Promising Metrics

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How to use the Net Promoter Score to build a product people love

Dharmesh Raithatha

Chief Product Officer @ Forward Partners

The term building a product that people love is frequently used in the startup world. But love is not a binary thing and it would be great to have some way of measuring if your product is loved, by how much, by whom and to surface suggestions for how to improve the product. Fortunately, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple and powerful metric that gives you all three. I find it is the most useful metric for understanding how your customers perceive your product and for generating insight into what you could be doing more (or less of) to make them love your product more.

Key takeaways

  • NPS score is a great way to understand how much your product is loved;
  • Have a systematic way to capture NPS starting with the first customers;
  • Make sure to ask your customers why they gave you that score to surface product improvements.

Calculating the NPS score

NPS is calculated by surveying your customers and asking them a very simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend?” Based on their responses on a 0 – 10 scale, group your customers into Promoters (9-10 score), Passives (7-8 score), and Detractors (0-6 score). Then subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters and you have your NPS score. The score ranges from -100 (all detractors) to +100 (all promoters). An NPS score of +50 is considered excellent.  NPS calculation

It’s a tool for improvement, not just a score

Having a score for how well your product is doing is great, but it isn’t the score that is going to improve your business. The power comes from following up with responders and asking "why did you give that score?". This is the magic of tracking NPS and it will give you a wealth of ideas for how to make your product better. Having a regular NPS heartbeat will efficiently and continually connect you with your customers to surface actionable insight for making product changes.  

Why a high score is good

A higher NPS score correlates to customer loyalty and will ultimately improve the economics of your business. If you are a low margin business or in an expensive space in terms of marketing spend then you will want to put more focus on getting this number higher quicker. For example, Transferwise, who are disrupting the banks by offering very low commission money transfers, couldn’t compete on marketing spend with high margin banks, so they focussed on product driven growth through relentlessly tracking and improving their NPS score.  

Make sure to follow up with responders

A lot of people track the NPS score but do nothing with it. This is the biggest mistake. The true value of the NPS score is not in the number but in the follow-up. Make sure that you read every response that you get and then follow up with each user to ask why, especially in the beginning. Even at scale you can continue to do this with a random sample of customers or when you are not sure how to take the product forward. Remember, most people don’t respond. So the ones that do whether good or bad are extremely valuable to you.  

The beauty of detractors

Detractors will not be recommending your product, but they have decided to let you know rather than just ignore you. They cared enough to respond even if they didn’t like it, that’s valuable. Why did they give a low score? What were they expecting? What was promised? Make sure to find out. Often, you will identify some obvious problem that you can fix quite quickly. In other cases, it might lead to a change in who you are targeting as it shows a mismatch between the users you want and the actual audience.  

Love your neutrals

I love neutrals. In fact, I love them more than attractors. They have cared enough to respond, they thought about whether you were a 9 or a 10 and then decided that you were not quite there yet. They can often articulate much better than attractors where you can improve.  

Find the magic with your attractors

A lot of attractors will just say “Your great!”, which is nice for the score but not very helpful for improvements. However if you ask them why it can help you to understand where the magic is in your product. For example, while working with Lexoo (a legal marketplace), we often got feedback from customers that gave 10s that they were impressed that they got 3 quotes within 24 hours. We did not realise how important the speed of response was to the experience. They used this feedback to double down on features that encourage lawyers to quote quickly.  

Help your attractors talk about you more

When you receive a 9 or a 10 you have a happy customer. They have said that they will recommend your product to a friend so make it easier for them. If your product will benefit from positive reviews or ratings then this is a great time to ask if they would recommend, rate or give you a Trustpilot review. Add sharing or referral programs to amplify their happiness and lower your acquisition costs.  

How do I capture it?

There are a number of services that help you automate and track NPS easily. For email based NPS I have used For Saas businesses then Qualaroo is a powerful tool that lets you capture NPS from within your website or app. Both are easy to setup and relatively inexpensive. At scale you might want to build your own so that you can tie the NPS score tightly to your customer data to allow you to understand what behaviours lead to higher or lower scores.  

When to send your survey

When you are first starting out I recommend it to send it shortly after your customer experiences the value that you are offering. For example, an ecommerce store might have an in app survey after someone purchases a product and then follow up with an email survey a few days after they have received their first order. This would cover not just the online experience but also the delivery and packaging experience. For products where the value is experienced months away, like booking a holiday, then in the early stages it is better to get feedback straight after the booking experience as well as after the holiday. Allowing you to move fast and make improvements. It is useful to ask repeat customers over time but try to keep at least a decent gap between asking again. We will typically leave at least a months gap but it totally depends on the product.  

Typical response rates

The response rate for an NPS survey will depend on a number of factors. The timing for when it is sent and the medium that they receive it. Be sure to experiment with different times and email titles to make sure you are getting a decent conversion rate. As a guide I have seen email response rates vary between 15-25% and in app surveys between 20-40%.    

Dharmesh Raithatha

Chief Product Officer @ Forward Partners

Dharmesh Raithatha is ex Chief Product Officer and Founding Partner at Forward Partners. He now coaches new product leaders and and helps startups excel from Seed to Series E companies. He has a passion for building great products and businesses and helping others do the same. Dharmesh has a background in artificial intelligence and has been doing product for over 17 years in his own or other high profile startups.

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