Why Is NPS a Poor Measure of Web and Mobile Customer Experience?

If you have to name one measure of customer experience that has ubiquitous acceptance among senior executives, it’s NPS, short for Net Promoter Score, a well-studied and indeed very simple way to measure customer loyalty to a brand. Lots of research has shown a strong correlation of NPS and revenue growth.

What’s the Problem, Then?

On the other hand, having conducted customer experience surveys for many years, I’ve found NPS to be a poor and misleading measure of online, mobile, and social media experience. Furthermore, whereas NPS is a great tool to help the company focus on customer loyalty through an easy-to-understand concept, it offers very little help when it comes to developing customer experience solutions.

Too Broad

Take a close look at a typical NPS question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

You can see that it uses one single number to indicate the overall customer sentiment and intention to recommend in relation to the brand as a whole. For instance, a high NPS score of BMW can tell you how strong the brand is and how likely that customers will recommend BMW cars to friends and families, and the score certainly is correlated with business success.

However, applying NPS to Web, mobile, and software user experience is a whole different story.

For instance, in measuring website user experience and ease of use, if you ask the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend our website to a friend or colleague?”, the responses you get are confounded by customer sentiments related to the overall brand as well as the website itself. A high NPS score could reflect a strong brand and hide a poor website user experience. I have seen studies showing websites with high NPS scores also have very low ratings on ease of use, which is a more relevant measurement in predicting online behavior such as bounce rate and repeat visits.

Not Actionable

Once a measure is too broad, an immediate consequence is that it is not actionable. Say, if the NPS score associated with the website is low, what does that mean? Should you improve usability, visual appeal, content, integration between the website and mobile app?

It could very well be the case that a low NPS score is a result of the return policy of the merchandise sold through the website is not well enforced, and the site design and content are actually excellent.

Better Measures

So, what are some of the better alternatives? For one thing, I typically use measures that speak to specific dimensions of Web experience such as ease of use, content, findability of information, visual appeal, and so on, to paint a holistic and detailed picture of customer experience as well as drive actionable recommendations.

Of course, we still need a measure that tells us customers’ overall impression of the experience. Instead of using NPS, we can simply ask respondents to rate their overall impression of the site, intention to purchase, and intention to return during the next month. These measures are broad enough to give us insight into overall sentiment, yet relevant enough to inform Web and mobile solutions.

By Frank Guo




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