In debate

Net gains?

June 12, 2019

Net Promoter Scores (NPS) bring great pride or huge disappointment in our sector. Julie Baxter asks Dr. Joe Leader to explain just how and why they identify success

NPS has risen from obscurity to paramount prominence in the last 15 years. Are they really the best way to measure customer experience and loyalty?
NPS begins and ends with a central question: on a scale of 1-10 (or 1-5) how do you rate a brand, product, or service? Customers giving a rating of 9 or 10 are promoters, 7 or 8 are neutral, and 6 or less are detractors. The NPS is then calculated by taking the percentage of promoters, ignoring the neutrals and subtracting the percentage of detractors. NPS scores could theoretically be as low as -100 (all detractors) or as high as 100 (all promoters). An airline that has 60% promoters, 25% neutrals, and 15% detractors has a NPS score of 45 (calculated: 60 – 15).

Can it really be that simple?
Yes. Studies across industries show promoters are five times as likely as detractors to purchase again from you and there is good evidence that airlines building NPS get good return on investment. At APEX/IFSA EXPO last year many airline ceo speakers commented on the positive effect of NPS scores on their products, IFE, food, beverage and services. This extends to every facet of the passenger experience.

What does it mean for inflight service?
As passengers, we quickly recognise the high NPS moments. It’s when someone talks positively about their food to another traveller or shares a positive photo of their food, beverage, or amenities online. Those are all moments that naturally rate a 9 or 10 on a NPS scale. We can also see the moments of failure and disappointment are shared by detractors. Savvy businesses track individual scores via direct surveys and social listening tools, and sophisticated airlines use NPS for suppliers to get objective marketplace analysis on whether a product helped, hurt, or made no difference to airline NPS scores?

How should airlines use NPS scores?
For airlines, NPS is best used to make better choices for passengers and to understand which enhancements drive the most ROI. A good example is pre-selection of meals. When a desired meal is not available inflight, NPS goes down but when a choice has been offered in advance, NPS goes up for the identical service. Passengers blame themselves for not pre-ordering. This positive halo of choice extends across all classes. Even airlines offering dine-on- demand find passengers eat less if they know they will have their food choice.

How should suppliers use NPS scores?
Suppliers should look at underlying data to see what they can offer that looks and feels iconic and will pull up airline NPS? Great examples include Delta’s warm cookies, United’s stroopwafel and KLM Delft houses. Think how to create photos, magic moments and memories that passengers will want to share. Unique products pull NPS scores higher.

What does the future hold for NPS?
NPS powered insights are on the cusp of AI applications. The question becomes: what makes this individual passenger a promoter? Airlines that can tie together preferences and NPS drivers for each customer (with their permission) will be able to offer the right, thoughtful choice at the right time. That’s a powerful next step in the NPS revolution – turning every customer into a promoter. •