This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on American Express OPEN Forum.


We all know that a big part of growing a business is to get current customers to help spread the word about how great it is. But before you start, do you even know whether or not they are truly satisfied with what you offer? How can you be sure that they’ll give glowing reviews to friends, family, colleagues and fellow Yelpers – the all-important word-of-mouth that can make or break a business?

Simple: Ask them!

I believe that any business person – especially if you’re in charge of your company’s marketing – should be aware of all of the feedback they get from their customers, whether it’s positive or negative.

There are third-party service providers like Net Promoter that can help you survey your customers and gauge customer loyalty. They give you a score based on your survey results, and if you send the survey out regularly – like we do at my company – you can track your score over time to see whether customers are becoming more or less satisfied with your products and services.

How likely are you to recommend … ?

Here’s what we ask: “How likely are you to recommend <your company name> to others?”

Respondents answer the question on a 10-point scale (where zero is the worst possible score) and will fall into one of three categories:

  • Promoters (rating of 9 or 10): People who tell all their friends about you 
  • Passives (rating of 7 or 8): People who think you’re alright, but not great
  • Detractors (rating of 0 to 6): People who wouldn’t recommend you

Subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters (passives are ignored), and now you’ve got your company’s overall score. This number can provide lots of insights into many areas of your business. By regularly sending out the survey and tracking your score, you can:

  • See any changes or trends over time
  • Determine your company’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Better understand what your customers are feeling
  • Address any issues one-on-one

Although my company subscribes to and swears by our Net Promoter Score, you can certainly (and inexpensively) email your own simple rating survey to your customers. Just remember to keep the following things in mind:

  • There are a number of companies that offer free or low-cost online surveys, like SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang and VerticalResponse; check them out and see what works for you.
  • Launch an email marketing campaign to distribute the survey to your list of customers.
  • If your customers buy from you online, add a link to the survey in your order confirmations, invoices and/or transactional emails.
  • Close out the survey with an open comments box, so you can get more detailed feedback.
  • Provide an option for respondents to enter their contact information, so if someone had a bad experience, you can follow up with him/her personally. At my company, our customer support team follows up with all of our detractors via email and phone.
  • Use incentives to encourage participation, like discounts or samples. Just make sure every respondent gets it, regardless of the rating they give you.

Knowing whether or not your own customers would recommend you to others is important to nearly every part of your company, from marketing to customer service to product development. It’s one simple question that you can’t afford not to ask.

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