NPS Fails to Provide Actionable Insight for Customer Service

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the most popular metrics used globally by companies to evaluate customer experience (CX), and its results often influence companies' strategic prioritization and financial investments and allow organizations to benchmark themselves against competitors. When used in a relationship survey, such as an annual or bi-annual pulse check of customers, it is a proven measure of customer loyalty and helps identify brand-loyal customers whom companies can convert into brand advocates.

When NPS is captured in post-transaction surveys after service and support interactions, identifying actionable insight from NPS data proves challenging for service leaders. However, in a recent Gartner survey, 58 percent of customer service and support leaders are required by their executive leadership to measure NPS, yet only 25 percent agreed that it is a good metric for customer service. Customer service leaders should build an internal case to phase out NPS from post-transaction surveys using the following rationale.

Factors Beyond Customer Service's Control

NPS does not deliver actionable insights that are specific to customer service because customer responses to the NPS question are based on contributing factors that reach beyond customer service, such as the price or quality of a product. Customer service and support leaders responsible for voice of the customer (VoC) programs capture CX metrics results with CX initiatives. These results should provide customer service and support leaders with actionable insights regarding the customer service journey's successes and failures that are within their control.

Lack of Clarity for Customer Service Reps

For customer service reps to align their actions with strategic priorities and be willing to make the effort needed to achieve customer service goals, they must understand how to achieve the goals and be motivated to do so. But NPS results fail to provide a clear understanding of the actions reps should take to positively influence the metric. As a result, reps struggle to interpret how an NPS score relates to their performance and what they need to do to improve, which creates frustration and confusion.

Wasted Time and Resources

When evaluating NPS results, customer service and support leaders are expected to articulate what caused the results and which actions the organization should take to replicate strong performance and improve poor performance. However, the lack of insight from NPS results makes this a daunting task and results in significant amounts of time and resources spent digging into verbatim feedback, customer journey information, channel performance, and other data to try to identify root causes. Customer service and support leaders waste time and resources challenging scores or removing detractors from a customer service dashboard.

For example, a survey verbatim that states "The agent was great, but I am unhappy with how quickly the product broke" should be removed to avoid skewing results. Customer service and support leaders can conduct a time study to prove to stakeholders how much time and resources are wasted by quantifying the expense required to analyze NPS. They can then compare the expense to the value realized when evaluating other CX metrics and VoC, which regularly provide actionable and specific insight. The results of this activity should demonstrate that resources are better spent actively capturing customer-service-specific CX metrics and acting on that insight.

Use Customer Service Experience Measures That Are Better Than NPS.

When implemented properly, alternative CX metrics, such as customer satisfaction, customer effort score, or value enhancement score, can provide insights about specific drivers of disloyalty, enabling service and support leaders to take action to correct performance and influence CX. Gartner recommends capturing all three of these metrics in customer service post-transaction surveys instead of NPS.

If NPS is Required, Adapt it for Customer Service.

If, however, executive leadership requires NPS to be measured, customer service and support leaders should do it in a way that meets executives' expectations but doesn't overvalue the importance of NPS in customer service. To gain tactical insight, service leaders must gather additional data from customers, including validation that customer service was the reason for the score, then the root cause specific to service and support that influences the customer responses.

Overall, organizations must recognize that NPS captures customers' intentions but not their actual behavior. As a result, an overreliance on one measurement to determine performance and loyalty is not advisable because of the risk of managing to a single number and the possibility of data manipulation to achieve desired targets.

Deb Alvord is a senior director analyst at Gartner.