Digitalization blends physical customer journey with digital channels to increase the performance of each touchpoint. Journeys should feel seamless, effortless and compliment each other without requiring too much cognitive brainpower from the consumer when interactions are encouraged. How are we going to measure the success of this revolution from customers’ point of view?

The purpose of this article is to define early stage KPIs to measure how consumers perceive and assess the mix of physical and digital journeys from a satisfaction point of view. After 16 years from its conceptualisation and a huge debate if the Customer Journey is phygital or digical, is Net Promoter Score still able to measure Customer Experience and deliver actionable insights?

It was December 2003 when this article was published on Harward Business Review. It was 4 years before the launch of the first iPhone, the mobile device that changed our life. Some months before, Nicolas Negroponte wrote a great article about building a nation of innovators, focusing on youth, diversity, and collaboration. Apple was selling Mac OS Jaguar at $129 offering iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, and iChat – 3 years before the first generation of Intel-based Macintoshes. At Moscone Center in San Francisco, Steve Jobs introduced, with the support of Bono, Mick Jagger, Dr. Dre and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, a software product that just might save their free-falling industry: the iTunes Music Store.

The Time magazine awarded a CD-Rom Shredder as one of the inventions of the year. (yes, we were still using CD-Rom!) Camera phones opened up a new and surprisingly spontaneous way to communicate and, don’t be confused, we are not talking about smartphones, we are talking about the cellular phone with a camera! At that time I was the proud owner of the Handspring Treo 600, a mix between a cellular phone and a Palm Pilot.

At the 75th Oscar, Chicago won six awards including the best picture, while 50 Cent singing “In da Club” was ranked number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 and you could illegally download it as MP3 from Napster. (Yes, Spotify didn’t exist!) A young guy and his roommates at Harward University just launched a website called FaceMashed open to Harward students only. They renamed it years later to Facebook.

It was a world in which digitization had touched marginally Customer Journeys characterised by the absence of smartphones, apps, social networks and much more. It was the beginning of the Negroponte’s vison of building a nation of young innovators, such as the guy at Harward University. His name is Mark Zuckerberg. In this contest, the Net Promoter Score was born.

I don’t think I need to explain the context of that same world 17 years later. But you can easily imagine that the race towards digitization has brought radical changes to how we, as consumers, live our customer journeys today. Today we are talking about customer journeys and experiences based on the concept of “phygital” – the mix between physical and digital experiences.

The real question I ask myself is: can the Net Promoter Score still be a KPI capable of measuring the customer experience in a world where physical and digital journeys are merging so quickly and irreversibly?

And don’t misunderstand me, it is clear that customer satisfaction (CSAT) and the fact that the customer intends to recommend (NPS), are always valid concepts, but I asked myself, what can we measure to have a faster and more immediate influence and respond quickly to the needs of the digital native consumers. How can we influence the Customer Journeys of phygital customers?

A few days ago, on a foggy Sunday, I got in touch with Apple Customer Care (Yep! I uploaded to Catalina and killed all my Python versions on Yosemite) – it was a great support experience! A few minutes later an email in my inbox: “How satisfied are you with Apple support?”, followed by 5 stars. Mmmh, no more NPS?

It reminded me that I had never seen a “Would you recommend Google to a friend or colleague?” … but there were always a lot of 5 stars in my Google Cloud Console.

The Thursday after that Sunday I was in Rome. At the rental-car counter the nice employee at the end of the onboarding journey told me: “if you receive a survey, please give us a 9 or 10”. “Sorry?!” I replied, “Why are you suggesting me the answer?” The extremely kind employee replied: “Because, if you give me an 8 or less, then I have to close-the-loop, and I lose time for nothing!” The question of a survey is just like a joke, if you have to explain it is not funny!

Five stars is a Likert scale, and it is extremely clear to all digital natives. A Likert means you can avoid most of the statistical issues NPS brings with it.

Leaving Rome to fly back to Zurich, Alitalia check-in online: “Based on your online check-in experience, would you recommend Alitalia to a friend or colleague?” Yes, sure, based on a commodity experience such as online check-in, I will share with the world my Alitalia recommendations. You cannot be serious! Moreover, when I pushed the submit button, I got an error.

The real question again, in a phygital world does it make still sense to use a KPI created at the time of CD-Roms? A KPI and a methodology that shows all the limits? Especially statistic and mathematical limits?

To answer part of those questions, I tried to clarify other dilemmas: How can companies deliver superior Customer Experience in the phygital world? How can they detect immediately if the customer is satisfied with the actual journey? And on the other hand, from the customer’s point of view: why clients prefer a phygital experience over another? What makes us fall in love with one App over another? One brand over another?

What is the only thing you cannot absolutely buy in this world? The only thing no one can buy is “time”! So every minute we spend doing a boring task, it is one minute less enjoying our life. Very straight and simple. And the original question about the phygital experience becomes: how much time can we save in our lives using new digital tools that, with their simplicity, make us fall in love with a brand to the point of really recommending it to friends and relatives?

NPS blog article sandsiv

Fig. 1 – A nice Advertising from PostFianance (Swiss Post) where free time in life becomes the central message to promote the PostFinance App.

Let’s take an example: I felt in love with Revolut, and I recommended/forced the whole family to use it, why? The first time I downloaded the app, on the recommendation of my 20-years-old daughter, I was curious. I flawlessly activated the account in less than 10 minutes, including confirming my identity, sending my documents and getting immediately a virtual card to use online. All digital. 4 days later I received the physical card in my mailbox. Do you remember how long it took to sign the old paper contracts to get an account and a card? Add all copies of the documents, including the bill of a utility or telecommunication company? Weeks!

After that, curious, I started using Revolut: extremely easy, and an incredible time-saving. I connected my phone with Google Pay, and today I always pay without taking out my wallet – quick and easy! I can see all the statistics on my phone’s App, I can send money to my wife quickly – well, maybe this is not an advantage – and to all my 4 children.

You’ll tell me it’s easy because Revolut is a digital fintech. You will say that it always works like that in the phygital world: they are startups born digital for the physical world, not like the big banks born physical and desperately trying to adapt themself to a digital world. But I say no, it’s not always like that. I tried the same experience with N26, and at the end, I never used it again because it’s not easy, and I could not recharge the card with the same speed and simplicity as Revolut. I don’t have time to invest to run N26. Result: deleted the App from my phone!

Back to the original question: does it still make sense to measure a phygital experience with NPS? No, let me explain the reason:

The main drivers influencing my satisfaction in an extremely fast phygital world are the speed – in the sense of saving time – and the ease of interaction; the ease and speed with which I actively interact and influence my customer journey. A bit like the Customer Effort Score (CES) but a bit more precise in understanding and measuring the drivers of the phygital experience at the moment of truth – and there are hundreds of them!

If I ask you to recommend a product or service to someone, how confused are you in trying to figure out if it’s really worth it? You are faced with very imprecise question that gives a lot of room for personal interpretation to evaluate future behaviours that might not happen at all. (willingness to recommend is a future hypothetical behaviour)

If N26 knew exactly, and immediately, what my problems were with my phygital experience, they could react immediately. Much more than interpreting inexplicable NPS movements and looking for reasons long time after my experience.

No, the phygital world is not an NPS world, it is not an 11-step scale, it is limited to 5 stars. Consumers want a fast and easy experience. It’s time to change our point of view. It’s probably time to retire NPS.


If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

— 101 Zen Stories


I’m sure that lot of my LinkedIn contacts will not agree with the idea I formulated in this post. Feel free to not agree and comment below. But remember an important French Enlightenment quote: Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire.

It’s Time To Retire The Net Promoter Score
Federico Cesconi

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