You Say Your Clients Are Happy? Prove It!

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One simple question will tell you how good you are and will be.

Eighteen months ago, Andy Parnell, Chief Client Officer of LaneTerralever, felt things weren’t going as well as the agency’s 105 people seemed to think.  So he surveyed each cllent with one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend LaneTerralever to a friend or colleague (using a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being not likely and 10 being very likely)?”

The simple question Parnell asked is the basis for calculating a Net Promoter Score, or NPS, now a standard practice across service sectors, including the wider media and communications industry. NPS scores can range from -100 to +100, but when the results were tallied, the agency scored a -3.

In general, an NPS of 50 or more is considered world class. That’s a tall order when the average for our industry is 16.

For Parnell and his fellow executives it helped to justify some big changes in the way the agency works. Today, LaneTerralever’s NPS is an impressive 52.

NPS is so simple that you can do it yourself in just minutes. Most free/low-cost survey tools like Google Surveys or SurveyMonkey have a built-in NPS question format.  Just edit the text, sprinkle with email addresses, and you’re ready to start learning how good your agency is.

Once the responses come in, calculating the score is easy. You just add up the percentage of Promoters (clients who answered 9 or 10) and subtract the percentage who are Detractors (answered 0-6). Multiply that percent by 100 and you have your NPS score. For example, a survey of 80 clients resulting in 55% promoters and 20% detractors generates a 35 NPS (55% – 20%  X 100).

And it’s not just a simple number.  Yes, it is a gauge of client happiness that your teams can use, but it also turns out to be an accurate predictor of a company’s future performance.  Researchers have found that just moving your score up from 14 to 25, correlates to a near-term increase in sales and financial performance.

But like all things that seem simple, there are some complexities that you probably want to consider.  I spoke with three agencies that have achieved world-class NPS – Elite SEM (50), LaneTerralever (52), and Starr Conspiracy (60) –  to learn their best practices.  If you want the long version, I made an NPS for Agencies Guide you can download.  Here are three keys to getting started:

1. Survey your active clients more than once per year, monthly if possible.  Things can change unexpectedly in the agency world, and NPS is a great way to monitor client sentiment even between deliverables. Elite SEM shifted from twice per year to quarterly because they felt the feedback wasn’t real-time enough.

2. The second question matters more. Starr Conspiracy asks a second question in their survey, “What is the primary reason for the score you just gave us?” This creates a conversation that can uncover any fermenting client dissatisfaction and help highlight potential process improvements. If you’re going to survey monthly, though, keep the extra questions to a minimum to avoid fatigue.

3. Publish your results. Post it inside your agency – so everyone knows how you’re really doing – and on your website. Consider updating it in real time, as Elite and Starr do. That kind of confidence says “nothing to hide” at a time when clients are scrutinizing agencies much more carefully.

Elite and Starr also track NPS for employees, or eNPS, by asking how likely they are to recommend that a friend or colleague come work at the agency. Guess what?  High client NPS scores are matched by high eNPS scores, proving one of our industry’s oldest maxims: Doing good work has its own reward.

Skeels will moderate a panel (How a New Breed of Agencies is Changing the Way Advertising Works, Gaining World-Class Client Satisfaction & Margin) with Parnell, Starr, and advertisers on Monday, September 26 at 3:00 PM in Lucille’s at B.B. King’s.

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