Some hold up the net promoter score (NPS) as the holy grail of KPIs. While we won’t go so far as to declare it the most important metric of all, we will say that it is one of a few that is absolutely crucial to your brand and customer success.
That’s because you can learn a lot about customers when you dig into NPS feedback. What keeps customers happy, what upsets them, how you can boost retention, how to slow down churn — you name it, NPS can become a valuable feedback loop that reveals insights into all of these things and more.
That’s why we’ve created this guide. Read below to learn how to improve response rates to create a better, more accurate net promoter score.
NPS formula and calculations
If you’re unfamiliar with net promoter scores, we have a detailed explainer on NPS that will tell you everything you need to know. But for now, let’s have a quick refresher.
It all starts with asking your customers a simple question: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are they to recommend your offerings to a friend?
From there, collect these numbers:
- Promoters: People with scores of 9 and 10 who are likely to recommend you.
- Passives: People who gave 7 and 8 scores — not necessarily unhappy, just not happy enough to actively promote for you.
- Detractors: People who gave answers between 0 and 6. These people range from those unlikely to recommend you to those who will actively detract from you via word of mouth, bad reviews, or negative social media posts.
Calculating your NPS is easy. Determine the percentage of promoters and detractors from the total number of responses. Then, subtract the detractor percentage from the promoter percentage for your score. So if you have 70% promoters minus 10% detractors, your NPS is 60.
11 best practices to improve response rates in NPS surveys
Before making business decisions based on your NPS, you need the best possible dataset to work with. That means improving response rates to NPS survey questions creates a larger sample size — and below, we’ll show you the best ways to do that.
1) Choose when to send surveys: Lifecycle-based, transaction-based, and pulse checks
There are three great cadences to send out your NPS surveys:
These should trigger at certain moments of the customer’s lifecycle. They’re a great way to get customer feedback at key points of the customer journey.
This way, you can easily triangulate high-impact changes — for example, if NPS goes way up after customers receive an email with set-up instructions, consider making that information available earlier.
Other examples include:
- 30 days after signing up
- A year after signing up
- After a certain onboarding step
Transactional NPS surveys
A transactional NPS survey gets triggered by set customer interactions. Much like the lifecycle surveys above, this helps you collect customer feedback and take a temperature check where it matters most. In this case, after key customer touchpoints:
- In ecommerce, this will most likely be after a purchase or a subscription renewal
- In the SaaS world, it could trigger after a customer installs a new feature
Pulse checks are a bit different in that they survey your whole customer base all at once. You can use NPS surveys to gauge customer sentiment following a company rebrand, after a push to get new customer referrals, and so on.
Especially while conducting lots of customer research to ensure product-market fit, conduct pulse-check surveys with some level of regularity to maintain a healthy feedback look. Many companies do pulse checks twice yearly just to get a sense of customer sentiment across the entire customer base.
2) Only ask one question in NPS surveys (most of the time)
Where NPS surveys are concerned, less is more. The longer your survey, the lower the chances are that people will hang around to finish it. Sticking to one question can improve your response rate — and you want a great response rate because larger sample sizes will create a more accurate NPS.
So, what's a good survey response rate? There is no one clear answer because response rates can differ between channels (email surveys versus telephone or in-app surveys, for example) or based on how engaged your customers are with your brand.
However, good response rates can generally vary between 5% and 30%. If your response rate shoots up to 50% or more, you’re doing extremely well — and your customers are highly engaged.
While you want to keep your surveys brief, nothing says you can’t follow up with particular customers individually. In fact, you absolutely should follow up with customers who offer particularly interesting responses in your survey’s feedback section. Send out a more in-depth survey or schedule a 1:1 interview to discover the reasons behind their responses.
Here’s a great example of a one-question survey sent with NPS survey tool Delighted, plus a follow-up question made possible by Delighted’s integration with Gorgias:
When to use multi-question surveys
There are a couple of limited cases when you can send out multi-question surveys:
- When you need deeper feedback on specific new products
- To get in-depth feedback from loyal customers who are willing to spend more time answering questions
Use these longer surveys judiciously to collect highly targeted information — and strive to keep them as brief as possible.
3) Always, always, always A/B test your surveys
A/B testing is a common marketing technique that has users compare multiple pieces of content to determine which pieces perform best. You can — and absolutely should — use A/B tests for your surveys, too. Doing so will help you optimize surveys to get the best response rate.
When you’re designing an A/B test, consider testing for the following:
- Email subject lines: (“Let us know what you think!” vs. “We want to hear from you!”)
- Number of questions (single-question vs. multi-question surveys)
- Delivery channel (email, in-app, after-purchase pop-up, etc.)
- Best time of day (morning, end of day, etc.)
- Best stage of the customer lifecycle (one day, week, or month after purchase)
- Testing by customer segments (repeat customers vs. first-time shoppers)
- Best time to test after an interaction (so the interaction still feels fresh)
Those tests will get you started, but feel free to add more as you spot areas to potentially improve.
4) Make your NPS surveys visual and brand-friendly
The first step to creating an attractive survey is to add visuals. Don’t rely on people typing in answers to questions. Use graphical buttons instead. Be sure to use your company’s logo in the design, and introduce your brand’s colors through borders and other elements.
Make it brand-friendly, too — whatever that means for your brand. If your brand gives off a sleek, posh vibe, then your net promoter score survey should do the same.
Rather than building these emails from scratch, consider using an NPS survey software with convenient templates. There are many great options, but we recommend Delighted — especially given its integration with Gorgias:
Delighted does a great job of letting you brand the survey (using your logo and colors) without over-crowding the email and distracting the survey-taker from the main purpose of the email: Choosing an NPS score.
5) Consider offering a reward for filling out NPS surveys
Free swag is an excellent motivator, and so are discounts. Offer a little something extra in exchange for NPS survey responses, and you’ll likely see your response rate shoot up dramatically.
What can you offer? The sky's the limit. Create swag bags to send out to respondents or offer a limited-time promotional item. You can also offer digital gift cards or discounts, too.
The only issue with offering rewards is that it may not be sustainable. One great way to work around this is to set up a drawing or raffle, so that survey respondents have a chance at winning something awesome. It’ll be more affordable for your brand — and an attractive enough offer that more customers will leave feedback in exchange for a chance at the prize.
6) Add a comment box for customers to explain their numerical answer
NPS survey best practices include always making sure there is a comment box below the numerical survey question. Some customers won’t leave a comment, but some will. Use these comments to understand why your happy customers are so delighted with your offerings and why unhappy customers are less than thrilled with the experience you’ve offered.
If you use an NPS tool like Delighted, you can opt in to include an optional “Tell us more” box:
7) Look deeper into your NPS and customer data to get the most valuable insights
Your NPS score is a valuable tool, but it will only get you so far. It’s essentially a measurement of how “loud” your promoters are compared to the detractors. Focusing too much on the relative volume of each group can be misleading.
For example, you may be tempted to invest a lot of time into rescuing your detractors, but think about this: Maybe the problem isn’t that your detractors are unhappy. Maybe they were never the right target market in the first place.
That’s why you need to dig deeper into the data behind your NPS score. You might find interesting patterns, like nearly all of your detractors live abroad or a huge percentage of your promoters bought the same product. That suggests perhaps you need an audience from closer to home.
- Dive into demographic patterns on Shopify or whatever ecommerce platform you use to learn about the characteristics that make up promoter, passive, and detractor groups.
- Keep track of feedback from comment boxes. Do detractors routinely mention shipping delays? Now you know where to start on improvements.
- Send out follow-ups to members of each group to see if you can learn more about the factors that drove their initial response.
8) Always send a follow-up message to thank customers who filled out the survey
Thank-yous are a fantastic way to build goodwill and customer loyalty. This step doesn’t have to be anything complicated, either. In fact, the CRM tools or survey templates you use to generate surveys should automate the thank-you process — either as a final screen of the survey or a separate email.
Ideally, your survey should pop up with a quick statement of thanks once the survey has been completed. Make sure to personalize the message — but keep it brief to ensure that it’s both seen and appreciated.
This is how a thank you message will appear if sent with Delighted:
Less ideal — but still acceptable — is to send a follow-up email to say thank you. The problem with this method is that people aren’t always appreciative of inbox clutter — plus, there’s a chance customers may delete the email unread.
9) Just get started and aim for statistically significant sample sizes later on
Worried that your survey isn’t optimized to its fullest? Or that your customer base is too small to generate meaningful results? Set those fears aside and launch your NPS survey anyway.
The truth is, even small brands can get a lot out of comparatively few NPS responses. A/B testing your survey to optimize it is important — and it’s also something you can do to improve as you work through the process.
Now, if you’re a super small B2B brand with only a handful of customers, or a brand that is just starting, NPS scores may not be all that worthwhile. Instead, you may need to roll up your sleeves and dive in to ask for feedback the old-fashioned way: with phone calls or messages directly to your point of contact.
10) Test your survey before sending it to customers
We’ve talked about the importance of A/B testing — but what about regular beta testing? It’s an easy and crucial step that ensures an easy-to-use survey tool for your customers.
Just have a handful of people at your company so they can click all the buttons and check various features. Request feedback on the design, and be sure to load the survey on mobile and desktop platforms, too.
Testing the technical aspects of your survey is especially important if you have any sort of automatic personalization. If you use a tool like Retently, for example, send a few test emails to different recipients to make sure the personalization is accurate:
💡Tip: If you use Retnetly, you can integrate with Gorgias to follow up with customers — like winning back unhappy customers or inviting happy customers to a referral or loyalty program.
11) Think beyond the surface of the results
Up above, we mentioned that sometimes you learn important things about your target market based on your detractors — and that’s why you should always look beyond the NPS score itself. Do a deep dive on your detractors to really analyze what is happening. Examine demographic information and pay close attention to any comments they leave.
For example, do you have a large group of detractors who love your product but are unhappy with customer support or your website experience? This might indicate that your customer service team needs additional training or managerial support, which is a straightforward fix to raise your score. Or what if all of your detractors share certain characteristics, like age, income level, and geographical region? It could mean that this subset isn’t your product’s target market, and you’ll be better off re-targeting your product.
Find out how Gorgias helps ecommerce brands increase their KPIs
Ready to boost your NPS? Gorgias makes it easy. It’s customer support software specifically designed for ecommerce, built to integrate with the ecommerce tools (like NPS email software) you already use.
On top of NPS, you can facilitate follow-up questions, automate thank-you emails, and get a real-time view of other statistics like customer satisfaction (CSAT), average response times, and resolution times.
To learn more, sign up here and check out everything Gorgias offers.