In the distant past, way back before social media and new communications technology revolutionized the way we do business, bad customer service proliferated.
The mediums available to customers to check a potential supplier’s reputation and customer service track record were limited. It was easy to find good reviews – because the company would tout them – but finding a way to see past the marketing spiel and get a true measure of a company’s commitment to satisfying their customer needs wasn’t easy.
Today, we’re looking at a very different situation. Digital channels have revolutionised the way we deal with customers and the value and importance of great customer service. We can now talk to our customers using multiple online channels that provide synchronous and continuous communications. Technology has also enabled us to mediate and measure the effectiveness of those communications and relationships using data collection and analytics.
Fuelled by the rise of social media platforms, customers who have poor experiences can air their grievances in public, (i.e. everyone’s a publisher) and expectations of what constitutes great service have shifted.
Customers expect much, much more from you. They expect to get quick responses, they expect that you will be available to them via multiple channels, and they expect to be kept up to date on project developments. Most importantly, they expect that you will not only listen to them, but will act on what they say.
These trends, combined with increased competition in technology services markets have not only changed the nature of customer service forever, but have made customer service and delivery a real differentiator. Businesses that manage this well can achieve a sustainable competitive edge.
You’d think that such a complex matrix of communication channels and service platforms, suggests complex methods to not only measure, but to drive service improvements. However, research suggests that a very simple measure is a great indicator of the strength of an organisation’s relationships. That measure, known as a company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) essentially measures an organisation’s reputation by asking a simple question:
“How likely is it that you would recommend this product/service/company to a colleague or friend?”
The Net Promoter Score is a metric that was introduced over 10 years ago in the Harvard Business Review1. It effectively measures how loyal customers are to a particular organisation and how satisfied they are with their services.
The simplicity of the ‘recommend’ question hides a more sophisticated psychological process that asks people to stake their own reputation and integrity on the likelihood that a company they have had dealings with, will deliver. Interestingly, high NPS scores have also been linked positively with a business’s projected growth and future success2.
The metric uses a 10 point scale where those answering 9 or 10 are considered promoters, those answering 7 or 8 are considered neutral, while those answering 6 and below are considered detractors (for the purposes of measurement). The NPS score is then expressed as a percentage of promoter scores minus detractor scores.
According to a report released earlier this year that analysed the NPS of 62 tech services companies (including big names likes Microsoft, HP and IBM) the top score recorded was 57, while the average for technology providers was 31.8.3
Nextgen’s service delivery team have an NPS that comes very close to the top of this field, with a current score of 54. This score is also the result of upward improvements quarter on quarter over the last two years.
As an example of the strength of the NPS measure in action, we examined the customer service practices of the Nextgen Service Delivery team in order to see how they used the NPS to drive such impressive improvement.
We spoke to John Bartolo (JB), Nextgen National Service Level Manager about leveraging the NPS to strengthen the company’s relationships with its customers.
JB: We survey our customers at key points in their journey with us and then feed that information back to the managers and team leaders of the delivery process. We also share the results with the specific Nextgen Service Delivery Manager that provided the service.
In some cases we also reach out to the customer contact in order to gather further intelligence and find out what worked well with our service, and what could be improved.
We use this intelligence to improve the processes in our Operations Group or we pass it on to other areas of the business if they’re involved. The quarterly NPS results, historical performance and commentary provided by ISG are also published in executive reports to provide visibility at a senior level.
JB: The focus on customer experience has significantly changed the way we do business at Nextgen. Most importantly, it’s encouraged us to focus on our customers’ requirements rather than our own internal requirements to deliver a service.
JB: We’ve made a number of improvements as a result of the feedback from our NPS survey intelligence. The improvements are wide-ranging too – from something small like changing our email templates to include additional details in the subject field – to significant procedural changes for proactive escalation management of orders when update milestones are missed.
As an example, one of the areas that was highlighted in the feedback was a lack of status updates for customers dealing with our third party suppliers – so we listened to our customers, improved our communications in this area, and improved our service. We then got to see the result of these changes reflected in our upward trending NPS scores.
JB: Only our Delivery Process is utilizing NPS currently at Nextgen, but it’s certainly had a bearing on the way we work in the team. By giving our staff a clear indication of the impact of the quality of their customer service on our clients, they feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that drives them to strive for improved results.
Being able to see that NPS line trending upwards is a real motivator. We’re proud of our results and they’re indicative of our direction as a business for providing outstanding customer service.
The NPS is a deceivingly simple measure, but it is a powerful one. It seems that by asking customers to consider staking their integrity on whether they would recommend an organisation or not, you get a surprisingly candid answer that, along with additional feedback, translates into real business intelligence.
The Nextgen Service Delivery Team listens to their customers. They ask their customers key questions at important points in their journey and then they use that feedback to drive continuous service improvements. Using NPS has encouraged them to think outside the walls of their company and focus on the customer journey rather than just their own – and it’s having results. Just ask their customers.
The important takeaway here is that customer service matters – it matters to Nextgen and if you’re looking to improve your market share and take business away from your competitors, it should matter to you as well.