It was our first night of being in operation and while I’d worked retail before after I finished college I’d never delivered anything before.
I hesitantly approached the front door and rang the door bell. It didn’t work. I tried again. Still didn’t work. So I knocked.
Immediately on the other side of the door I heard a yelp of surprise and excitement: “OH MY GOD, THE COOKIES ARE HERE!”
A young woman, late twenties, opened the door and I could see she had five or six friends over.
“I cannot believe you’re real,” she said as she looked at me, “I love your hat,” she added, gesturing to the blue sequin and LED lighted fedora I was wearing.
“You have made me so happy,” she continued, “Just knowing that I can get fresh cookies delivered at night makes my day, my week, my month. Seriously.”
Then, she asked if she could give me a hug.
Wow, I thought, this business might actually go somewhere.
That was six months ago, and my cookie delivery business has continued to grow month over month.
My co-founder, Julia Baldwin, and I have been incredibly intentional about how we’ve grown this business. Before launching we put together a 30 page business plan, a 20 page marketing plan, and ran it by numerous advisers in the food industry as well as others across various fields for input. We secured other investor co-founders who would help us with the seed capital to get started.
We did all this to combat the reality of the food industry: most businesses fail. In the last two years we’ve watched as three groups of people we know started restaurants and catering businesses that couldn’t last.
Starting any business is risky. Starting a food businesses is near folly.
So, we needed every available tool at our disposal as we sought to be one of the few successful food businesses.
One of the tools we went for was Net Promoter Score.
Back when I was working at the PaaS startup AppFog, we hired a customer experience guy who had worked at Rackspace. He was a smart, funny Texan who was incredibly passionate about making sure AppFog’s customers were delighted by our product.
His name was Chad Keck and, after leaving AppFog, he went on to found Promoter.io.
Chad introduced me to the NPS system and I’ve been a convert ever since. I want to talk today about how After Dark Cookies uses NPS.
As a new business it’s incredibly important for us to create a real relationship with our customers: to show them we’re real people who want to do our best for them.
NPS is one of the indispensable tools we use to not merely get ourselves a score that will show us how we’re doing with our customers overall, but also start a conversation with them that allows us to dig deeper to understand what we’re doing really well and what we could be doing better.
For those not familiar with the system, it’s basically a survey process that asks two simple questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend X to a friend or colleague?
- What is the #1 reason for your score.
Beyond that there are three categories of respondents: Promoters (score 9-10), Passives (score 7-8), and Detractors (score 1-6).
Your overall score can range from -100 to 100.
First off, it’s important to respond to absolutely everybody who fills out the survey. It lets them know that you’re paying attention to them, that you’re listening, and that you care about what they have to say.
It’s important to remember that the score isn’t just a nice number that you can report to your boss every month or quarter and call it good. Instead, it’s a way to start a conversation with your customers that can be incredibly valuable.
I would argue that your detractors are the folks you most want to engage with. This is because you’ve done something they don’t like and if they really don’t like it, chances are it’s something other people aren’t going to like as well. If you engage with these customers to learn what they didn’t like, take their advice, and fix it the benefits to your business are many: 1) because you’ve personally reached out to the detractor, gotten their feedback, and taken their advice you are demonstrating their importance to you. That’s something people never tire of. 2) You’ve likely just turned that detractor into a promoter. Not only will they now feel personally invested in your business, but they’re likely to tell others the story of how you contacted them after the experience to make it right and that they had an impact. That’s a story with viral potential. 3) You’ve fixed an issue that was probably bugging other people, too, even if they didn’t say so.
At After Dark Cookies, our detractors are the most valuable people we can engage with and we’ve learned a lot from them over the last six months. We’ve learned things about aspects of our business we never would have thought about.
This process works with Passives, too. The main difference is you don’t necessarily have to start off with an apology.
Your Promoters are the folks who already love you and already want you to succeed. These are like your family members, and you should treat them with the same kind of love and respect that you would your family. At After Dark, we ask these people for advice. We sometimes sneak extra cookies into their order. We send them handwritten thank you cards. We’ve got other plans for these awesome folks, too, which I won’t spoil here because they’re a surprise.
You can also ask these folks for things—useful things like Facebook and Yelp reviews. Or to send an email to their friends about your service or product. We’ve gotten many new customers by doing this.
And people are amazingly helpful and friendly when you ask them for these things when they love what you’re doing.
Since we launched, After Dark has done two rounds of NPS surveys with our customers. Our first survey netted us an overall score of 70. In the NPS world that is pretty phenomenally good. We could have rested on our laurels, but we knew we could do better.
By engaging our customers we learned that some recipes needed tweaking, that we needed to better communicate delivery times, that our ordering system needed to be simpler.
For our second round, our score jumped to 83 and our response rate more than doubled.
A score of 83 puts us into the rarified echelon of World Class companies.
It’s a pretty good feeling, for sure, but it also tells us that we’re on the right track and it gives numerical solidity to that feeling I had after leaving that very early delivery: wow, this business might actually go somewhere.