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The fact that two great conferences are happening in London in September can’t possibly be a coincidence – even if the organisers hadn’t realised it. Satmetrix’s Annual Net Promoter event and the Behavioural Insight Team’s Behavioural Exchange in the same month – who’d have thought it?

It seems to me that there is a very natural, “Venn Diagram” fit between these two subject areas.

The simple metric of “Net Promoter Score” allows organisations to measure what their customers think of them over time and to assess the impact that well intentioned initiatives have on customer attitudes. It may be imperfect but at least it’s a consistent methodology that is accessible to all, from the dizzy heights of the shop floor all the way down to the boardroom.

On the back of fabulous books like “Thinking Fast & Slow” and “Nudge” Behavioural Insight must be the fastest growing social science. B.I. sets out to understand how we humans can be influenced in our attitudes and decision making processes. So far B.I. has been used as a force for good in the public sector and in social enterprise as organisations like the Behavioural Insight Team set out to experiment with different nudges and measure their impact on public adoption. Early wins that demonstrate the power of the technique include, for instance, getting more people to pay their tax on time, increasing the number of organ donors in the population, even nudging us towards more healthy lifestyles.

The Behavioural Exchange has a stellar cast of speakers including:-

  • Professor Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • Professor Richard Thaler, author of Nudge and long-term advisor to the Behavioural Insights Team
  • Professor Max Bazerman, author of The Power of Noticing and co-director of the Harvard Behavioral Insights Group
  • Dr David Halpern, author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations and Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team

Which is why I’m excited to be able to attend both events and consider the impact of combining the two disciplines.

It seems to me that Net Promoter and Nudge are distant cousins. The thing that makes the familial bridge between them is David Maister’s work, specifically his S=P-E equation, the concept that satisfaction equals perception minus expectation. I first studied David’s work in the early nineties when I was researching face to face queue management and this equation was taking from his article written in 1985. Although the article is titled as to a discussion of managing queues, in fact it talks about the customer’s psychology and attitudes around service delivery.

I believe that when we award a vendor a Net Promoter Score we are subconsciously calculating David’s “S” by comparing our perception, P of what happened today with what we expected, E. If our perception exceeds our expectation then we will at least be satisfied and if we are wowed, who knows we might easily become a promoter. It could be argued then that NPS=S=P-E

In today’s “Experience Economy” brand and product advertising have, by and large, been relegated to a minor role in influencing our behaviour. Much more powerful when setting our Expectations is the stream of our previous, perceived experiences and those of our family, friends and peers trawled from our interactions both in person and through social media. Each and every opinion that we obtain this way will be based on the perception minus expectation metric for that individual.

So where does Nudge fit in?  Perception is a delicate flower. It can be transformed by a few simple impacts, nudges, which can transform a mediocre experience into a delightful one. Being able to find the size you are looking for on a clothes rack in a High Street store, timely use of “context data” which brings the shopping experience to life, a great interaction with a well informed and personable member of staff, being able to easily and intuitively navigate a physical store or a web site.

Alongside the hard physical changes that can be made to transform the customer journey, by nudging the soft factors you can materially impact customer’s perceived experiences and transform their NPS.

It seems to me that if we can study, adopt and adapt what the Behaviour Insight scientists are achieving in social enterprise space then we can apply it positively to commercial situations and deliver better perceived experiences for our customers.  

So if you see me sitting quietly in a corner of either event muttering to myself and poring over my notes, you’ll know why.