Listening to Customers – Apple and the NPS

  • February 20, 2012
  • Scott

The myth that Apple doesn’t listen to customers is pretty sacrosanct in media coverage.  But in a recent Forbes article, Steve Denning calls it out as another myth that needs busting, because Apple uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) relentlessly:

Listening to customers isn’t something Apple does once a year or even once a quarter. NPS plays a central role in the daily management of Apple’s three-hundred plus stores.

“Comments from customers help store managers prepare for service recovery calls with detractors to close the feedback loop. The outcomes of these calls, together with the customer comments, provide important coaching and feedback messages that are passed along to employees.” (p.130)

Employees who create promoters are recognized by managers. In some stores, customer comments are scrolled across a large-screen TV monitor in in the employee break room.

In fact, he quotes often from “The Ultimate Question 2.0” to demonstrate that Apple has found that its customer service responses to unhappy customers are actually profitable – rather than a cost center or expense as most companies categorize it.  Every hour of effort spent calling detractors was generating $1000 in revenue or additional sales.  That’s fantastic ROI.

Something else surprising: “The most common reason for becoming promoters is the way store employees treat them.” – not the shiny product they bought.  The way they were treated.  Now put that outcome in the context of other businesses.  Airlines.  Car dealerships.  Other retail outlets.  The service is the most important element.

Reading something like this gives me more hope that Ron Johnson can turn around JCPenney.  And it reminds me of another way Apple listens-  with its advertising.  When gaming seemed to be a key reason to buy an iPhone or iPod Touch, Apple changed the advertising to reflect that – and capitalize on it.  It still appears as though the fact that Apple’s phones are great gaming devices was a happy accident, but one which Apple was quick to capitalize on once it became apparent where the market was headed.

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