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How We Increased Our Net Promoter Score by 45%

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A couple of months ago, we sent out our second NPS survey. Here’s what happened…

Just this week, I got an email asking for a quote to include in another startup’s blog post.

“What’s your biggest piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs?”

My answer to that question has evolved quite a bit over time.

At various points in Groove’s growth, I might’ve said something about finding the right team, doing content marketing, keeping work/life balance or one of a dozen or so other topics that I think about every single day.

Those are all very important issues.

But my answer now — and I’m more convinced about the value of this than I have been about any of my other responses before — is this:

If you haven’t spent at least as much time talking to your customers as you have building your prototype, stop and go have as many conversations as you possibly can. Ask open-ended questions about people’s experiences and challenges and listen very carefully to the words they use.

You’ll get more game-changing insights about your product, messaging, positioning and sales strategy than you could ever learn from reading business books.

We’ve gotten more value from collecting customer feedback than from any other sales or development effort. It’s changed our product, our marketing and our business in huge ways.

As of a few months ago, one of the methods we use for gathering feedback is Net Promoter Score surveys. We deployed our first one in June, and were thrilled with how helpful it was.

In September, we sent our second NPS survey. Today, I’m sharing the results, along with lessons learned and tips to get more out of your own NPS efforts.

Net Promoter Score: A Refresher on
Our First Survey

In case you missed our June post about our first Net Promoter Score survey, here’s a quick bit of background on what NPS is…

NPS measures customer loyalty and sentiment about your business by asking two simple questions:

Results from the first question tell us how many of our customers are promoters (those who respond with a 9 or 10), passives (7 or 8) and detractors (0 to 6) of Groove.

Results from the second question tell us why.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that we’re fanatics when it comes to gathering customer feedback, which is why we gave NPS a shot in the first place.

The first time we did it, we got some fascinating feedback from Promoters about what they loved about Groove…

“Promoter” Feedback — June 2014 “Promoter” Feedback — June 2014

Some even more valuable feedback from Passives about what it would take to get them from “like” to “love”…

“Passive” Feedback — June 2014 “Passive” Feedback — June 2014

And some helpful notes on what needed major improvements…

“Detractor” Feedback — June 2014 “Detractor” Feedback — June 2014

Extracting trends from the qualitative feedback gave us a top-down view of what people loved most about Groove.

What Customers Love Most — June 2014 What Customers Love Most — June 2014

That extraction would end up being a valuable benchmarking exercise for us in our second go-around.

When all was said and done, we ended up with an overall score of 11.

Takeaway: The Net Promoter Score survey is a popular way for brands to measure customer loyalty. Our first survey taught us a lot about what our customers were thinking, so we were excited to make NPS a regular part of our performance measurement.

NPS Round Two: Results

After our first survey, we committed to monitoring our NPS on a regular basis.

So four months later, we sent out our second survey.

A note on tools: in June, we used for our NPS survey, which is an app that handles the deployment of the survey and collection/​analysis of the responses.

Having done a ton of qualitative feedback collection outside of NPS, keeping the data organized and mapping out trends can be a huge challenge when you’re working with hundreds of customers, so it was a no-brainer to use Promoter again. Having all of our NPS surveys in one place is really helpful, too.

In the interest of full disclosure, Promoter is a Groove customer (and that’s how I learned about it in the first place), but I’m not getting anything for mentioning the app here, I just really loved using it.

With that said, you could certainly make do with a SurveyMonkey/​spreadsheet combo of your own.

We were hoping for some movement since our first survey, and the results didn’t disappoint.

Again, we got everything from high praise that we can use to inform our messaging…

“Promoter” Feedback — September 2014 “Promoter” Feedback — September 2014

To suggestions and feature requests to make Groove better…

“Passive” Feedback — September 2014 “Passive” Feedback — September 2014

Along with bigger concerns that were threatening to cost us customers (or, more likely, already have).

“Detractor” Feedback — September 2014 “Detractor” Feedback — September 2014

Again, we found all of the feedback we got to be valuable, but it wasn’t until we looked at the trends in the qualitative responses that we got a much better sense of the changes between this survey and our first…

We’ve spent many hours discussing the results on our team, and have come up with a few big takeaways:

Win: UX/Simplicity Up by 15%

More than anything else, we’ve set out to build the simplest help desk software out there. The fact that we’ve been able to move the needle on our customers recognizing that as being the defining aspect of our app tells me that we’re going in the right direction.

A huge focus of ours in the last few months has been tackling some long-standing bugs that have been hurting the user experience for some groups of our customers, as well as putting a lot more “general polish” on our app.

I see these results as a win, though I’d love to see that number go even higher in the future.

Win: Active Development Up by 33%

One of the loudest complaints — and frankly, most difficult to hear — the last time we did this survey was that we weren’t doing enough to move the app forward.

That really alarmed me.

Here we were, head-down in development mode day in and day out, but it didn’t really matter. Many of the changes we shipped were mostly invisible to the majority of our customers, and it lead to the perception that we weren’t making much progress.

Soon after that, I set out to add more engineers to our team to accelerate our development, and started prioritizing customer-facing fixes and updates to ship more frequently.

Based on this NPS win, and lots of other feedback from our customers, my feeling is that it’s paying off.

Win: Price GONE

No, we haven’t changed our price.

But in our last survey, 5% of customers noted our price as the thing they loved most about Groove. This time, less than 1% said the same.

Why do I see this as a win?

Because we don’t want to compete on price. Competing on price is a race to the bottom, and I’d rather our users focus on what makes our product better (things like UX/Simplicity and Active Development).

So to see Price eliminated as a major contender — while the other factors rise in significance — suggests to me that fewer customers see Groove as a commodity helpdesk and more customers are choosing us for features, functionality and service.

Fail: Knowledge Base Issues Appear

Our Knowledge Base app has always been one of the most-used features of Groove. In our first survey, less than 1% of our customers noted the knowledge base as something they’d like to see improved.

This time, that number jumped by nearly 400%!

After digging into our feedback and reaching out to customers for follow-ups, the best explanation we have for that jump is this: many of the customers who complained about the knowledge base complained about other bugs (mainly an email parsing issue) that we were having around the time of the first NPS survey. With that issue fixed, knowledge base improvements became their next biggest desire.

While it sucks to see complaints about a feature go up, I interpret it more as a nod of where to focus our development efforts than a disheartening knock on our product.

Fail: Participation Rate Down by 18%

The participation rate (the number of people who completed our NPS survey divided by the number of people we sent it to) went from 18% in our first survey to 13% in our second.

While the industry average hovers around 10-15% and we’re still well within that range, that’s not a great trend.

I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that I was doing intensive customer development — trying to chat with every single one of our customers — at around the same time, and many of the customers who participated in my interviews didn’t see the need to respond to our NPS survey.

It’s an important lesson learned for next time: one survey at a time.

Win: NPS Up by 46%

Going from a Net Promoter Score of 11 to 16 is a big, big win. While there are many companies with far higher scores, we made a big jump in an important customer loyalty benchmark.

The Power of NPS Follow-Ups

If there’s one tactic you take away from this post for your own NPS surveys, I hope it’s this one: do not neglect to follow up with your customers after the survey.

The feedback we got opened a lot of doors for conversations with our customers we might not have otherwise had. In some cases, it helped us dig in and get to the bottom of tough product issues that our customers were facing. And in many cases, it strengthened our relationships and made customers happier.

In many cases, customers were having issues that we already had fixes or features for. For example, one customer mentioned that they’d like to see integrated live chat. We had released our Olark integration the week prior, and we reached out to let them know.

Great feedback for us, and an easy win for the customer.

How to Apply This to Your Business

NPS surveys are not the only way to get feedback from your customers, and you shouldn’t treat them as such.

Pound for pound, actually going out and talking to your customers one-on-one will yield far more valuable, business-changing results, and you need to be doing that.

But customer development is incredibly time-consuming, and NPS surveys give you a great way to collect feedback on a regular basis with only a few clicks.

Plus, NPS gives you a valuable benchmark to measure your growth against, and it helps you spot trends in your customers’ feedback.

As part of a larger customer development strategy to get closer to our customers, we’ve found Net Promoter Score surveys to be really valuable, and I hope you will, too.

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From “aha” to “oh shit”, we’re sharing everything on our journey to $10M in annual revenue. We’re learning a lot and so will you.

About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

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