How do you keep a good thing going? (An Ode to NPS)

by Ashley Alongi February 16, 2017

At TaxJar, we’re a happy bunch. We like to have fun, but one thing we also all like to do, is work (well, work at TaxJar!). Someone very wise once told me that “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” And while I can’t speak for the everyone, I know that for a lot of us, that really is quite true, and we’re lucky to have found what we love here at TaxJar.

TaxJar Team jarFest 5

Here we all are, loving what we do.

So when you love where you work, and love what you do, what’s the next important thing?
You want to make sure it stays that way.
At TaxJar, we’ve got an amazingly talented group of folks on the team, with a shared common drive, a massive, worthwhile problem to solve, and great pride in providing our customers with the best experience we can.
But what happens if we miss the mark and all that goes away? How can we make sure that all the things we love about TaxJar last for years to come?
The answer is that we just need to figure out how to stay the best damn sales tax solution for eCommerce businesses. Nothing to it, right?

Customers Come First

We’ve built our business on our ability to walk in our customer’s shoes, listen to their thoughts, and act on their product recommendations and suggestions.  And we’re not about to stop doing that anytime soon. (None of us really want to go job searching).  
At TaxJar, we truly mean it when we say that we are fanatical about making our customers happy. On a typical day, we communicate with over 100 customers!  Every employee at TaxJar is not only trained on customer success, but spends at least an hour every other week handling support tickets. It’s our philosophy that the customer comes first, and every employee contributes to the success of our customers. Customer happiness is our focus, and we’ll never stray from that.

Two-Way Communication is Key

So what next? How do we know if we’re doing a good job with those customers? Like many other SaaS companies, we rely on Net Promoter Score (NPS) to quantify how we’re doing.
Companies use NPS as a way to allow customers to rate their offering from 0 to 10, with plenty of space for feedback.
There are a million articles out there around why NPS is either the right or wrong metric for measuring customer satisfaction. At TaxJar, we really don’t overthink it. We’ve found it’s been a relatively easy way for us to measure customer satisfaction, so we use it. And we really love it.

NPS as a Fundraising Tool

TaxJar’s history with NPS dates back to before most of us worked here.  Early on at TaxJar, the plan was to self-fund the business until we were able to prove product market fit.  The keyword there is “prove.” To do that, we decided to use NPS. A NPS score of 100 is perfect, and a world class score is 70. We sent a survey to our first 100 customers, and were rewarded with an NPS score of 90!
Now, before we sound all braggy pants, we realize there are plenty of reasons this score was likely inflated. We forged close relationships with our earliest customers so we could understand their needs and build exactly the product they wanted.  We knew them like they were family, and family is generally pretty lenient when it comes to scoring. Even with those factors in mind, our initial NPS score was enough to prove that we could build a product that the market wanted.
Cynthia Stine TaxJar Testimonial
Equally as important, NPS gave us a valuable data point that we used to go out and pitch angel investors for our first round of funding. Our NPS score was front and center of our story, corroborating that we had found product market fit.

NPS for Customer Relationships

Fast forward three years later, we now measure NPS on a quarterly basis, using an NPS tool called Each time we send out a batch of NPS emails, we do two things:

  • Ask for our NPS grade “On a scale of 0-10 how likely would you be to recommend TaxJar to friends or family?”
  • More importantly, we follow up and ask “WHY?”

TaxJar’s current NPS score is 50.
Okay, but what does that mean? On the standard NPS scale, our score is considered “GREAT.” But you could argue that we’re even better than great considering the industry of tax & accounting generally earns low NPS scores. (I suppose back office solutions just aren’t that sexy.)
So now we know our customers are happy with us, but what do you do with that feedback when you receive it?
We spend time reading every single response one-by-one as they come in. If a customer gives us a 10, we thank them, and ask why we earned a 10. If a customer gives us a zero, we apologize and ask what we can do to earn a better score. Ultimately, we want to know how we can get them to a 10. Often times, this turns into a dialogue around that customer’s needs, and how we can improve our product to support them.

TaxJar NPS Score 0

We can’t win ’em all

See what we did there? We use every NPS response as an opportunity to build on that specific customer’s personal relationship with TaxJar.
We’ve become fairly sophisticated in our ability to track these customer conversations, prioritize their requests, turn them into features, and communicate back to those customers when we’ve launched changes for them.

So how does this keep TaxJar at the top of our game?

Six months ago, at our last company retreat, we put our heads together and came up with a revised product and marketing roadmap built entirely around focusing on what’s most important to our customers and what we’ve learned from our NPS surveys.

TaxJar Net Promoter Score

Some very serious strategizing going on. Can you spot Waffles the pug’s cameo?

Together we made the goal to go all-in as a company on fixing one BIG gap in our product offering, and transforming it from an “okay” experience to a top-of-the-line “TaxJar-worthy experience.”
It was a bold move for us to divert our resources to this project. There’s always a bit of uncertainty when you have to say “no” to nineteen other important things in order to do one BIG thing really well. But as I mentioned before, we have to listen to our customers and take action if we want to remain the best sales tax solution out there. It’s not rocket science. If we don’t continue to improve and innovate with our product, our loyal customers won’t stick around.
Fast forward a few months, and now we’ve been able to release an early beta of our “new hotness” to a few of our customers. (You’ll learn more about it soon, but it’s secret sauce for now.) After these folks were able to use our new and improved TaxJar experience, we measured their NPS replies vs. our normal baseline, and what we saw was pretty incredible…
Our NPS score went from a 50 to a 72!

Our dedication to providing our customers with the experience that they have been asking for has validated our commitment to keeping TaxJar great. And now we’re able to enjoy the awesome experience of showing our customers how a GREAT product can be elevated to WORLD CLASS by listening and adapting to what they want! This is why we love working at TaxJar each day.

NPS as a Unifying Company Motivator

Most companies at our stage would be thrilled to have a score that is considered GREAT, but we’re a big bunch of overachievers, and we knew we could do better. TaxJar is a world class team, and we are passionate about the HOURS we’re saving small business owners across the country. The pursuit of an NPS goal to match the passion we have for our customers is powerful way to unite a fully-distributed team.
To circle back to why I’m writing this post, we’re all working at TaxJar because we love it. Nobody makes us get up and go to work each day (literally— remember, we’re totally remote!), but the absolute most satisfying thing about having a job that you love is being able to keep that job by serving your customers the best way that you can. To do that, we know we must delight our customers with an experience that blows them away. So that’s how here at TaxJar we’re staying on top of our game, and now that we’ve shown that we’re on the right path to a world class solution for our customers. Watch out, world!

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