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Emotions Are Better Tool Than NPS for Understanding Engagement

"Do we trust a process that has proven its superiority over millions of years or an obscure NPS metric that was invented 20 years ago?" asks Timo Järvinen, CEO of the empathy analytics company NayaDaya Inc.

Recommendation has become a common metric that is applied everywhere. It's not hard to see why. The implementation of NPS surveys is easy. It would certainly be great if people's understanding could be handled with a single number and its justification.


In reality, people react to emotions, which are a response mechanism developed by evolution. Emotions guide behavior and decision-making. They are a heritage that is millions of years old and present in all human experience and activity. NPS was invented twenty years ago.


Emotions and Language Are the Key to Understanding People


Emotions have evolved as appropriate responses to certain types of recurring circumstances. Emotions consist of subjective appraisals of objects and events, bodily responses, facial and vocal expressions, action tendencies, and subjective, conscious experiences that we can describe with different words. Conscious experience and language enable us to say that we are experiencing, for example, joy or sadness, satisfaction or disappointment.


Thanks to the evolution of language, people know how to describe the subjective meanings they recognize with simple words. The process is completely intuitive for people who speak different languages. We know that relief means avoiding something undesirable, fear is about uncertainty and threat. We understand, without separate intellectual effort, that compassion is for the distress of others, and sadness for something precious that we have lost.


NPS Has No Intuitive Content


A recommendation is not an emotion that is related to certain types of circumstances or events. It does not have universal appraisal criteria built into the conscious and unconscious mind of a person, which in turn guide the emergence of emotions and behavior. The recommendation describes a certain kind of behavior (recommendation) and does not tell about the content of personal experience.


When the recommendation is justified with free-form arguments, what do people justify? The amount of recommendation (scale 0-10) does not include a certain kind of experience or meaning, which is justified. "Why am I more or less likely to recommend" is clearly a more counterintuitive question than "why do I feel relief or fear." The justifications for the emotion words are guided by the intuition produced by evolution. The recommendations are based on 20 years of customer and employee surveys.


When the respondent justifies a certain NPS number, it is not unambiguously known whether it is a positive or a negative experience in general. The same numbers can appear in connection with both positive and negative emotions. Instead, when the respondent justifies the emotions, we always know what the emotion is – and through the emotions we know exactly their so-called valence value (position on the scale of negative and positive experience).


Recommendation's Impact on Behavior Is Unclear


There are other challenges associated with NPS. The recommendation is behavior – but what kind of behavior? We have studied emotions and recommendations at the same time. Data and scientific analysis have shown that NPS, especially at the top end, does not correlate with engagement. Scores of 7 and 8 ("passives") often indicate more engagement than scores of 9 and 10 ("promoters").


In this context, engagement refers to actions: the probability that a person will act in relation to the cause of the emotion, which can be, for example, an employer or a transformation underway in the company, such as corporate integration.


Instead of engagement, the recommendation correlates with the negative or positive valence of the experience. In traditional satisfaction surveys, respondents take a stand only on valence – in practice, NPS is a satisfaction survey.


Many may not guess that the "detractors" who gave a rating of 0-6 in the NPS survey do not necessarily experience negative emotions. For example, values 5-6 may well occur with positive emotions. In addition, low NPS scores sometimes indicate more lack of emotions and meaninglessness than negative emotions. In general, there are situations where those experiencing negative emotions are in the minority among the "detractors". Therefore, naming the group as "detractor" is not justified. A person who considers a certain matter unimportant is not a critic – not to mention those with the positive emotions.


If, for example, a personnel survey asks about satisfaction or a recommendation, no conclusions can be drawn from the results in relation to employee engagement. One reason can be found in the emotion of satisfaction, which is quite positive as an experience but passivating in its behavioral effect, not engaging. On average, a satisfied person doesn't feel like doing anything. Satisfaction is typical in situations where the work is done and it's time to rest, not when you should roll up your sleeves.


Scientific Model of Emotions Produces Reliable Information


Compared to recommendations, emotions are an excellent tool for understanding experiences and predicting behavior. A common pitfall is that a half-hearted selection of emotions produces poor quality data. The only reasonable way to measure emotions is to use scientific knowledge about the emotion space and the effects of emotions. For this reason, NayaDaya Inc.'s Empathy Analytics® is based on the study method developed at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (Geneva Emotion Wheel). With the help of the method, the understanding of people's experiences is comprehensive, expressive, reliable, and predictive of behavior.


When emotions are combined with intensity, subjective reasoning, and the algorithm that predicts the behavioral impact of emotions, we arrive at what we have been building for years: an intuitive snapshot that tells us what is meaningful to people and how concrete things of different weights affect people's behavior.


Standardized Process for Identifying People Risks and Paying Attention to People


With the help of the process created by millions of years of evolution, simple, concrete, and critical things can be found out in terms of the company's business, transformations, and success. All that is needed is intelligent, efficient, and productized tools and a standardized process that produces repetitive snapshots of, for example, risks related to employee behavior – such as turnover and falling productivity. Subtle, scientific analysis is necessary, but it should not burden the people. That's what NayaDaya and Empathy Analytics® are there for. People's lives should be made easier, not harder.


When comparing different ways of understanding people, it is also worth considering how the process itself is perceived. Asking about the probability of a recommendation is not empathy. The starting point for empathy is to appreciate people's different emotions and perspectives. Empathy Analytics® is not only about novel snapshots that support management and decision-making, but also about the way in which people are valued, listened to, and included.


When people are given a voice and the opportunity to influence, engaging emotions are strengthened and a positive circle is built that benefits both personnel and business. The positive effects come when a concrete understanding of company's or employer's people risks, especially employee turnover, is created.


Timo Järvinen

CEO & Co-founder

NayaDaya Inc.

Tel. +358 40 505 7745


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