Following NPS survey best practices

Net promoter score surveys have become increasingly popular across just about every industry. 

More than two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 are using NPS surveys to gauge customer loyalty. Bill Barton, CEO of California Closets, looks at his company’s score first thing every morning. At IBM, their past Chief Customer Officer describes NPS as more of a religion than a metric.

There’s no doubt that NPS surveys play a powerful role in today’s customer-driven marketplace. It helps teams build loyalty, reduce churn and close the feedback loop with customers … but that’s only if your users actually respond to it.

By following these best practices, you can maximize your survey response rate and get a clear read on user sentiment — and what you can do to drive loyalty even higher.

Building your net promoter score survey

Think about the last time you made a purchase. 

In the days following your transaction, did the company email you for feedback?

And maybe more importantly did you provide your feedback or did you send that message straight to your spam box?

If you answered the second one, we get it. Getting readers’ attention is no easy feat. But, for SaaS companies that have become hyper-focused on providing the best customer experience possible, that’s created a major problem.

On average, email click through rates are hovering around 2.6% for all industries, as reported by marketing software company Campaign Monitor. Ouch, right? If you’re depending solely on email to get your NPS survey in front of customers, chances are all you’re hearing are a lot of crickets.

So, let’s change that. 

Building out your surveys with your customers in mind won’t only generate the highest response rate, but it’ll also help you uncover valuable insights you may have missed with a more basic questionnaire.

What questions should I include in my survey?

The standard NPS question is “How likely are you to recommend us on a scale from 0 to 10?” Using that, customers can mark themselves anywhere they see fit, allowing you to profile them as either a passive, promoter or detractor.

You don't need to limit yourself to asking that exact question word for word, however. 

The traditional relational NPS survey measures loyalty to your brand based on overall experience. While that format can provide a useful benchmark for general sentiment across 

your entire customer base, just a few follow-up questions or different verbiage can provide some very different insights.

Feel free to experiment with your NPS survey. By adding experience-specific questions based on recent interactions, you can create a transactional NPS survey rather than a relational one. Some ideas to customize your questionnaire include:

  • Add "based on your recent experience": Sending a survey post-purchase or interaction is one way to measure the likelihood that a specific event plays a role in driving customer loyalty.
  • Ask for specifics: Give your customer a place to go further into detail about their relationship with your company. This could include asking which features of your product they use the most, what problem your software solves or what they like best about your company. 
  • Leave a space for feedback: Even the happiest user may have feedback for how you can improve your product. An NPS survey is a great way to gather additional ideas on how you can better support your customers’ needs.

Deciding whether a relational or transactional survey makes more sense will depend on your goal: measuring overall sentiment or collecting specific customer feedback.

Which order should the questions on my survey come in?

While most companies focus on the types of questions asked in an NPS survey, few consider the order of questions or the usability behind the way the questions are asked. 

A certain strategy and usability needs to be implemented behind NPS deployment when asking for comments. If ever in doubt, we recommend following this rule: Never ask for comments or open-ended questions upfront.

Users typically shy away from providing comments from the start, as it can be more daunting. This practice has also shown to reduce response rates. 

Instead, add a customer feedback box that prompts after the initial scoring. Including comments at the end of the survey can actually remind the user of a particular comment they may not have initially considered.

How many questions can I ask?

No matter what you decide to ask, just remember that your survey needs to remain engaging and user-friendly. 

Survey Monkey has found that, on average, respondents will take about one minute on the first question of your survey, spending gradually less time on each one that follows. Be sure to balance the number of questions you ask so you can get the best data possible. The more you ask, the larger sample size you'll need.

Although there’s no exact number that’s sure to appeal to every single customer, we recommend sticking to the rule of three. Every survey will be a little different depending on the questions you decided to ask, but generally, it should look something like this:

  1. How likely are you to recommend us on a scale from 0 to 10?
  2. What is one feature you’d like to see added to our product?
  3. Is there anything else you’d like to include about your experience with our company?

Because of its breadth, a relational NPS survey can serve as a powerful metric for customer experience benchmarking. Using it, you can see if adjustments you’re making to your customer success strategy are moving the needle in one direction or the other. 

Just keep in mind that NPS results are mostly helpful when it comes to getting a general overview of customer sentiment and creating a segmented approach to customer success. To get down into the details of what’s really driving user behavior, you’ll need to use a combination of success metrics alongside NPS.

With that being said, we all know the customer experience can’t truly be boiled down to a single question. As you learn more about your user base and how they interact with their product, you can adapt your NPS surveys to uncover the insights most relevant to your organizational strategy.

nps survey customer feedback rating

Which touchpoints you should use

Like we mentioned, email response rates aren’t exactly the most promising statistic out there. So the big question is, which channels should you be using to connect with customers?

At UserIQ, we’ve found that delivering NPS surveys inside your application makes all the difference. The goal is to push these questionnaires at the right moment to specific, high-value audiences to yield the highest completion and response rate. If you're not sure exactly what those “right moments” are just yet, we’ll cover that in just a second.

Traditionally, NPS surveys have been delivered to all customers via email, which we’ve found has historically yielded completion rates of just 5% to 15% and even fewer comments.

Here at UserIQ, more than 60% of our customers provide feedback when an NPS survey is deployed inside our application. This is because the survey is targeted and delivered at the “zero moment of truth” when customers are most likely to respond.

Increasing completion rates and comments aren’t the only benefits of in-application deployment — the quality of the responses themselves can also improve. Those who respond to an emailed survey tend to reply with very low or very high scores. Believe us — it’s hard to learn much when the feedback you’re working off of is either simply “I love it” or “I hate it.”  

Instead, by reaching users at the right moment, customers are more willing to offer thoughtful feedback, including comments about why they may like or dislike your product or certain features and what they’d like to see in the future. This can help prioritize your company’s product roadmap so that you can develop features your most valuable customers want most.

When to ask to maximize your NPS results

Before we get into when to send out your NPS survey, we think it’s equally as important to cover when not to.

For this one, we’re going to pull a little from Psychology 101 — try to think back to those required Gen Ed courses.

Recency bias is a cognitive phenomenon in which we give more importance to an event that happened recently rather than those that happened a while back. So, even if you have a lifetime of great experiences with a person or company, one bad interaction can sour your feelings until you have reason to believe otherwise.

See where we’re going with this one?

Customer success expert Lincoln Murphy puts it pretty clearly: "Knowingly surveying a customer that is not achieving their desired outcome or is otherwise unhappy is a recipe for disaster ... And since you already know they’re not successful, you’re not trying to learn something you don’t know. So why are you surveying them?”

While it may be tempting to send a survey to try and figure out what's at the root of an unhappy customer’s frustration, that’ll only serve to rub salt in the wound — and could even push them to churn. If you know a user’s experience isn’t at a great place, the assigned CSM should look into their health score for potential clues and reach out personally to solve the problem.

Instead, Murphy recommends using your NPS survey to reinforce positive experiences.

This practice is also guided by another principle of customer psychology: consistency. Once an individual makes a choice or opinion about something, they'll encounter an interpersonal desire to behave consistently with that decision. So, chances are, if your customer rates you well on one NPS survey, you can expect some pretty similar results across the board.

Your NPS survey isn’t just a way to measure customer sentiment — it can be a powerful tool to foster positive relationships as well. To maximize the impact of your survey, try sending timing it for moments where you know a customer is a good mindset:

  • After a WOW moment: Think about those moments across the customer journey that you know lay the foundation for retention and eventual advocacy. Automatically pushing the survey as an in-app notification once adoption is complete can be a powerful way to emphasize the win in the moment.
  • Follow up on a good call: While a lot of customer success comes down to science and objective data, sometimes your gut feeling can be a highly valuable asset too. If a call went especially well, following up with a survey can help reinforce that positivity.
  • As the final step of onboarding: Getting a benchmark for your customer’s mindset early on in the relationship is essential. This will allow you to track changes over time, which can be especially helpful if their score ever dips significantly.

These aren’t the only times you can send out an NPS survey, but treat them as a framework for when you do. And, if ever in doubt, follow Murphy’s tips for taking a scientific approach to success. If your survey doesn’t fulfill one of the three following purposes, it may not be the best idea to push it out:

  1. Learn things you don’t know
  2. Validate your assumptions
  3. Get the recipient to validate and recommit to their beliefs

Once you know when to send out your survey to maximize your NPS response rate, you can start taking all of the data you collect and put it to good use.

How to use your NPS data

You’ve officially built out a world-class NPS survey program. Congratulations! Now that it’s live and you’re seeing a steady stream of responses come in, it’s time to get to work.

As we mentioned, when customers place themselves on that 0-to-10 scale, they’ll fall into one of three groups: detractors, passives or promoters. This segmentation is an invaluable tool, as it’ll guide you in creating a scalable and personalized outreach program catered to each of these groups’ needs:

Detractors: 0-6

Consider your detractors to be your at-risk accounts. These are the customers who haven’t churned just yet, but it’s a matter of days before they will. 

The good news is that they’re still customers, meaning that there’s still time to right the situation. 

Once a lower score is flagged, have the assigned CSM complete the following steps: 

  1. Go through any open-ended comments the customer left on their survey as well as recent account activity.
  2. Schedule a follow-up meeting with the customer to determine next steps and the best course of action.
  3. Keep an eye on their health score and remain close in contact to ensure the situation is corrected.

The most important thing is to approach your detractor with a positive and personalized approach. If they feel as though you’re trying to force them to stay, your well-intentioned efforts could just be the final push toward churn.

Passives: 7-8

If you know how your NPS rating is calculated, you already know that your passives aren’t actually incorporated into your final score. That being said, ignoring them is the opposite of what you want to do.

As you’ll notice, even if they aren’t ready to promote your brand, passives are still a high-scoring group of customers. Unlike detractors, they haven’t yet made their mind up about your brand. By doing the following, your team can ensure that when they do come to that decision, it’s a positive one:

  1. Uncover their unmet needs: Ask for feedback and learn how you can better support their long-term goals. 
  2. Address those needs: As you create a success plan that is aligned with your customer's organizational strategy, watch for changes in their health score that indicate a step in the right direction. 
  3. Work toward advocacy: Over time, providing your customer with what they need will naturally move them through the realm of passives and into the land of promoters.

Like detractors, just be sure to not be too forward. If you’re doing everything right, you should see your passives’ NPS results begin to gradually rise on their own.

Promoters: 9-10

Introducing your brand’s greatest asset: your promoters. These are the loyal users who long-since found value in your product and use it on a regular basis. While they won’t need as much attention as your detractors or passives, keeping your promoters engaged will prove essential.

By maintaining the relationship, you’ll be able to leverage promoters for word-of-mouth marketing opportunities. Just some of the ways you can give your loyal users a platform include:

  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Showcases and presentations

Plus, once you know who your promoters are, it’ll become easier to drive advocacy across other groups such as your higher-scoring passives.

To standardize your approach to each of these segments — and to save valuable time — we recommend creating playbooks that outline exactly what a CSM should do once a specific NPS score is registered. 

Maximizing customer loyalty with NPS surveys

Always remember to keep your users in mind as you build out your NPS program. When you do that, you’ll be able to get a sample size that’s representative of your customer base and can be used to drive your success strategy. 

Looking for a comprehensive solution to understand your customers — including integrated NPS engagement? Learn more about UserIQ.