Berlin Packaging leverages Net Promoter methodology to measure and improve both customer and employee satisfaction
By Paul Mansour
It goes without saying—or at least it should—that a happy workforce produces happy customers. Yet with Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study reporting that only 30 percent of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs, it’s clear that the vast majority of employees lack the motivation required to deliver high quality customer service. That’s a serious problem for any business with a desire to excel.
At Berlin Packaging, a full-service packaging supplier with nearly 600 employees in more than 50 locations, that understanding prompted an initiative to measure employee engagement utilizing the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology. Developed by Bain & Company and Satmetrix, the NPS is an alternative to conventional customer satisfaction surveys that can be limited in their ability to drive organizational change.
So how does it work? The system surveys an organization’s customers or employees to determine whether they are promoters (passionate advocates), passives (satisfied but unenthusiastic), or detractors (likely vocal critics) based on a key question: How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague based on a scale of zero to 10? Follow-up questions solicit reasons for those rankings, and that feedback is used to shape strategies for improving customer and employee relationships. The total score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors with scores of 0 to 6 from the percentage of promoters with scores of 9 or 10.
Berlin Packaging began using the Net Promoter model in order to measure customer attitudes and had several goals:
- gauge the company’s success in providing “customer thrill”;
- benchmark itself against competitors and the market overall;
- leverage results to improve the customer experience; and
- secure a growth edge based on the correlation of NPS with better financial performance.
The addition of a separate NPS survey for employees was inspired by the correlation between an engaged workforce and exceptional customer service. High levels can transform customers into “promoters” and consequently grow the business. In fact, according to a study by Hay Group, organizations with highly engaged workers realize revenue growth 2.5 times greater than those with low engagement levels. In other words, “employee thrill” breeds “customer thrill,” which drives bigger wallet share and lasting customer allegiances.
Berlin’s first employee NPS survey in 2011 consisted of four questions, including the core question of every NPS assessment: How likely are you to recommend working at Berlin Packaging to a well-qualified friend? The survey also asked participants to rate the company’s corporate values and culture, describe their interpretation of the company’s “Anything Is Possible” motto, and suggest ideas for strengthening or sustaining the corporate culture.
Since then, the executive team has refined the survey to gain more insight and recommendations into the company’s T-Chart, a document that defines the mutual obligations between Berlin and its employees. The most recent version of the survey asked the following questions:
- How likely are you to recommend working at Berlin Packaging to a well-qualified acquaintance (a friend or someone you know)?
- What keeps you at Berlin Packaging?
- How can the company better engage you and fulfill its obligations as outlined on the left side of the Berlin Values T-Chart (see Figure 1)?
- Is there something important you can share that we should start doing?
- Is there something important you can share that we should stop doing?
- Is there something important you can share that we should continue doing with more gusto?
- What is an example from this year of how you’ve lived up to your obligations on the right side of the T-Chart (see Figure 1)?
- Please include any other comments on how to make Berlin Packaging a stronger company.
Respondents are guaranteed anonymity but asked to identify the company location or division they work for as well as their job function to enable granular analysis of survey results for effective problem-solving. Participation has jumped from 64 percent to 95 percent over the last four years due to several reasons. The NPS survey is now well known throughout the company and over the years, there have been highly visible corporate initiatives in response to the employee input from the survey. On the administrative side, Berlin added an email response option to the original paper survey. Survey results show that Berlin’s highly engaged employee population has climbed steadily from 49 percent in 2011 to 76 percent in 2014 as participation in the survey program has increased and the company has taken steps to address issues raised by respondents. During the same four-year period, Berlin customer loyalty as measured by customer-oriented NPS rose from 37 percent to 51 percent and the company’s annual revenues increased from $600 million to nearly $900 million, including an average annual organic growth rate that is more than four times that of the market as a whole. Those achievements were fueled in part by growing employee enthusiasm that translated into bigger and better efforts to attract and retain customers.
In order to experience the results that Berlin has achieved from the NPS survey, the company transformed employee feedback into change. Information gleaned from the employee NPS surveys has sparked initiatives in the training area ranging from a new hire mentoring program to a custom curriculum that provides sales and product training for employees outside the sales team.
In response to requests for more rewards opportunities for support staff, Berlin stepped up an existing program by authorizing managers to hand out Visa gift cards at any time to recognize exceptional performance. The organization also instituted an annual service excellence award for a non-sales employee who consistently personifies Berlin’s “Anything Is Possible” philosophy.
To address interest in promoting interaction among employees in the company’s remote offices, Berlin launched an internal social network and formed a business book club that meets virtually to discuss titles such as Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, Jim Collins’s “Good to Great”, and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”.
The company has also established an Employee Thrill Committee to share best practices for team building in local offices, to devise new ways to celebrate personnel promotions, to develop a leadership training program, and more.
All of these initiatives were triggered directly by the results of Berlin’s employee NPS surveys. These initiatives, in turn, have helped drive the company to ever-higher levels of employee engagement and associated revenue growth. The surveys have become an important tool in supporting the company’s ongoing efforts to not only meet but exceed customers’ expectations. Other organizations with similar objectives can benefit from adopting the Net Promoter methodology for taking the pulse of their workforce.
Paul Mansour is senior manager of business development and strategy at Berlin Packaging.