How to get customers to recommend you to others.Customers who are unhappy tell their friends about it. With social media, that information spreads  faster than ever before.

We also know that some customers who are happy tell their friends, write reviews and spread the word using traditional new internet techniques as well.

The real challenge is how to turn satisfied customers into these ‘advocates’ or ‘promoters’.  An advocate actively spreads positive word of mouth about their experiences. An advocate can help your organization obtain new customers and prospects.

American Express has been focused on improving the number of customers who are ‘promoters’ and would recommend them to family and friends. Here is how they changed their culture to accomplish this mission.

1. Invest in Relationship Building

American Express changed the way they view their service center from a cost center to an investment in relationship building. This is a significant change in management attitude and focus.

2. Change the nature of every service transaction

American Express removed scripts from their customer service organization. They trained their staff to focus on how they deal with the transaction. The style is conversational, personal and customized to the individuals involved. American Express provides their front line staff with extensive data about the customer on the phone. That enables them to interact in a more human, personal way.

3. Job title change

American Express changed the names of their service professionals to customer care professionals. The name change supports the style expected from the representatives: caring about customers.

 4. Measurements Change

American Express stopped measuring the amount of time a customer care professional spent on the phone. The focus changed to satisfying the customer and building the relationship with the customer. The key measurement of the customer care professionals and their management chain up to senior management is the Net Promoter Score. Productivity indicators are also used and aggregate up the management chain as well.

5. Revised training of Customer Care Professionals

In the past, American Express had focused 75% of their training of front line staff on how to ‘technically’ complete the transaction with the customer. The new training focuses on human skills (conversation and engagement)  and building relationships.


American Express has been able to quantify the following benefits:

1. Positive Promoters have been shown to increase spend by 10 to 15%.

2. Positive Promoters have a 4-5 times increase in retention.

3. The operating expenses  of the service department have gone down.

Here’s an interview of Jim Bush, American Express EVP of world service, explaining these concepts.



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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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