Part 1: Customer Satisfaction & NPS
I recently had drinks with an old friend who works in project management, and I was talking to him about a challenge I’m facing. I’m having trouble communicating the magnitude of value that active listening offers to managers and their teams.
I explained to him that there are many documented benefits of active listening training for professionals in the realm of academic psychology. These include increased productivity, improved relationships with colleagues and customers, increased perceptions of intelligence and trustworthiness – just to name a few! I have another blog post about this.
I asked him how I can explain to managers, concretely, how training customer service staff would help their business.
Quantifying Listening Impact
To me, it’s clear that training staff in active listening will result in happier customers, increased productivity and retention, and thus more money for your business. That said, I’m not in a position to quantify this yet. It would be sleazy and unfounded for me to say “Double your earnings in six months with our listening skills training!” – it might do, but that will depend on so many different factors.
“You should quantify the value of active listening in terms of their KPIs” my project manager friend told me. I’m familiar with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but which ones do I use?
My friend continued, “For example, I bet that your listening training would be great for a brand’s net promoter score. Maybe you could work out a pay for performance deal with a company that can get you some good data.”
“What on earth does that mean?” I thought.
This led me down a rabbit hole online, finding information online about various KPIs used by project managers. I have since found many KPIs that will be improved with active listening. This post will be Part 1, which is specifically about KPIs that measure customer satisfaction.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
I now know that companies’ NPS is calculated from responses on customer satisfaction surveys to a question like “How likely is that that you would recommend us to a friend?”
The score divides respondents into three groups. There are promoters, who are likely to be repeat customers and actively recommend you to others, meaning more business! Conversely, detractors are likely to criticize your business to others, thus detracting from your business. Those in between are called passives, who feel a bit indifferent. QuestionPro also summarises it in this nice graphic:
In short, more promoters increase your score, and more detractors decrease it. We don’t need to go into detail of how the score itself is calculated. If you’re interested, there’s plenty of information online (e.g. Wikipedia).
What does Listening have to do with NPS?
In many ways, NPS is all about your customers’ expectations and values.
Each customer has a variety of expectations for your service (an expectation for speed, an expectation for quality, etc.), and will value each expectation to a differing degree. For example, one customer might have unrealistically high expectations for speed, but actually values decent quality more. This particular customer might accept that delivery takes a day more than expected, if the end product is high quality.
If you fail to meet your customers’ most valued expectations, you’ll get detractors who are disappointed with your service. However, if you go above and beyond their most valued expectations, you’ll consistently get more promoters who are continually impressed with the quality of your work.
Listening skills are crucial to customer service staff, because it’s the only way they can truly find out what your customers’ individual expectations and values are. They’re not always forthcoming about this, so you will have to listen actively. Each customer places different emphasis on aspects of your product or service.
If your customer service team is trained in active listening, they will quickly learn the exact expectations of each customer. This will tell them what is the minimum work they can do to avoid creating a detractor and exactly what small gesture could result in a new promoter.
It’s important to note that listening does not mean more work for your service staff; instead, listening makes them more productive. Rather than doing everything they can to impress a customer, the customer service agent will know exactly which action will impress each individual customer. That way, they don’t waste time going above and beyond on things that the particular customer doesn’t care about.
In short, active listening training your customer service team will increase your NPS, while probably also saving time and money!
Case Study: Listening Makes Promoters
I recently went to a friend’s wedding in Devon, and decided to stay at a bed and breakfast there. I was sceptical about the place because it was so cheap and it had no reviews. It turns out the place was brand new. My host, keen to get a positive review from his first customer, used his active listening skills to know exactly what he could do to impress me.
I hadn’t communicated anything to my host, other than making the booking. The day I was meant to arrive, I realised I wasn’t going to get there before 9pm. So I called ahead at and warned them that I was going to be quite late.
“No problem! Thanks for letting me know,” he said “Where are you coming from?”
Asking open question like this demonstrates the one of Glisten’s 5 CLEAR keys to Active Listening. He was intuitively good at active listening.
“I’m driving up from London. I just got off work and I’m leaving now, so I’ll be there in about three hours.”
“Sounds like a long drive just after work.” He said, simultaneously tapping into two more of the 5 CLEAR keys: Reflection and Compassion. “Will you have eaten? I could make some sandwiches ready for when you arrive.”
This went above and beyond my expectations. Many people might be indifferent to having sandwiches on arrival. However, I would indeed be hungry after the long drive, having had no time for dinner. This small extra gesture really impressed me. He did indeed make some simple sandwiches for me that evening, and it was a great beginning to what became a lovely three-night stay. I genuinely recommend the Riklands Bed & Breakfast in Devon. That’s right – I am willing to promote them freely!
Intuitively using just 3 of the 5 keys to Active Listening in a brief phone call allowed him to anticipate exactly what my needs might be. This allowed him to offer fantastic customer service. Essentially, a few minutes of work by my host moved me from being a sceptic to being a promoter.
Now, imagine if the entire customer service team at your company were trained to do the equivalent with each customer. Imagine all the rave reviews!
How Much Will Listening Improve My NPS?
Just like my example above, I constantly hear recommendations from friends and family based on small gestures after they had listened to their needs as customers. It’s clear that good listening makes it easy to meet and exceed expectations, and this will increase your NPS.
Of course, I only just learned about this particular KPI measure. So, I don’t know exactly how much active listening will increase the NPS score, but I’m sure it will be significant.
I would love to get some data on this. So if you’re interested in working out a pay for performance deal, let me know! I’m sure it would be fun to see the results.