Want to cheat your NPS and drive up your bonus? Just reset the scale.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is more and more often used by organisations to measure their performance and other people's. Despite some discussion about the validity of the NPS in some corners of the marketing and sales community, the NPS is accepted by most boards and in the financial markets. So it makes sense to use it. We also recommend the use of the NPS for its close alignment with trust: ‘The more I trust, the more likely I am to recommend..’.

Makes sense so far. But where the NPS often goes awry is its operational implementation and linking to performance reviews and bonuses.

Staff are left alone to figure out how to improve the NPS

In a number of projects we have worked with organisations that implemented the NPS and ‘trained’ their staff on how to improve it. But when we worked with the same frontline staff later on, none understood from the training and supposed NPS drivers, how to improve their NPS performance.

If you don’t know, you find a way around it.

If your bonus and your career progression is tied to a KPI, you sure do something about it. Sure you put a bit more effort in and try to be more helpful. But to make double sure, frontline staff resort to ‘resetting the scale in the customer’s mind’. That’s easy. Just tell the customer what number on the scale you want. Where a customer would ordinarily tick a 7 or 8 out of 10 because they were happy with the service, we tell them that 7 and 8 means ‘not really happy’ – only 9 and 10 mean happy. Many customers will feel their own scale is wrong and give the score desired.

A wide spread phenomena.

We have found this behaviour in many organisations through our work and as customers. In bank branches and with financial advisors and telco staff telling customers verbally that only a score of 9 and 10 is acceptable to the organisation.

One big, happy collusion

Managers and NPS consultants also don’t mind. In fact, some have instituted customer comms programs to that effect. No wonder, their bonuses are also tied to the NPS. So why should they mind? And with a typical job horizon of 2-3 years, it is easy with this kind of program and some real adjustments to increase the NPS.

The customer suffers and so do sales.

This cheating of the NPS by all parties, is therefore a key reason why many organisations can’t link the NPS to improvement in sales or customer loyalty. The NPS goes up, the rest stays the same. No wonder no real change for the customer has been made.

Do something about it

In our trust training we, empower frontline staff to actively improve their NPS. We can do this by focusing on how to build more customer trust and manage it during their different interactions. Because more trust means more likelihood to recommend, this is an immediately effective approach to improve the NPS AND business results.


If you want to discuss further, please contact stefan.grafe@mextconsulting.com