Net Promoter® Score pros and cons: Why use NPS?

What you need to know about Net Promoter® Score criticism before you use it for your business.

What do customers really think of your brand or products? Are they loyal? Do they like you enough to recommend you to their friends?

As a business owner or company manager, these are important topics to sort out. After all, if customers aren’t satisfied with the service they received, or if they don’t like your products, chances are, they won’t be repeat customers.

And, to top it off, with the ease of social media reviews, they could very well spread their negative experience across the internet.

As you’re probably already well aware, it’s definitely in your best interest to understand your customer’s opinions and to quickly address gaps that are causing customer dissatisfaction.

A great, simple way to understand your customers’ level of loyalty is to send out a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey example to your customers. The NPS system seeks to measure not just customer satisfaction, but it gauges whether customers like your company so much that they’d tell their friends about it.

It does this by asking one core question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend [Organization X] to a friend or colleague?”

Customers are asked to rate their answers on a 0-10 scale, which is divided up into three categories:

“Detractors,” “Passives,” and “Promoters.”

  • 0 – 6: Detractors
  • 7 – 8: Passives
  • 9 – 10: Promoters

You can figure out your NPS by using the simple Net Promoter Score calculationNPS Calculator, or—to save time—let SurveyMonkey calculate your NPS for you. When you use our NPS Survey Template, we calculate your Net Promoter Score so you can file away that spreadsheet or track it in Salesforce, and put your energy into a follow-up plan.

Find out if customers are recommending you to others with the NPS survey.

Before you dive in and start deploying your NPS questionnaire, you’re probably wondering: Are there drawbacks to the NPS system? As with any substantial customer surveying program your company takes on, you should definitely understand the pros and cons.

To help you sort through it all, we’ll cover the common criticisms of the NPS program, and we’ll discuss the differences between it and other common measurement tools, such as the sample Customer Satisfaction Score Survey (CSAT).

Let’s start off by examining the positive aspects of the NPS system, and look at ways it can help your company if you apply the findings to your business practices.

The NPS online poll does not require a statistician to administer it. The example survey question is based around one idea—whether your customers like your company enough to recommend it. It often includes a few follow-up questions to help you understand why people would recommend/would not recommend your brand

You can easily send it out to customers through email or post it on your website, and the calculation formula is intuitive and only requires a basic spreadsheet to calculate. Or, if you use SurveyMonkey’s NPS template, we’ll handle the math for you! Learn how to calculate your Net Promoter Score.

When those in the executive suite at your company are looking for an easy, big-picture gauge of customer loyalty, the NPS works. Not only do Net Promoter Scores help a company see how it’s doing against the competition, but managers can use it to see how one department’s services are doing against other departments. For example, does the tech service division receive higher scores than the field-service department? If so, how can the company improve so that all of the departments are getting equal, high scores? A NPS is also a great way to address issues before they arise.

The NPS questionnaire breaks scores down into three customer categories: Promoters, Detractors, and Passives. The categories make it easy to classify a customer’s level of loyalty, and it gives everyone in your company the same language when referring to customers. 

Do you have a large group of Promoters who should post reviews or participate in a focus group? Are there Detractors who you need to follow up with? The system makes it easy to tell customers apart. Also, assessing your business with quantitative language offers definitive results—leaving no room for misinterpretation. 

The NPS isn’t just a great measure of customer loyalty—having high marks can also lead to business growth. Numerous studies, including those conducted by the Harvard Business Review, Satmetrix, and Bain & Company, have found that there is a strong correlation between high Net Promoter Scores and revenue. The research shows that when companies adopt the NPS question, and use it as a key metric, it helps drive business growth as the company becomes more focused on improving the score. A NPS is a great way to monitor the health of your business in terms of customer satisfaction and internal operations. 

A key component of the NPS program is that it’s a standard measurement used by companies worldwide—so you can easily benchmark your Net Promoter Score and see where you stand against your biggest competitors. Your score gains relevance in the context of other scores within your industry.

For example, if your NPS is 61, but your industry average is 70, you know that, relative to your competition, you have work to do. Likewise, if your score is 70, but your competitors all have scores in the low 60s, you know you’re rating well with customers. 

Get the context you need to make even smarter decisions when you compare the results of your NPS survey against SurveyMonkey Benchmarks.

Having a high score doesn't mean it's time to get comfortable. On the contrary, achieving a high NPS is an opportunity to send out another survey and ask your Promoters how you can improve your business. This approach shows customers you care about meeting their needs even after they've purchased your product or service. It also enforces your Promoters to remain Promoters and not slip into the Passive category. Research how NPS helps increase customer loyalty. 

Free benchmark data report

Get the context you need to make even smarter decisions when you compare the results of your NPS survey against SurveyMonkey Benchmarks.

As you can see, there are many “pluses” in the NPS camp. But there might also be some limitations. Let’s visit some of the Net Promoter Score criticisms.

Critics of the Net Promoter Score say that, while it may help you understand customer loyalty, it doesn’t specifically identify the reasons why your customers may be Detractors. To understand why your customers don’t like certain aspects of your company, make sure you follow up with more specific market research surveys or customer satisfaction example surveys. You can always find solutions when you ask the right questions. Research sample survey questions and examples to help build your next NPS survey. 

The Net Promoter Scores that your business receives are similar to a mirror of your company. If your company’s reflection is disheveled, unshaven, and messy, it may be uncomfortable to look into that mirror–especially if you don’t have a razor or comb around to clean up the mess.

Sending out a NPS questionnaire is a great first step to understanding customer loyalty, but to really make the NPS system effective, you need to be prepared with a follow-up plan. Say that your scores come back really low. What’s your next step? Will you send out more detailed surveys to pinpoint the issues? Do you have the resources in place to fix the broken logistics that may be leading to customer dissatisfaction? 

Make sure you map out a customer experience plan to address any issues your Net Promoter Scores reveal. And get the ultimate guide to “The Ultimate Question.”

As part of your due-diligence process, you may be wondering, “But what about the other types of customer surveys out there, such as the CSAT?”

That’s a fine consideration.

The CSAT survey sample and the NPS are two of the most commonly used instruments to measure customer opinions, but they capture different types of data, and are typically used for specific purposes. So before you choose, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you want to measure the likelihood of customers returning?

If so, use the NPS. Since it tracks whether customers would refer your company, it’s a good gauge of whether they, themselves, would use your company’s services again.

Do you want to know how loyal your customers are to your brand? Are they easily swayed by other brands, or do they like your brand so much that they’ll consistently choose it?

The NPS is your friend here. It’s one of the most common instruments to measure customer loyalty.

Have you recently implemented a new training program for your employees? Are you trying to measure customer service, specifically?

If so, the CSAT is a good way to measure changes as a result of training or a new program. Send the CSAT online poll before the training and after it to measure any changes.

Are you looking to measure your customer’s overall perception about your company? Do you want to know if your company has met your customer’s expectations?

The CSAT questionnaire is a great tool for this—it is designed to give you a holistic view of customer satisfaction.

It’s easy to get started with your NPS survey—we have the pre-designed template ready for you. Just sign in to SurveyMonkey, or create a free account to get started! Make sure you take advantage of our free benchmarking report, following the study, so you can see how your score stacks up against the competition.

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

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