Holy Wars – Whose Side are You On?
Monday, December 11, 2006
Last week, the WSJ published an article about the holy wars forming around the Net Promoter business concept (see “One Question, and Plenty of Debate”). In it, author Scott Thurm nicely outlined the debate that is raging between the two camps forming around Net Promoter. He has appropriately dubbed them ‘promoters’ and ‘detractors.’
Eavesdropping on the debate will probably still leave you with questions though:
- How do you, as CXO of a company, dig through all the noise around Net Promoter?
- How do you prioritize?
- How do you know which camp will serve you best?
Scott’s article got me thinking about the two camps, but I think that there are really three camps: academics, vendors and business practitioners.
- Academics are researchers and professors studying the topic or customer loyalty in general
- Vendors are consultants, software providers and others with solutions to sell
- Business practitioners are individuals inside companies who are trying to leverage the business concept to positively affect the bottom line
Here’s my assessment of the three camps:
- The goal of academics is very different from that of the business community. Academics look at theory. They’re not driven by the need to do something today to improve the business. (I mean this with all due respect—my father was an academic and the dean of a business school so I recognize the valuable role academics play.)
- In general, academics don’t like Net Promoter. I believe this is because of its simplistic approach and because the data used by Bain and Satmetrix has never been made publicly available.
- Vendors want to sell you wares. If Net Promoter supports their position, a vendor is generally pro-Net Promoter. If Net Promoter threatens their way of doing business, look out—a vendor is most likely a fierce critic.
- The loudest ‘detractor’ voices come from this camp today.
- Business practitioners who have been working with Net Promoter tend to be ‘promoters’ of the concept. I’ve not come across a case in which someone said Net Promoter had negative results on their business.
- Critics do exist within companies but they generally sit within the corporate research department, which stands to reason: there’s a misconception that Net Promoter initiatives mean saying good-bye to other internal customer research.
And if you think there’s lots of noise out there today, just wait! 2007 promises to provide more fuel to the fire, as January yields the first conference on Net Promoter, as well as the release of an academic study reviewing Net Promoter: A Longitudinal Examination of 'Net Promoter' on Firm Revenue Growth. Walter Carl’s recent blog posting "One Question, and Plenty of Debate": More Scrutiny of the Net Promoter Score” provides a link to download an executive summary of the study.
So what do you do if, after all this, you’re still not sure which side you’re on? In dealing with such questions, most people believe their own experiences first; those of their friends or colleagues second; of analysts, third; and, finally, what vendors tell them. If you’re working with Net Promoter today and if you can see the results, then you can also ignore the noise. If you’re not working with Net Promoter today, then I recommend that you find a peer who is and see what they have to say.
Disclosure: I was interviewed for the Wall Street Journal article cited in this piece; we also use Net Promoter when relevant in consulting engagements.
Steven Nicks, VP Steven.Nicks@phelongroup.com