By: Kaliym A. Islam, Ph.D.
Research on customer education suggests that calculating its business impact is a difficult task. This consensus exists for many reasons, including the fact that the activity is generally not delivered by a single department and there aren't norms around where in the organization the responsibility for educating customers exists. Perhaps the most common challenge facing the individuals responsible for educating customers, however, is the belief that the most common technique used to evaluate all training programs (the Kirkpatrick’s four-level model) is lacking.
Arguments For And Against Using the Kirkpatrick Model
Individuals who argue against the use of the Kirkpatrick model assert that the technique involves implicit assumptions that are only useful in simple instructional designs and short-term endpoints. Management consultant Josh Bersin, as an example, makes the case the Kirkpatrick approach lacks a measurement methodology that ties financial outcomes to learning engagements. Other critics simply make the case that the approach was designed to assess the impact of employee training programs, not customer based learning activities.
Proponents of the Kirkpatrick model argue that when applied correctly it does, in fact, capture the impact that customer training has on business results. Jack and Patti Phillips of the ROI Institute make such an argument and advocate for using their expanded version of the Kirkpatrick model with the caveat that it not always necessary to measure return on investment.
Loyalty as a Measure of the ROI of Customer Education
What is not disputed is that business executives accept increased loyalty as a measure of return on investment (ROI). And, they finance customer education initiatives because they believe these programs will produce higher levels of client loyalty. Executives who hold this view accept academic studies that show that increased loyalty results in increased revenue. Unfortunately, there is no consensus about the best approach for measuring customer loyalty. There is, however, agreement that Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the most straightforward and widespread means of assessing it. NPS is based on asking a single question “On a scale of 0 - 10 where zero is not any all and ten is extremely, how likely is it that you would recommend....?”
Determining NPS is accomplished by segmenting the responses to the question mentioned above into three groups: detractors, passives/neutrals, and promoters. Detractors, who respond 0-6, are individuals who are not likely to recommend a product or service to a friend or colleague. Passives or neutral individuals, who provide a score of 7 or 8, are neither likely nor unlikely to recommend a product or service. The last category is promoters, who offer a score of 9 or 10, and are highly likely to recommend a product or service to a friend or colleague. The NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Utilizing this technique can provide the individuals responsible for overseeing customer educations programs with a simple and accepted methodology for calculating the business impact of their learning programs.
Dr. Kaliym A. Islam is an expert in customer education. Teams under his direction have been named learning elite organizations by Chief Learning Officer Magazine, won International Society for Technical Communication (STC) awards for innovative learning content, and been cited by Josh Bersin as best practice learning organizations. Dr. Islam is the author of three books – Agile Methodology For Developing and Measuring Learning; Developing and Measuring Training the Six Sigma Way and Podcasting 101 for Trainers.