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Posted by on Oct 11, 2012

The NPS from a customer point of view

The NPS from a customer point of view


I stumbled upon this article  “Do you trust your customer survey results“  in Forbes by Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey, the brilliant brains behind the Net Promoter Score. The article recognizes that some companies have found that  that the results they get from “Net Promoter Score” surveys are not meaningful:

The research firms carpet bombed the company’s customers with surveys. But the resulting scores proved volatile and undependable.

The authors go on to give some sound advice about how to conduct NPS surveys to increase data relevance, the best among them:

  • be consistent in wording.
  • create surveys that get high response rates.
  • identify key client groups, and make sure their scores are heard.
  • encourage honesty in filling the form out.
  • look at data by relevant department or region or business unit.

These all make sense. But as a customer  (and frequent observer of customers),  I see that these recommendations  are written from a corporate point of view. They show companies how to maximise what they get out of the data.

What’s missing are recommendations on how to improve the quality of the NPS surveys from the customer point of view.  From the customer perspective, I’d love to see the authors add something else to their list, namely

  • consider WHEN to ask the NPS question.

Too often the NPS is asked at the wrong moment for the customer :

  • at K-mart the customer is forced to answer it during check out when the customer is busy unloading a cart and getting payment ready.
  • At American Express, it’s tacked onto a call centre evaluation survey that’s sent out every time a customer contacts American Express.  The question gets asked even when there is no contact, for example if the customer called during the weekend when the office was closed. And if there is contact, can a customer separate how she feels about that one call (where the Amex lady was probably helpful and friendly) from how she really feels about American Express as a company to recommend?
  • At a major airline, the NPS is asked like this: “Based on the website, how likely would you recommend this airline to a friend?”  But what customer would  recommend an airline based on a site?  It’s like asking some one to recommend an apple pie based on the truck it was delivered in. Of course a terrible, terrible website could be a reason not to recommend an airline, but the key drivers of why someone recommends an airline probably has more to do with the total travel experience.

Besides creating bad data, asking the NPS question at the wrong time irritates customers. It comes over to customers as :  we’re going to bother you with a question that we think is highly relevant at this time, even if you don’t.

Meanwhile, what the customer really wants to talk about, for example her overall feeling and experience with American Express as a company – not just one interaction –   is not asked.

So what is the right moment? I look forward to the community’s thoughts on this – but I think it’s important to select a moment that isn’t related to one specific interaction, but rather choose a moment that  captures a customer’s true feelings about her experience with the company as a whole.



1 Comment


  1. Is it really so simple? | Trust Equity - [...] written several posts about how the Net Promoter Score question or “NPS” (1)  often seems mindlessly [...]

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