Customer Experience News & Trends

Beyond NPS: How to find out what customers really think

If you’ve been using Net Promoter Score to gauge customer satisfaction, you might not be getting the full picture. 

The satisfaction survey, popular for more than decade, asks customers just one question about the likelihood they’d recommend the company to others. Customers don’t have to spend much time giving feedback, and the organization gets a lot of feedback without having to analyze a lot of data.

With ease like that, NPS has become a fundamental business metric. But …

“We’ve come to believe that NPS offers mostly broad strokes, akin to a compass pointing companies in the right direction,” says Christina Stahlkopf, an associate director of research and analytics at C Space, in a Harvard Business Review study. “This is not to say we think it’s irrelevant. A compass is still a helpful tool. But sometimes, you need a more-detailed topographical map to navigate a rough or uncertain landscape. Sometimes, what the compass indicates is the best direction to follow actually isn’t once you take into account the on-the-ground terrain.”

So it’s not necessarily time to throw NPS out the door. But researchers found there are more effective ways to get valuable feedback.

What was done

In the traditional NPS survey, customers are asked how likely on a scale of 1-10 they are to recommend the company after an experience. Those who give scores of 9 or 10 are considered Promoters. Those who give scores of 7 or 8 are Passives, and those who score under 6 are Detractors. To calculate the NPS score, add up the total responses. Then take the total for each group and divide it by the total number of survey responses to get the percentage. Subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of the Promoters to get the NPS score.

The problem, according to Stahlkopf: “Humans are complex and often contradictory. Our minds are always operating on multiple planes—placing facts, feelings, and experiences within contextual and subjective frameworks. An oversimplified model can ignore this natural human state.”

In many cases, customers love one aspect of a business or product, and hate another. But they can’t differentiate the two extreme feelings in an NPS survey, so they must swing one way when they’re asked.

What should be done

What works better? The researchers said companies want to try something with a framework that focuses more on customers’ actual behavior, less on one experience and reaction to it.

“We think that companies would do better with a framework that focuses on customers’ actual behavior,” Stahlkopf says. “By taking the percentage of active advocates and subtracting the percentage of active discouragers, they can calculate something we call an earned advocacy score, an approach that we believe provides clearer, more-detailed, and more-actionable data.”

What to do now: You’d still want to track the NPS score. Then you’d want to track what those customers – mainly the Promoters and Detractors – do. Follow their purchase history. Follow up with open-ended survey questions or reach out for real-time interaction to find out if they’ve recommended you or your products. Ask if they’ve told others to avoid your products.

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