Is Net Promoter Score (NPS) All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

October 6, 2020|

By Iris Lee

customer service net promoter score

In customer service, what gets measured gets improved.

Everyone agrees that in order to keep ramping up a business, you need to get into the mind of your customers. How do they feel about your brand? Are they raving about it enough to refer it to their friends? These are questions you must constantly have the answers to. And one of the widely-known surveys to get such customer insights is the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

What exactly is a Net Promoter Score?

An NPS is a type of survey designed to measure how likely your customers will recommend your company to others. It asks the single question:

“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

If you’re not entirely familiar with how NPS works, check out this guide from SurveyMonkey.

Since its inception in 2003, companies worldwide consider NPS as a standard measurement of customer loyalty. No wonder plenty of organizations have quickly adopted this popular customer satisfaction metric. However, there’s been both positive and negative feedback surrounding the use of NPS.

Is Net Promoter Score Really as Important and Useful as They Say?

The answer is yes. There’s definitely value to it — but not on its own. You see with NPS, you only get a general glimpse of whether your customers are happy or not. While it gives you a snapshot of your customer’s overall experience, the rest of the picture is missing.

How will you fix a problem if you can’t pinpoint what’s causing it? This will obviously be a big stumbling block for anyone.

You may find that a percentage of your customers are detractors (meaning they fall under the group that isn’t so fond of your company, to say the least). But then, your NPS results don’t specifically tell you why your customers feel that way. It may have something to do with your product features, your customer service channels, etc. You’re kind of left in the dark and stuck with very limited data.

It’s why in my opinion, NPS works best when coupled with follow-up questions.

Supplementing Your NPS With Follow-Up Questions

If your customer gives a score that falls under passive or detractor, you can automatically display one to two follow-up questions. The key here is being able to dig in deeper.

So how can you frame your follow-up questions? One example would be:

“We’d love to be able to serve you better by knowing where we fell short. What is the primary reason for your score?”

Then lay-out a picklist of general reasons that may have led them to give a low rating. It could be product performance, slow customer service, staff behavior, payment issues, and so on. In addition, make sure to include “Others” and a text box beside it as one of your options. This comes in handy when their answer doesn’t fall under any on your list of reasons.

You might be wondering why I’m suggesting a picklist instead of a good old text field? Well, a picklist is extremely helpful later on when you’re trying to convert those data responses into a meaningful report. Imagine manually counting and sorting the number of customers who gave a low score pertaining to slow service (but they’re typed in a bunch of different ways since you decided to use text field). If you use a picklist, counting the number of people who have the same reasons becomes piece of cake.

If you want to take it up a notch, this is where you can add a second follow-up question that’s open-ended. Using the what, why, or how. This time, give your customers the opportunity to explain in more detail why they’re dissatisfied. You could ask something like:

“Your opinion means a lot to us. Would you mind sharing additional details so we can make this right for you?”

Another tip is to take your time in crafting effective follow-up questions. Because when it comes to dealing with customers — if you confuse them, you lose them. Ask the right questions in a way that’s clear and concise so you don’t lose the chance in learning about what your customers are really thinking.

Overall, supplementing your NPS with effective follow-up questions will give you a wider perspective. You’ll know why some customers aren’t raving about your company and most importantly — what you can do to win them back before they churn.

Get The Bigger Picture By Using NPS Alongside Other Surveys

I’ve worked with clients where I had the opportunity to help them develop and improve their customer service teams, including how they conduct customer surveys. And here’s what I noticed — the valuable insights you get from a Net Promoter Score can be further amplified when paired with other tried-and-tested surveys like CSAT or CES.

CSAT stands for customer satisfaction survey. Just like NPS, it’s also commonly used by companies of all sizes. But unlike the Net Promoter Score, CSAT is not based on a single question. You can use as many as you need to (as long as they’re relevant) and ask questions concerning your product, service, and overall experience. This kind of survey is usually sent right after a specific customer interaction. After a customer makes a purchase from you or reached out to your customer service team for assistance. Here’s a link that talks more about CSAT and how to implement it.

On the other hand, CES stands for customer effort score. It generally uses a single question like NPS. It measures how much effort a customer needs to exert to get their questions answered, requests fulfilled, or an issue resolved. You can expect to see CES surveys also sent out after specific key moments in the customer journey. Example questions are:

“On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to sign up for our trial?”

“On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy did [company name] make it for you to solve your problem today?”

If you don’t want to drown in too many customer surveys and depending on your company’s needs, you can opt for combining your NPS with only one survey. The results? You’ll end up with a more holistic view of your customer’s entire experience with your brand.

Timing Is Everything

Another reason why a company might not get the best out of their NPS efforts can boil down to timing. Net Promoter Score is more relational than transactional (though it can still be used for the latter). It’s typically used to know the overall loyalty of your customers across their entire relationship with your company — not at a specific time of an interaction or milestone. There are way better surveys for that like CSAT and CES.

Why do you ask?

Because customer loyalty isn’t always tied to a single interaction. Just like trust, it is built over time. Every purchase, interaction, and solution creates that foundation brick by brick. The consistent and authentic experience you give to customers throughout your relationship with them will be the basis of whether they’ll be part of your loyal tribe.

So how often should you send out an NPS survey?

A common practice is sending a Net Promoter Score survey every 3, 6, or even as long as 12 months. It depends on what kind of business you’re in and the products or services you provide.

Lastly, a quick caveat. Don’t start blasting your customers with an NPS survey too early in their lifecycle. Give them the time needed to fully experience your brand especially if you’re in the service industry. I’d say the minimum is one month to kick off your NPS survey and get more accurate results.


Net Promoter Score is a powerful method to gauge the level of satisfaction you’re giving to your customers. Just be mindful of partnering it with other questions and surveys to transform your NPS into actionable insights. After all, the main purpose of why you survey customers is to take action towards improvement.

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