Saturday, October 25, 2008

Promoter versus Apostle

NPS continues to gather momentum. The categorization of the Promoters and Detractors as a way of viewing customers has a strong appeal. There is a competing categorization of customers that has more appeal to me. The term Apostle is a much stronger word to describe a loyal customer than Promoter. The term Apostle came out of the article "Value Profit Chain: Treat Employees like Customers and Customers like Employees" by Sasser and Jones.

The purpose of this blog is to look at these two competing scales for customers. One of the problems I see occurring is that companies will try to compare statistics when the scales for each statistic are not identical. While there are other scales being used, these two seem to dominate the literature today.

The NPS categorization has little granularity and puts customers into three very large buckets. It would appear that all detractors fall into the Detractor bucket and all Promoters fall into the Promoter bucket. There may be further refinement for these terms, however, I am not aware of any at this time.

On the other hand, the Apostle model has five categories. I believe the following definitions are reasonable representations:
1. Antagonist - those customers with low satisfaction scores who spread negative word of mouth about the product and/or service. These are referred to in other models as defectors or terrorists.
2. Mercenary - those customers with high levels of customer satisfaction but low loyalty. These customers want high satisfaction but give very lttle loyalty.
3. Loyalist - those customers with relatively high levels of satisfaction and moderate loyalty. They will generally remain but can be persuaded to leave.
4. Viral Loyalist - those customers who are more satisfied and loyal than Loyalists. They also spread positive word of mouth.
5. Apostles - those customers who are more satisfied and more loyal than Viral Loyalists and are more vocal. These custoemrs will argue for the company's products and services.

While these categories provide much more granularity, they also require a more precise definition for each (better than my approximation). The key in this model is that customers are shown to follow an ever increasing curve that relates customer satisfaction to loyalty Thus as satisfaction increases loyalty tends to increase. This relationship further implies that loyalty and satisfaction correlate high with the likelihood of recommendation. More and more data seems to be providing validation for this assumption of the relationship between likelihood of recommendation and satisfaction and/or loyalty.

My preference is the five category scale used in the Sasser article. I have a difficult time believing that someone who rates a product or service a nine on an 11 point scale has the same status as one who rates the same product or service a 10. Both of these scores would be categorized as a Promoter but, in my opinion, they are not the same kind of promoter. That granular difference between the two scales can translate into a large impact on revenue and profit.

The bottom line is that the categories defined by survey scales provide the lens by which we can accurately see the customers for who they really are. The more granular the scale the greater the accuracy of our vision.


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