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(Side note: You should read NPS in NYC first to fully enjoy this post)

Cultural anthropology is basically the holistic study of humanity. I like to think of it as cause and effect. You know the old saying, when a butterfly flaps its wings in South America a Republican gets elected in Florida, or something like that. As a Culture Consultant I try to help people see that all of their actions have consequences. All of their measures emphasize what they manage. Moments of truth need to be measured and managed as thoroughly as the bottom line.

My research:
Yesterday I made a deposit to my account at the credit union. Yes, I’m a branch groupie. The hardest thing to do at my credit union is to give them money. Can’t make them in most ATMs anymore, don’t trust the mail, the night drop slot — yeah, right. Direct deposit? I’m self-employed. I’m the errand runner. Post office, dry cleaners, credit union. In that order yesterday. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, the folks at the post office are getting to know me. They smile, they thank me, it’s all pretty nice. The dry cleaners have me set up on an account so I can just drop my clothes off in a cool bag that they provide, they hand me the clean ones and debit my account after I’ve gone.

My last errand. A simple deposit to savings at my credit union. I’ve been in there only three times. Each time I’ve had to come into close proximity to this one teller. She’s an older lady and she’s not friendly. Hell, she’s mean. She’s clearly been there a long time because when there’s a question the other tellers need an answer to, they go to her. She does the dramatic sigh, slight roll of the eyes and then snips a response.

When I opened my account two months ago I received their new member welcome packet. The marketing department has chosen a red carpet as the symbol on this piece. I have it right here on my desk.

Today I tripped over the carpet. It was late afternoon (after the lunch rush, before the after work crowd) and I was the only one in the branch. As I was walking through the maze of teller ropes to get to the “cheese” she looked up at me, no expression, and quickly looked down again. The tuck-and-roll I call it. As I reached the end of the ropes and did as the sign instructed “Wait here for next available teller” I looked straight ahead at her window. She was still in it. She was apparently running a tape on her checks, her NEXT WINDOW sign was NOT present and yet now she was determined to ignore me. I tried to invoke my super powers to bore holes in her head and guilt her into helping me when I was startled by a friendly voice of a young man at the farthest window saying, “I can help you down here…”

He made up for her rudeness. We chatted politely. I made him laugh. You see, I AM a nice customer. I like to bond. She apparently has no time for it.

Cultural Anthropologists know not to blame this teller entirely for being mean. Some of the blame should go to the management of the credit union, some to the board of directors. Clearly there is not a culture of service in this organization. I believe the teller that offered to shield me from the mean one is the result of his “mama raising him right.” Not a cultural or strategic condition. Every memo, measure, management meeting and mannerism by the upper management is creating the ripples in the organization that the front-line responds to. If the only measure is the bottom line – that becomes the filter for the organization’s culture. If you are in the “service” business, you need to start measuring “it” and managing “it.”

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the purest form of measurement for your culture. Period. It asks the most basic of questions AFTER a customer has EXPERIENCED your culture. Would I recommend “it” to a friend or family member? In the case of this entire organization and its 50 plus years of existence based on my three minutes of interaction at a very expensive and beautifully decorated branch I can say NO WAY. But you know what, I’ll probably keep my account there. It’s a real pain to move a checking account these days. In the industry we call it “stickiness.” It’s kind of sick when you think about it — like the old days of the phone company. We’re AT&T, we don’t have to care.

We’ve got your checking account. We don’t have to care. Their tag-line should be “We Bank on Inertia.”

If this credit union adopts the NPS I would be classified as a profitable detractor. They are making some money off of me, but they cannot count on me to grow future business for them. Without NPS data, you are measuring my profit (a snapshot in time) but with net promoter you have to admit that it’s not sustainable.

I like to think of NPS as a wake up call to all service providers. I may give you my business, today, but not my love. But if you care to listen, I’ll tell you how you can get it.

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February 2007