Another look at the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric

NPS score

I remember the “wow” reaction when I first learned about the Net Promoter Score in a Harvard Business Review article some years ago. At last, I learned, someone had figured out a method of truly measuring whether you offer “great customer service” — with a tool that could track your progress, and if you want to get granular, isolate problems within your service/client satisfaction system.

Sean McDade in this PeopleMetrics posting outlines the concept and its importance (as well as limitations) so even if you are quite familiar with the NPS idea, I encourage you to read it.

In summary, the NPS is a one-question survey that invites your clients to answer the question:

“How likely are you to recommend (company) to a friend, colleague, or family member, on a scale of 0 to 10?”

Answers of 1 to 6 are considered negative, 7 and 8 are neutral, and 9 and 10 are positive.

Over time, you subtract the negatives from the positives to come up with the NPS. So, say you receive 100 survey answers and 70 rank you at 9 or 10, 10 rank you at 7 and 8 and 20 rank you at 1 to 6, your score would be 50. (Scores can theoretically range from -100 to 100.  If you really have a negative score, you have serious problems, and if your score is amazingly positive, either your employees are gaming the results or you really can proudly broadcast you offer “great customer service” — because clearly your customers think you are doing things just right.

However, that last paragraph explains one of the biggest challenges and weaknesses of the NPS — most obviously, the games people play to boost their score. I’ve seen notices at businesses inviting people to complete the survey, encouraging 9 or 10 rankings, or talk to staff to make things right but NOT complete the survey. Looking at the establishment where this is happening, I could see why — the place was crappy and local management/workers just didn’t get the concept of a really great client service/experience

Still allowing for some auditing and eagle-eyed management, it is clear the score can be helpful, especially if your business has several branches/offices and you want to check relative performance. Also, if you can peer into the identities of the clients completing the surveys, you can engage in some post-survey communications to restore the relationshipsand improve service; and if the score is really positive, you certainly would have reason to contact clients for more personal testimonials

Finally, of course, the biggest strength of the NPS is its simplicity. It doesn’t require expensive systems to manage and measure and it is a clear dashboard item, which tracks well in real time.

Do you have your own stories/experiences with the application of the NPS in your business/practice? You can comment on this post, or email

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