Anyone who has been to a vendor partner conference will know that Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have become one of the latest tools vendors use to prove their worth to partners. Many treat the figures as a badge of honour and take the numbers very seriously.
But while in the past, the figures have been used simply as a gauge of customer satisfaction and a benchmark to rivals, it seems now they are being taken more seriously.
At Dell EMC World in Austin last week, its EMEA channel boss Michael Collins said that while discussing with partners how to structure its new partner programme, one reseller came up with the idea that a partner's NPS should be taken into consideration when ranking them on the programme tiers. Collins said he was particularly taken with the idea and will give it due consideration.
"One of the gems that came up for the highest tiers was customer satisfaction," he said. "Put simply, if you're in a tier at that level, part of the programme is we survey your Dell EMC customers and if satisfaction is below a certain limit or NPS, it puts your programme at risk. I thought that was outstanding. All the rest is important but we have not yet had that. If it is an objective survey and it is consistent and the partners know we are testing it [it will be successful].
"Many other companies have done this in the past where customer satisfaction was part of the programme so I am quite passionate about that. It would be a nice addition to the criteria."
The Net Promoter System was thought up by Fred Reichheld, a Bain Fellow and founder of Bain & Company's Loyalty practice. A company can work out its score by crunching numbers from their customer satisfaction surveys. Participants must be asked how likely they would be to recommend that company to a friend or colleague, and they must answer on a scale between zero and 10.
If a participant scores a company nine or 10, they are classed as "promoters" - those who buy more, refer colleagues and provide feedback and ideas to the firm. Those ranking a company seven or eight are classed as being passive, while those who score six and under are called detractors. To find out one's score, the percentage of detractors is taken away from the percentage of promoters, giving the company a score between -100 and 100.
"What you don't want to do with these surveys and assessments is put partners off doing innovative, riskier, cutting-edge projects."
Pure Storage boasts a Net Promoter Score of 83.5, while Dell claims its is 70 - 75 in the channel. Reseller Softcat also measures the figure, and comes in at a 64. CRN asked Microsoft, HP, HPE, Cisco, IBM and Lenovo for their scores, but they do not disclose the number in public.
The fact that the formula for the calculation is the same for any company working out their NPS is one of its best qualities, according to Microsoft digital marketing expert Fifty Five and Five's founder Chris Wright.
"It is [an important measure] as it is one embedded standard," he said. "It has value because you can compare it across the board really well. We see a lot of partners using it and there is a lot of value in it. You can't use it in isolation to make a decision, but the most customers track trends like that, about what customers think of them, it just provides them with more information so they can make decisions. It's not a silver bullet but if you look at it in the context of everything else, it can show trends or things changing over time. That benchmarking is helpful."
Although the NPS methodology is praised for the fact it is the same, and acts as a simple comparative tool, Chris Gabriel (pictured), chief digital officer at Logicalis, pointed out a downside to this, which could have a knock-on impact if vendors choose to use it to rank their partner programmes, as Dell EMC is considering.
Gabriel said that getting back feedback for more complex, new and innovative projects might put partners off doing them.
"It's a bit like when they did the NHS statistics on things like deaths during operations," he said. "The issue is that surgeons said [the bad statistics] will stop us doing those riskier operations. It might make us look worse, but we're trying to do some really interesting things. What you don't want to do with these surveys and assessments is put partners off doing innovative, riskier, cutting-edge projects.
"If I am the partner who is going to do that, with IoT, which is a great example, then guess what? You will get some level of failure yet. If I do a standard [project] where I chuck some switches in and the customer says 'you're great' [in order to guarantee a good score] - is that really innovation? When you do cutting-edge projects, you go through some turbulent times. It's new technology and you're trying to get your [head] around it."
He said while he doesn't think including NPS figures in partner programme tiers is a bad idea, he would caution that it should be judged in context.
"It shouldn't inhibit behaviour," he said. "It [should not] inhibit innovation and risk taking. If it doesn't it shouldn't be an issue. You don't want to stymie innovation."
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