Survey Says: Get it Right with Net Promoter Score


Ross Kramer

Customer feedback is imperative for the growth of your business. Whether it’s product or service related, you need to understand how customers feel about their interaction with your organization. Marketers understand the value, which is why they spend time surveying customers online after purchases are made and through scheduled e-mails deployed at regular intervals; not to mention meticulously searching Twitter and Facebook posts throughout the day to monitor both positive and negative comments. Receiving feedback is timely and costly, and results are typically so skewed that it’s unwise to take decisive action based on the data.

The biggest flaws with e-mail and online surveys are the number and type of questions asked. Most customers would be happy to provide feedback if it:

  • Didn’t take up too much of their time; and
  • Gave them the opportunity to express themselves openly and honestly.

Questions such as “How did you hear about us?,” “How easy was our website to navigate?,” and other marketing-related questions do not belong in surveys. First of all, that information is available through web analytics — and it will be more accurate from this source as well. Also, these questions are meaningless to customers, so few of them will take the time to answer.

And, while it might be tempting to survey your customers on everything from product selection to customer service knowledge to the size and color of your shopping cart icon, doing so is a mistake. The more questions you ask, the fewer responses you’ll get.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop asking your customers for feedback. It just means that you have to find a better way.

One minute, two questions

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was developed several years ago to solve this problem. The concept is simple. A single question — “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” — lets you know how your customers feel about your organization. Based on a scale of 0 (not likely at all) through 10 (extremely likely), responses are broken down into three categories. Customers who answer 0-6 are called detractors, as they are clearly unsatisfied. Customers who answer 7-8 are passive, as they don’t have strong feelings either way. And customers who answer 9-10 are your promoters. They’re the customers who love your brand and sing your praises.

To calculate your NPS, simply subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. For example, if you receive 50 responses one month and 32 (64 percent) are promoters and 10 (20 percent) are detractors, your NPS is +44. The number isn’t a percentage as your NPS is either positive or negative.

The higher the score, the better. But it’s important to measure your score against your industry results to help you gain an understanding of how you are doing compared to your competitors, since some industries, such as health care, have relatively low scores across the board.

This question alone doesn’t provide actionable information, nor does it tell you how likely customers are to buy from you again. So we recommend using a simple follow-up question: Why?

Using open-ended questions in surveys is generally frowned upon as the responses are difficult to track and measure. However, asking customers why they answered the first question gives them the opportunity to express how they feel about anything and everything related to your organization. You can learn more from this one question than from 100 other standard survey questions; and, more importantly, customers will take the time to tell you their thoughts. You can see how valuable this information is. Imagine responses such as:

How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 9

Why? I was on a tight deadline and accidentally exited your program without saving my work. I called support, and in less than five minutes was shown where the auto-saved version of my report was located. What a lifesaver!
How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 7

Why? I was locked out of my account. It was after hours and your online chat feature wasn’t available, and I had to wait several minutes on hold to speak to a rep. The issue was resolved right away, but you should have other support issues available after hours.

How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 2

Why? Your online help manual didn’t answer my questions, so I tried your online chat feature. That person couldn’t help me, so I called and waited on hold for five minutes before speaking to someone for less than a minute. He transferred me to someone else, and again I waited on hold for several minutes. The next person couldn’t help, either. I was finally transferred to someone who could help, but the rep, John Smith, was extremely rude. I hope I don’t have to call again.

These responses provide real feedback you can use to improve your customer service department and online support materials.
Closely Monitor Responses

Unlike other surveys, you can’t simply dump these results into a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers. Each response must be read and carefully considered. It’s a good idea to respond, personally, where appropriate, to let customers know that you value their feedback and the time they took to respond.

Over time, you’ll discover what your customers love about your organization and what you can do to improve. No other survey provides that kind of actionable input.

— Ross Kramer is a co-founder and CEO of Listrak. He has nearly 15 years of executive leadership, successfully launching and directing three technology start-ups. Kramer is a thought-leader within the online marketing community, lending his expertise to conferences, seminars, articles, blogs and webcasts. Listrak provides engaging e-mail solutions, services and software to help online retailers maximize revenue and customer interaction. Find us online at or call us at 877-362-4556 to learn more.