When did you last recommend something to somebody? It probably was quite recent. If you have enjoyed a meal at a good restaurant, watched a good film, read a good book or just had a good experience about something, you are likely to share it. And if you have really enjoyed that experience, you are likely to want to repeat it. This is something that Fred Reichheld latched onto and from it developed the Net Promoter Score. He argued that a score of 9 or 10 out of 10 to the question "How likely are you to recommend XX?" makes you a “promoter” of a product or service. A score of 6 or less out of 10 makes you a “detractor” while scores of 7 or 8 are neutral and you are a “passive”. The subtraction of the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters leaves us with the Net Promoter Score and this is a key measure of customer experience.
So, recommendations are the bedrock of customer experience. The thing about recommendations is that they are appropriate for something you have spent money on that is worthy of discussion. You may recommend a restaurant because you want to talk about the enjoyable experience and share it with someone who might want to go themselves. If you have read a good book or watched a good film, again it is a good subject for discussion.
However, if you make widgets and have a good supplier of steel, is this something that warrants a recommendation? The supplier of steel may be doing a good job and that is to be expected for otherwise it's unlikely you would be dealing with them. Whether they merit a score of 9 or 10 out of 10 I am not so sure. If something does what it says on the tin, it's probably an okay supplier with no surprises that make you want to jump up and down with excitement. It is in this “okay” ground that most of our purchases are made.
The other thing about recommendations of restaurants, films and books is that your score of 9 or 10 out of 10 is based on your judgement. We’ve all been recipients of recommendations of this kind which we follow up and are bemused at what our friend has got so excited about. Different things light our fire and in any case, it could be the head chef’s night off when we visit the restaurant or the person behind us in the cinema may be coughing all night. We are not all enamoured by the same things.
This is the reason that many business to business companies find it very hard to achieve a Net Promoter Score of 50 or more. Satisfied business to business customers often give a score of 7 or 8 out of 10 – which is fine. They will continue to do business and stay loyal. A Net Promoter Score of 30 for a business to business company is reasonable. In fact, it may be more appropriate to use a different measure to determine the satisfaction of a B2B company. It may be better to ask "On a scale from 1 to 10 how likely are you to continue doing business with XXX (this supplier) in the future?" with a supplementary question, "Why did you say that?". Recommendations are not the be all and end all.