What Your Net Promoter Score Doesn’t Tell You

I recently had a client ask me, “Why did my Net Promoter Score stay the same while my overall satisfaction numbers went down?”  Good question.  The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is based on a simple question: How likely are you to recommend the company to a friend or colleague?  This yields an easily understandable metric that categorizes customers as Promoters, Detractors, or Passives.

The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters.

The concept itself can be deceptively simple and potentially very impactful if used properly, but it does not paint the entire picture.   In the case of the client that asked me the question above, the devil was in the detail.  I explained that the NPS question and a true overall satisfaction question are completely different – NPS is asking about their likeliness to recommend you based on the relationship they have with you, and the other is asking about their overall satisfaction with the performance of the company as a whole over the past year.  So while someone may give an overall satisfaction rating of a ‘2’ or ‘3’ (based on a 5-point scale) because they are unhappy with a particular issue/problem they are currently experiencing, they may still provide a very high rating for the NPS because they are happy/pleased with the overall relationship.

So be careful.  Be careful when using the Net Promoter Score as your key performance indicator or benchmarking metric.  It does not always paint an accurate picture as to what is really happening within your company.  The detail is what’s important.  Whichever scoring system you use, the key is to ask ‘why’ – why did you score us that way?  There is no way that a single metric, no matter how well wordsmithed or researched, will provide a trusty, all-encompassing view of the company’s effectiveness in dealing with customers/clients.  Understanding the ‘why’ and understanding the key drivers behind satisfaction/loyalty allows for action to be taken and services to be improved.

Are you currently asking ‘why’?

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  1. Jeff Toister says:

    Your client’s question is an excellent example of why metrics like NPS and C-Sat should be indicators of success, but not the ultimate goal. The point that we should ask “Why?” is well taken, and I’d suggest we start asking questions like this *before* we look at metrics.

    I recently wrote a similar post detailing a few examples of ways that so-called “magic metrics” can steer us wrong: http://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/2013/1/15/the-trouble-with-magic-metrics.html

    • Andy Frost says:

      Hi Jeff – thank you for the comments! Agreed, it is never too early to look at the ‘why’. I will be sure to check out your post today. Thanks again for reaching out and for providing a link to your blog, have a great day!