Common NPS® Survey Pitfalls – and How to Avoid Them

This post was previously published in June 2019 and was recently updated. 

With thousands of companies, large and small, already using Net Promoter® Score (NPS®) surveys to measure customer satisfaction, many more are likely to jump on the bandwagon. And we welcome them! 

Caring about your customer experience (CX) is positive on all sides — a win-win-win, for your business, your employees, and your customers. However, some companies either leap in with two feet but no plan, or simply survey because everyone else is without plans for responding to the feedback they receive. The risk is two-fold: failing to get a return on your investment and disappointing your customers, leading to dips in revenue.

>> Get a quick refresher on NPS.

In our nearly 15 years of guiding NPS survey programs for professional service firms, we’ve seen it all. From helping our clients facilitate survey programs that make a true difference for their CX and drive bottom-line growth, we’ve identified 10 common NPS program mistakes that we see time and again. Read on to decipher whether your firm is guilty of any and to get guidance on how to avoid them.

NPS Mistakes Before Getting Started

NOTE: Don’t let these mistakes hold you back from launching your NPS survey program.

1. Waiting for everyone to be 100% on board.

If you wait for unanimous consensus, then you may never begin. There will always be a few hesitant naysayers who make excuses like: “It’s not right for my clients,” “I never answer those surveys,” or “Let’s just get feedback face-to-face.” The truth is no matter what these skeptics say, online surveys are highly effective when it comes to both garnering responses and obtaining honest feedback. In fact, 69% of B2B clients say they’re more likely to provide feedback through an online survey than face-to-face. Another 59% say they’ll be more honest online, too.

NPS graphic with percentages of people providing feedback


2. Putting it off. 

You won’t find a perfect time to implement an NPS program. There will always be competing priorities. But your client experience will always matter. It will always impact your client retention rates, your referrals, and your revenue. So why would you wait to work on understanding and improving it? Make an effort now to get your client survey initiative on the roadmap — the sooner the better

While Planning Your Survey

Avoid the following pitfalls while planning the survey itself.

3. Kicking off your survey without an internal champion.

A well-executed NPS program is a team effort, but there has to be a point person — someone championing the program and keeping it on track. This is a key component of any successful customer feedback initiative. So, appoint an internal champion who draws attention to the NPS survey program and its importance as well as a point person who owns the overall process from planning to analysis to follow up. Depending on your company’s structure and size, these roles could be filled by one person or by a high-visibility leader who partners with someone who directly manages the process and a specialized team. 

4. Settling for a low response rate. 

Most B2B surveys only have a 15% response rate, but that doesn’t mean you should settle. ClearlyRated NPS surveys yield a 34% response rate on average, so higher rates can (and should) be achieved. Personalize your emails. Send them from a strong, spam-free server, make sure they’re mobile-optimized, and send follow-ups. Follow these best practices and you should see an increased response rate.

>> 4 Strategies to Maximize Your Client Survey Response Rate.

NPS survey response rate tips

5. Creating lengthy surveys.

People are busy. The longer your survey, the less likely they are to finish it (and even start it again in the future). NPS surveys should, therefore, only include a handful of important questions with simple, quick answers. If your survey grows daunting and your clients abort, that means fewer opportunities to understand your CX. So, prioritize areas that are most important to your firm and your clients when planning your questions.

NPS survey question



6. Only seeking quantifiable results.

While quantifiable measurements are critical, especially for tracking progress over time, you should also seek qualifiable feedback. Invite survey-takers to elaborate on their answers by asking, “Will you share the main reason you gave us this score?” You may just receive insights critical to improving key weaknesses or highlighting important strengths you didn’t realize were unique to your organization. As supplemental feedback comes in, categorize and organize it to identify and prioritize opportunities to drive a higher NPS.

NPS Mistakes Post-Survey 

After all your efforts, don’t drop the ball after your fielding window closes.

7. Taking no action or even disregarding feedback.

Plan your follow-through ahead of time. Measuring your NPS without making any improvements or responding to comments not only wastes your efforts but can disappoint your customers, who may grow jaded about your company. So, create a proactive and detailed game plan for how your organization will respond to customer feedback during and after the survey. Consider how you’ll follow up with Detractors, Promoters, and Passives. Detractors should be a high priority, as they give you a lifeline to fix potentially revenue-shattering problems. With your Passives, you have the opportunity to act on their feedback for how to improve the experience—and maybe even convert some into Promoters. Finally, look toward Promoters as your firm’s engine for growth. Ask them to help tell your story of service excellence (through referrals, testimonials, and online ratings). Understand what they love and work to replicate their experience across your entire client base.

NPS survey responding to detractors

8. Failing to circulate feedback internally.

Circulate your NPS results internally after every survey to reiterate the importance of your client satisfaction efforts and share your process. Your entire organization needs CX visibility to understand and own their roles in delivering it. So, circulate the results widely. You may even share results and benchmarks by department or office locations, which can help you identify high-performing teams who can share best practices. Recognize wins and have an action plan in place for service losses.

Overall Survey Program Mistakes 

To create and maintain a successful program overall – one that captures your true CX and helps you to improve it – don’t make the following mistakes. 

9. Surveying too infrequently.

Many professional service firms survey their clients once per year. While we’ll give an ‘A’ for effort, we recommend fielding shorter, more frequent surveys to get the best results and more useful, actionable feedback. If it’s within the scope of reason, consider asking for client feedback at the end of every engagement. This way you can better gauge performance and tie feedback to specific moments in the client experience. Plus, when you survey more often you can better track your progress and keep a pulse on your CX. After all, customer sentiment can quickly change. If you rely on a once-per-year survey, you’ll miss data as well as key moments.  Just keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your customers either. So, be mindful of how often you send surveys to the same customer contact.

10. Cherry-picking your survey list.

The goal of NPS survey programs is to build a full understanding of your CX. So, if you’re selective about whom you survey in an effort to falsely drive up your NPS, then you’re missing the point entirely. Always survey a sample that reflects your broader customer base and never exclude certain clients due to fears that they might provide negative feedback. Remember: Detractors are your lifeline. Use them to emerge victoriously.

Next steps

  • Gain a better overall understanding of NPS with The Definitive Guide to Net Promoter® Score.
  • Learn more about NPS survey best practices. If you’re interested in learning more about NPS and a few “best practices” that will help your firm get the most out of your survey initiatives, check out our blog post ‘Secrets to Winning with NPS‘.
  • Ready to get started with NPS? Contact the ClearlyRated team for insights, best practices, and a tour of our survey platform (designed specifically to support professional service firms).

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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