What is NPS: The Ultimate Guide to Net Promoter Score

Written by Moritz Dausinger, CEO of Refiner

Learn everything about Net Promoter Score (NPS). Discover how to conduct NPS surveys, collect customer feedback, and see actual survey questions and response templates.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys have become the golden standard for evaluating customer experience and loyalty by far and away. 

In fact, if you’re wondering how customers feel about your brand, product, or service or whether they’d even consider recommending you to a friend or colleague, an NPS survey is the best way to find that out.

But let me be frank here – NPS might seem simple at first. In truth, though, it is actually a pretty complex metric, one that’s even misunderstood at times, particularly when it comes to transforming NPS scores into actionable insights. 

That’s why I wrote this guide. My goal is to tell you everything about NPS surveys, from how to structuring and conducting such surveys, collecting customer ratings, evaluating the data, down to calculating your NPS score. 

Plus, I will also show you how to use the net promoter system to improve customer service and other aspects of your brand. 

So, let’s begin.

What is NPS?

Net promoter score (NPS for short) is a metric used to measure customer satisfaction and their loyalty to a company.

NPS was first developed in 2003 by Bain and Company, and since then has developed into the most widely used customer experience survey. Millions of companies launch NPS surveys regularly to evaluate their customers’ experiences, satisfaction with their service, and loyalty. 

On the other hand, an NPS survey is a question-based strategy used to collect customer feedback and establish a company’s NPS score. The survey uses a single question that customers respond to by giving a rating from 0 to 10.

Later in this guide, I will show you examples of different NPS questions to ask. For now, let me show you how a typical NPS survey looks like.

Notice the simple structure – just a single question – and the rating scale a customer uses to give their feedback. 

Depending on the person’s rating, their response might fall into one of three categories:

  • Promoters – These are people who’ve responded by giving a score of 9 or 10. These are the most loyal customers, who not only can’t imagine living without your product but would also be willing to tell others about it and recommend your business. 
  • Passives – Passives are satisfied customers who have rated your business between 7-8. Although they are happy with the service, they aren’t satisfied enough to recommend your company to others. 
  • Detractors – Detractors are unhappy customers. You recognize them for their low NPS ratings, typically in a region of 0-6. These people are dissatisfied with your product or service, and most likely would never buy from you again. What’s more, they could spread negative word-of-mouth about your business. 
Breakdown of NPS score.

As you can imagine, the higher your NPS score, the better. 

A high NPS score would suggest that you have a satisfied and loyal customer base. It would also indicate that current customers will contribute to your company’s growth through referrals and word-of-mouth. 

On the other hand, a low score with many detractors is most likely, would signal some severe issues that you should look at immediately. 

So let’s talk about that now. 

What is an NPS Score, and How to Calculate it?

NPS score is the numerical value that represents the overall net promoter score of your company. 

You calculate it using a simple formula:

Total % of promoters – Total % of detractors = NPS Score

Formula for calculating NPS score.

So, for example, let’s assume that a recent NPS survey delivered the following breakdown of your customer base:

  • Promoters – 70%
  • Passives – 15%
  • Detractors – 15%

Using the formula above, I can quickly subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters and calculate your NPS score as 55:

Actual calculation of an NPS score.

Does it make sense to collect NPS feedback, though?

We’ve briefly discussed what the NPS score might reveal about a business. You know that the higher the score, the healthier your business might be. 

But is investing time and effort into running NPS surveys and discovering your NPS score worth it?

Well, here’s how I see it. When you ask customers to rate their likelihood of referring you, you’re ultimately probing to find out something else:

You’re trying to uncover whether you can rely on word-of-mouth to happen and help propel your growth. 

I’m sure you already know that word-of-mouth and referrals are everything in today’s economy. More and more people rely on recommendations from colleagues, friends, and family when considering new purchases. And that goes for everything, from places to dine out to hiring professional services and buying SaaS software. 

In short, referrals are king and the best and fastest way to grow. 

But here’s the trick – Referrals happen only if you’re doing something right first. Unless customers are absolutely amazed by your product or service, there’s little to zero chance that they’ll recommend you. 

It’s a fact.

NPS surveys are the quickest and most reliable way to uncover your chances of getting referrals. 

Companies turn to NPS for several reasons:

  • Speed. NPS surveys are the quickest way to uncover customer loyalty. It takes one question only to know how many Promoters you have and how satisfied customers are with you. You can expand your insights with NPS follow-ups, of course. But even if you stick to the single rating question, you will uncover the insights you need. 
  • Simplicity. NPS is just a single metric. It’s easy to analyze and draw conclusions from. Not to mention that the NPS score is super simple to understand. 
  • NPS is also a standard nowadays. Practically everyone uses NPS. It’s a metric you can discuss with any other business, and you’ll both know what you’re talking about. 

Two Types of NPS Surveys

We’ve only talked about NPS surveys in general terms so far. However, I think it’s worth mentioning that there are, in fact, two different types of NPS surveys – transactional and relational.

Both survey types work in the same way, of course. The only difference between them is when you send the survey, structure the NPS question, and what specific insights you are trying to get.

Transactional NPS Surveys

Transactional NPS surveys aim to determine customer satisfaction after a specific event or interaction with a company. Such interaction could be a customer service or support call, product installation, a purchase, etc. 

Because of the timing when you send it, the survey can deliver insights about a particular issue or uncover customer attitudes towards a specific touchpoint. For that reason, transactional NPS surveys are ideal when you’re looking to:

  • Research the strengths and weaknesses of customer touchpoints.
  • Create customer satisfaction benchmarks for various customer-facing teams and company departments.
  • Improve interactions throughout the entire customer journey.

Relational NPS Surveys

While transactional surveys focused on evaluating customer attitudes after an interaction with the company, relational NPS inquiries about customer attitudes towards your company overall. 

As a result, relational NPS surveys are ideal for evaluating the overall state of your relationships with customers. They also help you understand what role customers play in your company’s success. 

Relational NPS surveys help:

  • Establish how customers perceive your company, 
  • Provide benchmarking data to evaluate other customer survey data
  • Understand customers’ loyalty towards your brand. 

NOTE: Because of their focus on overall attitudes towards a company, relational NPS surveys work best when you run them regularly but at longer intervals. Running such a survey every six or twelve months is ideal for collecting data to benchmark your customer’s loyalty.

What Could You Measure Using NPS?

We’ve already established the goals for running an NPS survey. You know that you can use it to evaluate customer satisfaction and loyalty.

But because of its open nature, it can be difficult to imagine what specific insights you could try to collect with an NPS survey.

And as a matter of fact, NPS can provide insights into your customers’ attitudes towards almost every aspect of your organization. 

You can use it to track NPS scores for products, specific locations if you have any, website experience, customer support interactions, and so on. 

What’s more, coupled with industry benchmark data, NPS can also help you compare your performance with the competition and help you understand your target market’s expectations. 

Later in this guide, I will be showing you examples of different NPS questions. You’ll notice that many of those questions ask either about a specific product feature, customer touchpoint, or another aspect of their experience with your brand. 

Employee Net Promoter Score

Most of the time, when we think of the NPS, we think about customers, their experience, and loyalty. 

But NPS can also help you establish the same with your employees. Employee NPS (eNPS) surveys help establish your staff’s sentiment towards the organization. In this case, the goal for eNPS is to evaluate how likely your employees are to recommend the company as a great place to work. 

Fun fact: Apple has measured its eNPS regularly, asking their employees: “On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend working at Apple to a friend?” Currently, the company’s eNPS score is 24, with 49% of their staff being promoters and 25% detractors. 

But Do NPS Surveys Work?

In theory, NPS surveys are simple. You ask customers one question and perhaps follow up with another. That’s it. 

But do they deliver actionable insights you can use to improve the business? 

I’ve asked a couple of our customers, companies using NPS surveys regularly about their experiences. 

Here’s what they told me:

[QUOTES]

NPS Survey Structure and Questions 

We’ve been mentioning the NPS survey format and questions over and over in this guide. But I admit that I haven’t explained either of them in any depth yet.

Well, let me change that now.

NPS Survey Structure

NPS is a two-questions survey. 

The Rating Question

The first question – we refer to it as the rating question – asks customers to respond by rating your company, product, or service on a scale of 0-10.

The goal of this question is to assess your customer base and discover their attitudes towards you. The result, delivered in percentages, helps you divide customers into three categories: 

  • Promoters, 
  • Passives, and
  • Detractors.

Here’s an example of a brand asking the rating question:

Example of an actual NPS survey.

Examples of Rating Questions

The rating question follows a simple structure:

“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”

However, you can customize it to focus the person’s attention on a specific aspect of your company, product, or service. This way, you can evaluate their attitudes towards that, rather than the entire business. 

For example:

You could ask the person to evaluate you based on their overall experiences with the company. The question would look like this:

“Considering your experience with [Your Company Name,] how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”

Another option is to ask the person to rate you based on their experience with the product. In this case, you’d frame the question like this:

“Based on your experience of using [PRODUCT NAME], how likely are you to recommend it to a friend or colleague?” 

The Follow-up Question

The other question – called the follow-up question – allows you to dig deeper into the person’s rating. Its goal is to help you discover why a person has scored you the way they had. 

Unlike the rating question, it uses an open-ended format and allows the person to express their reasoning in their own words fully. 

The follow-up question can ask for feedback, just like in this example.

Example of an NPS follow-up question.

But you can use it to ask for very specific information. 

You can ask detractors about what you could have done differently to provide a better customer experience. 

Or you could inquire openly about why they would not recommend your brand or product to others. 

Other Follow-up Question Examples

  • What was missing in your experience with [Company]?
  • What could we improve to change your mind? 
  • What [features/products/services, etc.] have you enjoyed using the most?
  • How did you benefit from using [product/feature/service, etc.]?
  • What did you like the most about [product/feature/service, etc.]?
  • What did you like the least about [product/feature/service, etc.]? 

Running Single Question NPS Only

The above is the most common structure for an NPS survey. 

But I have to admit that many brands decide to omit the follow-up and focus their survey on the rating question alone. 

This is perfectly fine to do. By all means, you don’t have to follow up with survey respondents. 

However, at Refiner, we recommend asking both questions because it’s the other question that allows you to uncover actionable insights and ideas to start implementing in your business right away.

Thank You Messages

FACT: Thank you messages aren’t an essential part of an NPS survey. 

You can end the survey after the person’s given their answers. 

However, displaying a thank you message can close the experience for a customer in a nice way. Regardless of whether the person has declared themselves as promoters or detractors, saying thank you for their time is a good way to show gratitude for them taking the time to complete your survey. 

It’s also a nice thing to do, overall, right?

Your thank you message doesn’t have to be lengthy or complex. Even one or two sentences stating how much you appreciate the person’s time and input will suffice. 

But you could also go deeper and display custom thank you messages for each of the three NPS scores. Here are just some ideas for what to say to each group:

  • For Promoters, you could state how amazing it is to know how much your product or service is helping the person. 
  • When thanking Passives, mention how important building a strong relationship with customers is for you, and promise to do better. 
  • For Detractors, you can show gratitude for coming forward with their feedback. State how important it is for you to hear about negative experiences and how much effort the company puts into eliminating such problems for customers. 

Follow-up Emails

The last element of the NPS survey structure is a follow-up email

These emails play a similar role to the follow-up question we’ve talked about already. They help you find out the “why” behind the person’s answers and learn more about their experience. 

What’s more, follow-up emails can also help you collect:

  • Testimonials for your products or services from Promoters. 
  • Get promoters to post reviews for your business.
  • Up-sell and cross-sell products. 
  • Schedule calls with detractors to understand the reasons for their dissatisfaction better. 
  • Find out which areas of your offering should be improved for them to give you a better score,
  • You can even use follow-up emails to collect competitive intelligence by asking why customers prefer other brands or products.

NPS Survey Tools to Use

Unfortunately, there is no way to run an NPS score without software. You could run some other customer survey types manually by calling or emailing your best users. 

But because NPS has to be done at scale, it needs software. 

You have to deliver the survey to customers, after all. You have to collect their responses and evaluate them to calculate your score. 

Overall, there are three types of tools you could use:

  • Email marketing tools that allow you to send links to a survey on the website,
  • NPS add-ons in other tools (such as CRMs, etc.), or
  • A dedicated NPS tool like Refiner. 

Each category has its pros and cons, of course. 

  • Email marketing tools provide some functionality you need. But in most cases, they cannot collect and evaluate the feedback you’ve received.
  • NPS add-ons offer the analytics option. Overall, however, they are basic and often lack the user experience that you need. If you’re thinking about running a simple survey, though, they might work. 
  • A dedicated NPS survey tool would include all the options you need. From setting up the survey, distributing it across many channels to customer segmentation, customization, and deep analytics. 
NPS software dashboard.
A dashboard in a dedicated NPS tool showing survey results and score.

How to Deliver NPS Survey

I believe in a simple rule when it comes to choosing channels to distribute the NPS survey – You need to focus on those that your customers are the most likely to use and engage with your survey. 

But I know that it’s a vague answer to the question. So let me elaborate. 

The success of an NPS survey relies on having as many customers reply and share their feedback as possible. 

This means that, ideally, you should reach them with the survey using as many channels as possible: 

  • Email. With dedicated NPS tools, you can even embed the survey in the email body itself. So the person doesn’t have to go to a specific web page to start sharing their feedback. 
  • The website. Your NPS survey should also reside on the website as a widget.
  • The app. In-app surveys can deliver incredible response rates. Again, a dedicated NPS tool will offer that functionality. 
  • Shared through customer support channels. Your support agents could also share links to the survey with customers via customer service live chat, and so on. 

Of course, you don’t have to use all of those channels. But I recommend that you test them to discover which deliver the highest response rates and focus on those channels with future surveys. 

A Very Quick Word About Personalization and Segmentation in NPS

NPS is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. 

It’s almost impossible to run just one survey and get all the meaningful insights from it. 

You have different customer segments, after all. 

Your product’s features are of different importance to customers, and you may want to evaluate each independently. 

You can also decide to evaluate different touchpoints to see how satisfied customers are with them. 

Achieving all of the above and more will require two things – personalization and segmentation. 

  • Personalization -To run a specific NPS survey, you may need to personalize your template, questions, thank you notes, and follow-up emails. 
  • Segmentation – You may also need to send the NPS survey to a specific group of customers. Depending on your goals, these might be your VIP customers, new customers, or even passives to evaluate whether their attitudes towards you have changed. 

All in all, you must remember not to use the same survey for every customer but customize it, depending on your goals, and the audience segment you want to research. 

How to Create an NPS Survey – A Step-by-Step Walkthrough

To close this guide off, let me show you how everything we’ve talked about works in practice. 

For the purpose of this presentation, let’s assume that you want to run your very first NPS survey. 

Your goal – To learn how satisfied and loyal your current customer base is. Since you’ve never run such a research project before, we’re going to send the survey to every customer. 

Note – Later, you might want to run follow-up surveys with specific customer segments. For now, however, we want to learn the actual breakdown of your customer base into promoters, passives, and detractors.

A quick disclaimer before we begin – I’m using our NPS tool, Refiner, to illustrate various steps of the process. You can sign up and try Refiner completely for free here.

I’m also going to show you how to create an NPS survey from scratch. However, Refiner includes many ready-made templates that you could customize quickly and launch a survey within minutes. 

So, without any further ado, here’s how to create and launch an NPS survey.

Step 1. Choosing the Delivery Method

NPS works best when you deliver it through multiple channels. But because each channel requires a slightly different setup, you need to create each of those surveys separately. 

For this walkthrough, I’m going to select Email as the delivery format. 

NPS survey setup 1.

Step 2. Add the Rating NPS Question

Quick note – Refiner allows you to run multiple customer satisfaction surveys. Apart from NPS, you can also run CSAT and other surveys. You can also include many different elements in the survey – other questions, thank you notes, and more. 

Because we’re building the survey from scratch, we have to tell the app which survey type we’re running. 

(Please note that this step is not required when you launch a survey from an NPS template.)

NPS survey setup 2.

Once you click the option, Refiner will add the NPS question to the survey. 

Like this: 

NPS survey setup 3.

The app also already fills the survey with the most common NPS question. You can customize it before sending it, of course. You can do this by clicking on the question. 

You can also add other elements to the email:

  • Instructions to customers
  • Your contact information, and more. 

Step 3. Set Up Email Delivery

Once you’ve created the survey, you need to set up its delivery. 

Refiner outputs your email in an HTML code that you can copy and paste into your email template.

NPS survey setup 4.

And to ensure that the code you use is compatible with your email provider, Refiner can tailor it specifically to the most popular email platforms:

Step 4. Set Up Survey’s Landing Page

With email NPS surveys, customers begin the survey in their inbox but complete it on a survey’s landing page. 

Naturally, Refiner will create such a page for the survey automatically. 

You can customize the page’s branding and add your company’s logo.

Survey setup 5.

And with that, your survey is ready to go. 

You have it set up. You have the code to include in the email body and the landing page where customers can complete the survey. 

What’s left is to send the survey and start collecting responses.

It’s that simple. 

Good luck!

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