He dribbles left, uses his patented crossover dribble, and, like a marksman, fires a 20 foot jumper that hits “nothing but net” just as the buzzer goes off. Game over. The good guys (2008 Seattle Sonics) win the NBA Championship.
This is the year of another strike-delayed NBA season (and three years removed from my beloved Sonics leaving town). It’s also a time when mobile operators have finally embraced their existing customers as the key to financial success.
Creating “net promoters” (or real loyalists) is the new buzz among mobile marketers, but in reality the chance of operators creating net promoters over night is about as likely as the NBA season starting on time (I, for one, look forward to seeing Kobe play in Italy!).
Really smart mobile marketers know that creating net promoters among their customers is a tougher task than acquiring them. They also know that if they scored their customers today, they’d probably have many more detractors than promoters.
So what do they have to do?
- Think longer term
- Measure differently
- Be customer centric
- Practice, practice, practice
The beauty of net promoter score (NPS) is its simplicity in measuring loyalty. You ask customers if they’d recommend you and if you get scores of 9+, you celebrate. If you get scores below 6, you either quickly shift your strategy or update your resume. In between, and you are in fickle territory.
The real challenge, however, lies underneath any given score, and more importantly on how you got it and most importantly, how you change it.
Going back to the basketball analogy, whether you are talking Tim Hardaway (the point guard referenced above with the killer crossover dribble), Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, there is a false simplicity to their “nothing but net” jump shots. To perfect that buzzer beater shot, they took tens of thousands of shots measuring success immediately and calibrating for the next shot over and over again.
An often cited author, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success says “Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.”
Let’s face it. Mobile operators aren’t good at creating loyalists because they’ve never had to. As long as the gross add engine was humming with richer and richer acquisition promotions, there was never a need to really understand the customer, nor what motivates true loyalty.
Times have changed.
The miracle shot called acquisition promotions has run its course. Time has run out. Wireless operators have to now do the hard work that generating net promoters entails.
For mobile operators to drive net promoters, they too will have to practice, practice and practice some more. They’ll have to put together a game plan that is both longitudinal and reaches beyond measuring campaign responses to understanding customer behavior and measuring customer attitudes.
So what’s the game plan?
1) Sync up to the goal: Companies like American Express or Nordstrom have high net promoter scores because EVERYONE is aligned around what is the right thing to do for the customer. Whether you are the Nordstrom CEO or the merchandizing manager in Brass Plum, there is no exception. For wireless operators, the customer marketing group is often like a man rowing at sea without a paddle. They are charged with taking care of the customer so everyone else can focus on driving gross adds. Good luck. What you need is goal consistency across the organization.
2) Don’t boil the ocean: Building net promoter loyalists takes time and requires baby steps. Often mobile marketers throw a plethora of darts at the challenge and create complicated campaigns with enumerable ways of measuring responses when it is attitude you want to affect. Start with simple programs that have big impact, like recharge or re-acquisition campaigns and build from there. Momentum is what you are trying to build. You want the COO to throw you that paddle, right?
3) Measure what matters: Like the movie (and book) Moneyball, be careful what you measure. The wrong measurement can send you down the wrong path. Customers leave. They don’t churn. Stop measuring success based on churn rates. Churn is a percent based on subscribers lost over total subscribers. Customers are not percentages. If a wireless operator has 50 Million subscribers and they voluntarily lose 2%, I assure you, each of those 1,000,000 losses could care less about the 999,999 others AND, said in a net promoter way, you just created 1,000,000 detractors.
4) Customer Centricity: Get closer to the customer in terms of what you measure. Measure impacts at a customer level. Measure behavior changes. Connect the measurements to understand the cause and effect of a series of actions, not just one carpet-bombing campaign. Driving net promoters as implied from point # 3 is about connecting with each customer not raising averages.
5) Try-measure-try again: Said another way, practice, practice, practice. Wireless operators have rich data that gives them an advantage over competitors but that data is only the foundation – like a 6’ 3” guard that has a 42” vertical leap. Learning through trying new campaigns, analyzing the results and applying those results to the next iteration of campaigns is akin to spending thousands of hours perfecting that jump shot.
It’s a new season for mobile operators. The winners will do more than just say they are focused on net promoter scores but will actually put together a game plan that leverages their 6’3” frame (rich data) and do the hard work (testing and analysis) it will take to succeed. As you look at how rapidly the mobile game is changing and how high levels of wireless penetration have dried up growth through acquisition, mobile operators really have no choice.
It’s nothing but net.