Five Ways to Tell if NPS Is Right For You

You probably think you know everything you care to know about Net Promoter Score,® or NPS.® After all, it's simple! Just one survey question, or maybe two if you're feeling fancy, right? Perhaps you're among those who wonder how a survey like that could possibly deliver what you need? Or maybe you're in the camp who thinks it's a great idea to include the "likely to recommend" question every chance you get?

Not so fast. NICE Satmetrix co-created the Net Promoter Score in 2003, so we know a thing or two about this industry-changing metric, including when to use it, and when to turn away. Here are five questions to ask yourself to find out whether and when you should be using NPS.

What am I doing here, anyway?

Net Promoter Score was developed as a way to predict growth. Three years of painstaking research showed that the best predictor of future growth is not satisfaction, but loyalty. That's best measured by likeliness to recommend. Ask "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?" Subtract the percentage of Detractors (0-6) from the percentage of Promoters (9 or 10), and you've got yourself a number: NPS. Here's a visual

NPS assesses of the overall relationship a customer has with you. It provides a framework for understanding the role each touchpoint plays in that relationship. So if your remit is to improve the overall customer experience across all the ways that a customer interacts with you, from sales to renewal or repurchase, NPS is worth a close look.

Also remember that effective NPS surveys include more than one or two questions – but not too many more! You'll need to drill down a bit to be able to get the insights you need to prioritize your actions. (We've got lots of guidance for you.)

Do I have laser focus?

NPS measures loyalty to the company overall. But if you're focused on a particular part of your customers' experience, such as their interaction with the contact center, then another metric is probably better for you. Consider CSAT or Customer Effort Score – those measures are better for tracking a specific touchpoint.

If you're considering using NPS in a survey that's focused on a touchpoint, like the contact center, that's probably OK, but consider it an "off label" use. NPS was developed specifically to measure the overall relationship, so if you're measuring it as part of a touchpoint survey, you can't logically benchmark your score.

Am I calling my orange an apple?

People make a number of common mistakes when using what they think of as NPS. If you're doing any of the following, you're not really getting the value that NPS can deliver.

  • Asking the "likely to recommend" question at the end of a survey
  • Using anything but a 0-10 scale
  • Considering NPS an equivalent of CSAT

You might still find the score that results helpful, but you're not letting NPS do its job of measuring loyalty.

Does everyone dig it?

NPS has its fans (well deserved, we say!), but it has its critics too. If you're operating in an environment that's hostile to NPS, accept reality and move on to a metric that lights up your executives. You can't make change if you're defending your metric.  But lots of the principles of a great NPS program still apply.

Am I all about action?

NPS gained popularity – and has remained a valued metric – because of its simplicity and predictive capabilities. But just as you won't lose weight simply by getting on the scale, you don't improve the customer experience simply by measuring a number. You've got to be committed to careful, systematic action.

To be ready to take the right action, you've got to have the insights you need. NPS shines as a way to give context and prioritization to what you learn about your customer's perception of you. The most important lesson NPS and the associated methodologies can teach you is this: Whatever your metric, never treat surveys or customer feedback as research – they should guide constant, purposeful action. ​