Is Your “Net Promoter”
Really “Not Promoter”?

Many firms that claim to “do” Net Promoter, are really doing nothing of the sort.


So, you’ve added the Net Promoter® “likely to recommend” question to your customer surveys.  You’re tracking the results and reporting a Net Promoter Score (NPS) on your Executive Dashboard.

Alas, your company is “doing” Net Promoter – right?

Not quite.  What your company is doing is what a lot of companies do when they jump on the Net Promoter bandwagon – they measure NPS.  But if all you’re doing is measuring NPS, then you’re not really “doing” Net Promoter.

What many people don’t realize is that the actual measurement of NPS is arguably the least important component of a true Net Promoter program.  The hallmark of a robust Net Promoter implementation is what happens after the measurement is made.

That’s when – in Net Promoter parlance – there’s a need to “close the loop” on the measurement.

Closing the loop is about acting (not just reporting) on what you’ve learned from the Net Promoter survey.

This needs to be done at an aggregate level — looking at the themes across all survey responses and translating those insights into operational improvements.

But it also needs to be done on an individual level — initiating some type of follow-up contact with customers based on their survey response (for example, calling a customer who expressed dissatisfaction).

Note that closing the loop isn’t just an academic exercise.  As I’ve written about in the past, your customer surveys are part of your customer experience.  The mere act of following up with survey respondents actually helps enhance their impression of your business (because it’s so rare that a company actually takes that step).

As the popularity of Net Promoter has grown, the origin of the measure – and its foundational principles – often get overlooked.

Fred Reichheld, the creator of NPS, drew his inspiration from Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s “Service Quality Index (ESQi).”  Interestingly, the ESQi survey questions and scale are completely different from NPS.

For Reichheld, however, the real defining characteristic of ESQi was how individual Enterprise branches used the survey data to drive specific operational improvements.  There was (and remains) a strong cultural ethic at Enterprise around closing the loop following any survey exercise.  Reichheld made that discipline a cornerstone of his Net Promoter philosophy.

Net Promoter is a great instrument for facilitating customer experience differentiation.  Just be sure to employ it properly – which means using NPS to manage your business, not just measure it.


Jon Picoult is the founder of customer experience advisory firm Watermark Consulting.  As a consultant and a speaker, he’s worked with the CEOs and executive teams of some of the world’s leading brands.  Learn more about Watermark or follow Jon on Twitter @JonPicoult.

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


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