Recently, I was talking to my son about my research and training in the area of Net Promoter Score®. I told him how I had found it to be a great metric that companies can use to gauge satisfaction. As I talked, I noticed the look on his face turn rather menacing. I asked him what the problem was. He then spent the next 10 minutes relating to how a recent job he had with a call center had used NPS as a KPI with their call center staff. He related how managers and supervisors had used it as leverage to get employees fired, and that literally his job was on the line just about every day because each employee’s NPS was directly tied to a customer sat survey from the inbound callers. He told me how a single call from a disgruntled customer could make or break your NPS, and because he was tier 2 support, most of the calls he received were from customers who had already been escalated and were hopping mad. He expressed how the successful call center agents would “flirt” with the callers and get a higher NPS, thus biasing the results. In essence, he told me that he hoped that he would never see another NPS again!
Should NPS be so directly associated with an employee’s KPI’s? There are many arguments on both sides of this one. While it is a valuable indicator of how a customer evaluates the service given by a particular employee, at the end of the day, it is something that can be manipulated and misunderstood.
Richard Evenson of Forrester Research indicated that NPS may not be a great “motivator” for employees and that at best, NPS provides a great evaluation question for Customer Satisfaction, but the NPS Score serves to provide little if any motivation to a frontline employee to improve. As Evenson puts it, “As a motivator, NPS psychologically causes us to reset our bar to a much lower level.”
Scores, in my son’s experience, were volatile and subjective at best. While NPS is a simple metric to use, I would offer that the score itself may not be the best link to KPI’s. I would offer that “percentage growth” rather than NPS score be used in factoring into KPI’s. In my son’s case, this would have given him much more control over his success, even with the upset tier two customers, because even though his baseline NPS might have been lower than the people who were flirting for better NPS, his percentage growth over time would have indicated his real progress, and would have rooted out the “pretenders” who were unethically biasing their customers to respond to the survey a certain way.
NPS, when used properly, and measured equitably, can be a good indicator of employee performance. If used improperly it can cause a steady stream of employee turnover, and as in my son’s case, it can cause a very sour experience for the employee.
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