You receive a customer feedback survey and on the “likelihood to recommend,” question she responded with an “8”.  In the NPS* scoring scheme, she is a passive customer.  When the interviewer asked why she gave the rating, her response was “I do not score higher than that as there is always room for improvement” and the survey comments do not provide any clues about her rating.

Last week, we wrote about what to do about this situation in general.  This week, I’ll take a closer look at the first of our recommended “how to” steps: Contact the customer to learn more.

How do you start this challenging conversation to learn why she gave an “8”?

First, it helps to know that there is most likely a reason for the 8 score, and the rating has little to do with being a tough grader.  For example, there may have been an issue with the service, but your customer either does not know how to express it or to whom.

To illustrate this, let me share a personal example.  When I purchased my Acura, I also bought an extended care package.  Following each service, I received a survey, and I gave a 7 or 8 for “likelihood to recommend.”  I started to think about why I was only giving a 7 or 8 because services were completed correctly and when promised.  However, after I considered my experiences with the dealership, I realized two issues were preventing me from giving the experience a 9 or 10.

  1. Accessibility: The dealership has limited space so taking the car in or picking it up was a frustrating experience. The parking lot was overcrowded and difficult to navigate through.
  2. Friendliness: While waiting for my car, I noticed the staff was professional, but not particularly friendly or welcoming. I felt uncomfortable.

I suspect these kinds of small, yet meaningful issues are common among many of your passive customers (rating “likelihood to recommend” a 7 or 8).

How do you begin talking with the customer to help them open up about the real reason for their rating?  I have several suggestions:

  1. Explain to the customer why you are contacting her. In this case, the customer gave you an 8 and indicated there is room for improvement.  You want to find out where you need to improve.
  2. “Walk-through” the service experience. Briefly, take the customer through the entire experience from the very first contact to arrange the service to the very end.  You are likely to begin to learn some of the opportunities for improvement.
  3. After completing the “walk-through,” I suggest probing questions about very specific areas. Ask about such things as staff friendliness?  Responsiveness to any questions or concerns the customer had?  If relevant, was the customer properly greeted when they came in the door?

Passive customers are a challenge.  They are neither happy nor unhappy with the experience.  They are simply on the fence, which also means they could move to some other supplier just as I did with my Acura when the extended care package ended.  Often, the reasons for their ambivalence may have more to do with the emotional side of the service experience and less with the tangible service delivery.

If you want to up your service delivery game, it is essential to know how to talk to your 8’s!

  • Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks and Net Promoter Score, and Net Promoter System are trademarks of Bain & Company, Satmetrix Systems, and Fred Reichheld. © 1996-2013. Bain & Company.

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