About this series: While advising international clients on how to deploy and drive their NPS program across multiple divisions, countries, business units and touchpoints, a number of questions kept coming up from management and all levels within the organization. In this series, I summarise answers to the most frequent and important questions that I saw coming up when it comes to the WHY, WHAT, WHEN, WHO, HOW and BUT of NPS (as Net Promoter System & Spirit, not just Net Promoter Score)

Previously, in this series, we talked about why of using NPS as measurement and methodology. Today I will explain WHAT is NPS and take you through the different types of NPS measurements depending on:

  1. when (timing) we survey: continuous versus timed/in waves and
  2. where (touchpoint) we survey: transactional versus relational

NPS as Measurement: WHAT is NPS

NPS as “Net Promoter Score” is calculated asking the customer the “ultimate question”: “based on your experience with Y (usually a company product or an experience with support or a transactional channel, i.e. website), how likely are you to recommend company X to your friends or colleagues?”

Customers are given the possibility to select a score within the range 0 (Not at all likely) to 10 (Extremely likely). Responses are then bucketed into the following segments:

  • 0-6 are considered Detractors
  • 7-8 are considered Neutral
  • 9-10 are considered Promoters

NPS = (# Promoters – # Detractors)/Total number of respondent
NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors

You can read more about the WHAT of NPS in our post “10 basics things to know about what is NPS”.

NPS as Measurement: which survey for which purpose

The Net Promoter Score gauges how loyal your customers are and how likely to recommend you, by conducting short 3-minutes surveys, which tend to include only 3-4 questions:

  1. the NPS question (more about options to formulate this here)
  2. a “Why?” question (as in original creator format) or a multi-selection predefined driver’s for customers to select reasons behind the score they gave or an open text question “Please tell us which of the following elements matter the most to you?”
  3. an improvement question “What should we improve?” (as in original creator format) or an open text question “Please tell us anything else not covered by these drivers” (when using the predefined drivers) . TIP: you can be more personalized and creative in the exact formulation of these questions depending on who your customers and what exactly you want to find out.
  4. A “follow-up” question to prioritize follow-up needs by asking customers whether there is any open query/issues  requiring assistance.

The way that you formulate the NPS question, when (timing) and where (touchpoint) defines what you are actually measuring and can generate very different results which need to be interpreted taking into account the entire context.

With the different types of NPS measurements, you can expand the program with new surveys, and surveying larger numbers or different company segments. Here are some of the key distinctions:

✔ Question type (“How likely are you to recommend Y”)

  • NPS brand recommendation: “How likely are you to recommend << brand name (company B) >>” which works well on certain relational surveys and on transactional touchpoint like CS/SS or Sales
  • NPS product/touchpoint recommendation: “How likely are you to recommend << product A >> or << touchpoint C >>” which works well for products, e-shops & what I call “value-added-touchpoints”.
  • NPS hybrid: “How likely are you to recommend << us >>”. This is usually works well for start-ups, for businesses with little differentiation or when not using previous options (for various reasons)

To be noted: changes to this question can cause significant changes to the score baseline, so this needs to be taken into account when making these changes.

You can read more on this topic on our blog post: 3 things to know to word the NPS question effectively

✔ Touchpoint type (“Based on your experience with X”)

  • Strategic: this usually measures the generic likelihood to recommend the overall company. It’s usually asked anonymously (i.e. not directly from the company to its customers but from an intermediary agency) or only on a small sample of customers, asking many questions (including some about competitors)
  • Relational: this usually measures a prolonged experience with a company product. It’s usually asked once or twice a year, in some cases more often (depending on intensity of interaction and value of the product for customer business), but usually not more than once a quarter. Most common X in relational surveys are:
    • Product XX
    • Company XX
  • Transactional: this is usually a one-off interaction with a channel or touchpoint through which the company interacts with customers. It’s used in surveys asked shortly after the transaction or interaction. Most common X in transactional surveys are:
    • Recent sales visit from your account manager or Demo visit (ie. In B2B environment)
    • Recent order with Eshop (i.e. online shop)
    • Recent visit at Shop (i.e. a retail store)
    • Customer Service
    • Support (technical, software, etc.)

More elements differentiate the different touchpoints type of survey. A selection of key elements is in the table below.

✔ Timing

  • Continuous: this means sending surveys on a daily/weekly basis as the interactions happens. This timing is most often used on transactional surveys, but it can also be applied to relational surveys by dividing the sample in waves (i.e. so each customer is only surveyed once a year, but on weekly or monthly basis a different set of customers is surveyed).
  • Timed or by wave (ie. yearly or twice a year): this means sending surveys on a given moment in the year, regardless on when the interactions took place.

Because of these pro & cons:

continuous surveys are most often used on transactional touchpoints where continuous flow of information is needed and process improvement can be done continuously

timed or by wave surveys are most often used as relational survey and/or for products review where changes require major efforts and have given roll-out plans.


Even though the “recommend” concept is pretty straight forward, asking the NPS question in the right format, at the right timing, in the right touchpoint, to the right people, is a real art, often underestimated or overlooked because it requires making precise choices based on a really accurate context understanding.

The specific choices made for each of the 3 elements we saw in this post (NPS question phrasing, timing & touchpoint type) define what you are actually measuring and can generate very different results which need to be read taking into account the entire context.

In the next post of this series we will look at:
1) when NPS measurement is a good choice
2) who should you survey (sampling)

Through the different types and building blocks of NPS measurement, you can create the program that most makes sense and brings value to your specific context & needs, and/or gradually expand it with new surveys, and surveying larger or different company segments.

NB> Our friends at Satmetrix want us to remind you that Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.


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