Only use one NPS survey? You’re doing it wrong!
“It’s pretty amazing how every single time a customer is happy and decides to expand with us, every VP is taking full credit. But when a customer is churning they mostly turn to me with a sad face.” That’s what a VP of Customer Success at a mid-size company told me earlier this week. He added, "You know what they say: a nine NPS response has many fathers, but the four is an orphan."
Customer Success is a team sport. The customer journey includes the sales process, the onboarding, the product adoption, the support experience, the billing motion, and more. All the departments “own” the customer together through a consistent, thoughtful process. When the customer wins, everyone wins—and everyone shares the credit. It’s a beautifully collaborative discipline, but that very cross-functionality can make it much more difficult to benchmark each individual team or team member. In practical terms, if Customer Success really is a company-wide commitment, how can a single NPS score possibly reflect such a complex structure? And what can we do to derive a true root-cause analysis to help us understand what to fix and improve?
One solution is to roll out multiple NPS surveys at multiple points in time to test and examine each different “station” in the customer lifecycle as well as the performance of each different function that interacts with the customer. This approach to NPS consists of transactional surveys triggered at specific points in time based on specific events in the lifecycle. And to make them measurable, they relate to a pre-defined Customer Success metric. When used this way, NPS campaigns help inform the overall health score of the customer and help identify (in the aggregate) areas of the business in need of greater attention. They would also serve as a great incentive for leaders of other teams to engage with customers and truly adopt the Customer Success framework.
Here’s a basic outline of how this works in a standard business model:
Sales NPS: The first meaningful point of contact is usually with the Sales organization. Sales organizations are traditionally (and rightfully) incentivized based on deal size. But those incentives don’t typically account for the commitment to set accurate expectations or ensure a thoughtful hand-off from sales to services/implementation.
At Gainsight, for example, we rolled up a Sales Expectations Survey. We send a simple question to our customers three months after contract signature asking, “How well did our sales team set your expectations for the implementation experience?” A perfect score in the survey rewards the Account Executive with a predefined small percentage of the deal size—in essence, tying (a small) part of the commission to the delivery. In this case, the Expectations Rating is a measurable Customer Success Metric determined by the Sales NPS.
Onboarding NPS: The goal of the Services team in onboarding the customer is to achieve a short Time-to-Value (TTV). Services teams achieve success by getting to the “initial value moment” as quickly as possible and completing the onboarding motion early. An Onboarding NPS question can help benchmark these actions by asking the customer for their level of satisfaction with the onboarding experience at the end of the process. We expect this score to correlate to the TTV, measured from contract signature until the official launch.
Product NPS: The Product NPS is triggered and sent to a customer after initiating a Product Enhancement Request. This survey tests the level of responsiveness of the Product team and its ability to meet the demonstrated need and provide a feasible solution. The survey should be part of the Product Risk Management process and coupled with time-to-resolution of the product request.
Support NPS: The Support NPS is a classic, yet effective tool that measures the satisfaction from ticket resolution. This survey will be triggered shortly after a support ticket is closed. In combination with the average time-to-resolution of a support ticket, this NPS can provide great visibility to the shape of the Support organization.
Customer Marketing: A Marketing NPS is an survey question phrased to capture the sentiment towards the brand, the company, and the overall relationship. It can be sent after marketing events (like a conference) or at an arbitrary point in time (like an anniversary). At Gainsight, we created something called a CSQA—Customer Success Qualified Advocacy lead. The CSM identifies customers who are pleased with the relationship and can serve as a reference, a case study, or a speaker at an industry event. The number of CSQAs serve as the Customer Success Metric complementing the Marketing NPS.Customer Success is a team sport, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be assessing the performance of each player. What surveys or NPS motions have you implemented to align other business units around the customer objectives? I’d love to read your strategies in the comment section below!