I once spent an 18-month stint in my corporate career as a customer service expert (or at least I pretended very hard to be one and fortunately had fun trying). In that role I espoused the virtues of the Net Promoter Score — which is the gold standard in customer experience metrics and also a guaranteed way to put you to sleep if we keep talking about it — so instead of giving you a boring lesson on NPS I’m just going to cut to the chase.
One of the key questions in an NPS survey (out of only two questions!) is called The Ultimate Question and it goes like this:
How likely is it that you would recommend [Organization X/Product Y/Service Z] to a friend or colleague?
You’ve likely filled out surveys with this question before. You’ve had to think hard if you’d recommend your local Walgreens to a friend… if you’d recommend your doctor to a colleague… if you’d recommend wherever you get your brows done to a friend in desperate need of a bushwhacking. You’ve had to quantify this recommendation on a scale of 0 – 10 (where 10 means, “I’d absolutely and gleefully recommend my gastroenterologist to that new guy in accounting!” and 0 means, “I’m currently litigating my gastroenterologist and while I am not at liberty to comment, I trust you can read between the lines”).
Research is clear that one of the best ways to determine loyalty and satisfaction with a product or service is to go about it in a roundabout way — so not asking outright how much you personally enjoyed the steak dinner or the oil change, but to ask if you’d encourage someone else to go to Ronnie’s Steak Emporium or Jiffy Lube (for the record, I think Jiffy Lube does a bang-up job with service). We tend to evaluate our assessment of a steak or an oil change through a more discerning lens if we’re asked about the likelihood of a recommendation. “If I tell Ali to get the porterhouse steak at Ronnie’s, what will that say about me and my choices? Sure, I liked the steak but I have sketchy standards when it comes to grilled meats. Maybe I’d give Ronnie’s a 6 in terms of my likeliness to recommend it after all.”
What’s the point of all this? If you were sent a survey about your life, how would you answer this edited NPS question?
How likely is it that you would recommend your exact life to a friend or colleague? Think of your adult existence (from the day you turned 18 right up to this very moment). On a scale of 0 – 10, how likely are you to recommend that another 18 year-old live the EXACT life you’ve lived, right down to the minute detail?
Let’s use a graphic to help you out:
So where are you on the scale?
Is the goal to get to a 10? I don’t know. Maybe, but not necessarily (I like perfection but I’m lucid enough to know it’s usually a mirage). Let’s not add to the omnipresent pressure to LIVE LIFE PERFECTLY (yes, in yelling caps)… so maybe 10 isn’t realistic (unless you’re already at a 9.3 and who am I to stop you from levelling up?).
If you’re in the “not recommend” category (under 5 or so), you likely have a few circumstantial things going on (e.g.: bankruptcy, 4th divorce, maybe you really were in a train wreck (and if so I am heartfelt-ily sorry). What’s one small way to live life from today onward that makes you feel alive? What if you started your NPS question timer as of this exact moment in time, washing away the previous carnage?
If you’re in the “recommend” category (over 5 or so), how does your number make you feel? Are you giving yourself a thumbs up in the mirror, or is that voice of sneaking suspicion telling you, “You could be ‘living it up’ more than you are today”? Only you know if that voice is the unrelenting sound of judgment or the gentle nudge of your best self, encouraging you to live with more width and depth. What might it take to notch yourself a half-point on the NPS scale?
This bastardized NPS question is reminiscent of the thought experiments we talked about here, so if you’d like more ways to evaluate your life-lived-thus-far, have at it.
The good news is that you have a choice about how you live from this moment on. You are in control of every single Monday you have left, which means it’s in your control to identify the things that might light your life up, plan them in your calendar, then do them (outdoor concerts! Road trips! Exfoliating spa treatments! Cupcakes! Helping out at your kid’s school! Donating dough to a cause that pulls on your heartstrings! 2003 Monte Bello wine!). It’s within your control to get un-stuck in your colossally crappy job. It’s within your control to uncover a sense of purpose that makes your life feel deep. It’s all there for us. No one said it’d be easy, but we have an enormous swath of choices available to us.
Even if your life has been an unrecommendable shit show thus far, let’s cheers to a totally recommendable life from today onwards. I’m going to find some of those cupcakes.