Net Promoter Score (NPS) metrics are not enough

Anything that focuses on customers is heading in the right direction. Jeff Sauro calls the Net Promoter Score (NPS) “a reasonable proxy for historical or current revenue in some industries and potentially for future revenue and likely self-reported customer retention”.

Conversely, Jared Spool believes that the science behind NPS is “wacky” and that NPS’ biggest flaw is that it tries to reduce things to a single number. “It tries to achieve an outcome that can’t be achieved,” Jared explains. “It’s appealing to our management because it promises to solve a problem that can’t be solved so simply.”

The NPS is imperfect; but then, what metric is perfect? And, yes, it can be dangerous if it is used purely on its own. However, I have found that the organizations who I’ve interacted with in recent years who use the NPS tend to be more customer-centric than the ones that don’t. At least, they’re thinking in the right direction.

The problem with the NPS is that it’s not a great metric for digital teams because it is such a high-level metric. I worked with an organization a while back where the digital team was doing excellent work and they could prove it. Success rates were going up and time-on-task was going down. However, the general economy was turbulent, and the organization was suffering.

Customers felt that the product was too expensive. The NPS declined and some of the blame came down to the digital team. A new head of marketing came in and decided to do something BIG. Usability and customer experience were thrown out the window in the aggressive pursuit of more sales and big branding statements. The website was pumped full of corporate videos, stock photography, and effusive, meaningless content in grey text and cool fonts.

Customers hated it, according to the evidence, as task success fell and time spent increased dramatically because of the confusing, meaningless content. The response from the marketing manager was essentially to fire the metrics and experience team. It was years later, after this manager left, that the damage began to get repaired.

Digital teams must not depend on NPS because they don’t have any real control over the NPS score; therefore, the NPS will have control over them. Digital teams must get its own metrics accepted at a senior management level, no matter how long that takes.

What are these metrics? Task success rates and time-on-task for the top tasks because these metrics are largely recession independent, mood independent, emotion independent. The customer can either transfer money between funds within 45 seconds or they cannot. They can either compare the essential differences between two products or they cannot.

So, it’s not about replacing the NPS, but rather about complementing it with task completion and task time metrics. Task-based metrics will much better reflect the value (or otherwise) that a digital team is delivering. If you can get management to consider task-based metrics, along with the NPS, then you’re onto a winning formula.

Net Promoter Score Considered Harmful (and What UX Professionals Can Do About It) by Jared M. Spool

How Harmful Is the Net Promoter Score? by Jeff Sauro

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