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4 Little-Known Factors That Could Hurt Your NPS Score

Everyone wants a better NPS score. Not just for the bragging rights (though those are good too), but to drive business growth, you will always need more promoters than detractors. Now that we have sent millions of NPS surveys for hundreds of customers around the world, we have noticed some patterns.

Many people think that the only thing you can do to improve your NPS score is to improve your product.

The fact is, that is just not true. How you measure NPS affects the ultimate score you receive.

Now I know what you might be thinking at this point … why would you want to get better scores from people if you think your product doesn’t deserve them? Wouldn’t it be better to get the most honest score from customers rather than the most optimized score?

Let me make two arguments as to why the most optimized score might be better:

  1. Robert Cialdini in his breakthrough book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, explains people’s urge to be consistent with things they have said can actually change their opinions about things. For example, the contests where people had to write what they liked best about a brand in 50 words or less, wasn’t about coming up with a marketing slogan. It was about getting millions of housewives to declare their positive sentiments about a brand with paper and pencil. And it worked extremely well. If someone gives you a 10 instead of an 8 because of how you survey them, they are more likely to think of themselves as the kind of person that gives you a 10.
  2. The higher the score they give you, the easier it is to ask them to act on their score (e.g. by leaving a positive review). If more people act on their scores, you are more likely to get more customers (via references and reviews) which will lead to more feedback and thus opportunities to improve your product.

So using every technique you can to raise your NPS score (aside from the obvious one of improving your product) is likely to have a net-positive effect on your customer sentiment.

In short: Like quantum physics, the act of measuring NPS can change its outcome.

So how SHOULD you be measuring NPS? Let’s look at some optimizations we have learned:

Factor #1: When You Send Your Surveys

The time at which you send your NPS surveys makes a big difference. For example, if you send an NPS survey immediately after someone buys your product, your customers won’t have had time to actually use your product yet. So at best you would be measuring how loyal your customers were to your shopping cart, but most likely they would just ignore the survey entirely.

Likewise, if you wait a year after the point of purchase, your customer will likely have forgotten your brand. So timing can be very important.

Tip #1: For transactional NPS, we typically recommend ideally sending the survey around 2 weeks after the point of purchase.

If you are measuring NPS for an ongoing SaaS service, the 2 week after initial point of purchase is a good starting point as well. But how long do you wait before sending another NPS survey to the same customer?

On the one hand, you want to make sure you have the most up-to-date information possible (you want to see how new features are affecting NPS), but you don’t want to spam the same person with an NPS survey every month. Just imagine if you got an NPS survey request from Apple every month. It would get pretty annoying pretty quickly.

Tip #2: For service-based businesses, we typically recommend dripping NPS surveys (see Factor #3 in this article) to customers so that an individual customer won’t see more than 4 surveys per year.

Now that you have a good baseline frequency and timing, you may want to research The Email Genome Project so that you can optimize the timing of your survey sends even further. Remember, the higher the response rate, the more opportunities you will have to build strong relationships with customers.

Factor #2: The Words You Use in Your Survey

Words have the power to influence and persuade. But they can also easily turn people off. Just think of all the emails you have received that have started out like this:

“Dear Sir or Madam,”

You know before you read another word that you don’t need to keep reading.

On the other hand, how would you feel if you read the words “I am sorry”? You would want to know more of course. Who is sorry? Why are they sorry? What did they do to be sorry about?

Using the right words can maximize the open-rates of your surveys, and the more people who open it, the more people who will respond, which creates more opportunities to deepen your customer relationships.

We have found that a simple 3-word email subject performs best. Something like “Two Quick Questions.” It is vague but honest. It is not click-bait, but also something that has enough intrigue that people want to find out what they are.

The 3-word subjects perform well these days because of mobile apps. Longer subject lines aren’t fully readable on mobile apps which makes them less likely for people to read.

As for the NPS survey question itself, we have found that the standard wording is still best:

“How likely are you to recommend [the Brand, Product, or Service] to a friend or colleague?”

We have seen people try to get carried away with this, but more words make it harder to read… not more persuasive to respond to.

Tip #3: When it comes to wording your NPS surveys, be honest and keep-it-simple with very few words.

Factor #3: The Frequency You Send Your Surveys

Many people get so excited about NPS when they find out about it that they can’t wait to send the survey to all their customers and find out their score immediately.

But that’s one of the biggest NPS mistakes you can make!

Why? Because of Factor #1: it is best not to send an NPS survey to a customer more than once a year. So if you release a new feature it could be a year before you find out how it affected your NPS score.

There are a couple solutions to this problem. One solution is to divide your customers into 4 groups and send out ¼ of the surveys every month. However this means that you will still have to wait for a while to get feedback on how things are going.

However, we have developed a better solution at Promoter.io. We have a DRIP feature for NPS which means that you can send 1% of your users an NPS survey every single day of the year. That works out to sending the ideal number of surveys to each customer a year (4) and allows you to track your NPS score at the finest granularity possible. You can start measuring results immediately.

It also has the benefit of making it easier to manage the feedback process (part of Factor #4).

Tip #4: Trickling out your NPS surveys on a regular basis rather than sending large massive campaigns a few times a year will give you better feedback faster.

Factor #4: What You Do After The Survey Is Sent

Though the last factor on this list, this is probably the biggest. The place you could be hurting your NPS score the most is in the follow-up (or lack thereof).

Imagine yourself in the situation where you took the time to give a company your feedback about their product… and then you heard nothing back. Ever.

Then they sent you another survey request. What would you do? Ignore it just like they ignored you. Even if your customers love your product, if you don’t follow-up with them after every survey request they will not feel like it matters.

Following up is the single biggest and most important way to improve your NPS scores. Not only does it let people know there is a real person behind this (not just a spreadsheet), but it forges personal relationships you are unlikely to form in any other way.

Are you scared to respond personally to NPS surveys… especially when they might give you a bad score? Don’t worry, most people are. That’s why we created a NPS Follow-Up Cheatsheet that gives you templates for every possible score they could give you. We have thought through the psychology behind how to respond to a 2 or a 10, so you don’t have to.

Tip #5: Always respond personally to each and every NPS survey response you get or the effectiveness of measuring NPS over time will die off quickly.

Using these techniques will give you an edge and help you maximize the potential of your NPS process. Even if you only implement one or two of these ideas, your NPS score should start heading in the right direction faster.

If you have more ideas for how to maximize your NPS score, please leave them in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

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Chad Keck

As a product lead and executive for numerous successful ventures (Rackspace, HP Cloud, AppFog), Chad founded Promoter.io to help bring the actionable insights provided by Net Promoter to all businesses. He is a native Texan with a passion for helping other entrepreneurs.

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