Net Promoter is both popular and controversial, so naturally we in Forrester’s customer experience (CX) research practice get lots of questions about it from CX leaders whose companies have adopted it or plan to adopt it in the future. Overall, we know that Net Promoter can effectively support CX efforts when companies implement it correctly. But we also know that correct implementation from a CX perspective is in no way a given.

Here’s what CX pros in particular should do to make sure that they ( . . . and their companies, and their customers . . . ) get the most out of the Net Promoter methodology:  

  • Use the Net Promoter language to explain customer experience efforts. Perhaps the most valuable thing that Net Promoter provides is a clear language with which to discuss customer loyalty. CX pros can capitalize on any momentum around Net Promoter at the corporate level by connecting planned experience improvements to it. Wherever possible, explain how a change to the experience will help reduce Detractors or increase Promoters.
  • Focus on the system more than on the score. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is only valuable if it helps an organization improve customer loyalty. CX pros must ensure that they have a system in place to examine the drivers and root causes of NPS determination, identify the ones that are related to the customer experience, and initiate improvement efforts accordingly.
  • Integrate NPS into a comprehensive performance management program. To effectively manage CX quality, CX pros must make sure that their firms collect direct measures of experience quality that include what happened during an experience, how customers felt about what happened, and what they actually did as a result. All of this data should combine with NPS and feed into closed-loop voice of the customer (VoC) processes that turn data into insight and action.
  • Bring numbers to life with customer comments and stories. Firms need statistically significant data to make smart decisions, which is why they spend time rigorously analyzing NPS. However, the hard data doesn't always engage employees — it's just too dry. CX pros should help their organizations find specific customer comments and stories that help bring the data to life and create personal, emotional cases for change.
  • Put methodology battles into perspective. Like every methodology we've come across, Net Promoter isn't perfect. However, it can still add value when implemented carefully, with knowledge of its strengths and weaknesses. CX leaders should work with their colleagues in the market insights field to ensure that the company measures NPS with appropriate levels of accuracy and precision and has complementary metrics in place where needed. As importantly, they should also remember — and remind others — that the core strength of NPS is not its statistical validity but its simplicity, language, and link to action.

For more information on Net Promoter as a CX tool, see our new report: "Executive Q&A: Net Promoter For Customer Experience Professionals." In it, we answer several key questions, such as, “Why is Net Promoter so controversial?” and “Is NPS a good CX metric?” As you read the report, please note that it’s written specifically for CX leaders, not as a comprehensive review or critique of the Net Promoter methodology. As always, I welcome your comments.