NPS isn’t Enough: Why Combining it with User Research Improves Customer Loyalty

Jenn Winter by

If you’ve worked on Marketing, Consumer Insights, or even Product teams, you’ve probably asked this question of your customers hundreds of times,

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or a colleague?

Responses to these questions are compiled to calculate a company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) and it’s a great way to gauge how loyal your customers are to a brand. Scores can range between -100 and 100, with scores of zero and above considered good.

Source: Sachin Rekhi

NPS isn’t Enough

But what happens after you get your score? Similar to other quantitative research methods, NPS can tell you what your customers think of you, but not necessarily why they feel that way about your brand.

Which is where regular user research becomes an invaluable tool. Today we’ll take a look at what NPS can’t tell you, and how conducting user research can fill the gaps and help improve both your NPS and your UX and CX.

A Great NPS Doesn’t Equal Great CX

While NPS can tell you who’s a self-proclaimed advocate for your brand, it’s no guarantee that your customer experience is top-notch.

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Imagine that a company sent out an NPS survey immediately following a customer’s purchase. The purchase experience was good, so the customer gave the company a high score. But, a few days later, when the customer received the product it wasn’t what they ordered. But the return process was the polar opposite of the checkout process. The customer is now frustrated, upset, and has vowed to never make another purchase. If another NPS survey were sent out at this time, chances are this customer would be a vocal detractor.

NPS captures just one point in time with a customer, and the customer’s response will depend heavily on their most recent experience. Focusing solely on NPS as a measure of overall CX is a dangerous habit that could eventually turn loyal promoters into detractors.

What Users Say isn’t Necessarily What They Do

It’s human nature. Self-reported data is notoriously inaccurate, which means just because your customers say they’d recommend you, that doesn’t mean they will. Jacob Nielsen reports that his research shows self-reported data from users tends to be heavily influenced by cognitive biases. For example, a participant in a user research study may claim that they drink their coffee strong and black. But when observed in their natural environment, researchers find they take cream and sugar.

The same logic can be applied to NPS results. A favorable score from a customer does not guarantee that customer will talk about

NPS Doesn’t Show You the Why Behind Your Score

Probably the most important piece of information NPS misses is the why behind your score. If your company recently received a high NPS, do you know why? And if the score isn’t so great, how can you tell what needs improvement?

While some NPS surveys do provide follow-up questions that enable customers to explain why they chose a particular score, that feedback relies solely on the customer’s memory of their interaction with a brand. And that recollection may not be accurate or detailed enough to inform any actionable response.

How Regular User Research Can Complement NPS

But NPS can still be a powerful tool—especially when paired with regular user research. In fact, each of the drawbacks to NPS I’ve mentioned can all be addressed by incorporating user research.

Think of NPS as you would a survey or an A/B test. While it can guide you on what your customers are doing, you have no way of knowing why unless you conduct user research. If you have a great NPS, for example, conduct user research that digs deeper to find out what your customers really love about your brand or service. Watch them navigate your site or app and speak in their own words to see what’s really motivating that score.

You may discover that although your NPS is high, nearly every customer was having the same issue with your navigation, or that the copy on your pricing page doesn’t clearly explain what’s included in the price.

Observing what your customers say when they’re interacting with your brand puts the muscle behind your NPS you need to understand its meaning. Once you’ve established a regular research schedule, you can combine your NPS survey results with corresponding user research and begin to benchmark your progress.

Establishing and maintaining customer loyalty is a perpetual process that involves your entire organization. Everyone from your sales team to customer service, to the executive suite need to be committed to building a user-centric company culture. The customer experience is a moving target. Combining your NPS strategy with frequent user experience research will help you zero in on what your customers really think—and how to make your products consistently exceed their expectations.