Noises About Net Promoter Score


I am seeing articles of late that diss the concept of Net Promoter Score. Some say that Reichheld got it wrong with his Ultimate Question. One article concludes that there is no ‘ultimate question’ and that, ultimately true insight comes from the qualitative answers about WHY people have given the scores they have.

I am wondering if the author of that last statement has read Reichheld’s book. What Reichheld proposes is that indeed two questions are needed in order to get the insight we seek about customer experience. First he points out the folly of simply asking if the customer would recommend/refer the seller to others. That is a yes/no question. The customer can blow past that one with either a yes or a no and we are left standing in the parking lot, microphone in hand, with pretty much zero information. The far stronger question is to ask, ‘how willing are you, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is absolutely completely willing, to recommend our products to others?’. This question needs thought, attention, causes the customer to stop and consider their answer. This moves us from a ‘yeah or nah’ to a measure. Yes some customers will still blow us off by just tossing any number at us so they can get on their way, but, in general, people will at least attempt a meaningful response.

The number holds more meaning than the yes/no. But what is under that number? Reichheld proposes a follow up question. “What is it that causes you to assign that number?” For the customers who are not just racing by, this is an engaging question. It invites them to share their true experience. The answer can provide true insight about why the customer assigned a particular score.  Expression of customer experience is the window to the ‘brand’ of the store/product.

Those who may diss the Net Promoter Score, which is just that first number between 1 and ten, forget that the backup question, the why, is what puts a foundation under the number. If a person does not answer the why, toss their number.

The seemingly sudden quest for a single Net Promoter Score number is falling over itself and abandoning the objective. If we really want to know the level of satisfaction our customers are experiencing, we need to use two questions. The number is the inhale. The substantiation, ‘why’, is the exhale. One breath, two parts. Get over it.


Joseph Seiler MCC