Why Your Net Promoter Survey Program Is Failing

Has the Ultimate Question turned into the Ultimate Letdown for you?

Has the Ultimate Question turned into the Ultimate Letdown for you?

Lots of businesses, large and small, have jumped on the Net Promoter® Score (NPS) bandwagon as a means to gauge and improve their customer loyalty.  They embed the Net Promoter “ultimate question” into customer surveys (how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague) and – voila! – they wait for the raving fans to shower them with love.

And then they keep waiting…  and waiting…  and waiting…  baffled as to why their Net Promoter score doesn’t budge.

It’s a conundrum that’s all too common.  Companies embrace Net Promoter as a measurement elixir to cure all ills, and then are disappointed with the outcome.

Now don’t get us wrong — we think Net Promoter is a very valuable business tool on a variety of levels.  But here’s the catch:  the most important component of a successful Net Promoter program has nothing to do with Net Promoter.  No matter what loyalty metric you favor – success revolves not around the score, but rather, what you do with it.

While it’s nice to know that a customer is likely to recommend your business, that information is essentially meaningless unless you understand the rationale behind the score.  The same holds true for dissatisfied customers:  getting a low rating is bad; not knowing why you got that rating is much, much worse.

Which brings us to the key element that separates successful customer feedback programs from failed ones:  Presuming you’ve structured your customer surveys so you not only have a score, but also the rationale for it – then what do you do?

If your answer resembles something like “file it” or “pass it onto another department” – then thanks for playing and enjoy your extended stay in the land of mediocrity.

The better answer is to actually do something meaningful with the information.

Distill the key themes from the survey results.  Pinpoint the top three reasons people cite for being brand advocates, and the top three reasons they cite for being brand terrorists.  And then act on it.  Do everything in your power to institutionalize the business practices that create fans, and fix those that create detractors.

Calculating an NPS score, or any type of customer rating, is easy.  Teasing out insights from the score and using them to drive change – that’s more difficult, but far more energizing for your business.


Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.


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