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.
What is NPS?
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.
The NPS question
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, with0 being “highly unlikely” and 10 being “highly likely.” You can add an open-ended NPS follow up question as well 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. Anyone who rated you a 9 or a 10 is considered a Promoter—they love your company and your products and are highly likely to recommend you. Ratings from a 7 to an 8 are called Passives—they like what you offer just fine, but are not particularly loyal and may switch to a competitor easily. And people who rate you a 6 or below are called Detractors—they are unhappy with your customer experience and are likely to complain and 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.
History behind NPS
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 is a strong indication of the relationship between a company and its customers.
NPS really took off among both 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.
Behind the NPS question wording
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. So although the NPS question can seem too simple to be truly effective, that one question is actually 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 was found to be 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.
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 points in the customer journey, and some even survey employees as well.
Modifying your NPS question phrasing to match the intent of your survey can help you get more accurate answers from your respondents—both your customers and employees. Here are a few NPS question examples to guide you when creating your own survey.
Asking your customers to rate your business is one of the best NPS questions. 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?”
Products or services
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?”
Post-interaction and post-transaction
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 at that time 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 as well.
You can ask:
“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?”
Standard open-ended NPS survey question
The “likelihood to recommend” question isn’t the complete NPS survey by itself, though it’s very important. After all, once you know how a customer or employee rates your business, your products, or your staff, you don’t have all the information you need to make improvements and adjustments. You need to know why they rated you the way they did. And that’s where the open-ended NPS survey questions come in.
There is a standard open-ended NPS question that was originally created by Reichheld, and it’s still popular with many businesses.
“What is the primary reason for your score?”
This NPS question is especially useful 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 to go 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 what the issue is before they even make contact with the customer and will be able to address it quickly to smooth over any bad feelings.
Other qualitative, open-ended questions
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 a positively-phrased question, or do the opposite for a Promoter. Using the sophisticated skip-logic options in survey software like GetFeedback can help you hone in on the different experiences of your customers.
What did you like most about our product or company?
Asking Promoters to get specific about why they rated you so highly can yield insights about what your company is doing really well. You might even 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 as well.
How can we improve your experience?
For Passives and Detractors who haven’t had a completely positive experience with your company, asking this question can surface what’s going wrong. You’ll be able to prioritize fixes to your products, services, or overall customer experience based on the answers you get to this question.
What features did you like the best?
If you’re looking to find out more about what Promoters love about your products, this question is very helpful. You can use it to learn more about exactly what delights your most loyal customers about your product, and use that information in your marketing strategy and sales process as well.
What features did you like the least?
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.
What is the one thing we could do to make you happier?
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 itself also shows your customers that you care about their happiness and want to delight them, which is a positive experience in itself.
What was missing or disappointing in your experience with us?
Getting customer feedback on what dealing with your company is like is important—both when it’s positive and when it’s negative as well. 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.
What to do with feedback from the NPS question
Once you’ve sent your NPS survey out into the world, what comes next? You need to gather and analyze your feedback so you can start to take action. You should take different actions depending on the categories your respondents fall into.
Follow up with them through email
If you’re sending out hundreds or thousands of NPS surveys every month, you’re not going to 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 really important to check in with them via email. If it’s possible to fix the issue, your customer service rep should do so. Otherwise, offering a sincere apology or a future discount as a peace offering can be effective as well. It’s about making them feel heard. You might even turn them into a Promoter in the process!
Pass it into your CRM or Salesforce
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, but you can typically add NPS ratings, verbatim feedback, and track scores over time for individuals and customer segments as a whole.
You can also use your NPS data to determine trends in your ratings. If you’re consistently receiving very low scores from a certain customer demographic, like men over 65, you will now have a pattern to investigate. This could lead to an adjustment in your product, customer service, or in your ideal customer profiles as well.
Using your open-ended feedback
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 start airing their complaints to their network or on social media. If you fix the issues fast enough, they may remain a customer as well.
Open-ended feedback from your Passives tends to be less charged, but it can help you figure out 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 will often point out your business’s strengths and what you’re already doing well so you can build on that foundation.
The NPS question is all about getting actionable data and feedback
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 level of loyalty to you is about more than just numbers as well. 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.
Customer loyalty is about more than just transactions. So be sure you’re using the NPS question the right way to get both qualitative and quantitative feedback to ensure you’re delighting your customers every day. They’re what keeps your business growing and thriving, after all—treat them like it.
Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.