Respondent Burnout is Killing NPS
An unfortunate consequence of NPS (Net Promoter Score) mania is that now zillions of surveys stalk us everywhere. Therefore, the likelihood of any particular survey being completed is extremely low. That might be okay if you are a large company with hundreds of thousands of customers to burn through with e-mail blasts. But if you are a small organization with a limited customer base, low response rates will absolutely kill your efforts to measure and track NPS.
Here is what one research colleague recently posted to a professional forum I follow (slightly edited for privacy), seeking advice from colleagues in other companies and industries::
I’m facing a problem that I need to provide my leadership with a recommendation on how to solve. I work for a non-profit and we have a limited customer base as we are constrained by our mission. Three years ago, my company started doing a twice-a-year relationship survey. They sold the board on the need to track NPS. In the original surveys, the surveys were long and hard to take. They took the average respondent 20 minutes, but invite copy indicated that it would only take 10. These surveys were sent to all of our clients and end-users. As you can imagine, there were not a lot of people that took the survey more than once.
They hired me less than a year and a half ago. I have cut the length of the survey, changed the copy to try and convey that it really is less than 10 minutes, and have also included verbiage that let them know we are acting on their feedback. I have gotten my manager (CMO) to see that we need to make a change, but as the twice a year NPS score is something that was sold into the board as a metric we should be monitoring, it will not be as easy as my department just flipping a switch and moving to once a year relationship survey or a mix of transactional touch points and relationship scores.
What have some of the tactics you have used to address this type of respondent fatigue and also change the structure/timing of established research tools?
I think this colleague is probably stuck. Selling the board on semi-annual NPS tracking was a bad idea, and there is no easy way out. Sure, NPS seems easy: one question—send out email—track your score. But of course your customers quickly learn to ignore you, and then it is not so easy.
Here is what I might suggest this research colleague say to her board:
“If NPS tracking is truly mission-critical, then we need to invest in it. It will not be easy, cheap, or fast, but it at least it will not fail. Here is what we can do:
- Make it one question, and dump all the other “nice to have” questions
- Pay respondents $5 for answering that one question
- Send out one e-mail invitation and two reminders, and make them all really good
- Place two phone calls to every customer, leaving voicemail as needed
“Our company won’t get much information—just our NPS. It will likely quadruple the cost of the research. It will take a few weeks longer. But if NPS is truly our priority, then we can make it succeed.”
Of course the board may decide this type of investment is not worth it. I would agree. If so, then dump the NPS idea entirely and use those precious research dollars in a smarter way.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.