NPS: How to bring it with us into modern marketing

One of the great questions we hear from marketers and researchers day in and day out is how to measure the satisfaction of customers. It’s a great question and frankly one that marketers and researchers should constantly assess and reassess. 

Traditionally, net promoter score (NPS) has been the most common indicator of satisfaction level. It provides a tangible number marketers can present both internally and externally to demonstrate customer sentiment and associated business performance. But is NPS being used to its full potential and how accurate a picture does it actually paint? 

A starting point

NPS is merely a starting point and can’t be relied upon as marketers’ only metric for customer satisfaction. While it can provide a glimpse into general sentiment, it doesn’t address where or what type of problems your customers may be experiencing or how you can solve them. More in-depth research is required to tap into these insights. For instance, consultancy-based organisations with a small relationship-centric customer base may rely on qualitative research while others may need a quantitative approach to capture a comprehensive view of their customers’ experience. The point is, no one research method will work for every business, in the same way that one metric measuring satisfaction won’t be a silver bullet. 

Dig deeper into the data 

Given that NPS is just one part of a successful research mix, how can marketers make it as accurate a reflection of customer satisfaction as possible? 

First of all, marketers need to identify who’s responding to their survey. Having a precise handle on who is contributing to your NPS will ensure marketers get a better handle on just how valid the responses are. If responses are largely coming from those who are happy with your service and therefore more likely to open your emails, it could skew your NPS score. 

Additionally, organisations should map each major touch point a customer has with the organisation and track satisfaction across them all. With this approach, marketers gain a clearer view of satisfaction across the various levels and interactions customers have with your business. 

Once you have defined these areas of focus, the next step is to rationalise why and when you’re speaking to a customer. There’s nothing worse than catching someone at the wrong time.  

Capture input on all customer touch points

A customer’s position in the sales cycle will have an influence on the NPS results. For instance, contacting customers the day after they’ve made a purchase but haven’t used the product yet will influence their ratings. The same can be said for those who haven’t made a purchase from you in the last three or four years. The key takeaway – marketers can be more productive by identifying customer groupings at various points in the sales cycle before sending the survey to them. 

As marketers, once we’ve received responses from customers we can’t think the job is done. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to guarantee all of the responses received will be reliable. Understanding the patterns that lead to erroneous data is critical to delivering an accurate NPS score. 

First of all, take a look at the respondents who dropped out of the survey early on. Those who do so tend to score organisations lower. Similarly, scan for respondents who use the same answer for every question - we call it straight-lining. It will become clear these people aren’t paying attention to the individual questions and ultimately, they’ll falsely represent customer satisfaction. Make sure you remove these results from the final analysis. 

Measure competitors to understand your position… and threats

Taking the analysis one step further to include competitive ratings can help your company keep a pulse on advantages and disadvantages across the broader market.  Having your customers rate your competitors can provide holistic insight into how you stack up and assess potential risks.

NPS is a traditional market research method that is incredibly useful and has little in the way of direct competition. While it can be valuable, it’s by no means a panacea. As long as it’s married with additional techniques and organisations give due thought to the ways in which they can improve its accuracy, it can prosper. If it is implicitly trusted as a standalone measure of customer satisfaction however, there is a risk that organisations can be misled. Unfortunately, when this happens it’s the customer, and ultimately your business, that suffers.