NPS: Not Particularly Sufficient

Net PromoterSystem® (NPS®) is an old standard that is still highly adopted. But over the past three years, we have put the NPS question to the test and found it is no longer the only number you need to grow your business. 

In terms of technology, 1993 is nearly prehistoric. Microsoft Windows NT was just released and Mosaic popularized the Web. It would be five years before Netflix started mailing out DVDs. Google wasn’t formed until a decade later. But 1993 is when NPS, today’s most widely adopted measurement standard for customer experience was first created, and it is still going strong

It is a decent enough means of benchmarking performance, assuming that the groups being benchmarked are using the same methods, wording, graphics and request timing to collect the NPS feedback. To drive that point home, using the same question doesn’t always yield the same results.

Here are some NPS survey tips:

  1. Colorizing the questions, such as using red, yellow and green will produce better results than those without. 
  2. The timing of the survey will cause different results. For instance, if a car dealer asks a customer the “Likely to Refer” question as they are driving their new car off the lot, they will get better results than asking the same question a week later, when the new car smell is wearing off and the customer still can’t figure out how to connect their phone with Bluetooth.
  3. The front-line person interacting with the customer can manipulate the results. If an employee discusses the survey with the customer and persuades them to complete it, this level of engagement will yield both higher completion rates and higher scores.

At SocialSurvey we conducted a side-by-side comparison of NPS and an Overall Satisfaction question. In the Overall Satisfaction question, we ask customers to self-report with ‘Great Experience,’ ‘Just OK,’ or ‘Unpleasant Experience’ options. We asked customers both questions and received over 200,000 responses. One interesting data point is that over 2.5% of the respondents reported that they had a great experience, but answered eight on the “likely to refer” question, making them passive on that scale. Just over 10% of the test group selected that they had an OK experience, but answered the NPS question with a six.

While we offer the NPS question to customers, we are not passionate about it either way. It only fits if it is important to the business for benchmarking or to measure against a previous data set.  

NPS is said to be a great predictor of growth. Basically, if you have bad NPS scores, then your customers are not happy and you probably have products, people and processes to fix. If you have great scores, your customers are happy and they’ll be back—and may bring their friends. Additionally, you can parse their comments and likely figure out where to focus your improvement. 

Whether or not NPS is a predictor of growth is not the right question. The right question is, “Is NPS a great DRIVER of growth?” The answer is, not really. Of course, employees knowing that the survey is being sent can somewhat modify behavior. But NPS isn’t intended to measure individual interactions or experiences. The magic happens when survey questions are specifically about a client’s interaction with an individual employee, and the responses are put into motion to drive improvement in real time.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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