There are at least five key reasons why senior leadership must make this commitment and actively communicate it:
Net Promoter is a balancing act. NPS® at its best is inspirational and motivational. Employees naturally want to delight customers, and they feel great when they can do so. But they must do it in economically rational ways (it’s easy to delight customers by giving things away for free). The CEO and CFO must understand loyalty economics and ensure that the organization has the tools for making appropriate tradeoffs when necessary.
Net Promoter requires confronting “bad profits.” If a company is making money by exploiting its customers—for example, by tacking on hidden service fees—employees will see the double standard and won’t take seriously the company’s claim that it wants to improve customer loyalty. Without the full commitment of senior leaders, high impact near-term revenue or profit tradeoffs that benefit long-term growth and profits probably won’t get made.
Senior leaders need to pull the organization together. Net Promoter affects virtually every aspect of a company. Finance, operations, marketing and other departments traditionally have differing goals and incentives, but now they must work closely together. Senior leaders may need to change organizational and incentive structures to facilitate this kind of cooperation (e.g., many Net Promoter companies have found it necessary to remove or change incentives based on process metrics such as average handle time in call centers, because they conflict with the mission of doing what is right for customers).
Top executives must assign the right people to lead the charge. NPS leaders need the right skills, experience, personal qualities and energy. At the highest levels, someone who is broadly respected and trusted across the organization can set and reset priorities to focus on wherever the need is greatest. That person should report directly to the CEO or an important business unit’s general manager. And he or she must have earned the respect of other senior leaders in the company. But the senior leader won’t be successful without a way to reach deeper into the organization. Therefore, it’s also critical to build what Bain calls the “Sponsorship Spine” from the bottom up—creating an unbroken chain of effective and engaged sponsors from the frontline to the C-suite.
Creating and sustaining momentum usually requires dramatic action. Employees at most companies have seen many initiatives come and go. But Net Promoter isn’t a tool or a program; it’s a way of running a company. Without visible signs of serious commitment at the top, many employees will conclude that this is just another flavor of the month. Visible, symbolic action often jolts the skeptics into realizing that the leadership team is serious this time. Timed appropriately, these dramatic actions can help sustain focus and instill confidence in the mission of earning enthusiastic loyalty from customers.