Lessons from (Net) Promoters

In recent posts I’ve discussed Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score, as laid out in his 2006 book “The Ultimate Question.” As a digital agency founder, I’m still gaining unexpected insights from the NPS methodology, so I won’t be departing from the subject any time soon.

In my previous post, I discussed lessons learned primarily from clients who were—at least initially—detractors according to the Net Promoter Scores they gave my corporation. This time around, I’d like to talk about equally insightful feedback from promoters—clients who gave us a nine or 10 on the NPS scale.

Lesson One: as soon as my agency, Ascentium, had gathered a critical mass of NPS client feedback, we discerned that customers giving us the highest scores had, almost without exception, formed good relationships with their project manager, account director, or other main point of contact on particular engagements.

Moreover, patterns strongly suggested that clients were most impressed by those people who consistently underpromised and overdelivered. If the client was told they’d get two comps, we’d give them three. Or we’d been as little as one day early in meeting a deadline. It didn’t have to be a dramatic example of overperformance. Any small achievement in this area made a deep impression on the client.

Really. Think small here. Think of Starbucks employees, who regularly walk the room offering customers little extras. I’m not offering a simplistic exhortation to go the extra mile. Often, the busy agency with a staff already spread thin will be hard-pressed to go the extra foot. But do that much. The smallest extra effort pays off in building client loyalty.

Second, data has told my agency that communication is immensely important to the client, and you can’t do too much of it. We’ve always sent clients weekly progress reports covering the usual stuff. But our staff who got the most glowing feedback did much more. They didn’t just send e-mails. In fact, they shied away from that in favor of phone calls or personal meetings. They walked the client through every aspect of the project, and made follow-up calls to see if the client had questions or suggestions. Frequent communication, we found, was essential. But it wasn’t just the frequency, but the quality, of communication that impressed clients. And we’ve never had a single complaint that we were over-communicating with a client. Regular, high quality communication creates promoters.

Finally, let’s look at clients who need help. Let’s look at triage. The totality of our positive client feedback tells us that if we help a client who is in pain, it goes miles toward building loyalty. Every client gets stuck with tricky problems. We help wherever possible, of course. But if a client staff member is facing an overwhelming problem—perhaps one that is even threatening his or her job—that’s when we truly need to come to the rescue. Whenever we have rushed to solve a critical problem of this sort, the client has remembered it, and it has paid invaluable dividends in building loyalty. Help the client who is dying of thirst, then turn your attention to those who are merely thirsty.

Feedback from a promoter, as we have seen, teaches us different but valuable lessons.

And there is much, much more to be learned from “The Ultimate Question.” In my next post I will discuss turning NPS detractors into promoters.

Steven Salta is co-founder and CEO of Ascentium, a digital media and interactive marketing agency. Steven has overall responsibility for the agency’s revenue, profitability, customer loyalty, and corporate culture.

About Steven Salta

Steven Salta is co-founder and CEO of Ascentium, a digital media and interactive marketing agency. Steven has overall responsibility for the agency's revenue, profitability, customer loyalty, and corporate culture.

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