Loyalty marketers are very familiar with Bain and Co’s lead customer evangelist Frederick Reichheld, and his work The Ultimate Question. In his book he talks about the ultimate question and what it can do for your loyalty and retention programs. But the question in its stated format is not always the way you want to present it. Customization and revision of the question are keys to the system being an effective tool. Below we’ve listed five ways to use the question in specific industries or applications to make it as effective as possible.

How likely are you to encourage a friend or family member to apply for a job here?

This application is for an employee survey that included a few other questions to qualify how well the company was doing to create an environment that made people excited to work there. There are many examples of how the question can be used in both internal and external applications to gauge the success of your retention.

How likely are you to talk to your family about your experience here?

We’ve used this variation in a case of an experiential purchase, like a theme park, where the experience was catered to a general consumer level. The question targets a specific core referral group, so we can gather specific referral metrics to the one group, rather than opening it to friends and colleagues. The client wanted to focus on family referrals only. Overall, it’s a good example of how you can target direct referral sources with your question.

How satisfied are you with your experience at company X?

This approach works for a combination of products and services delivered by the company in question. It rates the overall experience. Our follow up question identifies some of the reasons or areas that lead up to the score. The follow up question needs to increased in relevance the more generalized the initial question becomes.

How likely are you to return to Company X for your next product or purchase?

A typical deviation on the question focuses on the product purchased from the company, used when a company might have multiple product offerings and need to articulate each product’s delivery success, or NPS. This is very important when you have a combination of new and old products in service with a customer or client to make sure you are getting the focused feedback you are looking for. You could ask this question in the feedback loops, but we prefer in some cases to ask right away.

On scale of 0-10, rate your impression of Company X’s service to this point.

This method can be used in a multi-stage approach to customer data collection when the purchase cycle has not been completed to gather first impressions and perceptions of the company. Asking the question later on in the purchase cycle can give you some comparative results.

Overall the question can give you some real benchmark data to work with in your customer experience or customer retention efforts. Don’t hesitate to ask!