How to use NPS® surveys to create the best customer experience

The right NPS survey will help you build long-lasting relationships with your customers.

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The right Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) survey will help you build long-lasting relationships with your customers. Use this guide to learn how to develop this survey and use its data to deliver the best customer experience possible.

Using NPS to build relationships

In any relationship, understanding is vital: what does each person want, need, and hope for? What are their sensitivities, worries, and pet peeves?

Relationship building is at the core of the Net Promoter Score (NPS): it allows you to gather the insight you need to understand your customers’ needs and wants, so you can respond in meaningful ways and build a long-lasting bond. 

This guide will help you connect your NPS survey data directly to the noble and business-smart goal of delivering the best customer experience

After briefly covering the basics of creating and implementing your NPS surveys, we will explore ways in which you can interpret your results qualitatively and quantitatively, share them with your team, and then use those insights to help your customer relationships in concrete ways.

Surveys and data are wonderful tools on their own, but they truly shine when they’re used in unison to create better experiences. Read on.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey

Let’s go over how an NPS survey works. 

How do you measure NPS?

NPS asks one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”

The respondent ranks their likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10—0 being highly unlikely, 10 being extremely likely. You can also add an option for the respondent to leave a comment and explain his or her rating.

Below is an example of an NPS survey created with GetFeedback (for a mock dog shampoo company). Go ahead, give it a whirl!  

On the rating system, people who select 9 or 10 on the NPS survey are considered Promoters, as shown in green below. People who select 7 or 8 are Passives, as shown in yellow, and people who select 6 or below are Detractors as shown in red. 

how to measure nps surveys to better customer experience

To calculate the NPS score, you’ll need to subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters (% Promoters – % Detractors = NPS). 

If you had nothing but Detractors, you’d see a score of -100. Whereas if you had only Promoters, you’d have a perfect 100. Realistically, anything above 50 is great, while anything above 70 is considered world class. If you want to nerd out some more on this topic, check out our blog post on measuring NPS scores.

What can an NPS survey tell you? 

Measuring NPS data and combining it with other business metrics lets you gather insights that are hard to get any other way.

For instance, some customers might generate large amounts of revenue but are not happy and are hurting your brand’s reputation or could leave at any time. Whereas, others may be generating little direct revenue, but are very satisfied with your brand and are creating revenue indirectly by praising you. 

Compared to other survey options such as the Customer Satisfaction survey, NPS can seem like a blunt instrument, because it asks just one question for a very broad-strokes picture of how customers view your company.

But with an NPS survey, you can actually drill down insight into actionable data. You do this by segmenting your customers by various metrics, such as how long they’ve been your customer, which products they buy, what’s their demographic, and so on. For example, if you find that all your Detractors are first-time users under 35, that is a powerful insight that lets you address the concerns of those specific users.

Implementing your NPS survey

Next, let’s look at the best practices for designing and distributing your NPS survey.

How to make NPS look good

Design is crucial: how you design your survey affects brand perception and impacts the survey results themselves.

You’ll need a strong, memorable background image that makes the text clear and easy to read. Don’t overdo images in the survey questions themselves: these can be useful but overusing them can make your survey too distracting.

Make sure your survey looks great on mobile browsers, and on all the platforms you’ll be sharing it on. And don’t forget that your survey should include your brand’s colors and imagery.

You also want to design questions that will provide actionable feedback.

  • We recommend starting with the NPS question so you put your most important metric first.

  • Then include a structured question as it offers deeper insight and helps you report on themes contributing to negative or positive scores.

  • Also, include an open text field to garner more qualitative feedback. Then use text analytics to understand the sentiment, identify keywords, and spot trends.

  • Close with a custom thank you page. This is a great marketing real estate to promote relevant content, like customer stories, or ask promoters for reviews.

how to design nps surveys

For more on survey formatting and design, check out our perfect survey checklist.

Where to ask the NPS question 

NPS is such a quick and easy experience for the user that it’s a great choice for any or all of the channels you use, whether it’s email, your website, social media, live chat, or SMS (text messaging).

The important thing is to share the survey on the same channel where the customer typically interacts, whenever possible. For example, if you have just finished a live chat with the customer, pop the NPS survey in there right after the issue has been resolved.

When to ask the NPS question 

The timing of your NPS surveys is very important. Here are three crucial ways to ask the NPS question:

  1. In regular intervals. You can time the surveys at a regular interval. For instance, 90 days after an important point along the customer journey, such as their purchase or renewal date.

  2. By segmentation. You can use your CRM, login dates, usage data, and other metrics to sort your customers into types based on how they are interacting with your product. This may or may not match up with how long they have been a customer. For example, a customer may be a longtime user but more passive and occasional, or a more recent but regular and active user.

  3. In real time. Send your survey right after a customer support case is closed.

Let’s look at time-based surveys first. It’s a good practice to send your NPS survey to a given customer 60 or 90 days after they purchase, or a few weeks before they renew.

That way, each day you get a small-ish, manageable set of responses from customers who signed up 60 or 90 days ago. Use this to track their satisfaction level against events in your business cycle (did you release a new product at a certain crucial point right after they purchased?).

This can reveal valuable pain (or happiness) points, letting you identify at-risk accounts and gaps in the customer experience.

You can also use your CRM and other usage data to sort your customers into types such as passive or active users, and share your NPS survey with each group to track how they’re feeling about your company and your product.

For example, let’s say your company sells an educational web solution for teachers. You can drill down to a specific population of users—let’s say teachers in the upper midwest USA who teach middle school in urban areas—to see how they’re feeling. Compare their responses with teachers in rural areas, or urban teachers in another region of the country—you get the idea. You may just learn something vital.

To learn how to integrate your NPS survey results with Salesforce check out our guide: Taking Action with NPS in Salesforce.

The third opportunity is to send your NPS survey right after a customer has contacted support and his or her issue is resolved. Take these responses with a grain of salt, of course, as the customer may be feeling especially strong emotions at that moment, either positive or not. But by the same token, that emotion can be gold to you, because it indicates an engaged customer who may be ready to become either much more, or much less, loyal to you.

You may be wondering: how can I make sure a given individual customer isn’t annoyingly receiving my NPS survey every other day, as part of one or the other of these groupings I’ve created?

It’s good to make sure you’re not annoying people, but because NPS is so low-effort for the customer, and because people’s feelings change over time, it’s actually good to share it more than once, and even regularly, with each customer, as long as it’s within reason.

Why survey your own team

Remember that your customers are not the only ones keeping the lights on at your company. Your employees need love too, and it’s super valuable to survey them regularly as well. Great customer experience starts with happy employees. 

Employee NPS (or eNPS) can provide insight into how engaged your employees are, especially when done at regular intervals. Typically the NPS question is phrased as “How likely are you to recommend X to your friends and family as a place to work?”

Again, the number is just a starting point. Using segmentation (by team, tenure and demographic) and follow up questions can provide key action items for management and HR teams to work on.

Interpreting your NPS survey results

Once your NPS responses start flowing in, it’s time to draw out meaningful insights. Here are a few ways you can do that.  

Analyze the numbers

In addition to collecting timed and segmented results—which we explored in the previous chapter—you can take the mass of data from all the responses and break it down by relevant user demographics.

Let’s say your company sells electric blankets. People’s comfort level, uses, sleeping habits, and experiences with your product will vary a lot with their age, geographic location, gender, and so on.

You’ll also have people using your blankets not only for sleeping but for sleigh rides to grandmother’s house, treks across Antarctica (ok, maybe not), and who knows what else.

In this scenario, you’d take your NPS responses and graph them against each of those metrics. Knowing that all your sleigh riders are giving you 9s and 10s, but you’re getting 3s and 4s from those using the blanket to sleep, will give you invaluable insights to share with your product planning and marketing team.

Share with the whole team

Speaking of sharing, it’s a great idea to make a regular practice of sharing your NPS results with the broader team and organization. That information builds internal team understanding and helps to make everyone feel involved and invested in your customers’ experiences with the product. It also provides motivation—whether it’s just knowing that you’re doing a great job collectively, or if a little nudge is in order to make sure every team member is giving customers maximum love.

You can present your NPS survey results in any number of creative ways, from presentations, documents and word clouds to displaying a screen somewhere prominent in your office showing real-time customer happiness levels.

Interpret the comments

Yes, we did say word clouds. Those are still a thing. If your NPS survey includes an option for open-ended commentary in addition to the 1-10 rating, this can also serve as a gold mine of information.

Go through the comments in detail to capture pithy/telling quotes and summarize common themes. Use text analytics tools to quickly see themes and topics emerge that can lead to actionable insights. Where humans can be biased towards the most emotionally compelling comments, machine learning powered text analysis will help uncover the true trends across a number of comments that’s too big for a human to accurately analyze.

Using your NPS insights to better customer experience

Phew! You’ve put all that of effort into creating and distributing your NPS survey. You’ve also shared it internally and have looked at the data from every angle possible. Now it’s time to apply all that learning to the noble purpose of making your customers’ experiences as great as possible.

Keep the cycle going, ever upward

An NPS survey can help you track the lifecycle of each cohort of customers—which is a group that signs up around the same time—so you can get improvements ready for the next cohort.

From there, you can see how that group likes the improvements (using an NPS survey, of course), and then you rinse, repeat. You get the gist.

In doing so, your product gets better and better, and your customer base becomes more and more happy and loyal. Remember that a customer doesn’t just suddenly choose to cancel your service/product—it probably occurred over a long period of time and it could have been prevented. An NPS survey done right could help you nip churn in the bud.

Respond to customers individually when possible

A very direct and powerful way to respond to NPS surveys is to actually respond: directly, personally, and empathically.

Of course, you can’t always reply to every single person. But to the degree you can do this, it’s well worth the time and effort. Even if your response doesn’t solve a concrete issue or answer a question, reaching out personally makes the customer feel heard, and that alone instantly improves their experience.

The response can come from anyone at your company; if a member of the support team sees it first they can either respond or in special cases they can ask someone in a leadership position if they want to reach out. A strategically aimed personal note from a CEO or founder can make a customer become loyal for life—and talk to their friends about their surprisingly personalized experience.

Implement changes to your product

A product manager reading this section heading might chuckle: “Build or change a feature because a user asked for it? Ha! I wish I could do that for all the hundreds (bitter laugh) of great ideas I see every day!”

True: you can’t—and shouldn’t—build every feature a user mentions on your NPS survey. But you certainly can—and should—use that data to guide the product planning process. Once you’ve sliced and diced all that data, gathered the pithiest comments, and found the percentages of happy or unhappy users in each cohort, you’re ready to cull the most actionable insights and feed them to your product team for prioritization.

In many cases, NPS data might validate the decisions your product team has already made—or offer more insight into how users might use the end result.

Not only the mad…remember the happy!

NPS isn’t only about customers who are dissatisfied. There is a lot you can do with the Promoters too.

For example, you can create an ‘Ambassadors Group’: a limited group of users, between 30 and 200, who have given high NPS ratings. You can give them incentives to become more active to help you improve other customers’ experience too. To learn more, here’s a blog post on how to turn Promoters into brand advocates.

When it’s all said and done, it’s about relationship building

Business can seem like a cut and dried, numbers-based process. But every good business person knows that growing a company is about emotion, personal connections, and relationships. Net Promoter Score surveys have become popular because they capture this crucial piece of the puzzle.

With NPS surveys and data, you can capture the essence of your relationships with each and every customer. At every step you have choices about how to make that relationship better: from the way you design your survey, to how and when you share it, analyze it and  interpret it.

NPS can be a key to transforming your customers’ short-term dalliances with you into long-term, even lifelong, committed relationships.

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*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.