If Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) is Flatlining, Double-Down with Data


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NPS is the wildly popular customer loyalty metric that is used by Fortune 500 companies and startups alike to building customer centricity. It is credited with driving customer retention and revenue growth.

Yet there is an aspect of NPS that isn’t often discussed. It might be something that you are dealing with right now:
Commitment to NPS can wane overtime.

This happens in spite of an NPS program’s proven potential to drive customer-centricity. What’s up with that? And more importantly, how can you use data to get your efforts to improve customer experience back on track?

When an NPS program is first launched, there is plenty of excitement

The first year or two of an NPS program is often very focused and rewarding. You spend time working on obvious issues and opportunities apparent in the customer feedback, and seeing those efforts translate into higher scores–and happier customers.

Companies often launch by asking the NPS question “How likely are you to recommend us?” quarterly or at a customer journey point. Using a modern CX software platform, feedback begins to come in and is visible in real-time in an analytics dashboard.

It is exciting to learn your brand’s NPS and read through the unvarnished customer feedback that accompanies each survey respondent’s score. You may quickly learn that your customers’ needs, perceptions and priorities are not what you thought they were. For example, maybe you were focused on building new features in your software product but customers tell you that what they really want is application speed.

That kind of insight tends to galvanize companies to take action (or it should), and then the team works furiously on obvious, high-impact issues.

And, because customer loyalty is now metricized, it is exhilarating to see your NPS rise as these “low hanging fruit” projects are completed.

Improvement gets harder

Then, somewhere around year 2 or 3 something happens. Your NPS may have improved. But now it is pretty stable. Maybe it fluctuates a point each quarter, but it’s definitely not declining. It treading water at a 26, 46 or even 55. There is a sense that “your NPS is your NPS.”

You present the monthly or quarterly NPS slide and everyone nods…and you move on. Because to really move the needle from here? First, you’d have to agree on what exactly would move the needle. Or, you might have to tackle a big, hairy problem that everyone believes is just too hard to do.

If this is you, pay attention. It is seriously time to reboot your commitment to your NPS program.

Why you need to re-build momentum behind improving customer experience.

You simply can’t rest on your laurels. Here is why:

– Your competitors sure aren’t resting. Today CX is THE competitive battlefield. Analysis by Bain Consulting shows that sustained value creators—companies that achieve long-term profitable growth—have Net Promoter Scores (NPS) two times higher than the average company. And Net Promoter System® leaders on average grow at more than twice the rate of competitors.

– It is becoming easier than ever for your customers to go elsewhere. Salesforce surveyed 6,700 customers and statistics are eye-opening. For starters, the research found that 76% of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.

– Your customers expectations are only getting higher. Salesforce also found that as customers interact with companies that are committed to experience, their expectations change. “Disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver improved experiences. As a result, they grow to expect this superior experience from any business they engage with.” In other words, the smooth experience customers have ordering a flat white on the Starbucks mobile app, or summoning a ride using Lyft, impacts their satisfaction with you and your brand regardless of what industry you are in.

Convinced it is time for a re-boot? Let’s get on with it.

Three ways to reboot your NPS program with data

Here are approaches that will deliver deeper insight into your customer’s experience. Doing so will reveal new projects and settle internal debates about priorities. Or help you create a compelling case for tackling that big, hard problem. Reinvigorate your program with new data and start moving the needle once again.

Get more insight from the customer feedback you are already collecting. Most companies have tons of NPS responses but often fail to dig in and use NPS responses to understand the “why” behind the score. Here are two avenues, both are made easy by modern technology.

1. Understand NPS by customer group using segmentation. Even if your company provides only one service or product, your customers are not the same. Categories of users have different needs and are bound to have different needs and expectations. Segmentation lets you slice and dice the data, and see the NPS for particular user groups of your business and determine how you’re faring.You’re able to figure out whether everyone feels equally or if the big number is being driven up by one segment and down by another. You then have the ability to improve your overall NPS by making your product or service better for users in those precise segments that lag behind the curve. Learn different ways you can think about segmentation.

2. Gain insight into customer comments at scale using text and sentiment analytics. This is a big one, especially for companies that are getting more than a couple of hundred NPS survey comments a month. We all know there is a gold mine of insight in all of that feedback — but often this data is not leveraged. And that is understandable. Manual categorization is resource intensive and, until very recently, technology solutions were either cumbersome or very expensive.Today you can use a platform designed for CX, where industry-specific algorithms provide a fast track to insights. “For decades, market researchers have been trying to manage and interpret open-ended feedback – before there was even “CX”! Extracting insights from text data, especially with the high volume generated by modern survey technologies, has plagued the industry, “ says David Yin, VP Customer Insights at Ancestry.com, a Wootric customer.

Ancestry was collecting unstructured feedback from thousands of customers via NPS surveys. Now, with qualitative comments finally quantified, David can see exactly what topics are behind the scores, and how customers feel about them. As a result, he can make data-driven recommendations about what to do next to improve customer experience.

Customer feedback auto-categorized into themes with sentiment.
Example of customer feedback auto-categorized into themes with sentiment assigned. Source: Wootric

3. Get feedback on key touchpoints in your customer’s journey.

NPS is known as a “relationship” metric. To improve that relationship further, you will need to map and then assess key touchpoints with additional metrics. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of your customer, and how each interaction affects your relationship. It’s also a way to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent for each customer across touchpoints. Armed with feedback about these critical moments, you can begin to identify opportunities to establish a more positive relationship.

This typically requires using additional microsurveys that ask questions appropriate to the journey point. This graphic below shows a simple way for SaaS businesses to think about customer journey and how to monitor it. In this example, you use a CES (Customer Effort Score) survey to assess how easeful your onboarding process is, and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) to get feedback on support interactions or new features. NPS is still in the mix–triggered 90 days before renewal. Every business model has an analogous journey. If you have yet to map your customer journey, here is a guide to getting started.

SaaS Customer Journey Metrics
SaaS Customer Journey Metrics

Refresh your insights — and commitment

A successful CX leader needs to be a data analyst, cat-herder, cheerleader, and master statesman. But driving customer-centricity is not your responsibility alone. It requires active commitment on the part of your C-suite. Your counterparts in Marketing, Success/Support and Product must be accountable for CX results, too. However, you are the one that needs to champion the way forward, and having the right data can help you regain momentum when you need it most.

Lisa Abbott
Lisa is the former Vice President of Marketing at Wootric, now InMoment. She brings a passion for the customer experience to brand building, and led marketing and customer research teams at Kraft Heinz and HanesBrands. An advocate for digital transformation, Lisa is the editor of the ebook “CX for Every Stage: How to scale your Voice of Customer program from Startup to Enterprise.” Attracting ideal customers and guiding them to success and advocacy is marketing nirvana for her.


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