No question is more powerful to ask than this one question that unlocks the secrets of creating ridiculously happy and loyal clients. It is called NPS, or the Net Promoter Score. If you don’t use it, then you really don’t understand your client happiness.

Your agency’s NPS score also correlates to several key factors that you worry about every day: sales growth, net profit, employee satisfaction and client retention. What we see in agencies is that the best agencies use NPS. And more important, that adopting NPS will make yours a better agency. Sound crazy? Check out this case study of LaneTerralever where they used a bad NPS score to catapult change that moved every single needle on their business dashboard.

Wondering how well your account person is really doing? Use the NPS survey and you’ll hear reality from your client, not the assurances from your account team. High NPS scores suggest business growth. Check out this (new) case study from Starr Conspiracy, where they use mandatory client feedback to propel 50% year-over-year growth.

Want to learn more about NPS, what it is and how it works? You can see our article on the Advertising Week blog, published on September 8, 2016, or download our new e-Book on NPS for agencies (see box on the right), which includes tips from three agencies that have world-class NPS scores.

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One simple question will tell you how good you are and will be.

Eighteen months ago, Andy Parnell, Chief Client Officer of LaneTerralever, felt things weren’t going as well as the agency’s 105 people seemed to think.  So he surveyed each cllent with one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend LaneTerralever to a friend or colleague (using a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being not likely and 10 being very likely)?”

The simple question Parnell asked is the basis for calculating a Net Promoter Score, or NPS, now a standard practice across service sectors, including the wider media and communications industry. NPS scores can range from -100 to +100, but when the results were tallied, the agency scored a -3.

In general, an NPS of 50 or more is considered world class. That’s a tall order when the average for our industry is 16.

For Parnell and his fellow executives it helped to justify some big changes in the way the agency works. Today, LaneTerralever’s NPS is an impressive 52.

NPS is so simple that you can do it yourself in just minutes. Most free/low-cost survey tools like Google Surveys or SurveyMonkey have a built-in NPS question format.  Just edit the text, sprinkle with email addresses, and you’re ready to start learning how good your agency is.

Once the responses come in, calculating the score is easy. You just add up the percentage of Promoters (clients who answered 9 or 10) and subtract the percentage who are Detractors (answered 0-6). Multiply that percent by 100 and you have your NPS score. For example, a survey of 80 clients resulting in 55% promoters and 20% detractors generates a 35 NPS (55% – 20%  X 100).

And it’s not just a simple number.  Yes, it is a gauge of client happiness that your teams can use, but it also turns out to be an accurate predictor of a company’s future performance.  Researchers have found that just moving your score up from 14 to 25, correlates to a near-term increase in sales and financial performance.

But like all things that seem simple, there are some complexities that you probably want to consider.  I spoke with three agencies that have achieved world-class NPS – Elite SEM (50), LaneTerralever (52), and Starr Conspiracy (60) –  to learn their best practices.  If you want the long version, we made an NPS for Agencies Guide you can download. Here are three keys to getting started:

1. Survey your active clients more than once per year, monthly if possible.

Things can change unexpectedly in the agency world, and NPS is a great way to monitor client sentiment even between deliverables. Elite SEM shifted from twice per year to quarterly because they felt the feedback wasn’t real-time enough.

2. The second question matters more.

Starr Conspiracy asks a second question in their survey, “What is the primary reason for the score you just gave us?” This creates a conversation that can uncover any fermenting client dissatisfaction and help highlight potential process improvements. If you’re going to survey monthly, though, keep the extra questions to a minimum to avoid fatigue.

3. Publish your results.

Post it inside your agency – so everyone knows how you’re really doing – and on your website. Consider updating it in real time, as Elite and Starr do. That kind of confidence says “nothing to hide” at a time when clients are scrutinizing agencies much more carefully.

Elite and Starr also track NPS for employees, or eNPS, by asking how likely they are to recommend that a friend or colleague come work at the agency. Guess what?  High client NPS scores are matched by high eNPS scores, proving one of our industry’s oldest maxims: Doing good work has its own reward.