The Ultimate Question

Would you like to know what your supporters really think of your charity? Tired of paying big bucks for marketing surveys? Here’s a book that I think offers a great solution. We tried its recommendations at CCCC in January 2008 and got excellent results.

The Ultimate Question

The book is The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld. The premise is that marketing surveys ask too many questions that provide only marginal information. Often the answers don’t give enough information for you to know what to change. Those questions are also the questions that the asker wants answers to, as opposed to what the responders would really like to say. (I wrote about this problem of presuming you know what the issues are in a previous post.)

Reichheld believes that real long term sustainable growth for any organization occurs because its supporters love doing business with them and sing their praises to their friends and colleagues. He believes that any organization, for-profit, charity or government agency, can benefit from asking the ultimate question.

If you have satisfied supporters, they become your marketing department, leveraging well beyond anything you could afford to pay for. Your strongest supporters are also your strongest promoters. The ultimate question helps you raise more supporters and tells you how to help them become more committed to your organization.

The ultimate question is: How likely is it that you would recommend this organization to a friend or colleague? On a scale of ten (ten being the most likely to recommend), those who score 9 or 10 are your promoters. Those who score 6 or less are your detractors. If you subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters you are left with your net promoter score. (People who score 7 or 8 are called passives – they are satisfied but unenthusiastic.) Reichheld’s extensive research shows that the organizations with the most efficient growth engines have a net promoter score of 50% to 80%.

The follow-up question

Aside from the ultimate question itself, you would ask only one other question (aside from any demographics you want). If they scored as a promoter, you would ask “What is the primary reason for the score you just gave us?” That will tell you what you are doing that is highly valued by your supporters. If they score as a passive or a detractor, you ask “What is the most important improvement that would make you rate us closer to a ten?” That will tell you what you are doing that is sabotaging your relationships.

At CCCC, we hired a market research firm to do our survey for us. I think they were quite surprised that we only asked two questions, but wow, did we get some good information from those two questions (as well as a much smaller invoice!). First, we had an astonishing 37% response rate to our survey. This alone was remarkable, but I think it was due to the fact, at least partially, that the survey was a really short survey that was done entirely online. It turned out 60% of our members are promoters, 30% are passive and 10% are detractors. So we squeaked into the efficient growth range with a net promoter score of 50%.

What you learn

Our survey revealed lots of things about us that we wouldn’t necessarily have known to ask about, both strengths and opportunities for improvement. We also surveyed former members and never members with different questions and got good results there too.

There’s lots more advanced analysis regarding segmentation of your supporters that Reichheld  includes in his book that we at CCCC haven’t got to yet, but that will come. I think this is where the book could be improved with more examples of how this advanced analysis is done. He explains it, maybe I just need more examples, especially from the charitable sector. I noticed today that there is another book called Answering the Ultimate Question: How Net Promoter Can Transform Your Business by two of Reichheld’s co-developers of the net promoter model. (The subtitle is correct, but I think it should say How Net Promoters….) I haven’t read this one yet, but it is advertised as providing lots of real-life case studies of how the model is applied. Perhaps you should buy the two books together. I’ll be getting the second one.

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