NPS Survey Tips: How To Turn Passive Customers Into Promoters

If asked, could you identify your biggest fans and most enthusiastic brand evangelists? Running an NPS survey will help you do just that and more.

Ian Landsman
Photo: Ian Landsman, Founder of UserScape | Courtesy Photo

If asked, could you identify your biggest fans and most enthusiastic brand evangelists? Running an NPS survey will help you do just that by identifying a powerful share of your customer base: promoters.

Promoters have a powerful lifetime value and potential to bring in a significant portion of new customers. In short, they’re gold for your business, and you can never have too many of them. In this article, you’ll discover how to turn more of your “passives” into “promoters.”


The Inestimable Value of Promoters

Your promoters provide your company with inestimable value because they produce what NPS creator Fred Reichheld calls good profits.

“Good profits” are earned by the purchases and investment of customers that are loyal to your brand. These customers are happy to hand over their cash in exchange for your product or service. On the other hand, “bad profits” are generally the result of raising rates at the expense of customer satisfaction, forcing clients to incur unfair fees, or setting unfavorable contracts that extract payments down the road.

Unfortunately, too many companies fall into the trap of being lured by the relatively easy money of the latter: quick profits generated from fleecing customers. The result may be higher numbers for that quarter — but at the expense of plummeting customer loyalty that will ultimately lead to lower profits in the long term.

Good profits are linked to a high lifetime value (CLV) and higher referral rates. And referred customers are also high in value. Having been “coached” by promoters on your product or service, they’re already accustomed to your purchasing process, and they’re enthusiastic about your offerings right from the get-go.

Ultimately, promoters generate profits for you on multiple levels. They’re more likely to repurchase from you. They’re less sensitive to changes in pricing. They’re less of a burden on your customer support teams. And, according to The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World, they’re responsible for more than 80% of customer referrals.

Here’s the especially good news about promoters: Contrary to what some owners might think, they can be generated from your existing customer base, even from those who have historically felt “so-so” about your brand.


Focus on Passives, Not Detractors

By now, we hope you’re persuaded: More promoters, please!

While you will certainly want to follow up with detractors by addressing their feedback, making improvements, and offering rectification if possible, your detractors are not your “prime material” for becoming promoters. It will ultimately pay off more to focus on your passives — the customers who are satisfied with your brand…but not quite thrilled (yet).

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Your passives haven’t been outrageously disappointed, frustrated, or turned off by your product or service. Unlike detractors, they’re not waiting for a “sorry.” They’re waiting to be wowed.


Follow-Up: The Key to Conversion

Passives tend to buy from you more as a matter of habit. Their purchasing decisions and partnership with your business aren’t driven by loyalty. They’re satisfied, but also perhaps a little… bored.

The key to turning passives into promoters lies in assessing — and acting on — your NPS survey feedback.


Build a Consumer Profile for Your Promoters

Before looking at what your promoters actually have to say about your product or service, take a look at their demographics (if possible) and purchasing habits. Do most of your promoters subscribe to a particular pricing tier? Have they purchased a particular product? Or maybe they’ve frequently interacted with your customer support messaging system?

Alternatively, the defining characteristics of your biggest fans may not relate directly to their history with your brand: A significant portion of your promoters may live in a particular region or city, fall into a specific age range, or work in a distinct industry.

Insights like these can clue you into what makes your customers tick. Armed with this knowledge, you can target passives who have made similar purchases or who live in the same cities as your existing highest-value customers.


Assess Feedback from Your Promoters

Now, take a look at what your promoters had to say about your brand. Were they thrilled with a specific product? Do they appreciate your competitive pricing? Did they have a great interaction with a customer service rep?

Identify common themes and keywords used by promoters to home in on your strengths, and then leverage those strengths with passives.

For example, maybe you run an online pet food store, and you’ve learned that many of your promoters purchase a certain type of dog food and regularly sing its praises in their NPS responses. You may want to create a special advertising campaign that displays this particular brand, and then target it at passives using a customer testimonial or star rating for extra impact.

Or maybe your company’s main business is a blogging platform, and you’ve found that many of your most enthusiastic customers have been pleasantly surprised with your phone support. That being the case, you may want to send an email campaign to passives that stresses the availability of your phone line for customer questions.

Be creative with how you utilize your strongest products and services in order to turn passives into promoters.


Assess Feedback from Your Detractors

Your weaknesses and blind spots could be what’s preventing your lukewarm customers from falling in love with your business. That’s where feedback from detractors comes into play: They let you know what’s going wrong.

Just as you did with feedback from promoters, you’ll want to sift through detractor feedback and look for common themes and keywords. Were some of your customers frustrated by the frequent need for repairs on your core product? Did they feel let down by the taste of your organic coffee? Or maybe they experienced frustrations with shipping?

Regardless of what turned off certain customers from giving you a high NPS rating, address the issues and develop a plan with team members to improve your weak spots. When your weak spots are improved, your passives should take notice… and potentially become stronger, more loyal customers.


Go the Extra Mile

Assessing and implementing feedback is an effective approach for converting more customers into promoters. But one of the best ways to generate more promoters is to go “above and beyond” your customers’ expectations.

Here’s one example of customer service that literally went the extra mile:

An 89-year old man living in Pennsylvania was snowed in and unable to get groceries. His daughter contacted a few stores to see if they delivered. When she called Trader Joe’s, they told her that they don’t typically deliver, but that they would make an exception this time.

Not only did they bring groceries directly to this man’s home, they comped the entire purchase as a “Christmas gift.” You can bet that this customer — not to mention her elderly father — quickly jumped into the “promoter” category as a result of this extraordinary service.

Of course, this is an exceptional example, but it demonstrates a powerful principle: commitment to delivering an excellent experience over gaining a profit. And you can bet that the circulation of this story generated plenty of new loyal customers for Trader Joe’s.

You might not be able to deliver your product for free to the snowbound home of an elderly client on Christmas, but you can be creative in offering a customer experience that exceeds your passives’ expectations. You may want to send a handwritten thank-you note after customers take your NPS survey. Give a few passives a phone call to follow up on specific feedback. You could even offer a free gift or a significant discount, just because.

A free gift, or even a small gesture of gratitude, can cause otherwise neutral customers to quickly become advocates of your brand. When they learn that you’re there to serve them — and not simply trying to make money off them — they’ll quickly grow in loyalty, trust, and enthusiasm.


Ian Landsman is an entrepreneur and customer experience expert. He founded UserScape in 2005 where he’s created multiple customer-focused applications including HelpSpot.com and Thermostat.io.


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