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Your guide to crafting the right NPS questions for your business to get deeper customer insights and build loyalty.

Smiling man holding open laptop with chat bubbles and survey screenshot next to him

The Net Promoter Score® (NPS) survey is deceptively simple—it contains just one question. But behind this single question is a long history, plenty of research, and much more information that you should know to use it effectively. 

Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about the NPS question

NPS is a survey methodology meant to gauge the strength of your relationship with your customers and their loyalty to your business. Knowing how much your customers enjoy what your company offers, and how often they sing your praises to others in their network, helps you refine your customer service and product offerings. 

NPS is also a powerful way to build long-lasting relationships with your customers, increasing your revenue and reducing churn. To learn more, see how to use NPS surveys to create the best customer experience

NPS is based on one question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” The survey respondents then rank their likelihood to recommend you on a scale from 0-10, with 0 being “highly unlikely” and 10 being “highly likely.” You can also add an open-ended NPS follow-up question for your respondents to explain why they gave you the rating they did. 

Once your respondents have taken the survey, you’ll separate the ratings into three categories: promoters, passives, and detractors. 

  • Promoters are survey respondents who selected a 9 or a 10. They love your company and products and are highly likely to recommend you. 
  • Passives responded with a 7 or an 8. They like what you offer, but are not particularly loyal and may switch to a competitor easily. 
  • Detractors are those that respond with a 6 or below. They are unhappy with your customer experience and are likely to complain or not return.

Calculating your NPS score is as simple as the NPS question format. You simply subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters: 

% promoters – % detractors = NPS

A score above 50 is considered good, while 70 or higher is truly excellent. We have a complete blog post about measuring NPS scores if you’d like to go into more depth on the data. 

The NPS survey was created by Fred Reichheld in 2003. He was a partner at Bain & Company at the time. He wanted to find a way to measure how well an organization treats the people who do business with it. His creation of the NPS score question introduced a way to measure customer loyalty and “likelihood to refer,” which strongly indicates the relationship between a company and its customers. 

NPS took off among big corporations and small businesses looking for an effective way to gather meaningful customer feedback. It’s popular for a good reason—high NPS has been shown to correlate strongly with customer loyalty, retention, repeat purchases, and referrals. And all of these factors positively contribute to business growth. 

Plus, the simplicity of the NPS question means customers are likely to take a moment out of their day to answer since it’s not a big time commitment. 

Reichheld and his team at Bain tested many different NPS questions to come up with the final NPS question format, using extensive data from Satmetrix. While at first glance, the NPS question might seem too simple to be truly effective, it is backed by extensive research. 

High scores with this NPS question phrasing were strongly associated with markers of business growth like repeat purchases and referrals. A company’s NPS is a good indicator of its future growth. And that’s why NPS has become so highly used among the biggest organizations in the US and worldwide. 

Related: Check out key findings from our Net Promoter Score® survey to help you navigate global, cultural, and social differences in new markets.

The NPS question wording may change slightly, depending on who you’re asking and what you’re asking about. For example, many organizations will use multiple NPS question variations to assess their relationships with clients at multiple touchpoints in the customer journey, and some even survey employees as well. 

In general, NPS survey questions will be either relational or transactional

  • Relational NPS questions measure how your customers feel about your organization as a whole. Relational NPS questions help you get a broad understanding of how your customers perceive your brand and their overall satisfaction. 
  • Transactional NPS (tNPS) questions focus on customer satisfaction in a specific scenario–like after they’ve made a purchase or submitted a ticket to customer support. This gives your teams direct feedback on very specific issues, allows you to measure the effectiveness of your team in terms of customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, optimize each touchpoint to enhance the customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. 

Modifying your NPS question phrasing to match the intent of your survey can help you get more accurate answers from your respondents. Here are a few NPS question examples to guide your survey creation. 

Asking your customers to rate your business is one of the best NPS questions. This is an example of a relational NPS question. It’s simple and it gives you an overview of how customers think of your business as a whole. This question and the comments that follow can give you insight into customer issues or insights that you didn’t even think to ask about specifically.

You can ask: “On a scale from zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend [business name] to a friend or colleague?”

If you’re looking to get more specific information about how customers feel, you can drill down to asking about products or services. You can use this to gauge how customers like a new product offering or an existing service that you’re thinking of making adjustments to. And with the feedback provided, you can make any needed adjustments or upgrades to enhance your customer experience.

You can ask: “On a scale from zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend [product/service] to a friend or colleague?” 

Measuring customer feedback at different points in the customer journey can provide insight into which areas need improvement. For example, sending an NPS survey after a customer interaction, like a store visit or a purchase can tell you what their experience was like. And you can send a survey after they pay a bill or use your online resources to troubleshoot a problem so you can see how those customer touchpoints are going.

You can ask questions like:

  • “Based on your recent purchase, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
  • “Based on your recent interaction, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” 

Asking customers how their experience with a customer support person or team went can yield valuable insights about how your customer service team is performing. You can set up surveys to go out automatically to customers via email or chat after they contact your customer service team so the experience is fresh in their minds. The answers you receive can help you pinpoint performance issues with specific reps or a whole team, or even a process problem. 

You can ask: “On a scale from zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend our customer support service to a friend or colleague?”

NPS surveys aren’t just for your customers - many businesses have started using them to measure employee loyalty as well. Often referred to as eNPS (for employee Net Promoter Score), employee surveys can gauge how much employees enjoy and value working at your company. Employees with high levels of loyalty are less likely to leave your company to find a job elsewhere. And the data you gather from employees can help you adjust unpopular policies, expand popular ones, and get at the root causes of employee dissatisfaction. 

You can ask: “On a scale from zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend [company name] as a place to work to a friend or colleague?”

The beauty of the NPS survey is largely in its brevity, but you can and should ask follow-up, open-ended questions to dig deeper into why customers are or are not satisfied. 

After all, once you know how a customer or employee rates your business, products, or staff, you don’t have all the necessary information to make improvements and adjustments. You need to know why they rated you the way they did. 

That’s where the open-ended NPS survey questions come in. 

There is a standard open-ended NPS question that Reichheld originally created, and it’s still popular with many businesses.

  • “What is the primary reason for your score?” 

This NPS question is beneficial when you’re dealing with passives to detractors. Asking a question based on their reasoning helps get at the root of problems without leading or suggesting something to the respondent that might affect their answer. You’ll get valuable qualitative data along with the quantitative Net Promoter Score. 

Asking for the reason for a customer’s score is also useful for your customer service team when they’re following up with your Detractors. They will know the issue before they even contact the customer and will be able to address it quickly. 

But the classic question isn’t right for every situation. In fact, the best NPS questions are often customized to your needs and clients. Depending on what aim you’re looking to achieve with your NPS survey, you can select the open-ended question that works for your needs. 

You can also set up your NPS survey to ask different open-ended questions to respondents depending on their rating. For example, you won’t want to ask a detractor the same question you’d ask a promoter. 

Using the sophisticated skip-logic options in survey software like SurveyMonkey can help you hone in on the different experiences of your customers. 

Asking promoters to specify why they rated you so highly can yield insights about what your company is doing well. You may discover new aspects of your strengths that you can use to develop future products and services. And you can use this feedback in advertising or as a testimonial. 

Asking this question can surface what’s going wrong—especially for passives and detractors who haven’t had an entirely positive experience with your company. Based on the responses, you’ll be able to prioritize fixes to your products, services, or overall customer experience. 

If you want to learn more about what promoters love about your products, this question is very helpful. You can use it to learn exactly what delights your most loyal customers about your product, and use that information in your marketing strategy and sales process. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to find flaws or faults in your products so you can make improvements, this is a great question. Ask your passives and detractors this question in a product-focused NPS survey. Perhaps a new product isn’t selling as well as you’d hoped, or you’re getting more returns than usual. This question can pinpoint the problem. 

This question accomplishes two important things. First, it helps close the customer feedback loop with your passives and detractors so that you can turn them into satisfied customers and promoters. The phrasing of the question also shows your customers that you care about their happiness and want to delight them, which is a positive experience. 

Getting customer feedback on what dealing with your company is like is important—both when it’s positive and negative. Ask your detractors what was missing that made them rate you so poorly so you can do better next time, and offer a customer service solution to whatever went wrong in the interaction. 

Once you’ve sent your NPS survey to the world, what comes next? You need to gather and analyze your feedback to start taking action. You should take different actions depending on the categories your respondents fall into. 

If you’re sending out hundreds or thousands of NPS surveys every month, you won’t be able to follow up with each respondent personally. And when you get positive or neutral feedback, you really don’t need to—a simple thank you message after they submit their survey is all they expect.  

But when you receive negative ratings and feedback from your detractors, and they mention a specific negative experience, it’s crucial to check in with them. If it’s possible to fix the issue, your customer service representatives should do so. 

Otherwise, offering a sincere apology or a future discount as a peace offering can also be effective. It’s about making your customers feel heard. You might even turn them into a promoter in the process! 

Your CRM or Salesforce system holds a wealth of information about your customers—add their NPS data to the list. What this will look like in practice depends on the capabilities of your CRM. You can typically add NPS ratings, gather verbatim feedback, and track scores over time for individuals and customer segments. 

You can also use your NPS data to determine trends in your ratings. If you consistently receive very low scores from a particular customer demographic (e.g., men 65+) you will now have a pattern to investigate. This could lead to an adjustment in your product, customer service, or your ideal customer profiles. 

Feedback from detractors can be hard to hear, but it’s best to look at it as constructive criticism that helps you solve for weaknesses and flaws in your business. Their feedback can also help you solve their problems proactively before they air their complaints to their network or social media. If you fix the issues fast enough, they may also remain a customer.

Open-ended feedback from your passives tends to be less charged, but it can help you determine why they’re reluctant to recommend your company even though they’re not displeased with your business. You can use this feedback to solve pain points that keep customers from becoming enthusiastic referrers. 

And feedback from your promoters isn’t just great to hear—it can also help strengthen your company. Promoters often point out your business’s strengths and what you’re already doing well so you can build on that foundation.

To learn more, see how to automate your NPS program with SurveyMonkey. 

Using the Net Promoter Score system is about getting good, clean data you can use to build your business—but it’s also about more than just a number. Your relationship with your customers and their loyalty level is about more than just numbers. They react to how your team treats them, how your products and services serve and fill their needs, and how their relationship with your company makes them feel. 

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

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