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Why context is everything when interpreting NPS

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James Varlow Senior Consultant 21/08/2019

For any restaurant operator to be successful, understanding how well they perform from a customer perspective is crucial.

With competition in the UK eating out market as fierce as it has ever been, it is now more important than ever to understand how your business performs in the eyes of the consumer and, crucially, versus the competition.

Always be aware of the length of time passed between the experience and the completion of the survey – the longer the time between experience and when asked to recall, the lower the score will be."

Step into the fray Net Promoter Score (NPS). Since its creation in the early 2000s, the metric has taken the business world by storm. As well as being supported by plenty of academic research linking high scores with strong financial performance, it’s also simple to use – one question, easy to ask and understand, and allows competitor benchmarking.

Despite this, there remains some caution around its reliability as a performance indicator and part of this stems from its perceived variability – scores can differ depending on a number of factors. A lack of understanding of these factors can cause confusion and undermine the credibility of the measure. Therefore, to ensure effective interpretation of NPS, there are a few points to consider.

What influences customer responses

Firstly, remember that context is key. Always be aware of the length of time passed between the experience and the completion of the survey – the longer the time between experience and when asked to recall, the lower the score will be. For example, the average NPS from an in-situ survey straight after a meal is +60. This drops to around +45 when asked the following day, primarily due to the impact time has on the ability for a customer to recall and therefore recommend.

Another factor to consider is the nature of the relationship between sender and respondent. A survey sent by a restaurant operator to its CRM database about a recent visit will typically score +35 whereas the same survey sent by a research company to the general public about a recent visit will be much lower (+20). Here, it’s important to take into account the potential ‘halo’ effect on feedback scores when asked by the restaurant where a warmer, pre-established relationship is likely to exist with the respondent.

Considering the context 

Fundamentally there is no right or wrong answer as to which approach is best. Asking for feedback in-situ immediately after the meal guarantees the purest feedback, but some would argue it disrupts the eating out experience in a negative way. The more subtle approach of sending an email the next day may avoid this, but equally it won’t benefit from the same clarity of recall. It’s also important to note how NPS can vary depending on the type of venue. Generally speaking, the more premium the experience, the higher the score will be. According to data from BrandVue Eating Out, a daily survey of diners at the UK’s biggest eating out venues, casual dining brands have the highest average of any subcategory at +26. This falls to +21 for pub restaurants and +15 for coffee shops and cafés. At venues where usage tends to be more functional, such as quick-service restaurants, fast food outlets (+11) or supermarket cafés (+4), scores tend to be lower.

With some of the busiest and strongest performing casual dining brands scoring highest on NPS, it’s certainly worth monitoring as a business. But operators should be diligent with the interpretation of results and always contextualise the findings. Be consistent and controlled with your methodology and always make comparisons on a like-for-like basis.

Find out more about BrandVue Eating Out or book a demo.

This article originally appeared in Casual Dining Magazine

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