The power of a good customer experience should never be underestimated. I say this because we’ve all been on the receiving end of terrible customer service at least once in our lives and it’s a virtual guarantee that it’s going to stick in your mind, far more than a positive experience ever will. It seems us poor human beings are just hardwired to vividly remember our negative experiences.

It’s also been known in sales and marketing circles for a number of years now that customers are far more likely to share bad experiences on social media than a positive one and that it takes multiple positive experiences to undo the damage done by just one negative experience  (these numbers can range from just five to a staggering 40 experiences needed to outweigh one negative event).

Now, this is where your net promoter score comes in (NPS). This incredibly valuable tool measures the loyalty of your customers and tracks exactly what kind of experience they’re having. Essentially, if you’re not keeping track of your NPS there’s a very good chance you could be losing customers and you don’t even know why.

Your NPS score works on a 0-10 scale based on how likely someone would be to recommend your product or service to a friend and then breaks your customers down into three groups:

  • Promoters (a score of 9 and 10) – Your loyalists. Those customers who will sing your praises to others.
  • Passives (a score of 7 and 8) – The ones who think you’re OK. Happy enough but can be easily swayed by a competitor.
  • Detractors (a score of 0-6) – You definitely don’t want these. These are unhappy customers, the ones who will actively put you down in front of their friends or via social media.

These are of course just the basics of the NPS, in a previous post we’ve given a comprehensive guide to the NPS, what to focus on, how to calculate it and most importantly, how to interpret it. If you’d like to know more you can check it out at the link here.

So now we understand the importance of the score, we’re going to tell you how to improve NPS with some easily actionable tips you can use to get more promoters and fewer detractors.

How to improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

1. Swiftly follow up with detractors

For those companies who ignore detractors, lessons are never learned and they’ve likely lost that customer forever. However, if you follow up on negative feedback quickly (while it’s still fresh in the customer’s mind) not only can you help negate the impact of that review, there’s a good chance you might also retain that customer or even, as unlikely as it might sound, turn them into a promoter.

This is where the speed of the response comes in. Get in touch with your detractors quickly and directly. Chances are you’ll have their contact details gained as part of the transaction like an email or phone number, get in touch with them, let them know why you’re following up and try to understand their perspective.

Each customer will likely have different reasons for their negative experience, but some good general responses to turn that negative into a positive and up that NPS could be:

  • Offering an upgrade to their current product or service.
  • Giving them an alternative solution that better fits their needs.
  • Simply the act of reaching out and treating them with respect can sway them back to you.

If you like the sound of turning your detractors into promoters, then the Business 2 Community has prepared some useful tips to get you started.

Just remember, the quicker you can follow up with your detractors, the more impressed they’ll be. Try and resolve their issues within 24 hours of a complaint and you greatly increase your chances of retaining them and positively impacting your long term NPS.

2. Get the whole company on board with the importance of a good NPS

Providing an excellent customer experience and the importance of NPS should be at the forefront of the mind of every staff member in your organisation. You want your staff to be asking themselves daily how to improve NPS and embedding it in the company culture.

This is especially important for your front line staff, those working hard in the contact centre, those in direct sales or the teams tasked with dealing with the first stage of a complaint. These will be the people your customers will first come into contact with and will form the strongest impression on which to base their survey scores, directly impacting your NPS.

While it can sometimes be difficult to motivate staff to be passionate for customer service 100% of the time, you’ll find that if you embed the collection and assessment of NPS data into operational processes you make it a normal part of the job and something your staff will do naturally.

Some quick win methods include:

  • Link customer feedback directly to the staff member that interacted with them where possible. In essence your customers will be reviewing your staff for you. Show your staff this feedback to direct improvements or praise staff where their hard work is paying off.
  • Make management accountable for the NPS as part of their annual review. Where scores are not satisfactory, cut bonuses for example. This will highlight to staff at all levels the importance of good customer service and the need for a strong NPS.
  • Ask your front line staff what support they’re getting from other internal departments in customer loyalty efforts. Staff must understand everyone can play their own part in NPS improvement.

Troy Stevenson, the VP & Global Head of Community Operations at Uber believes embedding NPS into company culture is a secret weapon.  At the Customer Experience Leadership forum in 2016 he outlined a four step plan to embed NPS as part of corporate culture and ensure customer loyalty. These tips should get you started on implementing your own plan to embed NPS in your own company.

3. Don’t forget to give incentives to your promoters

While we saw in point one it’s important to focus on detractors, it should go without saying that every customer should feel special and it’s important not to forget to nurture you promoters. It can be easy to neglect the things that are going well, but pouring all of your efforts into detractors could drive away your loyal customers who could perceive your efforts as rewarding those who complain while they in turn are getting nothing for their loyalty.

Marketing experts have used some well known figures for a number of years now that show acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining a current one and that increasing retention rates by just 5% can yield increased profits of between 25% and a staggering 95%. If this doesn’t highlight the importance of retaining those promoters than nothing will.

The best thing about promoters is you’re starting with a passionate customer base. These are the ones who are so impressed with your product and service they’re happy to tell others about it. By offering rewards to them you’ll not only solidify their loyalty, they can in effect become an extension to your own marketing department as they share their satisfaction with others.

They’ll most likely impact your NPS through referrals, happy to tell others of the amazing customer service received and rewards such as:

  • Loyalty cards.
  • Discounts.
  • Limited edition or exclusive products.
  • The opportunity to be the first to try a new product for free.

How you respond to promoters will be specific to your organisation and your offering, but never forget to reach out to them and reward them regularly.

4. Personalise your interactions with customers

When you’re collecting feedback and responses for your NPS it’s important that every customer feels valued. To be honest, this is a common theme that underpins all of the other advice in this article, human beings want to feel that their opinions are respected and that they are valued.

This is why it’s so important that in the collection, analysis and response to feedback you make it personal to that individual customer which in turn ensures a higher NPS in the future.

This starts simply with actions such as:

  • Include the recipient’s name in the email title when requesting feedback.
  • Address them by name in the main body of the text.
  • Try not to automate responses and instead send out surveys from a real live staff member. Nobody likes getting emails from a generic address that can come off looking like spam.
  • Try different methods for different customers. Email might not work for everyone, some may prefer a text or a call, or even a good old fashioned letter can have a much more personal impact on a customer.
  • When responding to detractors, be specific to the product the customer bought and don’t ask generic questions. Get to the heart of the issue.

When people feel like they’re being spoken to directly and being treated with a little respect, they’re much more likely to respond to a survey and give honest feedback. It’s amazing just how far these small steps above can go.

If you’d like to know more about the future of personalisation and just how it can work for you, Forbes has prepared some advice outlining just what we can expect to see and how to use it effectively.

5. Make providing feedback as straightforward as possible

As much as we might not want to believe it, most of your customers don’t possess the same passion for your company and product as you do and are not actively thinking how to improve NPS. In fact, the overwhelming majority will likely not give a second thought to you once they’d bought the product or service and moved on with their lives.

It can be a monumental effort to get large scale feedback from your customers, which is why you have to make it as easy as possible for them to give it to you. If the average customer senses there’s going to be a lot of effort involved in giving feedback, then they’re likely to switch off immediately, leaving your NPS skewed by only your most passionate detractors and promoters.

So how do you make the feedback process simple?

  • First follow the advice in point four of this article and personalise the survey. You’re much more likely to get a response.
  • Get the timing right. Send the survey after the customer has had time to use and understand the product, a good guideline is between 14 and 30 days following purchase.
  • Never add extra questions, keep it to just, “How likely are you to recommend the product” and “Why did you give the score”. More questions at this stage will simply lower your response rate.
  • Make the ratings box large and bold, with just one simple click needed to complete.

This doesn’t just apply to your initial NPS surveys either, you should also make it easy for your customers to complain too. As counter-intuitive as this might sound, your detractors are going to offer the most valuable information (the pain points you need to improve) so you want them most of all to be telling you what you’re doing wrong.

Many detractors will simply not leave any feedback at all, instead make it easy for them and you get more information. This might actually hurt your NPS in the short term (with an increased number of negative scores) but the knowledge gained long term is going to pay dividends and eventually increase your score.

Research by MyCustomer has also found that segmenting your customers into groups, tailoring their responses and offering incentives can all be great ways to increase your response rate too.

6. Complete trend analysis of your detractors

This is a another common theme throughout this article. Your detractors are important. We’ve learned above that they’re providing you with the most valuable information, and that you want to collect as much of their feedback as possible.

However, responding to each one and trying to firefight each complaint as it arises on an individual basis can quickly drain your company resources. By instead completing regular trend analysis of that negative feedback you’ll start to build a picture of the types of common complaints arising. For example you may find a large number of complaints relating to a common fault you might not have known about and even missed if you hadn’t reviewed your feedback thoroughly.

By grouping common complaints together you can either eliminate the issue entirely (and therefore increase your NPS in the long term) or at the very least apply a solution for that type of problem.

Imagine another example where you’re running a taxi firm and you find the most common complaint is drivers turning up late. Trend analysis will not only prompt you to investigate why, but could also reveal that most customers could be retained when offered one free journey as compensation.

Once the trends are documented, staff can be trained to provide the same response to all customers raising the same complaint, providing consistency, the chance to retain customers and a long term increase in NPS. By analysing detractors thoroughly, you actually get them to answer the question of how to improve NPS for you.

7. Don’t forget your passive customers

We’ve focused so much on the promoters and detractors in this article it can be easy to forget the often overlooked “middle child” of NPS, the passive customers. This is probably going to be your largest group of customers, therefore the one with the biggest potential to increase NPS should you reach out to them in the right way.

It’s important to connect with your passives as they’re likely on the lookout for alternative options, if you don’t pull some stellar service out of the bag then they’ll walk sooner rather than later and you may never know why or what you did wrong.

So, much like your detractors and promoters, reach out to the passives:

  • Follow up with them, find out why they were not enthusiastic about your service
  • Try more direct questions with this group, ask them what more you could offer or where you failed. You have nothing to lose by asking and everything to gain by solving the mystery of why they only believe you to be average.
  • Engage with your passives quickly. You only have a limited window before they leave to try a new product (often around the 6 month mark) so connect with them directly before then.
  • Show passives just how different your product is to your competitors. Highlight to them it’s not just about price, but the sheer quality of your service that makes you stand out.

Remember, passives currently don’t have any brand loyalty and this is where the overwhelming majority of customers are going to sit. If you can work on pulling more of them into the promoter range your NPS will increase exponentially.

These are just a few methods to get you started in improving your NPS and ones you can implement today. Of course each solution is going to be specific to each organisation and it’s going to take a little trial and error to find the right combination that works for you.

Remember, how to improve NPS really comes down to consistent engagement. As long as you continue to reach out to your customers, whichever group they may be in, you’re heading down the right path.