What is a Net Promoter Score® Survey, and How To Use Them Effectively

So, you’ve heard about this thing called Net Promoter Score (NPS). You may have heard a little about how it’s calculated, or how you can run an NPS survey on your website, but you may not know the optimal way to deploy an NPS survey, or even how to analyze the data.

In this article we’ll discuss what NPS Surveys are, where they started, and how to use them to help grow your business.

Let’s get started…

Why Net Promoter Score®?

What does a NPS® try to tell you?

NPS tries to determine the net effect of positive word of mouth (PWOM) vs negative word of mouth (NWOM) of your customers. Negative word of mouth is widely assumed to have a larger impact than positive word of mouth. After all, customers who are unhappy tend to tell more people about their bad experience than those who are happy.

We all love happy customers

We all love happy customers

When to use NPS surveys

NPS surveys can be used as a tool to track the potential positive and negative word of mouth of your brand or product over time. NPS is best used along with other indicators, and should not be the only tool you use to track word of mouth – as we’ll see in the pros and cons below.

However, despite the drawbacks, there are some very interesting insights that you can get from running an NPS score survey on your website, and in this article we’ll go over a few of them.

When NOT to use NPS surveys

As mentioned above, NPS surveys should not be used as the only indicator of word of mouth for your brand or product.

This means if you are not tracking other data such as social media shares, traffic, more detailed customer feedback or when you start and stop various branding or advertising campaigns, then you might as well not use NPS surveys at all.

Where did the Net Promoter Score come from?

Net Promoter Score was developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix. It was introduced in 2003 as a new way to measure customer loyalty.

The trademark is owned by Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld, which is why you will see a registered trademark symbol when it is used on third-party sites (like this one).

However, NPS surveys are free to use with MARE, and you do not have to pay any royalties to conduct an NPS survey of your own.

How Net Promoter Score works

Net Promoter Score works by asking a standard question about word of mouth, usually:

“How likely would you be to recommend [your product] to a friend?”

Here is an example NPS survey using MARE:


This question is meant to determine if someone is going to spread positive word of mouth, or negative word of mouth about your product.

Each response is put in one of three categories: a detractor, a promoter, or neutral.

Each category is then added up at the end to give you your overall NPS score.

Here’s how the categories work:


What is a Detractor?

A detractor on the NPS scale is anyone who has responded with a 6 or less on the 1-10 scale. Detractors are assumed to be respondents that would have negative things to say about your brand or product.

What is a Promoter?

Promoters are respondents who have answered with either a 9 or a 10 on the NPS scale. These respondents are assumed to be people who are very happy with your product or service, and will actively “promote” your brand to others.

Who is Neutral?

Neutral respondents are people who have answered either a 7 or an 8 on the NPS scale. These respondents are seen as neither promoters or detractors, and are left out of the NPS calculation.

How is Net Promoter Score calculated?

Net Promoter Score is calculated by taking the sum of all of your Promoters, and subtracting the sum of all of your Detractors.

Generally this is represented by a percentage, as it’s the easiest to understand.

The neutral respondents are not factored into the calculation.

Here’s how the calculation works:


Ways to conduct a Net Promoter Score survey

NPS via email

Conducting an NPS survey via email is relatively easy, but there are a few different ways to do it.

One simple way is to send your email list a link to your NPS survey. This technique works well if you have a responsive list, but the main drawback is that your subscribers must take multiple steps to answer your survey. This has a number of disadvantages, because for every step in your NPS survey process, you will lose a certain number of respondents.

funnel-lossFor NPS email surveys, we recommend you send the NPS survey directly IN the email to your list. This way, your subscribers need to simply click once to answer the survey. You will find that you get a much higher response rate to your email NPS survey if you use this technique.

NPS via website surveys

Conducting an NPS survey via your website is fairly straightforward, and you can direct your respondents to your website survey in a few ways:

  • Links in your content
  • A banner ad
  • Newsletter email (see above)

In all cases, you most likely want to take advantage of the attention that you have with your respondents and ask them additional questions, or even give them additional calls to action to consume more content or purchase your products.

NPS via pop-up surveys

NPS via pop-up surveys are extremely powerful. This is because you have full control over the context of your NPS survey. This means that you can ask for an NPS score at very specific times (example: after a user has gone through your checkout process, or after a user has used a particular feature of your site or app).

This allows you to segment your NPS surveys, and even determine if certain types of users are more likely to be promoters than other types of users.


This type of contextual data will give you far greater insight into WHY your NPS score is what it is, and it can even help you diagnose problems with your site.

In the example above, you can use this information to drive more users to use a particular feature, because those users seem to have a better overall experience with your brand.

The pros and cons of NPS

Pro: NPS is easy to deploy

NPS surveys are really easy to create (especially using MARE.io!). Also, an NPS survey involves only one question, and it’s easy for respondents to understand.

Pro: NPS can give you insight quickly, and does not require a long questionnaire

If you deploy your NPS survey using a tool such as MARE, you can start getting responses within a few minutes. It also doesn’t require your visitors to take a long survey – which may take them away from other tasks on your website (like buying your stuff).

Con: NPS is hypothetical

NPS does not measure actual word of mouth effect, it only measures how many people are either promoters or detractors of your product.

If you are in an industry that has a non-average word of mouth effect, then the NPS will not necessarily give you the correct information.

Con: NPS does not measure negative word of mouth

The question is simply “would you recommend us” not “would you say negative things about us.”

This is an important difference, and means that NPS can only ever give you a general indicator of where your visitors or customers stand with your brand.

Con: NPS can give false positives and negatives

Finally, because NPS does not measure actual word of mouth effect, it is possible that what an NPS would call a detractor, would actually give positive word of mouth feedback given the opportunity – and vice versa for promoters.

This is why it’s so important to ensure that you are measuring other data points around your brand and products to get the entire picture – items that we discuss below in “analyzing your NPS results.”

Analyzing your NPS results


When taking a look at your NPS survey results, here are a few things to consider so that you are looking at the full picture and not just the NPS score itself.

Context is king, emperor, and supreme leader

At MARE, we believe that context is one of the most important factors in conducting a website survey. This means that you want to know everything about what is happening AROUND your users as they take a survey. Things like:

  • Where did this visitor come from?
  • How long have they been exposed to your brand?
  • How many pages have they viewed on your site?
  • Are they a customer or not?
  • Did they arrive via search, email, social or an ad campaign?
  • What content were they viewing before you asked them questions?

All of this information can give you a background into your users, and make the data that you collect way more useful.

For example, if you find that new users have a much higher NPS score than older users, then you clearly have a problem with your product or service that is frustrating your users over time.

In all cases, segmenting your survey results is a must. You may get a great NPS score from your survey, but if you’re only asking happy customers, then you’re skewing your own results.

Make sure you have enough results!

Jumping to conclusions early is a great way to ruin an otherwise great survey. Make sure that you get as many responses as you can before digging into the data.

Correlate your data

As soon as possible, you want to establish what correlation your NPS score has on actual real world results.

NPS is not an actual measure of REAL word of mouth promotion, it merely tries to predict it.

For example, try to link your NPS timeline with the following:

  • Social media campaigns
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Any press or news about your business
  • Actual positive or negative social media mentions
  • Customer support satisfaction

By tracking all of these data points along with your NPS score, you can start to see trends in how increasing customer support might also increase your NPS score, or a new advertising campaign might bring in customers that don’t share your brand as openly.

Creating a baseline & tracking over time

NPS is an interesting metric to track over time.

But to track any changes, you must first establish a baseline. You can conduct an NPS survey on your website easily starting today, and use this as a base for future comparison.

The sooner you start, the better!

Other things to consider when conducting an NPS Survey

Customers with negative experiences may not answer surveys

Customers with negative experiences may not even get the chance to answer a survey (ex. they’ve opted out of your emails).

This is why it’s important to try and capture customer feedback at various stages in your funnel.

Does satisfaction correlate with customer retention?

If you see your NPS score increasing (awesome!) do you also see your customer retention going up? If not, there may be a disconnect that needs investigating.

After all, if customers are happier, they should be staying with your product for longer.

Possible causes for this include:

  • Wrong context for your survey
  • Customers with negative experiences aren’t answering your survey (see above)

What is the proportion of respondents from each group

What if 90% of promoters answer your survey, and only 10% of detractors answer it?

This is an important reason to link your survey data with conversion data. Try to find out if your unhappy customers are answering your surveys.

If they are not, get creative and find ways to solicit their feedback – in this case a good ol’ phone call might just do the trick.

Supercharge your NPS Survey with MARE

NPS Surveys collect what are called quantitative results. They try to boil down your word of mouth feedback into a score.

But if you already have the attention of your visitors and users, you might as well ask them for some qualitative feedback as well.

When creating an NPS Survey using MARE, we recommend adding additional questions that ask the visitor about their NPS response, why they chose that score, and what if they have any other comments about your website, business or product.

Here’s an example using MARE:


If the user is a ‘promoter’ you might ask a question like this:


Or if they are a ‘detractor’, you might ask something like this:


At the end of the survey, you could even push them towards a call to action or landing page, like this:


By using this technique you get the most out of every response, both in feedback and by capturing the attention of your visitors and driving them towards your conversion goals.

The bottom line

NPS is a great tool in your arsenal of getting customer and user feedback. However, it is not a magic bullet that will give you full insight into your customer’s opinion of your company. Nor should it be taken as a stand alone metric.

Net Promoter Score surveys are best used in conjunction with other user feedback and business metrics over time to build a more complete picture of what your customers think about your business, and how you can build customer trust and loyalty.

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