The Net Promoter System® (or NPS) has been a popular customer experience metric since its creation in 2003. NPS is used by the biggest companies and leaders in its industries: from Apple to Airbnb, from Amazon to Tesla. At the same time, NPS is often a subject of criticism and misunderstanding.
In doubts, I wanted to reach out to the thought leaders and influencers to know what they think of NPS, or rather, according to the best traditions of NPS, if they would recommend NPS to a fellow CX colleague. I’d love to specify from the very beginning, we focus on the Net Promoter System, not only on the Net Promoter Score (that actually changes a lot).
Before we dive deeper, here’s a detailed guide to how to improve your customer experience with NPS (it also includes a quick summary of what NPS is and isn’t).
Now that we’re on the same page, I could go deeper into our small research. All the leaders were asked the same two questions:
1. How likely are you to recommend Net Promoter System to your CX colleagues? (on a scale 0 to 10, where 0 is not likely at all and 10 is very likely)
2. Why did you give that score?
We have received 31 answers from 31 recognized thought leaders, consultants and great doers from all over the world across industries. Then we divided the answers according to the categorization of NPS – into promoters, passives, and detractors. 2 answers are marked “in doubt” because the participants provided the range of scores or no score at all.
Having mentioned that, I couldn’t help but calculate the Net Promoter Score of the Net Promoter System. 15 experts are very likely to recommend Net Promoter System to their CX colleagues (they are marked as”promoters”) and 6 wouldn’t do that (“detractors”).
That makes the NPS of NPS 32.
Nevertheless, you probably already know that a score is just a number. What matters is why the score is as it is.
I let you dive into exploring the thoughts and opinions of the leaders and experts.
Customer Experience Practitioner & Pioneer, Keynote Speaker and Author
Why? “I would recommend NPS but only as part of a listening path methodology. Not as the only system used. Companies need to employ multiple sources of information to tell the story of customers lives. And to prevent score chasing. The maturity of the organizations ability to use this rich information and leadership greatly determines the outcome of this or any listening system truly driving culture change that leads to improved customer and employee experiences.”
Customer Experience Futurist, Speaker and Author
Why? “NPS is simple, to the point and quick. This will tell companies if they are doing a good job or not. If they are not doing a good job they can quickly fix the situation with the customer.”
Global Customer Experience Specialist and Certified Customer Experience Professional
Why? “Whilst I would like to say 10, in reality, it depends! If the recommendation question makes sense for the nature of the business, its industry and customers, then I would score a 10. If it does not make sense, due to the question being inappropriate for the business or industry, I would say 0! As a rule, I would always suggest collecting NPS as one of a number of metrics (including CSAT and Customer Effort) unless there is a compelling reason why you should not. I would NEVER rely on NPS as the only measurement of customer perception.”
TEDx Speaker, Customer Experience Expert, Trainer, Consultant, Podcaster
Why? “Tracking feedback of any kind helps leaders recognize when things are going well and when they are not. BUT it’s important to understand while this is a good tool, it’s not the only tool. Understanding different results and how they can blend together to help you see the big picture is critical. There is no perfect metric. People are nuanced and context is critical to really understand what customers want you to know! So while I’d recommend this as a tool for those who want to gather the right feedback, I wouldn’t say it’s the only one. Leaders need a toolbox to see the entire picture.”
Customer Experience and CRM Expert
Why? “NPS is NOT the answer to everything like some would have us believe – especially in corporate / B2B key account management where long-term trust and relationship quality are key. I’m also concerned about a) it’s a poor diagnostic, b) it turns a customer’s story into a number, and c) that the arguments for Customer Effort Score also have merit. So the answer is that I MAY recommend NPS, depending on my client’s situation & strategy.”
Customer Experience and Digital Marketing Consultant
Why? “For organizations just starting out with CX, NPS is a good gauge of loyalty. First, implementing NPS is fairly simple, you ask the NPS question along with its followup question (why did you choose that score?) Second, it’s a quick way for you to get a feel for who your promoters, passives and detractors are to perhaps do some segmenting around that and develop campaigns to help convert detractors to promoters. Companies shouldn’t stop there, though.
NPS isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. NPS should be taken at regular intervals so you can monitor performance. Watch the trends. Is the number improving or declining? Focus on why and how the number is changing, and what is attributing to that change. This will give you the intel on how to take action to improve your relationship with the customer and improve their experience. Treat NPS as part of a greater whole. NPS should be a part of your overall CX dashboard. Include NPS with CSAT, CES, FCR, employee engagement, emotion, etc. Based on your business, you may have additional KPI’s that you might want to add to your metrics dashboard. You won’t be able to see a complete picture of your customer experience without looking at all metrics. You want to see a complete view of your customers, what’s going on, trends, etc. to be able to identify actionable insights on which you can take action to improve the customer experience.”
Director of Customer Experience Management at Openet
Why? “This question cannot be answered with a single score as it depends on what my cx colleagues would be working on. My answer would be depending on their objectives, industry, products and services. For example, if they worked for the travel sector, it would make sense to ask NPS. But if they sold toilet paper, then I don’t believe NPS would be the best metric as it’s not likely people will be recommending TP to their friends and colleagues. Sure, NPS question is a hypothetical one (“How likely would you be to recommend…”), but I believe the best use of it is in situations where it is relevant and can be used literally, too. NPS System is not fit for all applications, but it is compelling when used right. However, nothing stops you replacing the question with something more appropriate for your business and using similar kind of systematic approach to serving the customers better through it. For B2B companies this answer gets even more complicated, but I’ll leave that for later, perhaps over a pint some day…”
Customer Experience Consultant and Strategic Leader
Why? “Overall, the NPS metric has been a positive addition to our profession, but it is not without faults, and it is sometimes used incorrectly by businesses. On the positive side, NPS provides a consistent methodology to measure consumer affinity for a brand. It can be used across sectors, and its prevalence has helped CX professional garner the support of business leaders. On the downside, some organizations have latched onto NPS as the only CX score that matters, which can be counterproductive. NPS is a helpful strategic barometer for consumer opinion, but it doesn’t tell us why consumers are happy or un happy. It’s also a lagging indicator, meaning it doesn’t help teams proactively flag and address customer experience issues in real-time. All of this goes to say that NPS can contribute to a brand’s customer-centric evolution, but the metric is not a silver bullet and should be used in conjunction with other insights. NPS can provide clarity on the status of CX efforts, but the voice of the customer lights the way to improved customer journeys.”
Customer Loyalty Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Author
Why? “It think NPS has done a great job of elevating the topic of customer loyalty to C-suite conversations. As NPS has found its way into leadership metrics, it has sharpened the focus on the customer’s evaluation, thus the importance of delivering superior service. The other side, however, is that it can lull leaders into thinking it is all about the “score” and getting customers to indicate their “intent to recommend.” Frankly, who cares what customers say they intend to do; what matters is what they actually do (behavior). Also, there are many more factors important to understanding the customers’ evaluations other than their answers to the “the ultimate question.” Working with a large client we found that 1/3 of their customers indicated they would “never recommend,” no matter how intense their loyalty. Working with another client we found the NPS question yielded a score in the low nineties (a call for celebration), yet a parallel question, “Have your recommended…” was in the low forties. It was a wakeup call to leadership. Finally, there are research studies that question the validity of the science behind NPS.”
Customer Experience & BPM Visionary, Keynote Author, Board Advisor & Judge
Why? “The bias inherent within NPS makes the scoring highly subjective. Plus, NPS samples are insufficient i.e. of the total customer base how many responses would we need across a range of touchpoints to make NPS statistically valid? NPS is often misused to bonus people, creating sub optimal customer experiences and the score begging problem again.
NPS can be likened to taking the temperature in weather forecasting. It is a bit of data, however, in weather forecasting, there are so many factors (wind, direction, strength, barometric pressure, humidity, dew points etc.) we must measure to understand (a) what is the real weather, and (b) what does that mean going forward. Using NPS is like predicting the next ice age based in today’s temperature taken in isolation.”
Chief Consultant at Customer Agency, NPS Certified Associate
Why? “Whether it is NPS®, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort Score or something else, I would always recommend collecting customer feedback to gain insight about how customers are impacted by the experiences you leave with them.
Obtaining a score is less important though. It is just a number and will change nothing for your organization. Only if you choose to act on customer feedback, will you be able to achieve positive results that impact the customer experience. The Net Promoter System provides the opportunity for you to act by closing the loop on both a tactical and strategic level. But there are other important aspects to consider as well, if you strive to create great customer experiences. Some of the aspects I work to uncover as a consultant are these: Is your organization ready to embrace change? Have you identified where to focus on the customer journey to create the biggest impact? And are you able to concretize your actions and finally monitor the impact of those actions on the customer experience? Addressing these questions is paramount, certainly if you want to use customer experience as a differentiator.”
Management Consultant and Managing Partner at Storyminers
Why? “NPS is great for companies who are just beginning to look at their customer’s experience and don’t know where to start. An NPS score is like a pointer. If you use it, it will point you to problem areas that matter to customers—but it doesn’t do the work for you!
Many people think that getting a better score is the point of NPS. It’s not. Creating a better business that delivers more value to customers is the real point. As recent industry surveys show, NPS scores don’t reward companies that ‘game’ the system. NPS scores reward outcomes not efforts.”
Customer Service Expert, Speaker and Author
Why? “Too often people use NPS as a standalone metric without using the many pieces of the puzzle needed to make it successful. However, the Net Promoter System — which includes things like the timing of surveys, transactional versus relational NPS, and closing the loop — can be an effective approach to improving customer experience. Of course, no single metric can ever give a comprehensive view of an organization’s customer experience and no single system will be the perfect match for every organization. Context is everything, but when used well, the Net Promoter System can be a powerful tool for customer experience improvement.”
Customer Experience Manager at HUED, Leading Consulting Firm in The Arabian peninsula
Why? “Conceptually, NPS is a good indicator for starting CX measurement discussions considering its context whether it’s on a product/service “operational” or a brand level “strategic”, nature of the product “service-good continuum”, frequency of customer interaction with the company, frequency of NPS measurement rounds, etc. But, NPS can also be misleading if it’s not a part of a more comprehensive VoC program amongst other measurement tools and metrics and ideally this VoC program to be part of a complete “Market Information System“.
On another note, NPS has also been a target for criticism from both academic and business worlds and that’s why I believe Satmetrix’s NPS needs to be redesigned and
I believe they started to do so.”
Customer Experience and Contact Centre Consultant
Why? “First of all let me say that I think NPS is better than nothing for measuring customer experience, but it is far from a panacea. For that reason I would score it a 6 which is, of course,100% worse than a score of 9 in NPS maths. Obviously I scored it 6 precisely to show the folly of this metric.
My main problem with NPS is that it is pseudo-science packaged as a sophisticated tool. Let me explain myself.
Anyone who has run an NPS system will know that, unless it is used over very large samples and trends averaged over long time scales, then it is an exceptionally volatile measure. And do you react to every bump in a volatile measure? Of course you don’t.
Why is it so volatile? Because a 6 is worth 100% less than 9, and is worth the same as zero – such a highly geared measure will always be impossibly spiky.
Organizations that are focussed on this metric tend to be NPS-obsessed rather than customer-obsessed. They are literally looking in the wrong direction – buried in spreadsheet analysis, always on the back foot, trying to understand “why?”. How can you understand what is happening to the customer experience with a spiky trend? You can’t!
For me, the mean average of a 5 point scale is a better directional indicator of customer experience over time. Outliers still need attention but the simplicity gives executives and the front line the best timely indication if things are getting better.
So, NPS is better than nothing. But only just.”
Customer Experience Expert and Speaker
Why? “I love the simplicity of NPS and it’s a great way of ‘taking the pulse’ of a business when it comes to customer satisfaction. The best businesses build it in to the way they do things and get ownership at every level, and that’s the key. It’s about integrating it into ‘the way we do things around here’ and it’s relatively easy to do that compared to other feedback mechanisms. Business leaders tell me that they also like the fact that they can compare their scores to other ‘benchmark’ businesses and this brings a tangibility to it. Interestingly, I encourage businesses to combine NPS with one other question: “Are you / were you COMPLETELY happy with what we’re doing do / did?” followed by “Why / Why not?” It’s a tough question, but helps get real insights into what customers think.”
Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author
Why? “I love the simplicity of NPS. The Net Promoter Score (not to be confused with Net Promoter System) gives great insight into intent to recommend based on experience. You can assess if the experience was met or exceed expectations, was just average or less than stellar – with just one simple number. But, that is just the start. The “system” helps you gain understanding and take action on the number (the result of the survey). Knowing the number is one thing. Knowing the “why” behind the number and how to use it to gain a competitive advantage is another. I’ve been a Fred Reichheld and NPS fan from the mid-1990’s when I first read “The Loyalty Effect.”
Leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist
Why? “I think companies desperately need to understand how consumers think about them on a regular basis. Customer Experience is now, more than ever before, the key to success. Brands need to start measuring and looking at how a strong Social presence affects their NPS quarter to quarter. Getting better returns from social involves creating a social-by-design strategy that incorporates three core elements into the process…
Community: A Network Gives You Reach; But A Community Gives You Power! Networks Connect… Communities Care!
Conversation: Old marketing was dictation… new marketing is communication. Change from Convince & Convert to Converse & Convert
Identity: If you are only focused on the Money… You risk completely overlooking the People.
For existing products, it is defining how existing social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) can support achieving business goals (ROI) and grow or communicate the value that is accrued by a brand due to nurturing a relationship (ROR, Return on Relationship). NPS can be a key to this understanding and evolution.
Being social drives engagement; engagement drives loyalty and advocacy; and both correlate directly to increased sales.”
Journey Mapper-In-Chief, Heart of the Customer
Why? “Let’s start with the score. NPS isn’t a score: It’s a religion. Participants advocate that it’s the one true score, and that those who don’t follow it don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with the score, but there’s also nothing magical about it. However, like any good religion, NPS does give you guidance to do the right thing. In this case, that’s the Net Promoter System – the process to follow up with people who are unhappy and work to fix that.
Organizations can have great results if they are disciplined on following the system. But the same can be said for companies using the Customer Effort Score or even the old-fashioned satisfaction. In fact, MaritzCX conducted a study (Customer Experience Maturity Leads to Financial Gain) that showed that which score you used had little impact on your results – it was how you used the scores that mattered.
To summarize, there’s nothing wrong with using NPS. But there’s nothing particularly magical about it, either. What’s critical is the discipline to focus more on engaging customers than to chase a specific score.”
CRM Industry Advisor, Speaker, Award-winning Blogger
Why? “Satisfaction is determined by the Experience as seen through the lens of Expectation.” NPS is a combination of two things: a measure of my personal satisfaction with a particular product or service AND whether or not I want to then recommend it to someone else. I have been part of organizations who use NPS and where it shows pretty lines on a chart, it does not correlate with either loyalty nor revenue.
I will state up front that I am not a big fan of NPS because it is overly simplistic. The first problem, within the definition “would you” – there is one word is the difference between a passive opinion when asked a question and the more important question that should be asked “will you” active. People are social and emotional, the nature of who we are, simple. When one does some primary research, it is clear that not everyone who expresses satisfaction with a product or service will recommend that product and not everyone who recommends a product is satisfied with it, this is especially true for luxury items as well as my example below.
Example: I recently had the interior of my house painted. I was extremely satisfied with the outcome. The finished project exceeded my expectations, the project was completed within budget, but it did take a bit longer than expected. In the end, there is no chance I would recommend the company; the owner did not treat his employees well, it had nothing to do with the product or service.
Summarizing the example as it fits or does not within NPS; The emotional elements (emotional job) of the interactions with a product or service are among the most important contributors to whether someone is satisfied (the customer experience exceeded expectations) with the product or service. Satisfaction is much closer to repeat purchases and loyalty, thus to revenue – therefore, with the increasing commoditization of certain types of products, it seems that a better approach would be to track satisfaction separately.
Recommending a measure such as NPS to another organization requires a deep understanding of their product, service, customers and those customers jobs, both practical and emotional.”
Director of Customer Experience at FCR
Why? “I’m fairly neutral in my view of NPS for a couple reasons. First, before recommending it to a colleague, I want to understand what their goals are. If they want customers that are willing to recommend the company to a friend, then absolutely I’d recommend NPS. There might, however, be certain companies and situations where Customer Effort Score or Customer Satisfaction are more appropriate. Another reason I’m neutral is the customer feedback loop. The feedback we receive from customers and the means in which we close the loop with them is quite possibly more important than the method used to collect it. Furthermore, be sure the survey is integrated within your customer experience and simple and to the point in order to maximize response rate.”
Head of Global Partnerships & Customer Engagement at MarketCulture, Keynote Speaker, Workshop Facilitator
Why? “I have seen NPS used well by some companies that do it across the entire company internationally and externally. I seen others use it in silos and where they want to use it which can manipulate the score. Imagine I am an insurance company and will only score those that we agree to pay and not those that we don’t. NPS is only an indicator of whether or not the company is moving in the right direction and it takes customer to respond to make it work. More don’t respond than respond. If I collect only the scores, it does not tell me what I have to do to fix it. I think a lot of companies hide behind the score and really don’t do much to fix it.”
Customer Experience Management and Analytics Consultant at CIQUAL
Why? “NPS is proven to be directly correlated with companies’ growth, so its use is a very sound business practice (Bain made quite a few studies on it, on top of the fact they invented it as a metric!)”
CCXP and Managing Director at epifani
Why? “NPS is merely a single point-in-time measurement tool and yet many people bank their entire customer experience strategy on this. Too few organisations focus on the verbatim comments, ie the actual voices of their customers, and fixate on the number. Senior Leadership teams are easily distracted by the number and fail to appreciate that it’s the tangible actions that you take, based on the insights you gain, that drive the changes that will improve the number. Focus on the experience you are delivering the number will take care of itself. I am also always keen to ensure that any strategy off the back of an NPS programme includes targeted approaches for all 3 answer groups – the detractors, the passives and the promoters. You must have clear plans of action for each group as activating your promoters and recognising the power of their advocacy for your brand is as essential as addressing the issues raised by your detractors. If you focus on the experience you are delivering the number will take care of itself.”
CX Revolutionist, Keynote Speaker and Author
Why? “NPS surveys (as well as many other feedback mechanisms) are self-selecting. They are retrospective. They aren’t specific enough. You mostly get extreme results. The results are easily swayed and turning complex emotions into numbers is a very inexact science. Nothing shows a customer how little you care about their actual situation faster than trying to reduce their feelings and emotions to a number that fits into a predetermined scale.
Basically, it doesn’t matter what discipline or what platform you use to measure customer feedback, if you need to measure how well you are delivering customer experience through feedback surveys you are doing something wrong. If you truly knew your customer, their needs and successful outcomes you would already be measuring the things that contribute towards satisfaction and loyalty in real time, during the experience.”
Vice President and General Manager, Customer Hub at HubSpot
Why? “NPS is simple benchmarkable, and consistent. The key is in *how* you use it. When leaders overfocus on the score, NPS can become a frustrating corporate goal setting exercise. When leaders focus on the process of feedback, you end up putting the customer first. And, in fact, putting the customer first is what makes he score go up over time, too! Many, many organizations aren’t set up to broadly intake, deeply understand, and fully action customer feedback – NPS can be an excellent vehicle to put your customers first, if done correctly.“
Senior Vice President, Chief Customer Officer at Black Box
Why? “Two notable advantages to NPS are its simplicity and notoriety but what I appreciate most is that NPS is judgmental and predictive.
NPS is judgmental because it assigns a value to each response. The usefulness of NPS comes from the research that has gone into correlating scores with marketplace value. Customers who rate you low (detractors) harm your company while those who rate you high (promoters) help your business.
As a comparison point, consider traditional surveys. Scores range somewhere along the good – bad continuum and a company might compute an average score of 8.8 and declare victory. But how valuable is 8.8? And what about the customers that pulled the average down? This method fails to indicate how good or how bad. The other key value of NPS is its predictive nature. Because of the words “likely” and “would recommend” the question asks about intent and is forward-looking. Traditional surveys help understand how your company did but fail to tie past performance to future results. NPS bridges that gap to give companies a powerful tool to transform their businesses.
Regardless of which system Customer Experience practitioners use they must ensure their company is aligned to deliver an “intentional” experience they choose to deliver to the customers they choose to serve. Otherwise, the “accidental” experience will be reflected in entirely predictable survey results.”
Author of Delight Your Customers, Fan of Exceptional Customer Service
Why? “I value the NPS because it’s based on an easy-to-understand question and produces an easy-to-interpret score. Too often, organizations overcomplicate the process of gathering customer feedback by asking too many questions and accepting the abysmal response rates that result from the survey’s complexity. And then, once obtained, the feedback is often marginalized by ignoring the survey respondents, the feedback itself, or both. While other worthwhile indicators of customer experience quality exist (E.g., intent to return/repurchase, value for price paid, customer effort, etc.), if you’re going to ask one question, I think the NPS question is it.”
Top 100 changemakers in Central and Eastern Europe
Why? “There’s a number of frameworks, metrics, and other tools to measure and manage customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, but Net Promoter Systems stands out among them with its comprehensiveness and universality. It can be used in both B2C and B2B settings, but it also comes handy for HR and OD professionals to improve the employee experience — even the candidate selection and recruitment process.
Net Promoter System has another important advantage as it engages the whole organization — from frontline to senior executives. It recommends processes to promote the individual learning based on feedbacks received after interactions with customers, and it also helps prioritize cross-functional initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience. Last but not least, it’s a dynamic, constantly evolving framework. Its authors (who have generously “open-sourced” it) and tens of thousands of practitioners are in a dialogue through research, podcasts, and informal online communities.”
Advisor & Board Member, former CMO of Slack and Zendesk
Why? “I am a huge fan of NPS. NPS gives you so many incredible benefits, like the simplicity or the base for your incentive system. With that you can fundamentally change your company’s direction. If you’re a customer-driven company, and you’re not measuring NPS yet, that is one of the best things you can do to finally transform your company.”
What do you think?
Do you agree or disagree with the experts’ opinion? Share in the comments below!