“Can you sing?”
“That is not the question. Everyone can sing. What you must ask is — How many remain after you start singing?”
Thus goes the joke at every family gathering where the seniors took upon themselves to test every child in their capabilities. What I did assure myself was some kindness in judgement as the humour softened the mistakes that might have been made in my singing.
This childhood experience becomes relatable in the context of customer loyalty — NPS, or Net Promoter Score, then, feels like an obvious metric and NPS also feels like something that could be influenced by the latest experience (in the anecdote, the joke).
I completely see the value in NPS and also see the pitfalls in using it indiscriminately. But what I wish to address and present are the various reasons why NPS might be a poor metric in the education industry, esp. school education.
Before I get started, here is a quick introduction and overview of the literature on NPS.
- The original article by Reichheld.
- Some good introductory resources on Bain & Co.
- A good introduction to NPS
And for those who don’t have the time to read the above, here is a quick summary:
If you asked your customer the question below, you can categorise the responses into 3 bins and then compute the NPS as shown.
The problem with education is that the financier/decider and the recipient/participant are two different people. The parent is the one paying for the “service” but the child is the one experiencing it. The child might love the experience but the parent might decide that it is not much more valuable than the cheaper variant available across the web just because someone else recommends it. Given that the surveys would typically go to the parent, what matters to the parent is what is going to determine the NPS.
While one might be quick to point out the helplessness of children in most decisions regarding their education, customer loyalty needs to be defined differently in ecosystems where such a split is clear and pronounced.
If I buy a vacuum cleaner and use it for 2 weeks straight I have enough to either gush or cuss about it. So be it with food products — if it was tasty, filling and didn’t upset my tummy the following morning, I am going to rave about it. School education is not something that provides value immediately or in a week’s time. The current system of school education unfortunately relies on strands and domains to be assembled before worth can be assessed.
eLearning products too need to adhere to that structure while hopefully making the content more engaging. Their value or impact cannot be assessed overnight. One might at best declare one experience more engaging than the other but that needn’t translate to learning. Engagement and entertainment have a very thin line separating them and a child is rarely a good judge of that. I have watched teachers gush profusely and compliment irrationally and consider that engagement.
Feeling Good Isn’t Enough:
Which leads me to the next point on student satisfaction being a poor measure. A child can be made to feel good by a variety of means which are ineffective learning struts. For the sake of an argument, a student might be thrilled to bits because she received a bag of candy. She might consider her teacher to be amazing. She might think that she had the best day. But was it a learning day?
With one participant of unreliable maturity and the other participant of questionable immersion, the score submitted by this duo is likely to be unreliable and the comments less actionable.
Add to this, the final bit…
Not a Bowl of Cereal:
Educational institutions and eLearning products are not something people change often. It is similar to the comparison of baby food and electricity supplier made by Sir Likierman of London Business School in his HBR article. It really depends on multiple factors — access, cost, motivation (and I have heard parents say that they signed up for an eLearning product simply to keep their child out of their hair for those 1–2 hours), aspiration, need, infrastructure not to mention curricular board, time of the (academic) year, etc. And the cost of frequently changing choices is high.
“How likely is it that you would recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?” depends deeply on how you define value from education or an eLearning service & how long before you wish to see it realised. This is unlike when Company X sells ball-bearings or knitting needles. While the administrative aspects and logistics of the service or product can be measured with an NPS survey, that needn’t indicate customer loyalty at least not in their experience of learning or education. You might want to think that if the onboarding, payment process, literature and collaterals, student relationship with teacher, gamification and other rewards aspects of the product/service are great then the customer is likely to be loyal and refer our product to others which is good news for us as a business. But is the learning happening? If the parent is quite hands-on, listening to and watching the child engage with the material and program in a healthy way, then yes, the NPS might indicate the collective alignment and buy-in but the reality on the ground is that parents are quite disconnected, poorly informed and easily swayed by what you sell. In such a space, NPS might not be the best thing you want to track.