Why NPS is the One Number You Can Certainly Live Without


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NPS, otherwise known as Net Promoter and formerly known (sort of like Prince) as a behavioral intent question measuring willingness to recommend is a fairly polarizing concept. There are died in the wool proponents and an equally sizeable group of detractors. From our standpoint, the conceptual goal of a simple to understand metric that serves as an internal rallying cry for the importance of customer experience/service is great. Where NPS goes astray is claiming to be more than this when just being this was a worthwhile achievement. This is because the technical and methodological criticism, in our view, is fair and accurate,

But, you needn’t take our word for it. A blog post by Jeffrey Henning does an excellent job of summarizing and sourcing the publicly available critiques. One of the more fundamental claims that simply isn’t accurate is NPS as not only a good predictor of behavior but, the best.

The chart below is one example among many that chips away at this claim. Here we compare NPS to our own measure of customer relationship strength, Relationship Investment. It shows that only 49% of repeat purchase to a retailer comes from Promoters. Using our Relationship Investment measure we see that 62% of repeat purchase (or loyal behavior) comes from our “top box” group – the Fully Invested. The problem with NPS in this instance is the same as satisfaction – it proves to not be a very good predictor of behavior.

What Does Willingness to Recommend actually measure and how should you use it? As a caveat, we’ve always asked it and probably always will but that doesn’t answer our own question. The one area where you would think it makes intuitive sense is as a predictor of actual recommend behavior but as it turns out, things like satisfaction actually predict recommend behavior better than intent to recommend – go figure.


Kevin Schulman
Twelve plus yrs of market research and analytics applied to customer acquisition, retention and consumer equity.


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