Target Corp. recently earned a 43, while Walmart trailed at 37. Overstock got a 24, eBay Inc. snagged a 38 and Zappos topped them all at 57. Sadly, some businesses wind up with negative scores each year.

Those numbers are Net Promoter Scores (NPS). NPS are figures that measure customers’ willingness to recommend a company’s products or services to others. And while some results must be difficult for businesses to swallow, they ultimately provide invaluable bottom-line insight into how the business is perceived in the marketplace.

Surveys are an invaluable tool for studying consumers’ attitudes toward your business. The results provide data that you can publish, promote, compare and use to further business strategies.

Perspective from one question

The Net Promoter scoring system — now used worldwide — limits its query to one customer question: On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this brand to a friend or colleague? Scores are then compiled by subtracting the number of “detractor” respondents with scores of 0-6 from “passive” respondents (scores of 7-8) and “promoter” respondents (scores of 9-10). Generally speaking, scores higher than 30 are considered good, 50 is great and 70 is exceptional. Recent scores for major companies in various industries can be accessed here.

Research shows the scores to be leading indicators of company growth, though critics say the rating system is too arbitrary and is overplayed at the expense of other business metrics. Higher numbers than competitors may indicate you’re outperforming the market, whereas low scores may indicate your organization needs improvement.

Building a survey, compiling the results and taking action is simple. Some suggestions:

  • Build your own Net Promoter Score by sending a personalized email asking customers to reply directly to your inbox; use an NPS service such as Personalized emails tend to produce the highest response rates. Consider gleaning extra value by asking respondents to include a reason for their score.
  • Survey your customers on a consistent basis. Distribute your survey over a 90-day period for a broader view that accounts for day-to-day company fluctuations. An automated NPS platform greatly ramps up efficiency. Note that customers are likely to comment more on their recent purchase, instead of the company at large, if surveys are sent out immediately after their purchase.
  • Surveying competitors’ customers can be of great value. But you may need to partner with outside professionals to secure their email addresses. The next most-valuable data is period-to-period improvement stats at your own company.

Maximizing results  

Of course, your NPS results are useless if you don’t incorporate the feedback into improvement plans. A 2015 survey found 90 percent of businesses with NPS weren’t clear on whether their customer retention had improved since initial results, and 94 percent were unable to correlate NPS scores with revenues.

When your scores don’t meet your expectations, you may need to involve your entire company in remediation. Frontline workers could call detractors for follow-up, management could form action plans to improve customer experiences and executives could allocate resources toward solving the problem(s).

Finally, don’t forget to think of promoters as a potential PR source. Since they’ve already volunteered positive feedback, they might craft positive reviews for your website or other online business review sites (send them the URLs to make that painless).

Customer surveys remain an important tool in your marketing arsenal. VerticalResponse makes surveys easy to create and distribute in minutes.

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