The Top One Thing That Will Cause Your Net Promoter Program to Fail!!!

The Top One Thing That Will Cause Your Net Promoter Program to Fail!!!

Why claiming an NPS of 100 reveals a popular but illogical mistake.

The marketing team is keen that I get the hang of this clickbait business. Apparently, “Top 5” lists score highly, but I’m not sure I’ve got the hang quite yet. Still, of all the things you can do to make nonsense of your CX initiative, I do think I have a favorite. What is it? Keep reading.

I was inspired by reading of a tech company that recently publicized that they had an NPS of 100. Naturally I was intrigued. Cynically, my first thought wasn’t “wow these guys are loved by their customers,” more along the lines of “what on earth?” only with more colorful language.

Deeper examination of the claims of this company “unprecedented in the industry” quickly reveals the glitch in their thinking.

Let’s think of this through the lens of probabilities. It’s not impossible to achieve 100-point NPS, just improbable. Highly improbable. There are some companies that legitimately achieve high 80’s or low 90’s, but sooner or later, you run into some customers who just don’t love you that much. Boom, there goes your perfect no-hitter. Of course, you might just have one customer, which certainly gives you a better shot, but I was already willing to wager that this was less a sample problem, more a case of fundamental misunderstanding. Yup.

Deeper examination of the claims of this company “unprecedented in the industry” quickly reveals the glitch in their thinking. It’s a popular one, and it’s my pick for the top way to mess up: They measure the technical support experience, ask the recommend question, then call the result NPS.

With the exception of a certain corner case, which I’ll share in a minute, that’s not even vaguely correct. The foundation of NPS is its linkage to financial performance and is based on the idea that NPS reflects the sum of all experiences. In this instance, if your NPS was just technical support, the quality of the product, your implementation experience, sales experience, pricing – none of those would matter. Heck, if they shipped you the wrong product four out of every five times, nobody would apparently care. Nope, it’s just the tech support call, which presumably only a subset of your customers even attempts. Even better, don’t let them get through to the tech support lines, try and filter them for some easy issues – a bot should be particularly good at that.

Tech support, customer support, customer success calls – these are events that tend to score high, because the customer is, quite reasonably, judging you on the resolution of the problem they have, not their overall experience. Pick your favorite metric to measure this – I personally like the Customer Effort Score – but don’t go thinking you are going to outstrip the competition exclusively on the basis of your tech support.

Think about this: According to the logic of equating tech support experience with NPS, if you have a perfect product, one that requires no technical support at all, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to create all those promoters! Better get some bugs programmed in, stat. We should start referring to “call avoidance” solutions as “promoter avoidance” solutions and cut back on all our tech spend in the contact center.

I did suggest a corner case. As NPS is supposed to summarize all the relevant experiences, it’s possible that the technical support call does represent all those experiences. That would be because you are fundamentally in the business of providing support. Logically, this doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing situation” – the closer you get to that model, the more relevant the support call is. You could argue that one of the historic NPS leaders, Rackspace, was basically a support company for a customer who purchased a “commodity solution” from them. If the only differentiator in their industry is support, and all other factors are negligible, support experience converges on overall customer experience. No wonder they built their franchise around the concept of “fanatical support,” since that’s really what their business was.

For the rest of you, including the 100-point NPS guys I mentioned, don’t confuse support experience with the complete customer experience. Your customers won’t.


As CEO, Richard’s singular professional focus: Delivering financial value through CX. He co-founded OCX Cognition to combine technology and programmatic consulting in pursuit of that goal, and now leads the company’s coordinated efforts to deliver the right solutions for its clients.

Richard’s 30-year career has centered on transforming business operations with technology, and he is one of the best-known CX thought leaders. While CEO at Satmetrix, his team led the development of the Net Promoter Score® methodology with Fred Reichheld, creating the world’s most widely used CX measurement approach. With Laura Brooks, he co-authored Answering the Ultimate Question, the best-selling “how to” guide for NPS practitioners.

Richard transformed the supply chain and built what was then the world’s largest e-commerce business at Dell, and has led two software companies, AvantGo and Satmetrix, to successful exits. With an MBA from MIT Sloan Management School, he has served on several boards and committees at public and private companies and is an active venture investor and international business thinker. Richard has lived on three continents; he and his family now divide their time between Arizona and London.


OCX Cognition delivers the future of NPS. We ensure customer experience success by combining technology and data science with programmatic consulting. In our Insights section, we present a comprehensive and evolving collection of resources based on our research and expertise, collected for CX leaders committed to delivering business outcomes.

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