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.
Yes, NPS surveys are simple to use, which is one of the biggest upsides. But what about its shortcomings? Is an NPS survey the best way to assess your customer satisfaction?
In this post, we look at the advantages and disadvantages of NPS surveys, as shared by 49 marketing experts.
(We’ve also addressed how companies can best use net promoter scores. Read our other roundup that shares a simple tactic to maximize your company’s use of NPS surveys.)
33% of companies send NPS surveys every quarter
To establish a baseline for our survey, we first asked companies how often they send out NPS surveys.
- 33% (the biggest percentage) send quarterly surveys
- 27%, send monthly surveys
- 14% send surveys every six months
- 6% send weekly surveys
- 2% send yearly surveys
Interestingly, some marketers choose to send NPS surveys based on events. Our survey shows 12% of marketers send surveys to newer customers at set points in their customer lifecycle. Another 6% send surveys to all customers, only after major brand or product updates.
53% of companies send NPS surveys to all their customers
Next, we asked the companies about who they survey.
More than half of marketers, at 53%, survey all of their customers regularly.
Others were a bit more selective:
- 37% send surveys to new customers within a set number of days after purchase
- 31% send surveys to all customers, but staggered on a rolling basis
- 20% send surveys to customers after contact with customer support
- 12% send surveys to customers who have reached an “aha moment” (the point when they realize the value of the product)
- 10% send surveys only to primary buyers of their product/service (but all at once)
- 4% send surveys to primary buyers on a rolling basis
Primary buyer = the person who bought the product at a company, and who was the point of contact for a sale (in instances where there are multiple users of a product at a business)
54% see higher response rates with NPS (compared to other types of surveys)
Finally, we inquired about the response rates of these NPS surveys. As it turns out, response rates vary widely.
The largest percentage, at 20% of companies, receive an average NPS response rate of 41-50%.
- 18% get a response rate of 21-40%
- 16% get a response rate of 11-20%
- 12% get a response rate of 21-30%
All in all, the majority of companies see NPS response rates between 11% and 50%.
Advantages of NPS surveys
Let’s look at the pros of using NPS surveys, according to marketing experts:
It’s easy to use and easy to understand
One of the main benefits of NPS surveys is how easy it is to send, fill out, and understand.
“The NPS scoring system makes it easy to see the big picture results, even for company stakeholders who may not understand the entire depth of your marketing efforts,” notes Devin Johnson of Kennected .
Miranda Yan from VinPit elaborates: “NPS is not only convenient for the customers, but also for companies that are burdened with bulk data. It gives an overall perspective about the performance of your company and how customers feel about your business. Other customer satisfaction surveys are mostly product- or service-specific, which doesn’t offer an overall viewpoint. But NPS has an upper hand over this aspect as well.”
In a nutshell, “the simplicity of the NPS is great,” says Jennifer Dinnen of MacKenzie Corporation. “It can be tracked over time and it is easy to explain throughout the company. In theory, you are also able to benchmark against others to see how you are doing.”
It’s great for those just starting with customer surveys
Another advantage of NPS surveys is it’s easy to use and understand for businesses just starting to measure customer satisfaction.
Suneha Dutta from Fundsquire Pty Ltd makes this point: “NPS is great for companies that are just starting with CX. Unlike other types of surveys, it helps paint a longer-term picture for the brand. The biggest advantage of using an NPS score is it acts as a compass, especially for brands who don’t know where to start looking. It’ll give you a snapshot of where you may be winning or losing, who your fans and naysayers are, what segments you should focus your future marketing endeavors on.
“The key thing to remember though is that at the end of the day, NPS is just that – a tool. It shows you the problem, but it’s on you to find the solution.”
It gives you an idea of which customers will recommended you to others
Customer referrals are a proven driver of business growth. And NPS surveys help determine the likelihood of your brand getting these referrals.
“One of the best and most natural ways to grow your business is by word of mouth. It generates product recommendations from happy customers and converts prospects more effectively than most other marketing strategies,” agrees Nathan Murphy from QuizBreaker. NPS surveys give you a clear idea of the social proof your product has in the eyes of consumers, which is essential when trying to increase sales.”
“The fact that [the survey] directly asks the question of whether or not the customer will recommend a brand to others is very powerful,” shares Eye7.in’s Rahil Chaudhary. “You immediately know whether you have served the person to their expectations, and whether or not you can expect repeat business from them.”
As Jitesh Keswani from e-intelligence puts it: “One of the biggest advantages of the Net Promoter Score is it measures the likelihood of both new and repeat business, which helps measure overall business forecasts as well.”
Jasper Juhl of Better Estimate is on the same page and compares NPS surveys with other survey types. “The biggest advantage of NPS is getting more accurate results, as it takes into account whether customers would recommend your business to others. Meanwhile, other satisfaction surveys only measure how satisfied customers are with their experience at your company. Satisfaction surveys also do not segment people who have had good experiences versus those who have had bad experiences. They don’t provide an accurate picture.
“In contrast, NPS provides businesses with an understanding of their promoters (those who will recommend the company) and detractors (those who won’t ever recommend). It also tells the business what it can do in order to improve future customer relations, through making changes that make both the promoters and detractors happier.”
Disadvantages of NPS surveys
As for the shortcomings of NPS surveys, our survey highlighted three major issues:
It’s time-consuming and potentially expensive
Even though NPS surveys are convenient to use, Better Estimate’s Jasper Juhl says, “NPS can be expensive and time-consuming to implement.
“In order to find out what your company’s score is on this type of survey, you will have to collect data from at least 10% of your customers who are willing to participate in the survey.
“For best results, it’s also beneficial to have an expert consultant who specializes in measuring net promoter scores to help design and execute the surveys for you. This can cost $4,000-$20,000 per yearm depending on how many employees are involved and whether they specialize more on measurement or consulting work.”
The survey results lack accuracy
Another downside is the lack of context behind the survey scores. Put simply, the survey tells you if customers will recommend your business, but it fails to show the reason behind their choice.
VinPit’s Miranda Yan explains: “The biggest disadvantage of using NPS is the dearth of accuracy. It will tell you the percentage and estimate of your company’s performance, but when it comes down to providing reasons for such results, it proves to be less effective. Other customer satisfaction surveys are more product-centric. These will let you dig deep into the results and furnish detailed information.”
Devin Johnson from Kennected agrees that “[the survey] isn’t great at determining the customer’s satisfaction with individual product and service offerings.”
The solution? “In these cases, using custom-designed surveys and open-ended questions has been incredibly helpful for us to see where products are hitting and missing the mark,” says Johnson.
Adding follow-up questions to your NPS survey provides invaluable information about your customers. Check out our other article that covers some of the best follow-up questions used by experts.
Relying on NPS alone is risky
Finally, our respondents believe that relying on NPS surveys alone isn’t enough. This lack of reliability counts as another disadvantage.
“NPS has done a great deal in bringing customer experience and satisfaction to the discussion tables,” admits Suneha Dutta from Fundsquire.
“However, marketers and leaders often end up fully equating a ‘better’ NPS score to a customer’s intention. That poses two problems:
- Businesses start focusing more on improving the score rather than the product itself.
- They lose sight of the customer’s true intention vs. their potential ultimate action (“I will recommend” is not the same as “I have recommended.”)
This blind faith in an NPS score is risky.”
MacKenzie Corporation’s Jennifer Dinnen is of the same view. “If NPS is used alone, then I think it misses the bigger picture of finding out what is actually going on with a customer. Companies get lost in, or obsessed with, chasing a number, and forget there are people on the other side of the surveys.
“The bigger question in my mind is what are you looking to accomplish with your NPS surveys. If you want to understand the customer experience, then you need to dig deeper than just an NPS score. We also prefer to not just look at the overall score, but track the promoters and detractors separately.
“We look at the bigger story about what is going on. You need to dig into what’s making the promoters stay, and what are your detractors upset about. This is where the true value comes into play – not just looking at the overall aggregate score.”
Before you send your NPS survey
There’s no doubt that NPS surveys are a big help in understanding your customer.
WeInvoice’s Eden Cheng summarizes it best: It’s a great way to “bridge the gap between your brand and your customers much faster than other types of surveys.
“The key advantage of using NPS is that it’s the best choice to measure the likelihood of new and repeat business, forecast what direction your business should head to next, predict cash flow, and even assess your brand’s health and overall customer satisfaction levels.”
However, it’s important to be aware of the survey’s downsides as well. On its own, the NPS numerical ratings don’t provide an answer to why customers are satisfied or what they actually like about your product. It’s best to combine this survey type with follow-up questions or other customer satisfaction surveys to get a complete picture of what’s satisfying your audience.