How to Follow Up With NPS® Detractors, Promoters, and Passives

How to engage with Net Promoter Score (NPS) detractors, promoters and passive in a way that it will boost customer satisfaction.


Sara Staffaroni

February 18, 2019

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Net Promoter Score® (NPS) is a method to assess customer loyalty, and many businesses today consider it to be an important metric. But NPS is far more useful than just a number on a page. In fact, your NPS score is just the beginning. What truly matters is what you do with your NPS survey results. Once you’ve identified your Promoters, Passives, and Detractors, do you know how to follow up with them?

Your choice of action will influence their customer experience with your brand. By engaging your customers in conversations that will help boost their satisfaction and loyalty, it will ultimately lead to more referrals, renewals, and revenue.

To effectively engage customers, you’ll need to go beyond just sending out an NPS survey. Engagement means following up on each response to show your appreciation for the feedback, uncover more information, and reveal opportunities to connect.

The NPS survey follow-up strategy

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure that the NPS survey responses aren’t anonymous because you’ll need to be able to identify your customers in order to contact them. A good software tool will allow you to collect your customer’s information automatically once they’re logged into your website, so you won’t need to ask for their email or contact information a second time.

In terms of how to contact them, the channel you use for your outreach partly depends on your business and your relationship with your customers. Also, when possible, try to stick to the same communication channel that the conversation began in. Did you send your NPS survey via email? If so, using email to follow up on their survey response would make sense.

It’s important that you follow up on NPS responses in a timely manner. Sooner is better, but within a week is reasonable. Much longer than that, and it’s likely too late. The rating won’t be fresh in the customer’s mind anymore, and you’ll have lost the momentum. Especially if a customer gave you a poor rating due to a negative experience, a timely response will most likely resolve the issue and keep them around.

While many teams might be able to handle this process, a customer-facing success or support team can capitalize on their relationship-building skills and product knowledge to make NPS survey follow-ups a success. If you have managed accounts, then it’s also a good idea to notify the primary point of contact.

How to start the conversation with your customers

Kick-start the conversation by asking your customers for more details alongside their ratings from within the NPS survey. An open-ended question like “Why did you choose this rating?” or “What would move you just one point higher?” can give you important context on your customer’s experience and lead to more effective outreach.

And if you’re curious about specific areas of your business, you can also ask follow-up questions requesting that customers rate their satisfaction on dimensions like the quality of customer support, product features, and purchasing experience. Just be careful not to overload them. Otherwise, your response rate could suffer.

Armed with knowledge from these additional questions, you’ll be able to build a more personalized approach based on the customer’s response and their categorization as a Promoter, Passive, or Detractor.

And don’t forget that regardless of the NPS score, there’s one thing that every customer will want to hear: thank you. Start each conversation with an expression of gratitude. Your customer took the time and thought to respond to your NPS survey with valuable feedback. Be sure to let them know you appreciate it. From there, you can adjust your message based on the customer’s specific score and commentary.

The NPS Promoter 

How to talk to the NPS promoter

NPS Promoters are your advocates, and they’ll be thrilled to hear from you. Conversations with Promoters can be particularly rewarding because they’re almost sure to be positive. And since they said they’d be likely to recommend you, you can take the opportunity to encourage them to do it.

Give Promoters instructions on how to refer friends and family. For example, if they have a unique referral code that will earn them perks with your business, then make sure they know about it. At the end of your survey, or in your follow-up, you can say something like:

Did you know that you can earn free months of service by referring your friends and family? Every time someone joins by using your invite (which you can find here), you’ll get one free month!

You can also encourage them to share their experience on social media or review your business on whichever channels are important to you. For added incentive, consider giving something away to randomly selected customer reviews. Here is an example of how you can make this suggestion:

We’re so happy to hear that you’d recommend us to your friends and family! Shout it from the rooftops? We’d love a public review on our Facebook page to help show other customers what we’re all about. Bonus: We’re giving away a free month of service to ten customers who review us this month!

Be sure to acknowledge specific details that your customers mentioned in their responses. For example, if they’re really excited about a new feature you launched, then tell them you’re excited about it too and link them to a resource about it, or let them know what’s up next.

If your customer hasn’t provided any commentary, then make sure they know your door is always open in the future. You can say something like:

Thanks for taking the time to respond to our NPS survey. We’re happy to hear that you’d recommend us to your friends and family! If there’s ever anything we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Following up with Promoters will amplify the positive experience they’ve already had, motivate them to endorse you, and open up a line of communication in case they ever need anything down the road.

For more on this group, check out our blog post on best practices for turning NPS Promoters into brand advocates.

The NPS Passive

The NPS passive

NPS Passives are neutral. They’re right in the middle, and this is your chance to earn their loyalty.

When Passive customers haven’t given you any qualitative information, ask for more so you know what you can do to help. They may not have mentioned anything in the NPS survey, but that could be because they weren’t sure that anyone cared. Reaching out to ask again shows them you’re truly interested in learning more, and that you’re available to assist. See the example below:  

Hi Eric! I’m the very real person here at Company X that received your NPS response yesterday. Thank you so much for responding! What could we do to improve your experience? We take user feedback seriously, and yours will help us make our business better for everyone. If you have a moment, we’d love to hear more from you.

When you hear back, or if you’re responding to a Passive customer who has already left you commentary, then take action!

Based on what you hear, you may be able to provide education about features they missed, show them how to use your product or service in a better way, or give them insight into upcoming roadmap items that will address their needs.

While some Passive customers may not have been motivated enough to proactively contact you with their questions or problems, being prompted with a follow up from you will inspire them to engage, giving you a space to address their needs and move them from Passive to Promoter.

The NPS Detractor 

The NPS detractor

Engaging with NPS Detractors is extremely important because these customers are at high risk of churning. A low NPS score is a warning, but it’s also a chance to resolve issues and win your customer back. In fact, 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.

Connecting with Detractors can also help prevent negative word-of-mouth. It’s an opportunity to address their problem and show them you care. And when that happens, they’ll be far less likely to complain to friends and family.

As with Passive customers, if your Detractor hasn’t left any commentary with their score, then try to get more details. They may not have expected anyone to review their feedback. Hearing from you may be a pleasant surprise that gives them the confidence to fill you in on their issue in the hope that you’ll help fix it. See below for an example:  

Thanks for responding to our NPS survey. We’re sorry to hear that you wouldn’t recommend us, and we’d love an opportunity to learn more about what we could do to improve. What could we be doing better?

Once you have sufficient information, start by apologizing for any wrongdoings or, at the very least, acknowledging the negative experience. It may not always be that you’ve made a mistake, but you can almost always sympathize with the challenge the customer has faced. Doing this shows the customer that you’re aligned with them, that you’re on their side and ready to help.

Next, work on a solution. Like Passives, Detractors may simply need education on the product, but they’re also more likely to have encountered a problem, like a bug or service failure. Take steps to resolve it and let them know what your team will be doing to prevent a similar experience in the future.

In some cases, your solution may be far down the road. When that happens, be upfront, then reach out to them in the future to let them know what you fixed or changed as a result of their input. Here is an example:  

A while back, you responded to our NPS survey with some insights and a request to change our billing options. I’m happy to announce that we’ve made some exciting changes as a result of feedback from customers like you. You can read more about them on our blog!

Engaging with Detractors can help you proactively prevent customer churn by uncovering and solving problems. Even in the event that a customer ends up churning, a follow-up conversation with them can at least leave them feeling heard and respected, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be back in the future.

Final words on NPS follow-up

While there is some work involved in following up with NPS survey responses, the extra effort is worth it when it means connecting with your customers, increasing referrals, and driving down churn. And providing the best customer experience possible will, in turn, help you grow your business.

For more on this topic, read our post on smart ways to use your NPS survey results.

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