Is the NPS era over?

Net Promoter Score (NPS) has long been the main stay of large corporate customer experience management programmes. But should we be thinking again about using this measure?

This popular measure is derived from a single question "Would you recommend [Company name] to your friends or family?" On a 10 point scale, the number of responders are then divided up into ranges: 
  • 0 - 6 are Detractors, they have usually has a poor experience and will warn others from using the organisation.
  • 7 - 8 are Passives, their experience was "OK" and they have no view on the organisation.
  • 9 - 10 are Promoters, they enjoyed their experience and, in theory will promote you to others. 
The amount of Detractors is then taken away from the amount of promoters leaving a Net Promoter Score.

I now take several issues with NPS...

First, NPS is not saying customers will actually recommend you, it's saying they would. 
  • According to Kantar, only 40% of customers go on to actually recommend an organisation.
Secondly, I know some organisations include customers scores of 8 into the Promoter range. Shifting the Passive range to include 6 - 7 and Detractors to 1 - 5.
  • This alters the output of the calculation, making their NPS score seem higher than of that of competitors. You can't be sure which companies are doing this so for me, this brings into question the comparison of NPS between companies, something that has been held up as it's key strength. 
Thirdly, there are other measures that are much more representative of customers experiences and focus on them, rather than focusing on what's important to the organisation. 
  • NPS is not focused on how customers feel, it's a measure of one of the companies' needs. The need to gain good word of mouth promotion. 
  • There are better measures that mean more to customers, like Ease of doing business or Emotion. 
Customer Experience Management has moved on substantially, focusing on what customers want and need, rather than what an organisation wants. With this in mind, I believe there is now no place for the traditional NPS approach and something more customer centric should be considered. 

What could be an alternative to Net Promoter Score?

By their nature, some companies will always be more difficult to do business with others. Their products will always be more involved, require more information and effort from customers. For that reason, I don't believe Ease or Customer Effort is a level comparator. 

What is a constant is that after every interaction, customers are left feeling a certain way. This is where Emotion measurement can come into play. Ask your customers how they feel on a 5 point scale, (these work better on mobile devices), then apply the NPS calculation in a slightly different way...
  • 1 -2 as Detractors
  • 3 - 4 as Passives
  • 5 as Promoters
The scoring might seem harsh, but only top scores drive customers to actively promote. Anything else just won't cut it. On top of this, continually fostering positive feeling in customers experiences grows brand loyalty and propensity to buy. This will give you a "Net Emotion Impact" measure that is much more customer centric and we know positive emotion is linked very strongly to future  recommendation. 

Final thoughts

If you can't get traction with this thinking, and NPS will be remaining in your CX Management programme, at least consider when you ask the question in the customers lifecycle. Asking the NPS question too early in the customer relationship might not have given customers enough time to form their recommendation opinion, so they will naturally give a lower score. 

NPS will undoubtedly stay centric to some CX programmes, however, just be mindful that when benchmarking against NPS numbers, keep in mind things might not always be as robust as they first seem. 

About the author

James is an eminent Customer Experience XM leader and strategist with a unique value proposition spanning sales, operations, technology, culture change and the hospitality industry. A Non-executive Director/Chair and keynote speaker, James is Head of Customer Experience Strategy & Deployment at the UK Post Office where he directs the nationwide CX transformation programme.  James is the founder of and