What is a Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

Net Promoter Score is a metric to quantify and chart customer satisfaction, asking current buyers how likely they are to recommend a brand to others.

How satisfied are your customers? It can be a surprisingly tricky question to answer. This is because customer satisfaction is not always apparent in the data most businesses like to track. After all, not every customer is willing to take the time to complain when services fall short of expectations. Some may continue to do business with an organisation out of habit or because taking their patronage somewhere else would require too much effort. So, they keep buying. But that doesn’t mean they are satisfied.

What it does mean is that your company could be missing vital customer insights. To achieve a clearer image of how satisfied customers are and where improvements could be made, many top organisations across every industry rely on the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The Net Promoter Score is derived from answers to a specific customer satisfaction survey. But unlike most satisfaction surveys, NPS surveys focus on the answer to a single, important question: how likely is it that [the customer] would recommend [the brand] to a friend or colleague?

Although some organisations may customise their NPS survey to better fit their business or may include multiple ‘driver’ or ‘follow up’ questions, the core of the entire survey is quite simple and direct, allowing respondents to distil their entire experience into one all-encompassing answer. This not only helps streamline the focus on the survey, but it also makes it extremely participant-friendly, taking extraordinarily little time to complete and focusing exclusively on the customer’s point of view.

NPS is often surveyed on its own but can also be integrated into a larger survey strategy.

Another key selling point of NPS is that it’s nearly as easy to administer as it is to survey. 

When customers are asked how likely they would be to recommend the brand to others, they are given the opportunity to respond using a 0–10 scale where 0 = not likely at all to recommend the brand and 10 = extremely likely to recommend the brand. The company conducting the survey then collects the responses and groups respondents into the following categories:

Example of Net Promoter Score calculation

Promoters (score 9–10)

Those whose responses fall into the upper range with a score of 9–10 are designated ‘promoters’. These are the most enthusiastic customers and are committed to the brand beyond simply making purchases. Promoters are synonymous with brand ambassadors; they share their positive experiences with others and help market the brand. This leads to improved brand reputation and trust, without the steep costs associated with marketing and sales campaigns.

Passives (score 7–8)

Where promoters are enthusiastic about the brand, passives who score 7–8 on the NPS are just satisfied. They aren’t unhappy with the customer experience, but they are also not overly likely to want to recommend the brand to others. Although passives will generally continue to do business with a brand, they are much more susceptible to competitors who may make more enticing offerings or better distinguish themselves in terms of customer experience.

Detractors (score 0–6)

The remainder of the scale is dedicated to unhappy customers. Beyond simply being neutral, those with a score of 0–6 may negatively impact a business through increased churn and unfavourable word of mouth. A detractor’s attitude hinders company growth, demotivates employees and discourages new customers from becoming involved. It is worth noting that the scoring range for this category is far larger than the others; those who are not enthusiastic or satisfied with a brand can easily become a threat to it.

With all the responses in hand, the company performing the survey only has to determine what percentage of the total number of respondents are detractors and what percentage are promoters. Then they subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. The resultant number can range from 100 (where all respondents are promoters) down to -100 (where all respondents are detractors).

Reading and interpreting the NPS is straightforward: a higher number equates with a better overall customer experience and a lower number denotes a poor experience. But what exactly is a ‘good’ Net Promoter Score? And at what point should you be worried?

Any Net Promoter Score of more than zero suggests that your brand has more promoters than detractors. Alternatively, anything zero or below means that most of your customers are not satisfied and may be spreading that negativity to others.

The positive/negative numbering system can make it easy to see at a glance how a brand is performing. That said, the creators of the NPS system suggest that a score of 20 or more should really be the benchmark of high performance, with anything above 80 being the top percentile. Also, be aware that average net promoter scores may vary by industry, so it’s important to compare your score against the average in your industry.

Gauging customer loyalty can be a difficult prospect and there are many complex strategies that have developed to help businesses get a better feel for who their brand ambassadors are. These often include tracking repeat purchases, measuring the average value of orders and placing special emphasis on retention and churn rates. But in each of these cases, the results could easily speak to other factors not directly related to customer loyalty.

NPS goes straight to the source, asking your customers for their assessment of their own enthusiasm for your company. When businesses adopt the Net Promoter Score as part of their customer feedback strategy, they gain a clear and uncomplicated metric to evaluate the overall health of their brand and how it measures up to competitors in the same markets. They can then use these insights to inform their future customer-retention efforts.

In other words, NPS is a simple approach to developing a big-picture view of customer sentiment for your brand, helping you identify areas of improvement to reduce customer churn and further engage the customers that drive business growth. It’s inexpensive to implement and can easily be incorporated into existing feedback strategies.

While the most traditional NPS solutions are aimed at discovering the number of promoters and detractors associated with your brand, the basic structure and process of the Net Promoter Score can easily be adapted to other metrics. The effectiveness of new campaigns, specific products, logos, web pages, store locations and even individual teams or employees can all be tracked with NPS.

Similarly, employee satisfaction with your company plays a key role in the employee experience and directly impacts revenue and growth. The employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) follows a similar structure and scoring system to the standard NPS, but instead asks your organisation’s current employees how likely they would be to recommend the company as a place to work. Some companies will also include a second, open-ended question allowing the respondent to elaborate on their answer.

Correctly implemented, NPS in all its various forms help businesses understand what is working. A high NPS further validates current strategies and processes and a low NPS means that the brand may have to re-evaluate some of its elements.

Creating an NPS survey can be as easy as copying and pasting the primary question into an email and sending it to your customers. Free NPS survey templates are also available online.

However, if you want to create something that is more customised to your needs and more accessible and analytical in terms of data, you may wish to use a Customer Service Management (CSM) platform or other software tools. Because NPS is so widely used, many tools will include built-in NPS options.

What questions should I include in my NPS survey?

Again, the most basic NPS surveys consist of only a single question — this helps keep them simple and straightforward and lowers the bar of participation for those who are not interested in dedicating too much time or effort. On the other hand, additional questions can provide even clearer insight. If you want to further refine your NPS responses, consider also including the following types of questions:

  • Demographic questions
    You can segment responses into specific demographics by starting the NPS survey with questions about the respondents’ age, income, ethnicity, gender, etc.
  • Follow-up questions
    Open-ended follow-up questions can give even deeper insight into why the respondent answered your primary question the way they did. These usually include a space where the respondent can enter a more detailed response.
  • Permission to follow up
    By responding to the survey, the customer is indicating that they are not entirely opposed to discussing the issue. Consider asking respondents that complete the survey whether you can follow up with them and how to best reach them.

How satisfied are your customers? The NPS can tell you. But what NPS does not do is turn unengaged customers into brand advocates on its own. For that, you need a dedicated customer management platform capable of converting NPS insights into actionable solutions. ServiceNow Customer Service Management (CSM) is ready to help.

CSM provides the resources and support you need to take your customer satisfaction to higher levels. From providing omnichannel customer support options to automating business processes, CSM helps orchestrate and automate work to deliver a more seamless customer service experience. And because CSM is built on the award-winning Now Platform®, you’ll always have direct, centralised access to the tools and data you need, wherever and whenever you need them.

Click here to see Customer Service Management in action, and start turning your customers into true brand advocates.

Reimagine the customer experience

Transform operations and empower employees to address customer needs quickly and proactively.
Loading spinner