Improving your net promoter score is important and risky

an image of a man walking a tight rope between two mountains

Balancing efforts to attain a high net promoter score while successfully steering your business is a balancing act with big risks

Improving your net promoter score is important and risky. Tasking customer success to pay a lot of attention to improving it should result in more renewals and referrals. But this attention shifts the balance of a healthy vendor customer relationship in ways you should be aware of and may not like.

In a story titled “Don’t Let Your Strategy Be Hijacked” Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritter point out a big risk associated with paying perhaps too much attention to customer success activities like boosting your businesses net promoter score — “strategy hijack”:

“This example illustrates a strategy hijack — that is, a situation in which groups of dissatisfied customers overtake the control of an organization’s strategy.”

Pedersen and Ritter’s story includes a few examples. In each case management failed to pivot to a more favorable position because customers would not let them “go there”. Sonos is one of the companies cited in the examples. How would you regroup if, like Sonos’ CEO your decision to stop supporting older products ended up ticking off a particularly vocal segment of your customers? Would you cave in? Or would you stubbornly hold your line? The risks of making the wrong choice are significant and need to be respected with very careful, fully thought through behavior.

A good way to keep a healthy balance between your efforts at customer success while successfully steering your P&L through normal and challenging times is to permit some “customer skepticism”. If you need some help opening the door on this kind of thinking you can read a short article written by no less of a business building authority than Mark Cuban: “Mark Cuban on Why You Should Never Listen to Your Customers”. Cuban’s analogy of the customer relationship process as a “revolving door” is apt. You should never stop questioning “are my customers really loyal to my brand? Or do they support my brand because, for now, it is meeting their needs. Tomorrow a better mousetrap may come along and their loyalty will evaporate”.

Operating with this kind of skepticism makes sense. When you engage with customers fully knowing the “better mousetrap” may be just around the corner, you will keep your product enhancement process going to keep customers from turning corners on you. Bottom line: net promoter score is important, but keeping your hands on the steering wheel of your business is even more important. You need to make sure your team gets the message and engages with customers in a correct way given your objectives.

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