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The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth

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Based on extensive research, 'The Ultimate Question' shows how companies can rigorously measure Net Promoter statistics, help managers improve them, and create communities of passionate advocates that stimulate innovation.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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Fred Reichheld

14 books17 followers

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5 stars
155 (23%)
4 stars
205 (31%)
3 stars
227 (34%)
2 stars
56 (8%)
1 star
11 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 54 reviews
Profile Image for Deane Barker.
Author 5 books34 followers
January 4, 2021
A solid introduction to the Net Promoter Score methodology of performance reporting that falls into a common trap: it could be a blog post, or a 30-page ebook.

To get this thing published, the authors had to pad it out to book length, and it's just way, way, way long. It talks about the same things, over and over -- NPS is actually a pretty simple concept -- and goes into case study after case study.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, and I believe in the idea of NPS. But, seriously, this didn't need a full-length trade paperback.
Profile Image for Inggita.
Author 1 book20 followers
June 27, 2012
since the company i worked for adopted this simple method of measuring customer's satisfaction, i need to know it better especially when our first reaction (in this part of the world, Indonesia) is "are we sure we want to do this? here, 9 and 10 are reserved for the good prophet Mohammad and God, so when would we score a good one?" but this is a good way to roll out customer-centredness around the block through every single person and the book is a roadmap to ensure the method's done properly.

not to be misunderstood, the number is not the most important thing, this is what my colleague Matthias Hansen, the promoter of this method/book, said to me when i mentioned that in Indonesia, we rarely give the scores 9 and 10 - the key thing is to map out what to be done to improve. but i'm sure we will go back to the "scores 9 and 10" problem/question that most Indonesians would ask.
8 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2019
A good book to understand framework for application of NPS in organisation and how to implement and monitor the outcome for the same. I like the chapter where framework was provided to measure profitability with NPS on different axis and ultimately decisions of retention and conversion of different set of customers to ultimately generate more of good profits for the organisation.
34 reviews
June 16, 2020
A solid introduction to the Net Promoter Score and the importance of customer metrics. The concept is simple and already explained in the first 40 pages or so. The rest of the book consists of case studies which I found interesting as well.
Profile Image for Donovan Richards.
277 reviews7 followers
December 26, 2011
Good Ethics Is Good Business?

Spend any time with a business executive and you might hear the cliché, “Good ethics is good business.” Setting aside the clear disassociation between this statement and the way American businesses operate, the philosopher in me reacts negatively to such statements. Often times, good ethics does equal high profits, but such a statement should never paint broad strokes. Occasionally, the right decision costs a firm extensive money.

However, Fred Reichheld’s The Ultimate Question might offer a key to translating an overused cliché into a tangible metric that links profits with good ethics.

Rethinking Profits

At its core, The Ultimate Question proposes that business managers rethink the ways they evaluate business success. Since financial metrics are easy to produce and easy to read, managers often make decisions strictly based on financials.

Reichheld, however, believes that these profit-oriented measurements force business leaders to become addicted to bad profits. Reichheld says,

“Bad profits work much of their damage through the detractors they produce. Detractors are customers who feel badly treated by a company – so badly that they cut back on their purchases, switch to the competition if they can, and warn others to stay away from the company they feel has done them wrong” (6).

To reorient business decisions, the author argues that managers ought to measure customer satisfaction instead of financial performance. If a company creates loyal customers, it produces good profits.

“A company earns good profits when it so delights its customers that they willingly come back for more – and not only that, they tell their friends and colleagues to do business with the company. Satisfied customers become, in effect, part of the company’s marketing department, not only increasing their own purchases but also providing enthusiastic referrals. They become promoters” (9-10).

The Ultimate Question

After years of research, Reichheld and his consulting firm, Bain & Company, found that highly satisfied customers offer a direct link to profitable long term growth for a company. In order to find out whether a company holds satisfied customers, only one question needs to be asked. That question is:

“How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague” (18-19)?

By answering that question on a 0-10 scale, a company can truly gauge the satisfaction and loyalty of its customers. Those that answer in the 9-10 range are considered promoters; those in the 7-8 range are passive; and those in the 0-6 range are detractors. Thus, a company will know the satisfaction of its customers by subtracting the detractors from the promoters. This equation gives managers a net promoter score (NPS).

If the company’s NPS is high, it has delighted customers who buy multiple products and encourage their friends to do the same. A company with a low NPS, on the other hand, is addicted to bad profits and is holding its customers hostage. Whenever the customers have an opportunity to leave this company, they will.

Theory aside, Reichheld’s metrics hold when applied in business settings. The industry leaders in NPS are also growing exponentially and making large profits.

TOMS: Good Ethics Equaling Good Business

Considering the angle I presented at the beginning of the review, where are the ethics in this book? At first glance, NPS is a customer satisfaction metric, an equation with little connection to ethics. A business need not be overtly ethical in order to serve customers; it only needs to practice the golden rule of treating others as it would wish to be treated in order to obtain a high NPS.

But I argue that serving customers is a task that orients a company toward ethics. By thinking of the needs of the customer, a company cannot act selfishly because a selfish action results in bad profits and customer detractors.

Furthermore, I hypothesize that a business which promotes its ethical practices as a core reason for operating have a high NPS. For example, TOMS shoes illustrates the significance of promoters. With its one-for-one social enterprise model, the company relies on customer promotion for its advertising. In fact, TOMS dedicates a portion of its website to customer testimonials. Without the social ethics surrounding the business, TOMS is just another shoe company. Knowing that a shoe purchase helps a child in need, customers take great joy in wearing and promoting the product. Thus, TOMS success relies on a high NPS for profitability.

So perhaps, advertised good ethics does equal business. More research is in order, but a link between ethics and high profits seems plausible.

With bad profits leaving most companies middling around a 0-10% NPS, the search for ways in which a company can raise its NPS, and therefore grow, is extremely important. If you manage a business, you owe it to yourself, your employees, and your customers to read The Ultimate Question.

Originally published at http://wherepenmeetspaper.blogspot.com
13 reviews
April 4, 2020
300 pages to tell people to ask 1 question. An article would have sufficed.
Profile Image for Jeff.
236 reviews53 followers
July 12, 2011
First-half was really good. Second-half, not so much. This book offers a great question, the ultimate question in fact, for organizations to ask their customers: How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?

Some other take-aways:

* There are bad profits and good profits. Whenever a customer feels misled, mistreated, ignored or coerced, then profits from that customer are bad.
Bad profits arise when companies save money by delivering a lousy customer experience. Bad profits are about extracting value from customers, not creating value.

* Customers resent bad profits -- by investors should too, because bad profits undermine a company's prospects. Like the addicts they are, enterprises dependent on bad profits have no future until they can break their habit.

* What is the question that can tell good profits from bad? Simplicity itself: How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague? The metric that it produces is the Net Promoter Score.

* Net Promoter Score is based on the fundamental perspective that every company's customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters (loyal enthusiasts who keep buying and urge their friends to do so). Passives are satisfied but unethusiastic customers who can be easily wooed by the compeitition. And Detractors are unhappy customers trapped in a bad relationship.

* The best way to gauge the efficiency of the growth engine of an organization is to take the percentage of Promoters and subtract the percentage of Detractors. P - D = NPS.
Profile Image for Josh Steimle.
Author 3 books192 followers
January 10, 2013
Sometimes a book comes along just when you need it. Were it not for that perhaps I would have given it a lower score...no, I probably would still give it a four. Well, maybe a 3.5. I'm not sure the concept justifies the existence of an entire book. I think the point could be well communicated in an article, the book merely backs up the point with data and anecdotes. It's a book you can quickly skim through and still walk away with the gist, which is this--if you want your business to make more money, you need to ask your customers on a regular basis if they are willing to refer you to their friends, family, associates, etc. If not, you have a problem that needs to be fixed. If so, you can get more business. That's it.

Now on to the sequel/upgrade/update/2.0 to see if there's anything of real value that has been added.
Profile Image for Don Trowden.
Author 4 books48 followers
May 18, 2012
There is much to like about this book and the development of the NPS (Net Promoter Score) method for determining who the promoters of a business are and who are the detractors. I do find it difficult to believe, however, that more businesses did not already know the importance of the one big question: "Would you recommend company x or product x to your friends?" In my experience, this question has been the big one in research studies at least back to 1990 and quite possibly before then. I do like the topic of good profits and bad ones, the former oftentimes coming at the expense of the customer experience and loyalty (banking fees, checked bag charges, etc.). This is a fast and light read for anyone tasked with focusing growth on customer happiness within a company setting.
Profile Image for JP.
1,137 reviews37 followers
May 18, 2013
This is the book through which Reichheld conveys the story behind his Net Promoter Score. Bain and Associates did research to determine which of several potential questions best relate to increased loyalty. The winner: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [company] to your family and friends? The "net promoter score" is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. The approach proves itself empirically, as companies across industries show correlation between between NPS score and growth. The methodology includes recommendations for transparency, understanding the target audience, and a solid cycle of using surveys, backed by follow-up, action, and insight in a closed-loop process.
Profile Image for Jon Nguyen.
102 reviews27 followers
December 2, 2009
It makes some okay points on how to think about your customers, but this is like a lot of other business books in how it extols this one thing as the secret to all success. Most of the examples in the book didn't even use the "ultimate" question. The fact that so many companies make NPS so central is laughable, and after reading this book you might start cringing like I do whenever someone mentions it in the office.

It can be a useful question to ask, but it's only a starting point and certainly not the ultimate question. The entire thing seems largely designed to get more consulting business for Bain.

Plus the book is ridiculously overpriced.
Profile Image for Grumpus.
498 reviews240 followers
June 25, 2007
This book was required reading for work. Our organization has embraced the NPS (net promoter score) metric. We used this book as our template in developing a white paper for standardizing the methodological implementation across our companies. It is the bible for correlating a simple metric to "good" profits.

Remember, that obtaining the score is not the important part in this effort. Back-end work must be done to ensure that customers are happy customers and plans must be in place to deliver the ultimate customer experience to your clients.
17 reviews
July 14, 2009
Good for understanding the importance of customer metrics and establishing sound scorecard systems for tracking an aspect of organizational success over time. Not keen on the idea that a single question is the right thing to do; all I could think of during my first read through was the utmate answer: forty-two. But then that's the answer to another ultimate question, isn't it? Also, the 10 point scale recommended by the author, while intuitively attractive doesn't appeal from a practitioner standpoint.
191 reviews5 followers
June 19, 2013
Reichheld , a well-known Customer Loyalty expert pitches for a methodology aimed towards increasing the customer response rate and also proposes a single metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure the customer satisfaction. Based on the NPS score a company can take strategic actions to improve its profits and growth rate.
Highly readable book supported by case studies, though slightly repetitive.
More about this book @ http://bookwormsrecos.blogspot.in/200...
Profile Image for Mark Fallon.
770 reviews24 followers
January 27, 2012
With the right editor, this book would’ve made a very good article in a business magazine. Reichheld is correct in stating that companies should focus on good customers and learn from all customers. However, his methodology isn’t the only way of doing so. And while he points that out in the book, he still believes that his “NPS” should be a reported standard for all companies.

By the way, did you know that Reichheld worked at Bain Capital? Don’t worry, he’ll remind you every few pages.
November 29, 2014
Great read and resource to help you set an effective and measurable customer strategy.

Reichheld outlines a compelling case for using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand and measure what really matters when it comes to your customers. The simple, effective and measurable framework he presents for NPS clearly illustrates the opportunity of going beyond just "customer satisfaction" and into the the more powerful measures of customer loyalty and word of mouth economics.
December 1, 2014
Due to my position within the company I wanted to learn more about the Net Promoter Score and how it can benefit my organization.

The concepts are basic and make sense. What was a disappointment is while it did use real world examples like eBay, Harley, and Amazon it didn't really advise in how to make NPS work to the best benefit of an organization.

The book as a whole seemed to promote the concept but not explain how to make it work.
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
5 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2007
Easy read. It gives a easy way to measure and improve a product/service/etc to ensure customer satisfaction. I think it should be applied everywhere (Libraries, Comcast, and other companies that have stopped caring about the customer).

My opinion, the first 3 to 4 chapters explain everything. The rest of the book is filler & examples.
Profile Image for Dan Graham.
137 reviews39 followers
May 17, 2011
A great book about the power of customer service to influence repeat purchasing, word of mouth and order values. Most importantly this book seeks to show how the typically anecdotal metric of customer satisfaction can be measured in a way that closely correlates with increased long term value for the customer. A great read.
67 reviews4 followers
July 21, 2015
The evidence given for the validity of this simple concept of determining a companies effectiveness is very convincing. It is a simple approach that can be applied to any business or organization. I refer to this book often when visiting with business leaders. Any business leader or owner would benefit from reading the book.
Profile Image for Srikanth.
47 reviews2 followers
November 10, 2007
- Very good details to understand good and bad profits. I have not thought about bad profits till I read this book.
- Good guide to prove that Net Promoter Score is one question to ask to know about company's growth.
- Esp. last chapter covers a complete book's essence.

Its interesting....
44 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2008
A very simple and easy read. Good for anyone that runs a business or works for a company and wants to get ideas to increase customer satisfaction. Good idea to use a 10 point scale for customer surveys.
Profile Image for Sonny.
64 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2008
Good quick read in preparation for establishing a metric for client satisfaction. As much as you need to know if you just need some background on this survey metric. And more comprehensive documentation if you need to be convinced or need to convince others to the wisdom of this approach.
17 reviews
August 22, 2008
This is an excellent book to read for anyone who is trying to find a way to measure true performance in a business environment. It's a pretty neat book to read too, to help you evaluate the service company's offer their customers. I'd highly recommend it.
48 reviews6 followers
October 19, 2010
Dude says that if your customers aren't promoting your service you are toast. I can see this becoming more and more important as media gets diffuse and people interact more about their purchases. You can't bully people into buying a crummy product with advertising anymore.
Profile Image for Adam Decker.
20 reviews
March 16, 2011
I really buy into the concept of the Ultimate Question and believe it can apply to most any business. In fact, will be working to apply to mine. The main point was delivered in the first chapter, so the rest of the book seemed to drag on.
Profile Image for Hunter Johnson.
229 reviews6 followers
January 26, 2011
Even though it is also a promotion for the author's firm's services, there is a wealth of information here useful to anyone who would like to grow their audience (customers or otherwise). Nice match with "How to Measure Anything" too.
29 reviews3 followers
July 24, 2011
I liked several of their points about reducing the volume of feedback collected from one's customers and boiling it down to a simple question. I don't know it is as simple as the writer makes it sound though.
Profile Image for Teresa.
11 reviews1 follower
Currently reading
October 7, 2007
A galvanizing read but is it really practical?
I employ the spirit but question real world usability.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 54 reviews

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