How to analyse your Net Promoter feedback

To get the best insights from Net Promoter surveys, you have to read and analyse your customers’ responses to the open-ended “What is the primary reason for the score you just gave us?” question. We call this “verbatim feedback” or just “verbatims”.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can go about this analysis.

To turn your verbatims into actionable insights, you have to categorise the feedback so you can see what themes are being mentioned most by your customers. In that way you’ll learn what you are doing well that your customers love, and what you’re not doing well that exasperates them.

The most effective way of categorising verbatims is to do it manually in Excel.

Word cloud apps won’t cut it because they just look for word count frequency. You need a human to understand that…

“I wish you had solved my problem quicker”

… is the same thing as…

“You were too slow to fix my issue”

… and the opposite of…

“You couldn’t have fixed my problem any quicker! Thank you!”

Machine learning/AI software is getting close to being able to do a pretty good job at identifying themes, but it’s not there yet. Until then, here’s you can do it in manually.

 

Step 1 – Tagging

To identify themes, load your scores and verbatim feedback into Excel.

Rating Verbatim
10 You guys rock
8 The new self-service portal is really easy to use

 

You may also want to add other columns where you have that data, e.g. the business unit that the customer works in, or the support team that resolved the ticket. Later, this will enable you to understand where themes might apply to specific teams or customer segments.

So your table would look something like this:

Rating Verbatim Support Team Business Unit
10 You guys rock SAP Sales
9 The new self-service portal is really easy to use Service Desk Head Office

To keep things simple, I won’t show those extra columns in the rest of this article.

 

Let’s add some more feedback to our example.

Rating Verbatim
10 You guys rock
9 The new self-service portal is really easy to use
8 Sam was super friendly. I just wish my problem could have been solved quicker
5 After I logged my ticket it seemed to disappear into a black hole and heard nothing about it for months!
3 The whole experience was terrible
7 Seemed like I had to wait a long time for my issue to be fixed. It would have been better if someone had told me how long I was going to have to wait

 

The first thing to do is ignore “You guys rock” and “The whole experience was terrible”.  This feedback is not specific enough to derive any insights from. Maybe stick “You guys rock” on a post-it note on the fridge ?

 

As you read through the feedback, add columns for each theme that emerges. When that theme is mentioned, put a “1” in the corresponding column, like this:

Rating Verbatim Portal usability
9 The new self-service portal is really easy to use 1

 

Often, you’ll find one verbatim talks about multiple things. For example, “Sam was super friendly. I just wish my problem could have been solved quicker” refers to two separate things:

  1. Sam was friendly.
  2. The ticket took too long to solve.

In this case, add two columns to your spreadsheet, one for each theme and put a “1” in each.

Rating Verbatim Portal usability Friendly Slow
9 The new self-service portal is really easy to use 1
8 Sam was super friendly. I just wish my problem could have been solved quicker 1 1

 

Because you’ll be tracking themes that are both good and bad, group your columns together so that you don’t get confused later. For example, was ‘Portal Usability’ about the Portal being easy to use or hard to use?!!!

We like to call positive themes, “Reinforcement” themes. And the things we need to improve, we call “Corrective” themes.

By the time you’ve tagged the remainder of your feedback, you’d have something like this:

Rating Verbatim Reinforcement   Corrective  
Friendly Portal usability Slow Insufficient comms
9 The new self-service portal is really easy to use 1
8 Sam was super friendly. I just wish my problem could have been solved quicker 1 1
5 After I logged my ticket it seemed to disappear into a black hole and heard nothing about it for months! 1 1
7 Seemed like I had to wait a long time for my issue to be fixed. It would have been better if someone had told me how long I was going to have to wait 1 1

 

Step 2 – Analysing

Identifying the themes that are most important to your customers is simply a case of counting the tags.  The tags with the highest counts show you where you’re strong and where you need to improve.

To really understand your strengths, count the Reinforce tags just for Promoters.  And to understand where you need to improve, count the Corrective tags for Detractors and Passives.

You might end up with something like this:

Promoter Reinforcement Themes
Friendly 125
Portal Useability 70
Self-service software installs 40
Weekend support 30
Genius bar 30

 

Detractor & Passive Corrective Themes
Resolution times too slow 210
Insufficient comms 190
Long wait times for new hardware 110
Access request forms are too long 50
Support hours don’t match business hours 20

 

This gives you a pretty clear view of what you’re doing right (friendly staff, and your new portal) and what you need to do to create more Promoters (speed up resolution times, better communication on ticket statuses).

I mentioned earlier that you should consider adding extra columns into your spreadsheet, e.g. business unit and support team. This would give you even more detailed insights.

For example, if you knew that Sales had the lowest Net Promoter Score of all your customer groups, you could repeat the above analysis just using feedback from customers who work in Sales. The resulting analysis would then tell you which factors you have to work on improving to make Sales happier.

Finally, although we’ve used feedback from a transactional IT support survey in this example, the same principles apply if you were analysing feedback about the whole of IT, feedback about a single project, or feedback about a product.

 

Step 3 – Communicate & Act

Once you’ve done your analysis you’ll know where you need to improve.

You can then prioritise your service improvement initiatives taking into account other relevant factors such as cost, resource availability and dependencies.

Importantly, don’t forget to communicate with your customers using whatever channels you have available to you.

I recommend you communicate three messages at three different times:

  • Thanks for your feedback, here’s what we’ve learned from it (good and bad).
  • Here’s what we’ve got planned as a result of your feedback (to build on the good and address the bad).
  • Here’s what we’ve done as a result of your feedback (show you’ve delivered what you said you would).

Net Promoter surveys are customer friendly (super short) and deliver actionable insights when you mine the verbatims.  Although it can take a bit of time, it’s simple. Customer feedback is pure gold if you want to improve service.

Your customers are like an army of free consultants. Go use them!

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