Why Advocates are more realistic than Promoters

Spontaneous-feedback-toolFred Reicheld’s popular Net Promoter (R) Score has been an excellent tool to regain a crucial focus on customer relationships. Its simplicity has garnered top level ‘promotion’ in organisations, and in many cases it has pushed customers to the top of the organisational agenda, to sit alongside profit as a focus for discussion and decision making.

In mobilising the necessary attention, NPS is great. But in technical terms, it has its problems. While it claims to be statistically based, there is evidence that this perspective is flawed. And there are a number of stories of sales people actively asking their customers to make sure they rate them as a ‘9’ because an ‘8’ just doesn’t count – which is a real temptation for those who have worked hard to make their customers happy and fear that they won’t get recognised unless they properly calibrate their customer’s interpretation of the scale and its consequences.

Furthermore, how do you feel when you come across a ‘Promoter’? Personally, I prefer my advice to come from someone a bit less one-dimensional – someone who has a more objective and balanced perspective of things. I am somewhat suspicious of someone who recommends one solution irrespective of the topic and my circumstances – and I am more likely to trust someone who will caveat their praise. In short, in seeking inputs to help inform my decision, the level of trust I place on the information I receive is based as much on ‘who’ is saying it, as ‘what’ is said.

In reality, we are unlikely to simply promote a business for all products and services, at all times, in all circumstances, and if we did, our listeners would be rightly suspicious of either our motives or our judgement. We are more likely to talk about specific aspects of that businesses approach which we found remarkable, and which we have a story around. In short we will tend to advocate it for its specific strengths and positive experiences, and in so doing we create much more vibrant impressions in those who are listening.

Asked how likely I will be to recommend a business to my friends, my response is almost certainly ‘it depends’ – because frankly it always should ‘depend’ – I owe my friends at least that much! Asked whether I am likely to talk positively (to ‘ad – vocate’) about a specific experience and I can be much more definitive about my answer.

And this idea of advocacy provides much better input to the business as well. By knowing what I am likely to advocate, and what I am more likely to critique, the business has a much better idea of what aspects of the customer experience provide opportunities for improvement.

With that in mind, I would like to propose the idea of a Net Advocacy Score. A score which is about better understanding our strengths and our opportunities for improvement. A score which is about learning and advancing our abilities rather than one which seeks to proclaim them.

The NPS(R) has been great in getting a vitally important concept onto the business agenda. It has raised the flag, but to keep the flag high we need the next level of sophistication, a number which can better move our learning from aspiration to application.

The Net Advocacy Score (no trademark or copyright so, as far as we are aware, you can create your own approach and use it freely) will still provide a simple single figure to represent the net balance of positive voices, but unlike the NPS® it will recognise that individual voices may have mixed opinions, and that there is value in understanding what aspects of your service are receiving a net positive press and which are not. It will also reflect the voices of different stakeholder groups so that you can understand your brand perceptions not just in respect of customers, but also in regard to employees, potential recruits, business partners and your community.

Furthermore, because the Net Advocacy Score (NAS) will be based on individual interactions, the results can be available in real-time for the current relationships. These results can be delivered directly and immediately to the people best placed to turn critics into advocates, and will equip them with insight into which aspects of service can be best improved to achieve that.

So the Net Advocacy Score is there for you to use as you wish.

However, one last point before you do. In your own creation of the NAS (Net Advocacy Score) we would encourage you to use emoticons rather than numbers. Part of the issue, and the resulting unfortunate behaviours, around the NPS® stems from its use of a number scale, and from the need to calibrate people on what those numbers mean. For instance (without calibration) what I see as a 9, you might entirely reasonably rate as a 6.  But with a scale which is based on emoticons or faces, calibration is not necessary – we are inherently much more in sync over what we mean by  and . Furthermore, it is more obvious who are more reasonably going to be advocates () and who are going to be critics () and it is easy to subtract the proportions of responses from each other to obtain one figure for a %Net Advocacy Score (%NAS).


For users of the Inspirometer: You can switch on Net Advocacy Scoring within the Inspirometer, simply by going to ‘Extensions’ in ‘Manage your Account’ and switching ‘NAS’ to ‘on’. You will immediately see the % figure appear on your dashboard.