This article deep dives how to calculate Net Promoter and the best practices around measuring and interpreting your score.
At CustomerGauge, we help commercial excellence and sales leaders to use Net Promoter to drive account retention and expansion.
Best practices, like those we share in this article, are key first steps towards healthy customer relationships. As next steps, I really encourage you to read our articles on response rates and closing the loop, as well as our eBook on Account Experience—the NPS methodology for account management.
Table of contents:
- What is Net Promoter?
- The NPS calculation formula
- How to calculate NPS using Excel (with downloadable template)
- How to calculate NPS by driver contribution
- Beware these new NPS calculation techniques
- How to measure NPS reliably
👋 Check it out: Think you're doing well? Here are 40 NPS benchmarks for leading B2B companies.
What is Net Promoter Score (NPS)?
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is metric proven to measure customer experience and predict revenue growth. Your overall score is found by surveying your customers with one beautifully simple question (although pros ask more than one question, we will come to that later):
“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [company name] to your friends, family or business associates?”
Customers that give you a 6 or below are called Detractors, those who give a score of 7 or 8 are called Passives, and a those who give 9 or 10 are Promoters.
Your net promoter score is calculated by aggregating individual results and measuring the percentage of customers in each group.
When used correctly, the resulting score is a leading indicator for growth because it measure loyalty, and therefore the likelihood of contract renewal and customer referrals.
As you'll see, only Promoters and Detractors are important in the NPS calculation formula.
The NPS Calculation Formula
To calculate your Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. NPS = % promoters - % detractors. It is that simple.
So, if 50% of respondents were Promoters and 10% were Detractors, your Net Promoter is a score of 40.
In the Excel template below, we visualise this calculation and allow you to enter your own scores—one way to get real clarity on the formula.
Read more: What is a good NPS score anyway?
How to Calculate NPS in Excel [Enter Your Scores in Our Template]
We've created a really simple NPS calculator in Google Sheets for you to use. Copy & paste your NPS survey results in the template below to instantly see your NPS score.
Here's how to calculate NPS in Excel:
- Download the template below
- Download your NPS score data in Excel
- Copy & paste your raw NPS scores
- Read through what happened at each stage
- Note down your result
- Never forget to close the loop
Side note: This guide helps you calculate your NPS score. We have another guide and template if you'd like to calculate the contribution of NPS drivers to the overall score.
Step 1: Download the NPS calculator template
To get started with this step-by-step guide to calculating NPS, download the template here and follow along.👇
Step 2: Download your NPS score data
If you're not using a dedicated NPS software that calculates your score for you, you'll likely have your individual scores in a survey maker like Google Forms.
Export your data into Excel or Sheets to get started. For this template, you want one column of numbers.
Step 3: Upload your data into our NPS calculator
Copy and paste your column of NPS scores directly into Column 1 on Tab 3 in our template, where it says 'copy and paste your scores here'. There's an example on Tab 2 to guide you.
Step 4: Learn what happened at each stage of calculation
On Tab 2, read through the quick breakdowns of what's happening at each stage. It's a rather simple calculation!
Step 5: Your NPS has been calculated!
There you have it! In columns K and L is your NPS score. Find out whether you have a good NPS score here. Wait! Don't stop here.
Step 6: Next steps matter more than anything
It's so easy to take your score and parade (or hide) it. But what you do in the next 24-48 is the most critical part of your NPS program.
NPS exists to measure loyalty, but it mostly exists to reveal Detractors and show the way to turning them into Promoters (which refer more, buy more, stay longer and cost less to serve).
Your very next steps should be closing the loop with Detractors. If someone has left you negative feedback, how you handle it is critical to retaining them as a customer.
How to Calculate NPS by Driver Contribution
Alongside your benchmarks, an understanding of your score is incomplete without an NPS driver analysis.
Drivers are the motivations behind why customers give you a particular NPS score. These are an absolutely necessary part of an NPS survey, because they show you what aspects of your CX you need to improve.
These can be gauged by adding one of two types of question to your NPS survey. After the Ultimate Question, ask either:
Open-ended questions. If your customer gave you a high score, ask them “what did you love about your experience with our brand?”. This way, you’ll receive in their own words what made the experience so special.
Cascading questions. These are types of survey questions that are presented to customers based on their response to a previous question. The benefit is that they make your customer responses slightly easier to analyze. Read more here: Why You Should Use Cascading Questions in Your Surveys
Ideally, your drivers will be linked to the different touchpoints in the customer journey, such as purchase, customer support, or delivery. If you receive a lower score at one particular touchpoint, you’ll want to know about it.
In the video below from the CustomerGauge Academy, we take a look at how to determine how much each NPS driver contributes to the overall NPS score.
We deep dive this subject in our guide to NPS analysis.
Beware These NPS Calculation Techniques When Calculating Your NPS Score
One of NPS’s greatest strengths is its simplicity. Seeking new ways to calculate your NPS score is done because companies feel they need to have a score that is as representative and accurate as can possibly be.
However, although this has good intentions, it overlooks the fact that NPS is not about knowing an absolute score, but is instead about what the score is telling you. Knowing precisely whether your score is -20, 23 or 99 is irrelevant when more pressing is the fact that your customers are telling you they are not satisfied.
Here we outline common concerns raised and new calculation methods we have come across, and why they might not be so important in the long run.
1) ❌ Exclude responses before you start your Net Promoter Score calculation ❌
Suggestion: For business-to-business (B2B) companies, including every response can skew your NPS towards the larger population of end users.
Firstly, having to exclude the results of end users should not even need to happen because they should not have been surveyed in the first place.
When surveying customers, B2B companies should apply the 3x3 model, meaning 3 decision makers, influencers and end users. And while you may have a few more end users and influencers due to their greater numbers, one or two more will not skew the result. Ultimately though, you should only be surveying people that impact future buying decisions; be that end users or decision makers.
2) ❌ Ensure equal weighting between customers before calculation ❌
Suggestion: For B2B companies, your resulting NPS score can be disproportionately influenced by customers who simply responded to your survey in greater numbers. Make sure each customer has equal weighting against each other.
This is another issue that is the symptom of a large problem. Within B2B your response rate should around 60%, and once you have a response rate this high disproportionate influence (such as one company having a response rate of 60% and another 70%) will not matter. You're likely to see that your NPS score, including all responses and the average of company scores, will be roughly the same.
However, it is true that if you have a poor response rate and you let each company have the same weight you certainly will skew number. But a poor response rate is not something that should be simply resolved in your calculation, for it is often an indication of poor relationships as non-respondents are usually detractors more than promoters.
Learn how to increase your survey response rates here.
3) ❌ Derive an average score per customer ❌
Suggestion: Instead of creating equal weighting, derive an average score per customer in order to calculate your overall score. This will mitigate skewing the score toward customers with more respondents.
Almost the same as point (2), except you are calculating your NPS on the averaged scores from each customer. However, this raises a different problem, as it requires you to decide whether 6.5 and 8.5 represents respectively a detractor or a passive and a passive or a promoter
However, as this is the result of the same problem as in (2), you risk skewing your results. If you take an average, you minimise those who didn't respond. Those who didn't respond are likely to be mostly detractors—totally disengaged users—are thus your results will skew positively.
4) ❌ Only record one response per customer in your NPS calculation ❌
Suggestion: Count only one response from each customer towards your overall score. Start with the decision maker, as they have the most influence over a continued relationship. If the decision maker doesn’t respond, the score from the next most important person should be counted. This type of approach avoids overweighting concerns.
This one is particularly erroneous, as neither a B2B relationship nor a company’s score should be based upon the feedback of one employee.
Here, the desire to create a precise score forgoes an understanding of the health of each customer relationship. No B2B relationship should be based on one decision maker, for the future of any continued relationship (contract renewal, upsell) is also dependent on influencers and even end users.
Furthermore, decision makers are often not initiating purchases so by using only a decision maker in your calculation, the NPS does not reflect your likelihood to sell again.
5) ❌ All differences are important ❌
Suggestion: In general, no matter what type of differences exist in your surveyed customer base; your Net Promoter Score should take all nuances into account when calculating your score.
This is really not as critical as you think. Relational NPS is an indicator of the health of your business. It is a great way to track customer satisfaction trends, be used as a KPI, and be shared amongst a company as a means of motivation, but these have nothing to do with the calculation method.
What are the customer experience facets you are falling behind on, what can be done to improve the experience and have your previous measures made the experience better? Complicating your NPS with new calculations doesn’t make it anymore accurate and fails to answer the questions above.
To Remember When Calculating Your NPS Score
Remember, calculating relational NPS only includes the latest survey results from each customer. So, if you score poorly with a client this should act as an incentive for employee buy-in, to work harder to improve the relationship and measure this in the next round of surveying. Not get bogged down in whether there is something skewing the result or not.
As a vendor ourselves we know that many companies are always looking for NPS benchmarks. If you wish to compare yourself to vendor benchmarks, stick to NPS’s standard calculation otherwise any comparison between yourself and other companies has no meaning.
However, if you really do find yourself in need of choosing a different method of calculating NPS, then stay true to it. Benchmarking yourself against other companies may not be possible, but more important is the fact that you can compare your own result year-to-year.
Measure Net Promoter Score Reliably—9 Ways to Build Your Program Right
The importance of the Net Promoter Score is that it gives you insights into your customer loyalty spectrum. As you move up the scoring scale, from 0 to 10, customers:
- Defect or churn at lower rates
- Will spend more (larger basket sizes and easier upsell potential)
- Will refer your business more to colleagues and friends
By measuring customer loyalty you can identify customer experience weak points that need improving, but to do this, you need to know how to conduct Net Promoter surveys properly. The Net Promoter system's strength isn’t its ability to measure customer loyalty (there are many arduous ways to do this already), its strength is how easy it makes it to measure loyalty.
With close to a decade of experience at CustomerGauge helping clients design and conduct Net Promoter surveys, this guide will show you how to create a reliable Net Promoter Score by asking the right questions, to the right people, at the right time.
1) Begin Your Net Promoter Survey
Many choose to start a survey program by conducting a long planning period to decide the type of surveys, how many different surveys need to be created, and what is to go into each one.
Implementing a survey program in this way, means investing a lot of time and resources before you have a single survey out there. Net Promoter is about being fast and easy to implement.
Are you wasting time planning? Get your first relationship survey out there, and plan as you go!
Instead, roll out NPS in stages. Start with the core of NPS, the relationship survey. As you master your first round of surveying, you will learn how to expand the program with new surveys, and surveying larger numbers or different company segments.
2) How long should a Net Promoter survey be?
The Net Promoter Score is about uncovering customer loyalty and what most affects it. But as I mentioned in the opening, Net Promoter surveys need to ask more than just the “how likely are you to recommend” question.
The Net Promoter question needs other questions to give it meaning (these will be discussed shortly), but you need to keep your Net Promoter survey short. The Net Promoter’s strength is not only that it measures customer loyalty, but because it is short and receives high response rates it gives you a bigger picture of your customer loyalty.
Keep your survey to a maximum of four or five questions. This will also help you avoid survey fatigue resulting in inaccurate answers and ensure that your data is still immediately actionable.
Our best results have always occurred with just three questions. Shorter than this may produce higher response rates, but asking just the NPS question will produce data that has limited actionability. With just three questions, you can gather all the data you need to create actionable insights and still receive high response rates (40% - 60%). In the following chapter, I will explain just what these three questions are.
3) What questions should I ask?
A score alone only tells you how you are performing not why. It is now generally agreed that asking customers what drove their score, is necessary.
The easiest way is to ask customers to identify only the most important reasons (drivers) for their score and present customers with a predefined list of touchpoints.
As only the most important reasons are provided, it removes the need for lengthy surveys and the complicated statistical approaches needed to make sense of the data.
How you ask customers what affects their score should be different for promoters than detractors and passives. Take a look at the two survey examples below of a travel company, to see how you can discover with just a single question what is most impacting the customer experience.
Constructing the survey this way keeps it short and simple for the respondent, as they only need to think about what is most important to them, which leads to higher response rates. When constructing the question in this way, we have found that 82% of respondents answer this question.
Finally, it is also important not to restrict the customer to selecting only one reason; customers should be able to choose as many reasons as they deem important.
What touchpoints do I use?
Discover where you and your customers interact.
For your first relationship survey, start by mapping out the customer journey to find customer touchpoints, and select those that have the highest customer traffic.
Look back at the example above, the touchpoints you choose will be your first tier of answers. The drop down answers under each touchpoint is its strengths and weaknesses.
Pay attention, though, the first set of answers in your transactional survey will cover a much narrower group of touchpoints than your relationship survey. For the travel company example above, a transactional survey after a trip could expand the relationship touchpoint “your holiday experience” to become:
- Your flight
- Your hotel
- Your guided tour
- Holiday arrangements and information
Add a comment box
Your survey will never be able to cover all touchpoints nor all its strengths and weaknesses. Going back to our example above, you can see the option: “Other (please elaborate in the comment box below).” For this reason, always remember to add a comment box.
In our experience, 44% of survey respondents leave a comment. Frame the question as voluntary, to ensure the survey appears as short as possible and convey that you do care about their feedback, like so:
Comments are also an invaluable source of direct information from your customers, which is hard to argue against. A score can be argued against, but when a customer says, “your product is great, but each time I need to ring customer support it takes forever,” it is clear and inarguable how the customer perceives the company.
Analyzing free text is always a challenge, even with advanced text analytics. Use an Net Promoter survey tool that can, in real-time, identify keywords to be submitted as they are or changed by the customer. Customer comments can then act as an additional means to identify key drivers of loyalty.
Give customers the option to be contacted
Add a simple tick-box asking customers “may we contact you to discuss your experience in more detail?” Doing this conveys to customers that you really are listening and willing to act on their feedback.
4) How many customers should I survey?
What is a good sample size, what error of margin or confidence level should I aim for with NPS? These questions unnecessarily plague many who first start out with NPS, and who can blame them as it has been drilled into everyone doing surveys.
Don't worry about numbers too much at the start.
Sample size and statistical significance are important in NPS, but not for your first surveys. While part of NPS is about aggregating feedback to drive organizational change ( meaning certain statistical standards), its biggest strength is as a voice of the customer program. It is a program designed to raise loyalty by resolving individual customer issues.
Release your survey to your customers over weeks and months (depending on the size of your base) and you will over time create the sample size you need, as NPS surveying is a continual process.
5) What’s the best day of the week or hour to send surveys?
We felt compelled to answer this question because it is commonly asked about improving response rates. However, for those just starting out, our answer is: It doesn’t matter!
Experimenting with timing is only something you should attempt when you have an operationalized your Net Promoter program, where you have the time and skills to test which days or hours work better. However, as we have found, there isn’t much to be gained by focusing energy on this.
6) Through what channels should I send Net Promoter surveys?
There are many ways to send Net Promoter surveys to customers, but deciding which channel to use is about convenience for your customers and what will receive the best response rate.
Two of the most common methods are to send survey links by email or SMS. This is particularly useful for relationship surveys, where the customer has not had any recent contact with a company.
The many ways to send transactional surveys
Transactional surveys offer a lot of options for sending, as surveys can be presented to customers immediately after a transaction. Think about the industry you are in, and how you can “grab” a customer straight after a transaction.
Retail stores often put survey links at the bottom of receipts while others ask customers if they would like to complete the survey via dedicated in-store tablets.
Even in single purchase industries you can still survey the customer.
However, we strongly recommend using email over all other channels, as it is not a dead channel of communication (as some claim). As it gives you the space to construct a proper invitation and is the best way to conduct relationship surveys.
Are you mobile friendly?
No matter what channel you use to send your surveys, make sure your survey can open on mobile devices. Increasingly people are living by their phones, and although computers still dominate, a survey invite is often something a customer might leave for the bus ride home.
7) What do I say in a survey invite?
How do you interest customers to click the link to your survey? What do you say to them in an email, SMS or post transaction screen?
In your invite, pay careful attention to each word you write and eliminate everything that isn’t necessary. Are you repeating yourself or communicating things that aren’t relevant or interesting to the customer?
Email subject lines
There are psychological triggers to get the attention of customers, such as using emotion or asking respondents a question. Your subject line should be brief, straightforward and friendly.
To learn more about this read our article “6 email subject lines strategies to increase your survey feedback.”
An effective invite
Whatever channel you use to invite customers, there will always be a body of text. To create an invite that gets the highest possible click-rates, follow these rules:
1 - Personalize the text with their name and maybe relevant transaction information. If you are sending the invite by email, there is no excuse for not doing this. For other channels, this can be tricky, but you should always try.
2 - Get straight to it and tell them what the email is about, why are you emailing them? Begin with something like:
“At CustomerGauge, we are constantly trying to improve our service and would like to hear your feedback on how we performed.”
3 - You know that one of the strengths of NPS is how quick the surveys are. Make sure the customer knows this too.
“The survey is short and will only take 2 minutes to complete.”
4 - Customers often think: “why respond, my issue will just end up as data on a spreadsheet rather than being fixed.” Convince them that this is not the case and let them know that you analyze feedback at an individual level.
“We promise to read every customer comment!”
5 - A well-designed button for a survey link isn’t as good an idea as you may think. If recipients’ email servers block images for security reasons or customers simply choose not to download images, then your button and survey link will be lost.
It is more important that the link to your survey is viewable by all. Use a nice hyperlinked phrase or set of words, and whatever format you use, make sure it is easy to find. Customers shouldn’t have to scroll down to find it.
6 - The invitation should be aesthetically pleasing, designed as well as the survey itself. Plain HTML won’t do much to capture the customer’s interest. Choose a nice font (classics that always work are Helvetica, Gothic or Arial), think about the alignment and layout of the text and consider adding a banner image to help remove the boredom of white backgrounds.
Sending survey invite reminders is a good way to improve your response rate. As many customers, particularly in email, may not see or be able to respond to your survey the first time around.
A standard waiting time for CustomerGauge clients is 3 - 7 days. You don’t want to remind the customer too soon after the first request, but if it is a transactional survey you don’t want to wait too long either.
How to avoid email spam filters
Various things may trigger spam filters. Avoid these common red flags in your invitation email:
- All-caps subject lines
- Exclamation marks in the subject line
- Trigger words in the subject line or body of text, like 'free', 'urgent matter', 'act now', 'last chance'
- An email with one big image and little to no text
- Lots of different fonts, font sizes, and text colors
8) How to test your Net Promoter survey
Before you send anything out to customers, test your survey internally. Send it to other employees within the company, to examine for technical problems.
Make sure your email engine is working, the emails open in the format and layout intended, links to the survey work and the survey itself runs smoothly for other employees.
Test your survey across different browsers. And although we think everyone uses Gmail or Outlook, make sure your email invitation works in all major email services.
Ask employees what they think of the survey and the process around it. Do they have any issues or ideas about such things as the invitation or the survey itself?
Testing NPS surveys isn’t difficult, and it will help ensure you create the most reliable data possible.
Conclusion: Creating a reliable and actionable Net Promoter Score
Your Net Promoter Score is only as good as the survey it is based on. Question heavy surveys hamper response rates, confuse respondents and leave employees confused about how to interpret results.
Designing and conducting a Net Promoter survey does not require a long planning process. At just three questions long, the survey can be designed in a day and sent out the next.
Don’t worry about surveying all your customers or designing a survey for each division of your company. Start small, so that you get started fast.
Use a simple relationship survey on a select group of customers, to show upper management how fast it is to identify customer experience weaknesses and create a Net Promoter Score.
Want more Net Promoter Score best practices? Download our latest white paper, which includes best practices, stats and benchmarking information.
Want to Learn More About Net Promoter Score?
Our team at CustomerGauge are experts in building Net Promoter programs that actually drives earned growth opportunities. Our NPS software is designed to go many steps further than measuring experience, it's designed to make closing the loop easy as well as to uncover opportunities for account retention, referrals, and upsell and cross sell.