A simple question

A simple question

Features - Business Management

With the Net Promoter Score system, you don’t need a long survey to find out if your customers are satisfied.

June 7, 2012
Brad Johnson
Industry News

I first heard about this thing they call the Net Promoter Score (NPS) from Bob Williamson at a PLANET conference three years ago. Bob shared about a book he’d read by Fred Reichheld named “The Ultimate Question,” which describes a simple process of measuring customer promotion.

Bob’s company, Moyer Outdoor, had been using the Net Promoter Score for a few years and was pleased with it.

We had measured customer satisfaction for many years at LawnAmerica, asking the same generic questions that most lawn care companies ask their customers.

On a scale of 1-5, how was our service, how was the color of your lawn, how was the weed control … blah, blah, blah. So after reading “The Ultimate Question,” it seemed like a great system for us, and began using The premise of the net promoter is that all customers can be divided into three main groups:

  • Promoters are those who are very loyal, who continue to buy and tell their friends to do the same. They promote your business, and are happy to do so.
  • Passives are satisfied and happy, but can easily be convinced to change, or just decide to not buy again.
  • Detractors are customers who are unhappy, and often say bad things about their customer experience.

The Net Promoter Score consists of a simple question that when asked and answered by the customer, allows the company to classify that customer into one of these three categories, and then come up with a qualitative number which gives us an accurate picture of how we are doing in regards to customer promotion.

Thousands of companies such as Amazon, Chick-fil-A, FedEx, Apple and Dell use NPS to measure and gauge customer happiness. I know of a growing number of lawn care companies who are starting to use it, as well.

So our customer survey consists of just one question, the only one that really matters, and that is: “On a scale from 0-10, with 0 being ‘not at all likely,’ to 10 being ‘extremely likely,’ how likely is it that you would recommend LawnAmerica to a friend or neighbor?

That’s it – that’s all we need. The bottom line is that we don’t just want our customers to be satisfied, as many companies can do that. And we sure don’t want them to be angry and displeased with our service, because that will drive us out of business. What we strive for are raving and loyal customers, who are so happy with the results and our service that they tell others about us.

The Net Promoter Score question is simple, and customers like that. How many times have you taken the time to fill out a longer, complicated survey? We put the net promoter question on every invoice. We provide a business reply card with the question once or twice during the season, along with a year-end survey with the question. Last year, we received more than 1,400 responses as a company, with a year-end Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 76 percent.

So where does that number come from and what does it mean? The NPS number is simply the percentage of promoters, minus the percentage of detractors, or P-D=NPS.

So the more promoters (score of 9-10) you receive on the survey, and the fewer detractors (score of 0-6), the higher the score will be. Those people who are passive (score of 7-8) may be satisfied, but they are not really helping your score, nor are they really helping to drive your business forward. We will post the comments from the promoters to our website, and call or visit the detractors and find out where we went wrong.

I have found the Net Promoter Score to be the simplest, most valid, and most effective way to measure and to manage true customer happiness and promotion in the lawn care business. We are like all other service businesses – we grow more and are more profitable with growth from referrals and word of mouth advertising.

This system makes everyone accountable for a positive customer experience, since we reward team members who meet and exceed our NPS goals. In 2011, our company goal was 71 percent.

Route managers who hit their goal (and all except one did) received a bonus of $1,500 at year’s end. Team leaders and managers received even more for hitting team and company goals. By measuring, but also rewarding for great performance on NPS, customer service and promotion, our growth and profits also increase. We measure and display route, team and company results on a dashboard in our office for all to see, showing where they are on the score at all times.

It’s like a customer service meter, and if it’s too low, is an indicator that something may be wrong in that route. And when team members can look and see that they are well above their goal, it’s a good bet that they will be receiving a nice bonus check later.

So far in 2012, as of April 27, we’ve received more than 460 responses from customers, at a company average of 81 percent, which is a really good NPS number. Anything more than 50, especially in our business, is pretty good. Few companies in any industry have more than 80 percent.

However, the season is still young, and the weeds are not fully blown yet, so I expect that number to fall somewhat, but hopefully we’ll end up well above our goal of 72 percent in 2012.


The author is president of LawnAmerica in Tulsa, Okla.