You're pushing all the right buttons and your customers are more than likely to recommend you to their friends, family, colleagues and even their parish priest? But between being willing to recommend and actually doing so, there's a gap that is not easily bridged.
After all, the payoff for generating positive word-of-mouth and recommendations for your business can be big. Word-of-mouth is validated as the largest influencer in B2B and B2C buying decisions. A recommendation from a peer is the strongest medium money can buy.
But to move from "likeliness to recommend" to "active recommendations", every business needs to do more than delight its customers. It needs to be worth talking about. The harsh truth is that - as a customer - no matter how much I like you, I will only talk about you if it makes *my* conversations more interesting. If it increases *my* prestige of being "in the know". If it makes *my* friends laugh, or smarter, or happier.
Achieving this takes planning. But having been involved in two Management Centre Europe projects which among other things looked at this challenge, I have learned that it can be done. One was the redefinition of the Lexus Customer Experience. The other, the introduction of storytelling at Gemalto.
Here is what I learned:
STEP 1. Look at all those who can talk, not just the customer
In our drive to get customers to become promoters, it is easy to forget that there are others out there who can also speak well of our brand or business. They are the "influencers". The faceless group of people who say good or bad things about your brand, regardless wether they ever used it. But they are not to be disregarded. Some research even suggests that non-users may be more active promoters or detractors than actual customers. So when setting up programmes to identify and activate promoters, don't just stop at the customer. Include "everyone" who is exposed to your brand or business.
STEP 2. Dig for the emotion
To get people to talk about your brand or business they need to be passionate. And passion is an emotion. But people don't always tell you what they feel, even when asking all the right (NPS) questions. For example, in automotive, half of the women entering a showroom feel intimidated about the prospect of having to negotiate with a male. But unless specifically asked in the right way, hardly any of them will volunteer this information. Still, whithout that deeper, emotional, level, there will be no passion, and hence no real conversation. That is why you need to complement your NPS research efforts, with insight research that digs beneath the surface and uncovers the true emotional triggers.
STEP 3. Script a "talkworthy moment" at every step of the customer journey
Customer journeys shouldn't be "too scripted", but it does pay to include "remarkable moments" at every step the customer takes. This is not necessarily the proverbial "moment of truth" which helps your customer deepen their engagement with your business. Is a typically a small moment which is remarkable enough that people actually think it is worth talking about. For example, at Lexus UK they once had a woman's favourite doughnuts waiting for her, 3 years after she last visited the dealership. While no doughnut ever sold a car, in this case it did make a great piece of conversation.
STEP 4. Bring in the Storytellers
Sometimes people need a hand. Not everyone is equally gifted in telling passionate and relevant stories, even if they are about events that happened to them. Also, unique moments sometimes need amplification to be heard by more than the people involved. So once you have something remarkable happening, capture it. Bring in storytellers to structure it in a narrative that is easily retold. Create compilations which can be circulated through the business. Make your business' stories spreadable. Lexus once did this by compiling a Book of Legends. At Gemalto we did a global story hunt. And of course the classics like FedEx, Ritz or Nordström need no further mention.
STEP 5. Don't forget your staff
Finally, there are the people that work in your business. If you are a large corporation, their recommendation impact, and that of their friends and families, can be massive. Running the numbers in past projects I've been involved in, we have seen staff WoM affect upto a million individuals. The final step (or is it the first one?) is therefore be to make sure that the people who work for your company actively promote your business everywhere they go. Not because you tell them, but becaus they are willing, skilled and able to do so.