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Why Net Promoter Score isn't totally perfect

Posted by Ethan Hawkes on Aug 22, 2017 10:41:16 AM
Ethan Hawkes
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We’ve touted the greatness of the Net Promoter Score, also known as the NPS score, before. In fact, we think every business should have the question on their survey somewhere.

Since 1985, and even on our own website, it's been lauded as "The Ultimate Question." But, call me a Skeptical Susan,* while it may be ultimate -- it’s not perfect. First, a brief catch-up on how the NPS works (skip this if you know how it works and you haven’t already been distracted by the large fonts down below).

The Net Promoter Score questions participants on how likely they'll recommend your services to friends or family with a 10 point scale. From this, you can find the number of your detractors (0-6), passives (7-8), and promoters (9-10).

Detractors are customers who are likely speaking negatively about your product to friends and family, while promoters are those who are out evangelizing your business to their peers. Who doesn't like free promotion?

To find the actual NPS number subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters and you will see if your business is growing or shrinking. Any number above 0 is good, but 50 is considered excellent.

This sounds great in theory, but there are a few flaws to keep in mind when using the NPS score question in your survey. 

It doesn't give the reasons why

NPS is a great thermometer for finding out the health of a business but, just like a real thermometer, it doesn't do much more than that. For example, the conference room at SurveyMe’s office is 82 degrees, but is it because someone (Amber most likely) turned off the air condition or because the sun is poking through the windows?

This is easy to discover if you're in the room where the problem is occurring. However, if you're judging your business’ health off of a number from a survey, you need to obtain more information to get the whole picture and make your survey results actionable.

Luckily there's an easy way to solve this. The best way to follow up a NPS survey question is with an open-ended question asking the participant why they rated the way they did.

This allows you to find out what part of your business is bothering your detractors so that maybe you can convert them into promoters!

Another method, if you forget to add a follow up question, is to run a whole other survey including the question, “What’s one thing we can do to improve our business?”

To get survey question ideas, download our Ebook, “Best Survey Questions for Any Business.”

You can't predict the future and neither can your customers

"How likely are you to recommend us to friends and family?" Just because someone says they will tell their friends and family about your service or product, doesn't mean they actually will.

Someone who leaves a rating of 10 may not actually evangelize to anyone else. The same goes for your detractors.

Personally, I've bought a few products off of Amazon that I found "life changing." I would totally give some of them a great review so others can improve their lives, but I just have so many other things I want to do in life and not enough time.

Sure, your customers may like your business well enough, but will they bother telling other people about it? NPS is a great indicator of customer satisfaction -- but not always growth.

Actually….

NPS rates satisfaction, not loyalty

We've written a few times about how important customer loyalty is. In fact, we think it's the most important type of customer to have and you should spend all your efforts on creating and maintaining loyal customers.

In theory, the number of satisfied customers you have should give you a good idea of your loyal customers, but it’s not 100 percent accurate. Unfortunately, there isn't a better survey question to gauge the loyalty of customers.

The only way to truly know your loyal customers is to use a customer loyalty program such as an email list or reward system. This coupled by an NPS question will give you a more accurate picture than an NPS question alone in the wild.  

Download Guide: How To Create An Effective Survey

*I don't think this is a real alliteration title, but I figured Debbie Downer and Chatty Cathy could use some more friends.  

Topics: Survey Strategies

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