Who are your actual promoters?

Jason Juma-Ross

Jason is the lead partners of PwC Digital INtelligence and founder of The Idea Society.

I hear a lot of talk today about customer centricity, engagement and voice of the customer. But I sometimes wonder if we are really listening.

One of the primary vehicles for how brands measure their success with customers today is Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is a great tool for aligning management and operations around clear objectives but it has limitations in the way it collects customer feedback. Net Promoter (and similar approaches) operate on claimed behaviour; they measure what customers say they will do, rather than observe what they actually do.

It is high time we started adding a view of actual promoters into this picture.

Many customer programs today are driven by a ‘claimed’ data set that no longer reflects where and how customers talk. In the years when marketing, sales and service management theory were being developed, the main channel for gathering customer insight was market research. Customers were sampled and surveyed in a pre-determined format, largely in accordance with a structured set of questions.

Even these questions were constructed around a variety of scaling techniques to ensure consistency in collection and to ease data analysis. But all these approaches suffer from four underlying issues:

  • Stated behaviour is not real behaviour: There is always a gap between claimed and actual, even more so when what is being collected is in the realm of reported intention.
  • Periodic data has lagging indicators: This is particularly true for tracking data, which can be four or six weeks old by the time you get the report.
  • Insight has been stripped out in the capture process: Part of the structuring and sanitisation approach removes the real human voice from responses. Scaled responses are easier to manage but often lack a qualitative layer, making them more difficult to interpret.
  • Data is just a sample: Although sample theory is generally well understood, determining granularity at a sub segment and driver level is often difficult without doing more work. More work means more cost and restricted speed to value.

The good news is that modern marketers have an abundance of digital customer data. Let’s take an example company that surveys 500 customers a week for customer satisfaction or Net Promoter reporting.

During the same timeframe that company (and its competitors) may get 5000 posts in social media and up to 50,000 calls into a service centre. Today, that company would be driving most of its customer initiatives from less than 1 per cent of its aggregate customer voice, while effectively ignoring 99 per cent of customer conversations that could drive insight and intelligence. To a digital practitioner, this looks like Voodoo.

A couple of questions we ask clients are: Why not use some of that real-time, voice of the customer intelligence to augment traditional approaches and drive deeper customer centricity? And why not start listening to actual promoters and detractors?

To date, conversational analysis at scale has not been cost effective. But now the tools are available to help us derive insight from tens of thousands of conversations a week on an ongoing basis, as well as to connect these directly to action.

A benefit window is now open and competitive advantage is accruing to brands that truly engage with the ‘real’ voice of the customer. Doing so provides an insight into not just NPS but ‘actual promoters’. It can deliver greater granularity into the real-time themes behind the numbers, as well as the development of conversations over time. It can help organisations connect meaningfully with individual customers based on their real behaviours rather than just a facsimile of them.

It’s time companies start engaging in the actual customer conversation.

Tags: marketing strategy, Net Promoter Score

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