time or terribly cold, bleak, dark weather outside? What’s the timing between the question and the brand experience? How do the demographics of the respondents impact the NPS? Are certain cultural groups more inclined to score positively or negatively?

Insight 2. Drive culture, let NPS follow

NPS is a measure of customer service performance and it operates in lag. It is great to talk about NPS and pursue improvement but remember it’s organisational culture that drives customer service behaviour not the indicator.  Don’t incentivise NPS performance (see warning below).

Changing the customer experience starts first with internal culture.  Are your front-line staff your primary internal customers or is your manager your primary customer? How you treat your staff will be reflected in how they treat their customers. All the fancy values statements and rhetoric around customer service will do nothing if you don’t treat staff as primary customers.

Use NPS internally as a key leed indicator for external customer satisfaction.

WARNING: if you use NPS as a performance measurement tool – staff will manipulate results and try to prime customers to give a higher response. I have witnessed this first hand and in reality it will probably work.  It will do nothing to improve the customer experience but it might just increase the NPS.

Insight 3. It’s all happens between eight and nine

In my analysis of banking NPS data what was clear was that many customers migrate from 8 to 9 or vice a versa.  A simple movement of data one point to the right (or higher) can have a significant impact on NPS.  This simple movement is also more achievable than turning detractors into promoters. Often detractors can be hard to move and it’s difficult to eliminate detractors. Focus on improving customers service through broad activities – finding ways to make wholesale improvements in customers experience. Remember one step to the right can make a significant difference in your NPS and is very achievable.  Check out the next insight for some simple ways to do this.

Insight 4. Get emotional

Think about the NPS question. It’s about referring family and friends. It’s less likely that we will refer based on something that is boring, dull and didn’t move us in some emotional way. We rave about things when we are delighted, surprised, amazed, impressed.  These are emotional responses. I’m not going to talk to friends about a product experience if it simply worked.

Now if we’re getting emotional we don’t need to create magical experience for every customer, every time. Emotions get triggered through some very basic things which are typically done poorly by many retailers. Think about these key elements and how you can incorporate them in your business:

  • Trigger olfactory senses – smell is a powerful trigger around emotions. Target a cropped-ze89vtej5g1.jpgsmell in your business. I heard recently that a manager used Glen 20 to freshen up the business. Masking a dead body in the corner is not triggering an emotional response. There’s a lot of research into smell and you can target one in your business (excluding online businesses of course).
  • Music is key – the impact of music is well known by retailers and can trigger memories and emotions. Often retailers play well known tunes to trigger buying as it makes customers feel more comfortable with music they know. If you want to get customers to make irrational purchases – play upbeat Christmas carols, over and over and over and over again. You will buy any old rubbish just to get out.
  • Imagery – use images of nature and nature itself (think plants) to relax customers – use a bright and light colour palette to excite people. A colour consultant who specialises in mood will be a great asset to create the emotion you want your brand known for.
  • People – don’t hide them. A welcoming smile can do so much for disarming a customer following a negative experience and can set the tone for a great customer experience.

Insight 5 – Blueprint the customer experience

We get so hung up on our own experience that we often forget what the customer experiences. A lack of empathy usually leads to a poor customer experience. Think through the customers journey including before, during and after the point of transaction. When I conduct audits on retail sites this is my thought and audit process:

  1. What is my expectation of the brand based upon advertising, website, word of mouth, previous experience.
  2. How easy was it to find the retail outlet?
  3. How easy was it to park and how far away was the park?
  4. What was the walk like from the park/public transport and what did I see/experience on the way? This might include competitors, adverts, the temperature. I might feel safe or unsafe, happy or sad, optimistic or pessimistic.
  5. What was my first impression of the signage/visuals of the outside
  6. How did I feel going through the entrance? Music? Smell? Temperature?
  7. Inside the store is a whole page itself so I’ll keep it brief – how did I feel inside?
  8. Upon leaving what was my last impression?
  9. What happened when I returned to the outside world? Did I feel anything?
  10. What happened afterwards? Did I feel valued after my transaction?

While this list is not extensive, it should inform retail operators that the experience inside the outlet is also impacted by what happens outside, beforehand and afterwards.


Improving the customer experience is more critical than ever as retailers grapple with online competition. NPS is a great operational marker to provide feedback on the customer experience and ultimately how likely they are to promote your business to friends and family.  Your internal customers are #1 priority, make them feel valued and they will pass that feeling onto customers. Don’t incentivise NPS as staff will beg customers for a 10 rather than earn it. If you want to improve the customer experience think through the customer journey and consciously target the emotional response of the customer. Use all senses as a way to create a positive imprint on the customer and give them a sense of escape when then come into your store – something they can’t experience online!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: