Why NPS Surveys Aren’t Enough to Gauge Customer Satisfaction [Expert Survey]

Does NPS really give you the whole picture of customer satisfaction? Or do you need other research metrics? Find out what the experts think.
September 19, 2021

11 minute read

nps-vs-other-types-of-customer-surveys

Why NPS Surveys Aren’t Enough to Gauge Customer Satisfaction [Expert Survey]

Does NPS really give you the whole picture of customer satisfaction? Or do you need other research metrics? Find out what the experts think.

11 minute read

September 19, 2021

nps-vs-other-types-of-customer-surveys

Contents

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a widely used customer research metric for understanding how satisfied your customers are.

It involves sending a survey to your audience with one main question: “How likely are you to recommend a [business/product/service] to a friend or colleague?” Participants are asked to rate give their response on a scale of 0 to 10.

NPS reveals how satisfied your customers are, which helps predict their loyalty and informs your business growth forecast.  

But while NPS surveys are convenient for businesses to send and effortless for customers to fill out, is it enough to see the entire picture of customer satisfaction? Or does it need other supplemental research metrics?

We conducted a recent survey with 49 companies. As it turns out, the answer goes deeper than a simple yes or no.

88% of companies use NPS surveys

We started by determining how many companies actually use NPS surveys to measure their customer satisfaction.

As it turns out, a strong majority at 88% of companies currently send out NPS surveys as part of their customer research.

Another 59% rely on the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), followed by 57% who customize their own open-ended questions.

Following that, 51% of marketers send out custom multiple-choice surveys, while 35% use visual rating surveys (such as star rating surveys or the smile/frown face format).

Only 18% use the Customer Effort Score (CES).

But what happens after companies receive these NPS results?

 

Types of customer satisfaction surveys companies use: 88% use NPS

 

43% of companies send follow-up questions

According to our survey, 43% of companies use NPS surveys as a jumping off point. They send follow-up questions to dig deeper into their customer’s responses.

The majority 57% of companies do not. (This doesn’t mean these companies aren’t using another survey or customer satisfaction measure – only that they don’t send follow-up questions after an NPS survey.)

Do companies ask follow-up NPS questions? 43% do, but 57%, don’t.

NPS scores accurately predict customer satisfaction, but don’t help with areas of improvement

We then asked our survey group if their NPS scores were reasonably accurate predictor of customer satisfaction. Did the responses correlate with actual customer behavior?

On a scale of 1-10, marketers gave NPS an average accuracy of 7.83 in showing which customers needed more attention and nurturing. NPS shows which customers I must work harder to nurture: 7.83

At a slightly lower accuracy, NPS scores were rated an average of 7.59 in predicting whether a customer positively promoted their company to others.  This includes which customers actually tell friends about the brand, leave positive reviews, share on social media, or refer others through a referral program.  

NPS accurately predicts which customers positively promote my brand: 7.59

The accuracy was also high (although slightly less) when it came to customer retention. Marketers gave NPS scores an average of 7.47 in correlating with customer retention, or which customers remained loyal to their business. NPS accurately predicts customer retention: 7.47

 

Where NPS doesn’t seem as effective, however, is in pinpointing areas for improvement. Our respondents rated the survey scores a 6.98 when it comes to showing what aspects of a customer’s experience need to improve.

NPS shows which aspects of customer experience my brand needs to improve: 6.98

Another blindspot of NPS is knowing why the scores changed month to month, or quarter to quarter. Marketers gave NPS an average rating of 6.67, revealing that it can be hard to determine why the scores fluctuate, looking at the survey results alone. 

I can pinpoint reasons why NPS scores change: 6.67

While NPS surveys can show how a customer feels toward your brand at an exact moment, they are more of a starting point. You’ll still need to do some more digging to discover why a customer’s feelings toward your brand change, and how you can better serve them in the long run. 

NPS and other customer satisfaction metrics

So is NPS enough to get a clear picture of customer satisfaction? Based on the responses we received from professional marketers, the opinions on NPS surveys can be classified into four groups: 

  1. NPS is the best measure of customer satisfaction.
  2. NPS is not the best measure of customer satisfaction.
  3. NPS is a good measure of customer satisfaction, but should be supplemented with other methods.
  4. NPS is the best measure of customer satisfaction – when paired with follow-up questions.

Read what marketers in each of these four groups had to say. 

Group #1: NPS is the best measure of customer satisfaction

With well over half of companies sending NPS, it’s obvious the survey offers several benefits. Here’s why experts think NPS is an extremely valuable measure of customer satisfaction.

It’s easy to understand

The net promoter score is easily understandable, which is why Devin Johnson from Kennected uses it as his company’s go-to metric for measuring customer satisfaction.

“It’s the most important for overall brand loyalty because it’s easy to understand and relatively inexpensive to use. Plus, follow-up questions can direct you toward improvements. NPS naturally provides more quantitative data than qualitative, which may be best found from custom-designed surveys instead.”

It helps separate customers into groups

Mike Nemeroff from Rush Order Tees shares: “All in all, NPS surveys are the most accurate way to measure customer satisfaction because of the way such a large array of customers can be divided into three separate groups: the unsatisfied, satisfied, and middling customers.

“No other survey method does a more accurate job of that division. And separating your market so you can help target them in different ways is essential to the growth of your business.”

Group #2: NPS is not the best measure of customer satisfaction

While NPS has a lot of merits, it’s hard to capture the whole picture with just one survey. Here are the top reasons why some experts don’t rely on NPS to measure customer satisfaction:

Numerical values can’t accurately measure customer satisfaction

“NPS surveys don’t give you the most accurate measurement of customer satisfaction because you don’t get the ideas and opinions found in real feedback and answers to open-ended questions,” insists Nathan Murphy from QuizBreaker.

“Giving customers the chance to answer questions with their own words rather than numerical values gives you certainty that you know them well, rather than taking a wild guess that the scale means to them exactly what it means to you.

“Still, while NPS surveys aren’t the most accurate measurement of customer satisfaction, they give you a piece of the puzzle.”

Difficult to tell the exact reason behind the scores

Jitesh Keswani from e-Intelligence also argues against NPS. “Looking at other surveys and methods, the NPS survey is not the most accurate way to measure customer satisfaction. One cannot know the reasons behind the  NPS scores, like you can with other surveys.”

Group #3: NPS is a good measure of customer satisfaction, but should be supplemented with other methods

In our third group, we have several respondents who take a neutral stance on using NPS.

Customer satisfaction is too complex to be a single score

For example, Cheryl James of CL James Consulting, LLC says, “NPS is one way to measure customer satisfaction, but not the only way. If you are really looking to hear the voice of your customer, you need to use the various surveys to gather different data points.”

Jennifer Dinnen from MacKenzie Corporation speaks along the same lines. “I don’t doubt that NPS can be a predictor of customer satisfaction. I just get concerned when we simplify this complicated topic down to one number. Things are so much more complex than that.

“We need to ask the question of why we want to measure customer satisfaction. Because we believe that it is an accurate indicator of customer loyalty? In this day and age, I am not sure that still holds true.”

Different metrics are needed for a complete understanding

Suneha Dutta from Fundsquire Pty Ltd. agrees that, “NPS has done a lot to bring customer evaluation to the forefront and is a good indicator of consumer opinion. But it is not the cure-all.

“I think different kinds of metrics, including CSAT and CES, should be considered along with NPS to gather a more complete understanding of a brand’s customer perception.”

If you want to supplement your NPS surveys with voice of the customer data, we have other articles that cover professional research tips and the right customer questions to ask.

Group #4: NPS is the best measure of customer satisfaction – when paired with follow-up questions

Our survey revealed the majority of companies see the best results with NPS surveys and follow-up questions.

Supplement NPS with open-ended questions

Miranda Yan from VinPit explains. “I would say the NPS survey is the most convenient way to measure customer satisfaction, but it lacks in procuring accurate data. It isn’t quite effective in providing you product-wise feedback.

“An NPS survey is easy to take and doesn’t annoy the customers. This measure is built on the rationale of convenience. If companies want more in-depth data, they can send follow-up questions to their customers.”

Lauri Kinkar from Messente suggests, “Aside from the rating system, you can add open-ended survey questions, like ‘What is the primary reason for your score?’ or ‘How can we improve your experience?’”

This helps you “understand the customer’s pain points and determine how to improve your service. By including questions like these, you are encouraging customers to provide constructive criticism. The more you invite customers to do it, the more likely they’ll be to answer the questions honestly.”

NPS scores require additional understanding

What are some recommended follow-up questions you can add to your customer research process?

OnPay Online Payroll’s Elliott Brown suggests asking customers to briefly explain the reason behind their score. “Without this question, the NPS score doesn’t help you understand what you’re doing well and what you need to work on.”

Caroline Lee from CocoSign shares these follow-up questions:

  • “We’re happy you like us. Would you like to refer us to your friends or family?”
  • “Which feature do you use the most?
  • “How can we improve the user experience?”

Maya Rotenberg from Stoke Talent adds to the list:      

  • “Do you have any suggestions for how to improve our service?”
  • “Are there any areas of our service you feel are lacking?”
  • “Are there other brands you prefer over ours?”

Mike Nemeroff from Rush Order Tees also recommends changing the follow-up questions based on the customer’s NPS score. “If the customers respond with a number lower than six, we ask how we can improve to make sure that customer is satisfied. 

“If they respond with a higher number, we ask what we’re doing right, how we can continue doing that, and how we can keep getting better.

“We also ask if there was a specific circumstance that significantly improved their commitment to the brand, such as an interaction with an employee or a website feature that made shopping hassle-free. This lets us know more about what our customer’s priorities are, which helps us improve in the areas where it will be most appreciated.”

Key takeaways

From our survey, we found that NPS is a good metric to measure customer satisfaction. But it’s most effective when paired with follow-up questions.

Take the time to craft your follow-up questions in a way that gives your business the most value. As  says, when asked if NPS is the most effective measure: “Don’t use the same one in back to back surveys. Switch up the questions, otherwise the respondents won’t answer because they already answered the question for you in the past,” says Ben Walker from Transcription Outsourcing, LLC.

In most cases, the best follow-up questions are ones that draw from the customer’s initial NPS score. Remember, you’re looking for more details about why your customers are satisfied or unsatisfied, and then using that to plan your business strategy moving forward. 

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