When to use NPS surveys and where they fall short

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys measure the willingness of customers or clients to recommend a product or service to others. Many companies use them as a metric for measuring customer loyalty and measuring customer satisfaction levels. In professional services, all kinds of firms conduct these surveys to understand how satisfied their clients are with their B2B customer service.

NPS surveys ask clients to rate how likely they are on a scale of 0-10 to recommend your services. Promoters (score 9-10) are enthusiastic advocates who are likely to refer your firm for more business. Neutrals (score 7-8) are satisfied but less likely to go so far as recommend your services. And detractors (score 0-6) are dissatisfied customers who may cause brand damage when speaking about your firm to others.

Subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters gives you the overall Net Promoter Score.

Professional services firms should consider using NPS on a consistent basis to measure client satisfaction levels. And if you look at high-performing firms, this is exactly what many of them do. But when is NPS required, and when should you look at other types of client research?

This article explores when to use NPS surveys and where they fall short.

Advantages and disadvantages of NPS

Why use NPS?

NPS surveys provide a mechanism for collecting ongoing, structured, and actionable feedback. One of the key benefits is their simplicity and uniformity. The score provides a clear and actionable metric for gauging customer loyalty, which can direct strategic change and improvement for firms.

NPS is also useful for its capacity to track changes in customer sentiment over time. By regularly conducting NPS surveys at consistent intervals or during key client interactions, businesses can stay alert to changes in customer sentiment and react to feedback. This fosters stronger client relationships, which can lead to increased client retention and business growth.

When customers respond to NPS surveys by providing a numeric score and optional comments, it creates a direct channel for feedback. You can often structure and easily analyse this feedback. It segments respondents into promoters, neutrals, and detractors based on their scores.

NPS surveys can also include open-ended questions, allowing customers to provide qualitative feedback and elaborate on their score. This offers businesses valuable insights into what’s working and what needs improvement. Below are some pros and cons of NPS surveys.

As the graph below shows, Beaton research has shown professional services firms using regular NPS surveys through our platform Beaton Debrief grow their competitive advantage and maintain market differentiation compared to firms that don’t use Debrief. In fact, satisfaction with accounting and consulting services firms that use Debrief is increasing four times faster than those that do not use Debrief.

NPS pros

  1. Simple: NPS surveys are easy to understand and quick to respond to. They generally have a high response rate due to their simplicity. They’re accessible to a wide range of clients, and all kinds of professional services firms can use them.
  2. Quantifiable: The numeric nature of NPS allows straightforward measurement and benchmarking. It is easy to track changes in your client base.
  3. Actionable: Categorising respondents into promoters, neutrals and detractors can clearly identify clients who are dissatisfied. This can enable you to address issues before they become major problems, and swing neutrals into active promoters. It’s also highly valuable to engage with promoters who might actively assist in growing your brand.
  4. Straightforward: Many NPS surveys ask for feedback about specific projects and matters. This means the feedback is concise and direct, allowing you to immediately address any issues that come up.

NPS cons

  1. Simplicity: The simplicity of NPS is both an advantage and a limitation. A simple score from 0-10 does not capture the nuances of customer feedback or specific issues requiring attention.
  2. Limited context: NPS surveys typically don’t provide a huge amount of context for respondents’ scores. Unless a client chooses to add verbatim comments (and there is space for them to), the NPS does not clarify how they have determined their rating. More frequent NPS surveys can provide the context needed to fully understand the reasons behind the scores. Firms looking to stand out among competitors should also consider benchmarking their scores against similar firms for market context. This can help determine whether a high number is indeed an impressive result when viewed in context of other firms’ results.
  3. Lack of specificity: NPS scores show areas to improve, but don’t offer specific guidance on how to fix the issues. Firms that would like more detailed, specific client feedback may wish to use supplementary research methods for a deeper understanding.
  4. Industry and cultural variations: NPS scores can vary significantly across different industries, geography and company. A good score in one industry might just be average in another. It is important to consider industry benchmarks and account for cultural differences when interpreting NPS data.

NPS surveys are easy to understand and quick to respond to, however there are alternatives that may be more useful for detailed feedback.

When to use NPS surveys

Firms should lean into NPS surveys when they want a simple, actionable and widely accepted method for measuring client loyalty and satisfaction. NPS surveys are valuable for a high-level view of client sentiment. They’re also useful for tracking changes in that sentiment over time.

It’s best to distribute NPS surveys following specific customer interactions or transactions.

How often should I conduct NPS surveys?

How often you should conduct NPS surveys to measure client satisfaction depends on your business goals and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Consider your stakeholders and their needs to either provide or understand feedback. Determine how often your internal stakeholders may benefit from NPS data to inform their decision-making. Stakeholders may include boards, partners, BD support teams, marketing. This can help determine survey frequency.

The more frequently you are conducting NPS research, the more important it can be to put a structured system in place to distribute surveys and collect responses.

Beaton offers our NPS tracking tool Debrief precisely for this purpose. We work with our client firms to determine the ideal frequency and after which key interactions to send surveys. Debrief then collates the data and pulls it together in an easy-to-click-through online dashboard. (Download a free trial of it here.)

Here are some common frequencies for NPS surveys:

  • When onboarding a new client
  • At the beginning of a project
  • At key moments or intervals during a project
  • At the end of or shortly after a project reaches completion
Time-based intervals
  • Annual – yearly NPS surveys to assess long-term customer loyalty
  • Quarterly – measure the health of the relationship as it is ongoing
On demand
  • Triggered by specific events, such as a major product release or changes
  • To diagnose unidentified problems in the business
  • Ongoing surveys asking for real-time feedback from clients to encourage and maintain customer-centric culture, such as a permanent link in an email signature or feedback form on their website

It allows us to gather, analyse and act on feedback. It gives us insights into our client needs, identifies our strengths and weaknesses, shows our clients we value their opinions, provides risk mitigation and measures performance over time where we can set benchmarks and track progress.

Are there any alternatives to NPS surveys?

There are many popular metrics that can be used instead of NPS including Overall Client Service (OCS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), client churn rate, retention rate, qualitative feedback, online reviews and ratings (e.g. Google Reviews) and qualitative feedback. We discuss some of these further in our metrics article.

Monitoring long-term customer loyalty in detail, on an annual or longer-term basis may require additional tools to best understand your clients’ sentiment. Competitive benchmarking is one type of research that compares your client loyalty and sentiment to those of your competitors. It offers more contextualised insights with more detail on specific areas or success or improvement.

Our annual, profession-wide benchmarking research Beaton Benchmarks can provide an overall view of how your firm is performing in clients’ eyes, when compared to competitor firms.

Remember that you need not substitute NPS for benchmarking. Instead, you should consider augmenting NPS with benchmarking research. When viewed in context of market competitors, NPS can provide a more objective picture of how your firm is performing. Scoring high on an NPS survey is great – but understanding where you are scoring higher than your competitors can be even better.

Achieving high NPS just became a whole lot easier

Use our platform, Beaton Debrief, to collect client feedback and act on it in real-time with our interactive dashboard. Sign up for a free trial today.

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Written by

Marc Ewen
Marc Ewen, Senior Associate

As a member of the Beaton research team, Marc manages our transactional feedback platform, Beaton Debrief, as well as coordinating the expansion of the Client Choice Awards to enable small-to-medium professional services organisations to enjoy all of the benefits that taking part brings. 

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