Several months ago, I read The Ultimate Question, a book from Fred Reichheld about how to measure your company in relation to how likely your customers are to recommend you to a friend or family member.  The result is what he calls your Netpromoter score.  The book represents a good reminder for companies on how important it is to focus on customer service, especially in an era where cost cutting is increasingly leading to consumer rage (a topic BusinessWeek recently explored).  Though the book defines the three categories of promoters, passives, and detractors — all promoters are not created alike.  Asking someone if they would recommend you and be a promoter is a different question than whether or not they do proactively recommend you when the opportunities arise, without being asked.  All promoters are not evangelists.  Evangelists are customers who go out of their way to promote your product or service.  They actively correct misperceptions.  They don’t just sit by when someone has already decided to purchase a competitive product.  They take it personally when someone buys something else.  This is the description of a hyper-satisfied customer.  A brand evangalist.

Understanding your hyper-satisfied customers is not based on a single question.  It is based on action and content that they create online, or discussions that they create through word of mouth.  The interesting point about this, is that it can be very different from the Netpromoter score.  If, for example, you have a high number of satisfied (but minimally vocal) customers – chances are you will score highly for the ultimate question, yet low on hyper-satisfaction because you don’t have those passionately vocal supporters countering arguments from detractors.  The trick is to get as many of your satisfied customers as possible to be hyper-satisfied, and therefore more likely to become brand evangalists.  Put simply, it’s about getting more people who love you (instead of just really like you) to be more vocal than the inevitable people who hate you.  Companies whose reputation are hit hard online, like Dell and Wirefly, have been unable to do this.  The ultimate question, it seems, is how to foster more customers who are willing to take ownership of brand and passionately defend and evangelize it to the world.