Dec 10, 2021

Read Time 8 min

Q&A Recap – Coach the Coach: Net Promoter Score (NPS) Calls


Is your Customer Success team getting the most out of your Net Promoter Score® (NPS) responses? No matter how rich your customer feedback is, it’s worthless if not applied. You might think it’s all about the NPS “ask,” but responding to your customers’ NPS results is just as important. And when it comes to NPS follow-up, there’s a specific place, time, and approach to maximize the value of your conversations.

Bryan Neale of Blind Zebra Consulting joined us for a webinar to teach Customer Success leaders how to coach their teams to handle NPS conversations following a four-step call framework. With this simple tactic, CSMs can maximize Promoter conversations, address Detractor concerns, and manage everyone in-between.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch it on-demand.

Q: How do you schedule an NPS follow-up call?

A: We live in “Clear Future” date, and so our goal is always to have something scheduled with a green check accepted. I don’t think it’s a good strategy to call people and say, “Hey, you submitted your NPS. I want to talk to you about your score.” People need to prep for that. I always try to get this on the calendar. Now, when we do our teaching and work with our clients, we talk about these two concepts: prevention and remedy. If I don’t have a date set, I can always send an email that says, “Hey, it’s Bryan. We received your NPS survey. First of all, thanks a bunch. I really appreciate you taking the time. A normalized part of our process is a quick follow-up call. It will take us about 15 minutes. Here are three dates and times I’m available. I’ll send them over.” That’s after your customer has taken the NPS survey, and you don’t have a date set, you send that. That’s the remedy.

We also have a tool called Calendar First, where if I know the customer, I’d send her an invitation for a Zoom meeting that says “NPS survey follow-up call” on Friday, December 10th from 1 to 1:30 p.m. I just take a stab, and maybe she’s available, maybe she’s not, but I go ahead and send that over. She’ll either accept or decline. That’s all remedy. That’s after the fact. To prevent this, the best thing we can do as part of our process – whether it’s in onboarding or in that first QBR or whenever, I think it’s best upfront in the onboarding – is to tell the customer “Hey, you’re probably used to this. We use NPS. You’re going to get a survey. Here’s how the process works. We tend to send the surveys monthly. We ask everyone to do it if you can. When you do fill it out, we always do a quick follow-up call. It takes about 30 minutes, so just expect that. In that call, all we’re trying to do is figure out how to make the process better, the experience better. Even if you give us a 10, we’re still going to talk about that.” Tell them upfront what’s going to happen. Then, they’re not surprised by it. Then, you’re not chasing them around, trying to get the follow-up call. Tell them it’s going to happen.

Q: Who should be the sender name on NPS thank you emails to customers?

A: The client that I worked the most closely with on NPS early on, they sent a note from the CEO. This is my opinion, but that always felt canned to me. It felt disingenuous. Maybe it was the tone, maybe it was the CEO, but it was kind of out of nowhere. We’re a client of Salesforce, right? If we do an NPS survey and we give them a 10 and Marc Benioff sends me an email, that just feels a little weird. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

If the CEO has been involved, some of us are smaller companies, and the CEO or founder is doing founder-selling, then yeah, why not? It makes a ton of sense. But if you’re the client of an enterprise and all of a sudden you get an email from the CEO, it doesn’t feel right to me. This stuff can’t be canned. I’m better with it coming from the CS person that deals with that group or their manager who knows a lot about them. I need to be able to put a genuine personalization statement in any kind of canned email without having to look it up.

Q: When following up with a customer via email, should you include a question from the question bank or is that specific to the NPS follow-up calls?

A: From a CS perspective, I am a conversation junkie. I know it’s hard because you’re dealing with so many people and you’re trying to be efficient. I hear this all the time from CS teams that their customers prefer email. Just because they prefer email, it doesn’t mean they’re saying don’t ever speak to me. That’s not what they’re saying. They prefer email. But for things like this, let’s have a conversation. The way that helps though, is if you can say, “We’re going to have a talk. To help you prepare, here are a couple of questions that I’d love to discuss when we’re on the call.” I’m not asking for the answers in email. I’m doing them a favor by helping them prepare. In that case, I love it. Because it says, “I’m going to ask you these three questions. I wanted to give you some time so I didn’t catch you off guard or on the spot. Here are three questions I have on my mind. I look forward to talking to you.” I like the intention of preparation.

Q: How should you handle customer requests for product features that are not on the roadmap?

A: This is the hardest one. This is why CS has one of the most important jobs and one of the most difficult. It depends on your relationship with your product team internally. What I mean by that is, I always want product feedback. I have to ask myself “What can I do to influence the process and the experience that the person’s having?” If the way to enhance the process of the experience is to offer a suggestion for a change in feature functionality, then I have a duty to carry that to my product team.

You all work with product teams. We love product teams, don’t we? And sometimes, product teams don’t like to hear from us. Or they design the product without talking to customers or they always talk to customers; they’re all in between. But I’ve been around product teams that don’t talk to customers. They just go product design in the room. I think it’s going to depend on your personal and your functional relationship with product. If Customer Success has a really strong, cohesive relationship with product, then this gets super healthy. If it’s a little antagonistic and product is like “Hey, you stay in your lane. We know product,” then it gets a little trickier. What I never want to do as a CS professional is overpromise. I can always say what I’m going to do process-wise. I can never promise and say that I guarantee. Just say our product team loves feedback like this and let me go ask. Don’t set up expectations. Never overpromise. Tell them the truth.

Q: If a customer scores as a Passive but leaves no negative comment, how can you encourage them to score as a Promoter or share why they didn’t?

A: I don’t want to make them a 9 or 10. I want to always improve process and experience. Because I can improve process and experience to eternity, and they can still give me an eight. But what’s interesting is if they renew to eternity and they keep giving me a seven or an eight, I’ll keep them all day. So, think of what NPS stands for: Net Promoter Score. It doesn’t say net retention score, it’s promoter score. It’s what they’re going to say to others. Would they recommend; that’s the whole route of the thing. Not everyone’s going to be a ten. I don’t know that I want all tens. It almost feels a little awkward or cultish. So, if they’re an eight, I let them be an eight. I always work the process; I go have a call and I go through that four-step process that I gave you earlier. If they say, “You know what, it’s nothing,” then we’re good. They’re exactly what it says; they’re passive. It doesn’t mean I can’t work to improve the process and the experience. But I can’t make people tell me things. At some point, we have to detach from that and move on to someone else who will give you more information.

Q: How much time should you schedule for a NPS follow-up call?

A: This is making a broad statement based on the hundreds of CS people that we coach and the 12 or so VPs that we’re active with. A broad observation I have about CS customer meetings in general is that all of them can be pruned and pulled back. The clients that we work with usually set their QBRs for an hour. But what about 40 minutes? They usually feel like a 40-minute meeting is weird. Is it really? Just do it in 40. I’m a less-is-more person. If we can be hyper efficient, I’d love for this to take 30 minutes or less. You can follow that four-point agenda that keeps you on task. If it runs over, it runs over. I’d rather plan for that and get permission to run over, than to plan for an NPS follow-up call for an hour. It just seems like too much to me. Less is more.

Q: If you collect NPS quarterly and a customer continually scores as passive, is there a point when you stop asking to schedule a follow-up meeting?

A: My coaching on that would be that at some point, I would have the conversation. I would absolutely ask them directly. I’d say that you want to talk about the NPS process. These people know what NPS is, so they know if they’re giving us an eight, they’re Passive. And so I say, “Hey, we’re constantly trying to improve process and experience, and our customers play a role in that. But not everyone does, and not everyone has to. If it’s easier for you to just sit on the sidelines and let us use other customers to partner with to make this thing better, I’m totally cool with that if you are. I just always want you to always have a voice, so I’ll send you the survey. But I’ll still check in to see if we need to have our NPS follow-up call. If it’s a no, it’s a no. That’s no problem.” I give people the space to be passive. I know that’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of you are taught trying to make everybody nines and tens. I think you have to pick the ones who can be and want to be nines and tens and want to be Promoters. We have to give some people some space. The other thing that’s funny about that is when you give Passives space, you give them space to become Promoters. When they sense that you’re trying to turn them into Promoters, they resist when you give them space. Let them be. Some of them are going to lean into it and opt in.

Q: How should high-velocity teams approach NPS-follow up calls?

A: I’m making some really broad generalizations based on our experience with the companies we work with on CS. But the CS world is just loaded right now. You’re just loaded with things to do and people to deal with. The customer counts are just crazy. Obviously, we have the great resignation going on. We’ve got a tight labor pool. We’ve got rising wages. All of these things contribute to the workload that you’re experiencing. Everything needs to be prioritized, picked, and chosen. I’m going to answer this with a little of what I just talked about. If I see data that a customer is passive and if they’ve been with us for three renewal cycles, and they’ve never given us anything but a seven or an eight, I might put them in a low priority. We use a little cheeky thing. It’s a four-circle stoplight with colors. There’s green, yellow-plus, yellow-minus, and red. We use that four-circle stoplight mechanic for things like this. I prioritize my yellow-pluses and my yellow-minuses. If I have a Promoter, I want to keep them up; that’s a good thing. If I have a Passive, I want to give them the space to become a Promoter. The space to become an attractor or the space to stay there. I let them be. Think of their potential. I want to spend time with “potentials,” and then also “saves”. To me, those are more important than the middle, so then not everyone would get an NPS call.

To learn more about Bryan’s four-part framework on how to train your Customer Success team to maximize customers NPS feedback, watch the webinar.


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