In classical Greek logic, there is a principle attributed to Aristotle, called the law of excluded middle. It states that either a proposition is true (or) its negation is true, but there is no middle option. It got us thinking about its applicability to Customer Surveys…….

There are a wide variety of ways to perform surveys: CSAT (Customer  Satisfaction), NPS (Net Promoter Score), CES (Customer Effort Score),  to name a few. Of these, nothing exemplifies the Aristotlean principle  better than NPS. It’s a single question survey that seeks to identify  customers’ love, or lack thereof, for your brand/product/service. It  asks the following question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company to your friends or colleagues? The respondents score you on a 11 point scale (0–10), with 0 representing Very unlikely and 10 representing Very likely to recommend.

Now comes the interesting part. Unlike traditional scales, which give equal weightage to each score, Fredreich Reichheld (creator of NPS) designed an unequal classification system:

0–6 = Detractor

7–8 = Passive

9–10 = Promoter

Tip: see the formula above & you'll notice that it explicitly ignores the passives!

This means that anyone who gave your company a score in the bottom  60% has a negative opinion of you and is likely to churn. The top 20%  are your promoters, who sing your praises. The middle 20% feel they get  adequate value from your business — not unhappy, but not dreamy-eyed  about you either.

The behavior that organizations exhibit in their response to these  scores, makes for very interesting reading. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of  the attention goes to the detractors (the squeaky wheel gets the grease).  War rooms are setup, turnaround teams are put together & a high  degree of executive attention is paid, to ensure that the detractors  don’t churn.

Most organizations stop here. The promoters and passives are forgotten.

Organizations that value the effectiveness of promoters, however,  think and act differently. Their marketing and customer success teams  setup customer advocacy programs to nurture promoters.  Systematic efforts are made to get reviews, testimonials and referral  leads from them. A well thought-out reward mechanism is put in place to  offer monetary & non-monetary rewards. Some even setup and manage  vibrant customer communities & advisory forums, where promoters play  a lead role. Citrix is a great example of a thought leader in this  space. Watch how they do it!

What then, of the passives? They are neither screaming nor  delighted. They are getting value for their money. And they are  ignored ………until they fall into one of the other 2 buckets.

This begs 2 questions, which we try to answer here:

  1. Why are the passives passive?
  • They are happy, but have some concerns that they feel are  un-addressed. It could be related to support responsiveness, product  quality, price etc
  • They are conservative by nature and it takes a Wow! experience before they will give you high praise (like my High School Math teacher)

2. What can you do about them?

  • Ask the passives the following question, right after they give you their NPS score: What is the ONE thing we need to do for you to rate us a 9 or 10?
  • Look for patterns
  • Prepare a summary of common themes & recommended actions. Bring this to the attention of the leadership team
  • Treat your passives like a sales funnel. Set your team a target for converting say 10% of passives to promoters within the next 6 months
  • Track each customer's sentiment drift across NPS cycles
  • Adjust your team's default paranoia setting to: "if I don’t treadmill my passives into promoters, they will become detractors"

In other words, don’t exclude the middle ……… and please share with us what you have done with your NPS passives!