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Net Promoter Score – Influence of Non-Responding Customers

I recently read The Ultimate Question 2.0 and I must say that the likelihood that I’d recommend this book to a colleague or friend, on a scale of 0-10, would definitely be a 10!

In all seriousness, it’s an absolute pleasure to read with fantastic and illustrative stories along with compelling arguments for using this customer satisfaction metric.

However, while reading, I noticed that a clear approach for measuring the influence (on the Net Promoter score) of customers who don’t respond to a survey, was lacking. At first glance, it appeared the authors were suggesting, based on their research and some examples, that non-responders should be strongly considered as Passives or even Detractors. This didn’t sit so well with me, so I set up a quick survey on the NPS LinkedIn forum and asked the members how they would deal with non-responders.

Getting Customers to Respond

In addition to all voters (to date) stating they would “base NPS on just those who responded”, I got some great responses from Rob Markey (partner at Bain & Co. and co-author of the book) and Andy Sackley of Satmetrix. Markey defined a more balanced approach. He wrote “there are only a few companies who have attempted to “adjust” their NPS based on non-responders, and we’re not certain that’s the right thing to do. We are certain, however, that ignoring the non-responders altogether isn’t right, either. And even worse is to think–without validation or verification–that non-responders’ NPS or purchase behavior is roughly similar to the average of the responders.”

Sackley, in a similar vein, noted that “it’s important to understand why people are not responding to your survey, before even attempting to associate non-responders to your Promoter/Passive/Detractor categories”. While “it’s difficult to know if a non-response is really a ‘silent protest’ – maybe that person is just out sick or on vacation” communicating to ALL customers including the non-responders (via email, newsletter or corporate website), a summary of the feedback received as well as what you will be doing to make things better, should be part of “closing the loop”, just as much as following up with clear Detractors or Passives is.

This “shows the importance the company is putting on this process and that can help to show people that if they do take the time to respond, it is worthwhile,” making it more likely that non-responders will indeed respond in the next survey, providing a fuller and more reliable picture next time around. In summary, in an ideal world, getting a 100% response rate will provide an accurate and reliable picture. However, even a less complete set of respondents can provide excellent insight into what is working well and what is not. And more importantly, NPS is a process and as you continue to close the loop with your customers and make continuous improvements, you should see an increasing number of customers sharing their feedback with you as they begin to understand that they can really make a difference. I’d love to hear what you think about all this in the comments section below.

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