Karo Kilfeather

By Karo Kilfeather

January 16, 2018

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The field service organization is often a customer’s only means of direct interaction with your business. Ensuring the customer is happy is a common business goal, and unsurprisingly, the effectiveness of service teams is measured on customer satisfaction. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a widely used metric employed to identify the happiest customers (promoters) and the most dissatisfied (detractors), and give businesses a chance to improve customer experience. However, not everyone believes the NPS is the end-all-be-all number to measure customer satisfaction. And in light of its limitations, are there other alternatives?

The ability to measure and benchmark performance is critical for effectively managing your business, and it’s long been understood that there is a correlation between customer satisfaction and profitability. But limiting your methodology to NPS is risky and can create some serious blind spots—and allow customer frustration to persist.

To ensure you have a good understanding of your customers and their levels of satisfaction, examine some ways to augment and validate what the NPS tells you, and get more meaningful data.

1. Understand the limitations of NPS

While he’s not the first to question the value of NPS, user experience expert Jared Spool explores the formula behind it, and why it could be bad for businesses and customers alike.

You can read the excellent full article here, but I’ve included a few highlights.

  • The NPS formula ignores “passives,” or those who chose 7 or 8 on its 11-point scale (Detractors score 0-6 and Promoters 9-10) in its calculation, leaving out customers who are actually pretty happy and making things seem worse than they are
  • NPS ignores average scores that can clearly illustrate trends over time
  • An 11-point scale does not necessarily give you more insight about customer satisfaction than a 3- or 5-point scale
  • It’s not always appropriate—if someone had a positive but not exceptional experience, they’ll happily return to do business with you, but might not feel the need to crow about it; you can’t expect extraordinary scores to come from mundane experiences; to that point, not every customer interaction is necessarily an opportunity for absolute delight, and that’s OK

It promises to tell a complex customer story with a single number—we know better

2. Start segmenting

A mean can be meaningless when it doesn’t account for variation among your customers. If you were to segment by job or customer type, would you find wildly different NPS scores for each group? Segmentation when seeking feedback can make it easier to flag specific issues and ensure you’re not applying one-size-fits-all thinking to addressing customer needs. Customers can be segmented across many dimensions, including demographics, geographic location, average or annual spend, and products utilized. Your segmentation should be applied consistently for best results, but don’t over-engineer it. Getting too granular can take your efforts to a point of diminishing returns. But be willing to experiment until you find the right approach, and investigate what the results tell you.

3. Improve the feedback experience

Sometimes NPS and survey responses have nothing to do with your product or service and everything to do with how the surveys were delivered. One company found that NPS, as well as response rates, rose dramatically when the feedback requests were served up less frequently. If your earnest call for their opinion interferes with a customer’s ability to complete a specific task, their frustration could be reflected in their response—ultimately giving you no additional insight about how they generally feel about your company.

When designing your feedback collection process, consider how a survey might display on a mobile device and whether the experience will be more frustrating than on a computer. Or when a binary Yes/No question will suffice instead of a multi-point scale. You could also be selective about when customer satisfaction surveys are presented. They could be disabled depending on what screen or page the customer is viewing, or, alternately, presented only after specific job types.

Improving survey design will improve user experience, making it more likely that positive scores will be recorded, and negative ones will reflect actual service problems that need your attention.

4. Use qualitative feedback

One complaint about qualitative feedback is that it can be difficult to illustrate broader trends over time, and it’s often too specific to offer salient insights about the health of your relationship with your customers. Understanding that measurements like NPS don’t tell the full story, it’s extremely valuable to seek out extra commentary and details from customers at various levels of happiness. The more of the qualitative information is collected, the easier it will become to spot patterns and trends, and turn them into something actionable, even if not entirely quantifiable.

5. Capture other indicators

Absent of a tool specific for measuring customer satisfaction, your business is still collecting loads of data from various sources. Even without direct feedback from customers, you can watch other numbers to make inferences about whether they are happy. Some numbers—retention, renewals, upsells—will signal you’re doing a good job. Missed appointments, multiple visits for one repair, and nebulous appointment windows are going to result in unhappy customers—even if they’re not telling you so. Don’t wait for a customer to tell you there’s a problem, and let other functional business areas help clarify the effectiveness of your field service organization. Take a proactive approach.

6. Foster a customer-first culture

Regardless of your ability to quantify customer satisfaction, or whether you have a customer satisfaction problem, fostering a customer-first culture is essential. Making exceptional customer experiences a priority will take more than putting up a few posters or sending a couple company-wide emails. Customer satisfaction standards should be a core part of new employee onboarding and ongoing training. Set clear expectations for conduct and reinforce to empathize with the customer instead of seeing them as cranky complainers. Ensure your service professionals remember they’re there to help. Most importantly, loudly promote, recognize, and reward good behavior. Make it easy for your most customer-conscious employees to lead by example.

Whether you are a NPS detractor or promoter, you likely agree that one number does not tell a complete story, and that your various business goals are interdependent and must be addressed holistically. If customer satisfaction is a priority for your business, adopting a more robust approach to measurement and feedback collection will help you target the right areas for improvement. In the meantime, improving your efficiency, providing accurate appointment windows, and getting things fixed on the first try will ensure you stay on the right track.

To stay up-to-date on trends, customer experience, and all things field service management, subscribe to Field Service Matters blog.

Karo Kilfeather
By Karo Kilfeather

Karo is a seasoned content marketer with a deep passion for the power of language to build connections between people and ideas. Born in Poland, she learned to speak English by watching “Saved by the Bell” reruns and commercials. She has applied her language skills and editorial drive to launching successful magazines, websites, and books. Besides her lifelong interest in technology and all things geeky, she also enjoys learning about behavioral economics and organizational development, trying out new songs at karaoke, and making the most of Boston’s brief summers.

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