The Ultimate Question, to ask your future service provider

Blog Post By Helen Nicopoulos and Max Tennant

In 2006 Frederick F. Reichheld published the seminal book, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth. It has driven a significant shift for customer experience (CX) organisations to move from traditional internal metrics around efficiency (SLA, ASA, GoS) and quality or CSAT (measured from within), to NPS, or the Net Promoter Score, based on customer reviews.

Reichheld encapsulates the driver for NPS metrics as: “CEOs regularly announce ambitious growth targets, then fail to achieve them. The reason? Their growing addiction to bad profits. These corporate steroids boost short-term earnings but alienate customers. They undermine growth by creating legions of detractors - customers who complain loudly about the company and switch to competitors at the earliest opportunity.” The book goes on to explain how NPS boils down customer insight into one question: Would you recommend us to a friend? “That allows companies to track promoters and detractors and produces a precise measure of an organisation's performance through its customers' eyes. In industry after industry, this Net Promoter Score is the single most reliable indicator of a company's ability to grow,” Reichheld explains.

The majority of our clients measure customer NPS, and in many cases, we link customer NPS performance outcomes to our operations teams, even to the point of paying incentives to teams and individuals based on customer NPS. TeleTech has some great examples of delivering improved customer NPS outcomes on behalf of our clients. Using analytics and insight-based initiatives we’ve reduced customer effort in problem resolution, which directionally reflects the gains that our clients could expect in their business.

NPS improvement are a common metric shared by customer experience providers with potential clients. The missing component of many of these success stories is whether those customer NPS improvements were delivered in the quickest and most effective way on behalf of our clients. In this way, there are other questions to consider.

In all our years working in CX outsourcing, we’ve yet to see a potential client ask what we think “Their Ultimate Questions” should be:

1. What is your employee eNPS (the net promoter score of the employees willing to recommend working for the provider)?

2. What is your client cNPS (the net promoter score of the client’s currently doing business with the provider)?

3. For both questions, can you please show measures over time and what initiatives or events have impacted your scores positively or negatively?

These are the most important questions an organisation should be asking when selecting a provider, for two reasons.

Firstly, front-line employees represent your brand to your customers, and their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with employment with your provider is a critical measure in having an engaged workforce committed to executing actions to help achieve your organisational goals and business outcomes. Employee Net Promotor Score is important because if employees feel attached to your brand, then they will do what every team leader dreams of -- give discretionary effort. We see a direct correlation between engaged employees and high NPS scores from customers.

Secondly, Client Net Promotor Score is the most important measure of an organisation’s ability to deliver the commitments it's made to its clients. When pursuing business partnerships, every organisation will highlight success stories, but it is important to understand a whether those success stories occur consistently throughout their client base and whether the existing clients feel the provider is performing well against their business.

Organisations would serve themselves well by weighing their assessments of a potential partner high in this area. After all, how can you expect a team to deliver exceptional NPS outcomes to your customers if they don’t use the measure on themselves both with their employees and clients? As critical as customer experience is to growing your company’s customer base, also consider working with an organisation that measures eNPS and cNPS, and that has shared their performance in these areas.


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