Request Demo

NPS Detractors: Definition & Turn Detractors to Promoters

Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) program will reveal which customers are most enthusiastic, loyal, and valuable for your brand. But alongside your brand promoters, NPS surveys will reveal your NPS detractors. These are the customers who are at risk of churn—and worse. Detractors are those most likely to spread negative word of mouth.

That’s why it is hugely important to identify and reach out to your detractors, and encourage them to stay. Studies consistently show that recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues are the most powerful marketing tool you have.

But as little as one bad experience is enough to create a bad impression—one which detractor customers will share with others.

So, what can you do about a detractor in NPS? That’s what we’re here to find out.

What is a detractor in NPS?

An NPS detractor is someone that is disappointed or dissatisfied by your brand. It is a type of customer that’s most likely to churn—and most likely to discourage other people from becoming your customers. In short, they’re a critic, and a vocal one at that.

More specifically, an NPS detractor is someone who gives a score of 0-6 on the NPS scale.

Remember, the NPS framework is built around one central Net Promoter Score question:

On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our service/product/brand to a friend or colleague?

From this simple question, you can identify who your detractors are, as well as who are your promoters and passive customers. These three types of customer will play a crucial role in your customer experience management (CXM) framework:

NPS Promoter vs Detractor vs Passive

What’s the difference between promoters, passives and detractors? Well, it all depends on how willing your customers are to recommend your brand.

  • Promoters. Promoters score 9-10 on the NPS scale. These are your most loyal and enthusiastic customers. They’ll come back to your brand time and time again and they are likely to bring others with them. In fact, promoters will have the biggest positive impact on your revenue if you engage with them. Really, you want as many promoters among your customers as you can.

  • Passives. Passives rate your brand at 7-8. While not as enthusiastic as promoters, they’re less likely to churn right now and they’re unlikely to spread negative word of mouth. However, it’s a risk in the future if you don’t reach out to them.

  • Detractors. Finally, your detractors. Rating your brand at 0-6 on the Net Promoter Score scale, your detractors are a real threat to business growth. As we said, they’re dissatisfied, unhappy, and likely at high risk of churn. But the big problem is that they’re a brake on your capacity for growth too—because they may actively recommend against you.

While conventional wisdom dictates that companies should focus their efforts on detractors, absence of signal at all is often overlooked as a hidden indicator of churn. If a customer doesn’t declare themselves a detractor, passive or promoter, they go quiet and ignore your surveys, they are at high risk of churn. Passives sometimes fall in this bucket—they don’t hate or love, they’re in the zone of mutual indifference. Watch them carefully.

Your Net Promoter System will be in place to identify your promoters and detractors. But a solid CXM strategy must plan to grow the numbers of promoters—and urgently reduce your number of detractors and passives.

Let’s talk about the threat of a detractor in more detail.

What’s the Negative Impact of an NPS Detractor?

It’s time you get serious about your detractors. Because they’re having just as big an impact on your business growth as your promoters. Here’s how:

  • Unsatisfied customers spend less. It’s obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing. 41% of customers will spend less on a service after a single bad experience. Satisfied customers will spend up to 140% more.

  • Replacing detractors from scratch costs more. Studies suggest that it’s somewhere between 5 and 25 times more expensive to attract new customers than it is to retain ones you have already. Meanwhile, you’ll likely have a 5-20% chance of selling to a new customer, compared to 60-70% chance of selling to an existing one.

  • Detractors won’t complain—but they will tell others. Typically, only one in 26 customers will actually complain to you about your service (unless you ask them directly). However, statistics suggest that a dissatisfied customer will tell as many as 15 people about the bad experience they had with your brand.

  • They will affect your reputation. From leaving bad reviews online, spreading negative word of mouth, or even going to the press, detractors can do a lot to hurt your brand’s reputation.

  • Detractors will ultimately go elsewhere. We say detractors are at risk of churn, but it doesn’t take much to make them follow through. Many customers may leave your brand after a single bad experience—while over half of B2B brands will avoid you for at least two years after a bad experience.

  • That means they’ll go to your competitor. These days, businesses are competing more on customer experience than even product and price. That means customers are really happy to move on. 80% of customers say they’re happy to switch brands if the experience they receive is poor.

You can’t take detractors for granted. But they’re not going to tell you they are unhappy all by themselves. That’s why you need to invest in a customer experience management software that will identify your NPS detractors and promoters for you.

How to Turn NPS Detractors into Promoters

So, what can you do to stop detractors from leaving? You need to turn them into promoters. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Integrate NPS into your CX management system. If you are not actively tracking your NPS score, you won’t be able to identify your detractors. Simple as that. Ensuring your customer experience management framework puts NPS front and center is a must.

  • Encourage feedback. No feedback is not good feedback. In fact, the majority of dissatisfied customers won’t tell you how they feel unless you make it really easy for them to do so. Find out how to do just that in our guide to boosting your NPS response rate.

  • Quickly close the loop. Once you’ve identified a detractor, reach out to them to show them their opinion matters and that you’re working hard to solve the problem. Every detractor should receive a follow-up—and the faster the better. CustomerGauge research suggests that you should close the loop within 48 hours you want to increase NPS scores and tackle churn at the fastest rate.

  • Really listen to customers. Negative customer feedback is not just idle criticism. Rather, you should see it as an opportunity to make your product or service better for all your customers. Often detractors are highly engaged and with a good conversation and by implementing their ideas, they’ll quickly become one of your biggest promoters.

  • Engage all parts of your organization. Closing the loop with detractors is not just the task of your customer experience team. Everyone can reach out to customers—at all levels of your business. If they’re a particularly valuable client, that can even mean your CEO.

  • Predict churn with CXM software. By using the right customer experience platform, you can understand which customers are most likely to churn—and how much they’ll cost you.

NPS Detractor Follow-Up Email Template

Detractors are really likely to go elsewhere. But if you’re serious about stopping them, you need to reach out and show them how much you want them to stay. That’s why following up with your NPS detractors is a must.

In your detractor follow up, you want to:

  • Show your customer you’re listening. Scheduling a phone call directly with them can be a great way to do this.

  • Understand their experience—and how you can improve.

  • Try to win them back. This could be through a discount, or simply a commitment to making a change to satisfy them.

  • Demonstrate how you will implement their feedback. The best way to show you care is to take action on their feedback.

So, what do you need to say to them? Here are some detractor follow-up email templates to use:

Template 1

Hi [customer name],

Thanks for recently completing our NPS survey! We’re really disappointed to hear that you’re not satisfied with [our product/brand].

We’re always striving to meet the needs of our customers and we welcome the opportunity to improve your experience. What is the biggest problem that we are not addressing for you?

If it’s easier for you, I am happy to schedule a call with you this week to hear your thoughts in detail.

Thank you again for your feedback. We’re committed to doing what we can to improve your experience in future.


Template 2


Hey [name],

You recently rated our services 5/10 and we’re disappointed to hear that we haven’t satisfied you.

We want our customers to be happy, so it would be great to understand what isn’t working for you.

Would you have the time to tell us what happened, and what we can do to fix this?

Thank you,

[name] from [company name]

It’s as simple as that. But making sure that you do it can turn a lost client into someone who really respects your brand.

Identify Your Detractors with CustomerGauge

At CustomerGauge, we’re committed to helping organizations understand how their customer experience affects their bottom line. And that starts with identifying your NPS detractors and promoters.

Book a demo with our team to find out how we can make your B2B customer experience management easier.

Next Up: The Net Promoter Score Question (+ NPS Templates to Use)

Get The Most Comprehensive B2B NPS and CX Benchmarks Report on The Planet

Get the eBook

Might we also interest you in...

Close Close

The Most Comprehensive B2B NPS & CX Benchmarks on the Planet

See how your experience program compares with over 24,000+ NPS & CX data points collected across 12 B2B industries.