Reichheld supported his argument with cold facts showing the increased profits and growth that came from a focus on customer retention. He later compiled that material in The Loyalty Effect published in 2001.
His message resonated with me, because I've always believed that if you keep your customers happy, revenue and profits will flow. The fact that it resonated is probably why I remember the talk to this day.
To Reichheld, the ultimate question is "How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?" Responses are scored on a scale of 1 to 10, ranging from 'not at all likely' to 'extremely likely'. The Ultimate Question introduced the concept of a Net Promoter Score which is obtained by subtracting the percentage of people who respond 1-6 from the percentage of those who respond 9-10. In other words, the score is intended to measure the people who really really like your product or company after netting out the people who don't like your product or are indifferent. It's a harsher metric, but one that gives you a better idea of how people really feel. We know that people can err on the side of politeness when answering such polls, so neutrality should really be considered a knock on your product.
The Ultimate Question 2.0 fleshes out the concept with examples of companies who have adopted the Net Promoter Score as the core of their business philsophy. You can't just start surveying people and calculating a Net Promoter Score - that is just a superficial and meaningless approach. You have to follow up with the people who responded to the survey and get to the bottom of why they rated you the way they did.
Reichheld talked about Intuit, the software company behind Quick Books and Turbo Tax software. Intuit has adopted NPS and embedded it deep in their culture. Product designers talk about the Love Factor: at Intuit, it's not enough to keep customers satisfied, you need to make them love the product.
Reichheld acknowledged that he was becoming more moralistic as he grew older. Age gave him the freedom to advocate his ideas, not just because they make good business sense, but simply because they were the right way to treat customers. What a nice philosophy.