Net Promoter Score is a window into jobs-to-be-done fulfillment

I’m a big advocate for better understanding customer needs, particularly in the jobs-to-be-done form. Companies should spend more time on this, instead of the all-too-common approach of implementing someone’s vision in a near vacuum. Although I admit it isn’t easy to do. Focus groups are a start, but are both logistically and financially hard to scale, and fraught with their own issues. So the state of getting customer insights is still fairly immature.

So I was interested when I received this email invitation from American Express:

See there? AmEx wants to better understand my needs. Charge cards fall into that overall payment realm which includes PayPal, Square, Stripe, Google Wallet, etc. It’s a deep part of our society and something we can all relate to.

Sure, the most basic job-to-be-done is:

When I am purchasing something, I want to provide payment to the seller. Success means I complete the purchase.

But is that all there is? No, of course not. I have jobs around paying off AmEx, understanding my spending habits, merchandise assurance, along with emotional ones like a feeling of assurance I can buy when I want to. AmEx even works on fulfilling a status-based job-to-be-done. Extending out from there, there are adjacent jobs related to the purchase decision process before the transaction and better understanding my financial activity after the transaction. Heck, I’ll bet AmEx could come with more areas where I have relevant jobs-to-be-done.

 I click on the Begin Survey button in the email, passing through three set-up screens first:

Now, if you look at those three screens, that’s a good amount of setup. An intro screen, a list of “helpful hints” and finally confirmation of the product I’m using. Feels like I’m about to undergo a weighty exercise.

Well…no. Rather, this is the meat of the entire survey:

A net promoter score question. NPS has become more and more popular, and is a simple report card on how your customer perceive your product or service. Customers who click 9 or 10 are called Promoters, 7 or 8 are Passives, and 1 to 6 are Detractors (read more on net promoter scores). For the record, I picked ‘7’. AmEx is a fine card, but in my wallet I can’t really distinguish it from my Visa or Mastercard. It’s the only charge card Costco takes, so I can recommend it based on that.

But a broader question occurred to me. What will AmEx do once they have all the NPS’s collected from customers? Say the NPS comes in averaging ‘9’. They’re done, right? Pretty much nailing it. If it comes in around ‘7’, they’ll wonder what is wrong, why people aren’t more gung ho.

Assuming they will take action based on the NPS collected from us customers, I can see a few paths here for what happens next.

Marketing focus: Product is fine as-is, it’s the messaging around it that we need to improve. Also, we’re not reaching customers where they are. TV is declining, we need new ways to get across why our card is better. That will get our NPS’s up.

Internal product development focus: Work on ways the card features and experience can be improved. Smart people work at AmEx, and they can come up with some interesting approaches. Focus group the ideas after they’ve honed them down to a few. That is, get customer insight after the fact.

Jobs-to-be-done focus: As Steve Blank espouses, there are no facts inside your company’s walls, get outside of your purely internal focus. Initiate a program of exploring jobs-to-be-done by customers. Incorporate customer wants into determining the design of new products. This is insight before committing to any ideas.

Indeed, the NPS is a great first cut on identifying customers to approach about getting deeper insight. Each person’s NPS is essentially a window telling you how well AmEx Green matches their particular jobs-to-be-done.

What do you think AmEx will do next?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.


About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

5 Responses to Net Promoter Score is a window into jobs-to-be-done fulfillment

  1. Hutch,

    I like your descriptions of the three paths your analysis of NPS leads us to. They all create value.

    As you know, I lean to putting assets to work in the Jobs-to-be-done path because of its potential for creating exceptional value for the customer (and outstanding value capture by the seller).

    That said, I believe AmEx will pursue the Marketing focus path.


    • You’re right George. Sometimes a boost in awareness (aka marketing path) is all that’s needed. Decided to take a look at the AmEx Green Card features:

      * 1 point per dollar in purchases => I have this on my Chase Visa.
      * 24/7 assistance while traveling more than 100 miles from home => This is nice. I don’t travel that much though.
      * Annual fee => Not nice 🙂 I don’t have this with my Chase Visa.
      * APR on purchases => Must be paid in full, doesn’t apply. I already pay the Visa in full each month.

      No, I don’t think marketing is of much value in this particular case. But I’m sure there are other jobs-to-be-done that would make it more essential to my daily life.

  2. Hutch, ah, Jobs To Be Done is getting to be very hot recently, or it least in the circles I’m orbiting in. I love what you capture here – and I have hundreds of screen captures of various marketing processes and customer satisfaction processes that I need to write up similarly.

    Personally, I really like using JTBD conversations (as George mentions in his reply) to get to value creation (new product/service offerings), and the very obvious (yet exceedingly powerful) marketing aspects.

    So much work to do with jobs to be done… I’m glad more and more people are paying attention here.

    George – I suspect we should talk…


    • Hey Dan!

      In which circles is jobs becoming the new “hotness”?

      Also – spot on about importance of conversations. Static surveys done in isolation make it tough to elicit my true jobs-to-be-done. I personally need prompts, and I’m pretty sure most of us are that way. Conversations – in-person and online – are great for teasing out those needs/wants I’m not always aware of. As George Castellion would characterize, my latent needs.

      I do feel a surge in JTBD thinking coming. Notice the 37Signals guys have been talking it up recently.


  3. Al says:

    The answer is all of the above. If Amex is smart, and I know they are, they are using a Voice of Customer analytics platform. The NPS question is only what you the survey taker sees, but in the background they’re actually passing all sorts of information about you to their survey platform. They may use individual surveys with very good or very low scores to trigger alerts and follow up with you, but the main thing they’ll do is aggregate you with all the others and look for patterns as to what’s driving loyalty and satisfaction. My company Allegiance does this for all sorts of financial firms, airlines, etc. And we find those patterns with data mining techniques, and other tools as shown in this video

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