NPS Best Practices

Doing Net Promoter Score Wrong? A Look at Customer Surveys Gone Awry

John Ballinger

Most companies understand that Net Promoter Score is a measure of customer loyalty and loyalty leads to customer retention and growth. Savvy business leaders work to ensure those outcomes by making Net Promoter Score a key performance indicator. They give this KPI to their marketing department or customer success team. However, while these teams are incented to execute, they often arrive back at a common set of challenges:

  1. Low Response Rates
  2. Low Score
  3. Over Incentivizing  
  4. Lack of Understanding
  5. Lack of Action

Of course, it could be argued that numbers 4 and 5 — Lack of Understanding and Action — are the root cause of numbers 1, 2, and 3. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Challenge: Not enough Responses


The Way-Too-Long Survey
customer satisfaction survey nps

Many healthcare organizations need to run a customer satisfaction survey at least once a year to keep accreditation. Recently a friend had two healthcare appointments in one week and after each, they received a survey, but they didn’t complete either one. Keep in mind that this friend understands the importance of surveys. Why were they part of the majority that doesn’t respond? “THERE ARE LIKE TEN PAGES. Literally, don’t have time or patience for this

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mobile experience is awful.”Here’s another example: A single item, home-improvement purchase for a Saturday to-do list generated a “randomly selected to survey” on a mobile device. One item and they wanted to know the timeliness, convenience, condition, correctness, quality, overall satisfaction, purchaser’s age, and opinion on how to improve the experience. The answer to "how to improve the experience" was, “shorten your survey.” The experience was both exhausting and invasive.

The Stuck in the 1990’s Survey

An electronics company sent out a survey to their customers with this note: “Please fill out our survey. Your feedback is important. It will only take twenty minutes of your time.”People rarely finish more than three survey questions and won’t even open a 20-minute time suck — no matter how many times you put them in the running to win an iPad. There’s simply no time for that. While this might have worked in the 1990’s when people used fax machines and mailed surveys, in today’s fast-paced world, the response rate won’t even be statistically significant.

The Awkward Question

A colleague received a customer feedback survey from a Saas company. It asked, “Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” That was standard, but then came the next question: “Can you tell us why we’re worth recommending?”What if you weren’t going to recommend them? How could they have better worded this? Awkwardness begets abandonment.

The Bait and Switch Survey

Another friend received a survey after visiting a water park. The initial question was, “Can you confirm you recently visited our website?” Well, they guessed that was simple enough and clicked yes. Then the nightmare began. That click led to several questions that included what is the main reason you visited? What best describes you? What is your favorite music? And other intrusive and irrelevant questions. Where did this company go wrong?

The 404 Survey

A friend got a request to survey for an e-commerce site. They liked their experience and wanted to tell the company that they enjoyed their experience. They clicked on the survey link only to get a page that said, “Sorry, this survey is closed.” What are the chances they’ll click on a survey for that company ever again?

Challenge:  Skewed or Inaccurate Data

Causes: Over Incentivising

The Gaming The System Survey

One company thought that sending out an incentive would raise their survey response rate. They offered a ten dollar Amazon gift card for every survey completed and sent a link to customers. That link was too convenient to spread and soon they had over a thousand responses. The problem was they only sent out 100 survey emails. What happened?  With the link being so easy to share, people were sending it to their other email addresses and entering more than once. They also shared with their family and friends — many of whom had never interacted with the company and only answered to get the gift card. This left them with bad data.

Challenge:  Not Enough Information From Customers

Causes: Not Actioning Net Promoter Score Responses

The Out of Touch Survey

A company I worked for only sent customer satisfaction surveys out every other year. The thought was that they didn’t want to “bother” their customers. But what happened was the response rate was so low the survey wasn’t statistically relevant. Why? The customer didn’t feel as if the company truly cared about their opinion. The survey didn’t seem relevant and actually felt like an afterthought. After all, a lot can happen over two years — both good and bad. This company was blind to their customer experience.

The Stuck in The Boardroom Survey

A telecom company sent out a short Net Promoter survey twice a year. Their staff spent hours preparing the customer list, uploading it to the survey system. Then after two days, they were able to hit send. They waited 24 hours and then hit send again to all that hadn’t answered.  After a week, they gathered the data and took another ten days to create a report for the board meeting. The CMO showed the results to the board in a biannual meeting. They ask what does the NPS number mean? How does it compare to our industry? The CMO tells them that it is average for their industry and they all nod and move on to the next topic. In six months the telecom company goes through the exercise again. The score is the same. The board nods and moves on. At the one year mark, the team once again sends out the survey. This time the number is down. The CMO presents it to the board and they ask why it went down? The leaders speculate on the cause and decide to put money into a marketing campaign letting their customers know they really care about customer experience and NPS. They wait for the next six-month mark and send out the survey. They hadn't raised their score. In fact, it’s lower and worse, the amount of responses is going down.What are they doing wrong? They aren’t actioning their NPS responses; they aren’t even looking at them until sometimes months later. Customers with a problem want it addressed right away not six months after they and their friends have moved on to a new brand.

customer satisfaction survey nps

The Solution?

Companies that get the best response rates know that convenience is king in today’s world. They survey with one simple question which measures customer loyalty. “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Then they give the customer a chance to leave a comment.Then they take action on these comments - addressing all the responders quickly, and with a cohesive plan.

As NPS mature companies have discovered, this strategy keeps you in the good graces of your customers and helps you start a conversation that builds your reputation as a customer-obsessed brand. Net Promoter Score surveys are a measure of loyalty and customer satisfaction.  Sending out a simple, easy one-question survey at proper points in the customer journey and then actioning the feedback leads to retention and growth. Don't forget the impact that great employee experience management has on your customer service teams.

Learn more about our customer feedback software.

John Ballinger
About the author

John Ballinger

He's cool.

John Ballinger
About the author

John Ballinger

He's cool.

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