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Setting Targets - Do it, but make sure they're SMART

Blog by Ian Luck
November 16, 2022

At CustomerGauge, we preach setting targets for metrics like NPS, response rate, close-loop KPIs, etc. As goal-setting is a very widespread practice across many industries, I thought I’d dive a little into my previous life as a teacher and talk about what the world of education calls “SMART” goals.

So how do you know if the targets you are setting are smart ones? Luckily, that’s where the acronym comes into play.

S = Specific

Let’s say you want your NPS score to be 50. OK, but try to be a little more specific. Is your company-wide target 50? What about division by division? Should all divisions aim for 50, or will the target be higher or lower for certain departments? Will you also have response rate and close-loop KPI targets as well? (you should!)

Be as specific as possible when creating targets to avoid any grey areas – especially when it comes time to determine if you have met them or not!

M = Measurable

This is the easiest of all the SMART parameters when it comes to your NPS program. NPS by nature is measurable. So are response rates and close-loop KPIs. If you are setting targets around any of these metrics, they should by default be measurable. If they’re not, take a step back because something’s probably not right!

A = Achievable

You should avoid setting targets that would be physically impossible to reach, like an NPS of 110. In seriousness, do make sure you set a target that you truly believe can be reached, and that you have the resources to physically achieve. You don’t want your team feeling like they were set up to fail.

Do also make sure you have the resources available to make your targets achievable. If you plan on closing the loop with detractors and firefighting, ensure you have a team with the bandwidth to perform those activities. Otherwise, you may have a hard time improving your NPS score.

R = Realistic

If your NPS score last year was a 12, it would be slightly unrealistic to set a goal of 50 for this year. Even the most impressive NPS score programs typically don’t see more than a 10-15 point increase over the course of a year; anything more than that is an anomaly.

Improving your NPS score by 5 points over a year, or even less, especially if you send a large number of surveys, should still be considered a noteworthy achievement. So be realistic with the targets you set. Remember that NPS scores can only range from -100 to 100, and it is rare to be on the far end of either spectrum. There are a limited amount of scores you can improve to, so don’t be expecting to gain 30+ NPS points in just 1 year!

T = Time-Bound

It may seem obvious, but a target is relatively pointless if it’s not time-bound by a deadline. Otherwise, you’d always be able to say, “Sure, I’ll hit my NPS target of 50…eventually.”

Your targets need to be time-bound, not only to hold yourselves accountable, but also because as mentioned above in “Realistic,” they help determine how high you should set your goal. Do you plan on hitting your target in the next quarter? Within the next 6 months? By the end of the year?

A 30-point NPS gain might be unrealistic as a 1-year target, but for a 3-5 year target, now it makes more sense. Making your targets time-bound is the last step in ensuring that you have set SMART targets for your organization.

In Closing

By setting SMART targets in your organization for NPS, response rates, etc., you are creating the framework for which you can evaluating the success of your program. You are also encouraging the active improvement of your Customer Retention program, which in turn, sets the pathway for driving internal improvement throughout your entire organization. So be the maker of change, and set (and track) those targets!

About the Author

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Ian Luck
Ian has been in the CX market for over a decade evangelizing best-practices and strategies for increasing the ROI of customer programs. He loves a loud guitar, a thick non-fiction book, and a beach day with his family. You can catch him around the north shore of Boston, MA.
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