Brian Andrews is a pioneer in the implementation of NPS – the Net Promoter System™. We talk about his journey in figuring out exactly what it was, well before Fred Reichheld wrote his ground-breaking book. Here, we discuss the critical factors in embedding this approach not as survey-score chasing, but business transformation.
Brian worked at Intuit from 2002 to 2013, ultimately serving as VP of Customer Experience and Business Excellence. (He arrived at that role in October 2007.) He had previously been in consulting (Phoenix Group and American Productivity and Quality Center Consulting Group), and also worked for HP/Compaq. He’s currently the Senior CX Principal at Medallia, after being VP, Customer Experience and NPS at Sprint.
Interestingly, he began his career working third shift as a factory foreman — in an union factory. The company decided to adopt Japanese manufacturing approaches, which often involve employees and customers getting more involved in the process. Elements that once took six weeks could be finished in four hours now, and it began a career-long focus on transformation and change.
While at Intuit, Brian won CEO Leadership Awards in 2007 and 2009, as well as Scott Cook Innovation Awards in 2006 and 2008. He has an MBA from Purdue University.
The Origins Of Net Promoter Score
Fred Reichheld had already written several books on loyalty. In 2003, he had lunch with Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit. They discussed the idea of NPS, and Scott wanted Fred to meet with the CEO immediately. The Intuit guys weren’t fans of market research: you overpaid for it, no one really used it, and it was easy to cross-tab your way out of bad data. They wanted a more universal metric for customer satisfaction and, in March 2003, they implemented it at Intuit. Later in 2003, the Harvard Business Review article “The One Number You Need To Grow” came out — and more companies began switching over to NPS.
In the early days of NPS, it “hadn’t passed the CFO test.” The financial linkage wasn’t there yet. NPS needed to be connected to business growth immediately to be seen as successful. Eventually, NPS was analyzed and did pass said CFO test. But here’s an important aspect: the CX leader shouldn’t be the person driving that discussion. It should be in collaboration with the CFO and his/her staff — because ultimately, you want them to create and understand the numbers they want to use.
Assessing Work To Be Done At Sprint
Marcelo Claure had been hired on as CEO of Sprint, and wanted to make transformative customer experience a pillar of growth. He also wanted NPS to be viewed as a system as opposed to a score. That’s the way Brian had designed NPS at Intuit, so he took some meetings and decided to join the Sprint team. The executive buy-in was certainly already there.
Brian was initially reporting to Bob Johnson (who also left Sprint in 2016) in a department with several billion under budget. They were working with Bain on a transformation around NPS. The first thing Brian looked at was pre-existing data on what seemed to matter to customers in the wireless industry. He also did a good deal of 1-on-1s with other senior executives on what mattered to them, and visited stores/spent time in call centers. The first 30 days were about connections, data, and getting grounded in the operational principles of Sprint.
Brian had to talk to the CEO a few times about the mentality. Think of it like this: the CEO wouldn’t go berate the CFO if numbers were going down. They’d want to know what was happening in sales, marketing, leads. The idea should be collaboration and everyone owning parts of the work and growth. Sometimes, though, that approach isn’t normative.
In days 30-60, Brian focused extensively on communications. This included newsletters, Intranet, speaking to people, etc. He needed to get the message out about NPS and what was going to be happening there.
The Building Blocks You Need In The First Year
Brian wanted to put closed-loop systems in place. In those, customers give feedback, and Sprint responds to the feedback. They had to test/trial it for about three months. The day-to-day mechanics were created by Brian’s team. Usually this involved customer surveys at major touchpoints, like post-purchase, first bill, etc. He was careful not to over-survey, however — focusing more on the ability to respond to the feedback. Initially Sprint’s survey work had been about sending out tons (i.e. 10,000) but not following up with many. He reduced that approach to dozens of surveys with follow-through to all.
He also had to remove the idea of “gaming” from the surveys — which many organizations do in pursuit of 10-level scores. (It happens a lot in the auto industry.)
There also need to be realistic discussions about compensation, especially variable compensation. If everything is tied to “targets,” then people sometimes try to game the system internally to meet more targets — and in the process, they solve for the wrong things. You need to think about how people want to be motivated. The environment needs to be created for everyone to be successful relative to their goals. You also need to be an orchestrator of self-discovery, because that will drive change at the individual level.
The Pay It Forward Question
“What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?” Brian’s responses:
Self-discovery is crucial. It’s hard to get anywhere in your career without understanding who you are and who you want to be. Looking at yourself also helps you lead others towards change, as opposed to trying to force your rhetoric on them.
Work is about people: This goes from CEO to call center. It’s all about how you hire, how you onboard, where time is spent, what the values are, etc. We sometimes think it’s all about the money (that matters) or the processes (they do too), but the people drive everything.
Go where the energy is: Otherwise you spend a lot of time in your career basically just arguing with people who don’t like your ideas. Now imagine if you were constantly working with people who wanted to be part of your ideas … that’s amazing, right?
Take advantage of the coaching: One big difference between CX now and 10 years ago is that there are so many coaches (like me) and resources out there. One of Brian’s old colleagues, the aforementioned Scott Cook of Intuit, has even said that his biggest career regret is not using a business coach.
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