What’s your Personal Net Promoter Score?

November 4, 2021, 5:41 PM UTC
If asked, would employees recommend working with you to a friend or colleague?
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Two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 use a Net Promoter Score (or NPS) to gauge the quality of their customer experience. Many use an Employee NPS (eNPS) to monitor the engagement of their workforce. However, there’s one crucial variant of the measure that’s not on business leaders’ radar: their Personal NPS.

If you’re not familiar with NPS as a manager, you most likely are as a consumer. The ubiquitous Net Promoter question has probably been embedded in almost every customer feedback survey since Bain & Co. introduced the concept in 2003.

“How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague?”

The responses, ranging from 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely), are classified into three categories: Promoters (9–10), Passives (7–8), and Detractors (0–6). Subtract the percentage of Detractors from Promoters to calculate your NPS.

This categorization scheme helps drive cultural change by creating an organizational shorthand for various levels of customer experience quality. Of particular note is the Passive category, reflecting customers who are basically satisfied but not “wowed.” 

Companies get no credit for Passives in the NPS calculation, and that sends a subtle but significant cultural message: Satisfaction is not the right goal. As I explain in my new book, From Impressed to Obsessed, creating a competitive advantage requires impressing customers and forging long-term loyalty instead of just basic (and ephemeral) satisfaction.

Creating those great impressions requires an engaged, inspired, and well-equipped workforce—hence the synergistic connection between NPS and eNPS. To achieve that, employees must feel well-served by management: getting the support needed to effectively perform their job and, consequently, serve customers with distinction.

The concept of managers serving employees dates back half a century when retired AT&T executive Robert Greenleaf first coined the phrase “servant leadership” to describe people who sought to enrich the lives of others, rather than just accumulate and exercise power. Interestingly, Fred Reichheld, the creator of NPS, has long cited “enriching others’ lives” as his inspiration for the measure. With that common thread, it’s as if these two management methodologies are pleading to be connected in some fashion. That’s where Personal NPS comes in.

The very things that help cultivate engagement between a customer and a company are not all that different from the things that cultivate engagement between an employee and a manager. They’re both about being well-served:  Are you responsive to my needs? Do you communicate with me clearly and transparently? Do you advocate for my interests? Do I feel better after I have interacted with you, as compared to before?

This is why managers should look through the Net Promoter lens to understand the impressions they are leaving on others. If asked, would employees recommend working with you to a friend or colleague?

Are you creating Promoters out of those in your charge? Do they feel cared for? Supported? Special? Or do they leave interactions with you feeling let down, perhaps unconvinced they had your undivided attention, or that you took their concerns and suggestions seriously?

Just as traditional NPS can drive cultural change in an organization, Personal NPS can drive behavioral change in an individual. It encourages one to pause before each workplace interaction and consider:

“What can I do to turn this employee into a Promoter and motivate him or her to go the extra mile?”

Of course, managers must sometimes make tough, unpopular decisions, so creating employee Promoters at every turn isn’t realistic. How leaders convey such decisions can make all the difference in keeping employees out of the Detractor column.

This is how you improve Company NPS at a molecular level–by encouraging leaders, through their own personal behaviors, to create an environment that turns employees into lifelong fans. Because if businesses want to create Promoters in the marketplace, they must start by creating Promoters in the workplace.

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm that helps companies impress customers and inspire employees, creating raving fans who drive business growth. Author of From Impressed to Obsessed: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees Into Lifelong Fans (McGraw-Hill, November 2021), Picoult is an acclaimed speaker and an adviser to some of the world’s foremost brands. Follow Jon on Twitter or Instagram.

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