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NPS® not working?: Why it needs to be more than a metric

Blog by Ian Luck
June 1, 2023
This week John Kelly, the Managing Director of Adept Customer Experience, shares his thoughts on what it really takes to make NPS work.

Many articles claim that implementing the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) will solve business problems, from increasing loyalty and improving retention to increasing customer and employee engagement. However the Net Promoter Score, as a metric, will not singularly achieve improvements. For most, the S in NPS is still ‘Score’ and the Net Promoter Score is exactly that, a score or a measurement.

It’s an important one, a measure of your net number of promoters which correlates to loyalty, which has particular relevance for subscription businesses that need customers to renew. However the S is evolving to mean ‘System’ and a Net Promoter System, where the score is complimented with an effective business process, is the formula that will improve your organization’s effectiveness.

What does the Score miss that the System provides?

NPS Scale

To illustrate this point further, consider an industrial engineering analogy. Your business brings several resources together including people, processes, and tools to deliver a product or service. An assembly line similarly integrates different component parts, processes, and skills that are presented as a product to a test or quality check at the end of the line.

The result of the test or quality check leads to some adjustments in the assembly process to improve yield. For example, a materials issue would require incoming materials to receive an additional inspection, while an assembly issue would require a machine adjustment or additional operator training. These adjustments result in defects being eliminated and a higher yield passing the test and inspection; which means higher output, better quality, and improved business performance. Without these adjustments, the test and inspection processes do not add any value. Equally, if these closed-loop process adjustments are poorly executed, the improvements will not be fully realized.

The quality control of a factory and the Net Promoter System have a lot in common.

The Net Promoter Score is your test and quality inspection process in a business context and combined with the closed-loop corrective actions, NPS can be considered as the Net Promoter System. Like factory tests and quality checks, the Net Promoter Score measurement (typically survey questions) needs to be carefully designed with the right tools to provide useful data.

However, without the closed-loop actions to make improvements further back in the process, there will be no tangible improvement. Sure, a measurement will increase awareness, and that will increase the bias for action but meaningful improvements need deliberate intent, ownership, and accountability.

The point then is that the Net Promoter Score is a key measurement. However, to create repeat business and positive advocacy, it needs to be accompanied by an effective business process, or system, to interpret results, and define and implement the required improvement actions.


The business process for driving improvement needs an overall owner, but each relevant team equally needs to commit to participating in the improvement process. Leaving it to one person to single-handedly drive improvement will not work. A regular review of the NPS data and trends is needed to define any new actions with owners and timelines and any help needed to complete previous actions.

Employee Engagement

A critical component of any improvement strategy is to engage employees at all levels. As improvements typically involve change and additional effort, all employees need to understand the context of these changes, what the desired outcomes are, and how their role and individual efforts play a part. This takes real management effort and intent. Employee engagement requires its own strategy, encompassing several initiatives, and its own measurement and closed-loop improvement process.

Organizational Integration

To be fully effective, the improvement strategy needs a level of integration with broader organizational processes. For example, if improving Customer Success is a key business goal to maintain renewal rates, and NPS is a key metric, then leaders' and managers' compensation bonus calculations could include NPS performance.

Similarly, hiring processes could look for the candidate’s values being aligned with the organization’s values, with communication updates including NPS trends and key improvements in the appropriate context in employee meetings.

Taking NPS from Score to System

Net Promoter Score on its own is not the panacea to fix customer satisfaction, and loyalty and protect renewal rates - but with the right supporting business process and integration with the wider organization, it takes on a new scope as the Net Promoter System. Now it stands a great chance and with the right organizational support, it will drive sustainable improvements in your business performance.

About the author

John Kelly has over 20 years of industry experience leading operations to provide support and services to help customers be successful worldwide and is the managing director of Adept Customer Experience.

ADEPT Customer Experience, a CustomerGauge partner, provides an end-to-end service to help companies to understand, measure and improve customer experience. They provide tools and support to help clients collect and analyze customer feedback and consulting services to define and implement an improvement strategy by optimizing your operations and employee engagement to achieve the overall goal.

About the Author

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Ian Luck
Ian has been in the CX market for over a decade evangelizing best-practices and strategies for increasing the ROI of customer programs. He loves a loud guitar, a thick non-fiction book, and a beach day with his family. You can catch him around the north shore of Boston, MA.
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