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Shvoong Home>Books>The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth Review

The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth

Book Review   by:RGopinath     Original Author: Fred Reichheld
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As per the author Fred Reichheld, customer satisfaction surveys conducted by organizations have several limitations.
Firstly the percentage of customers responding to these surveys are low.
Secondly when the survey results are analyzed , they do not translate into actionable items. Third limitation is that the linkage between the survey responses and the company financials is not obvious.

Reichheld , a well known Loyalty experts in this book pitches for a methodology aimed towards increasing the customer response rate and also proposes a single metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure the customer satisfaction. Based on NPS score a company can take strategic actions to improve its profits.

Reichheld says that one must restrict the number of survey questions to 3 or 4 , in order to generate better response rates.
He proposes asking in the survey the Ultimate Question -
In a scale of 0-10 how likely are you to recommend our company to your friends or colleagues?
This can then be followed by two more optional questions viz;
Why you have given us the above rating?
What do we need to do for you to rate us 9 or 10?

In Reichheld's opinion these three questions is all that is needed to capture the essence of what the customer feels about the company.
Based on the answers to the Ultimate Question, the customers are categorized as Promoters, Passives and Detractors. Promoters are the ones who give a rating of 9 0r 10; Passives, 7 or 8; and the Detractors rate 0 to 6.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is calculated as
NPS = % of Promoters - % of Detractors

Having calculated the NPS the companies must take actions to improve upon it. The NPS as per Reichheld has a strong correlation to company profits and growth. Here Reichheld makes a distinction between Good Profit and Bad Profit. Good profits are the ones which are earned from the customers who are promoters i.e. who have a strong loyalty. Bad profits come from the customers who are detractors, who can switch to a competitor at the earliest opportunity.

Reichheld then asks us to take the following actions in order of priority to generate good profits:
1. Investing in the Core - Continue keeping the Promoters who are highly profitable happy.
2. Reducing the Bad Profits - Address the concerns and issues raised by the detractors who are highly profitable customers.
3. Finding Additional Promoters - Focus on converting profitable passive customers to promoters.

The book elaborates on the above concepts in a highly readable manner supported by case studies, though it is slightly repetitive. The book also has a dedicated website http://www.theultimatequestion.com. It is worth visiting since it contains most of the key information available in the book. In fact I was able to make an impressive presentation to the management on Ultimate Question and NPS even before I had read this book.

Companies like GE, American Express, Costco etc. are implementing this methodology.
However there are several detractors to this methodology too, mainly companies who conduct surveys on behalf of their clients, but also some researchers who feel that this method is not statistically robust.

To me this seems worth a try though one should not place too much reliance on it.
I was asked to implement NPS methodology in my company by the CEO and was looking forward to do so. Unfortunately things took a different turn! But that's another story to be told elsewhere and to a different audience.
Published: November 05, 2009   
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