Running a successful NPS program is more than simply asking your customers for feedback. It’s about using that feedback to fundamentally improve your product or service. But an often under valued aspect of doing NPS well is rigorously following up with detractors – folks who didn’t have a great experience and wouldn’t recommend you. We’ve worked with thousands of companies who have seen the power of following up with detractors and we’ve compiled the top 12 reasons you should follow up with your detractors.
1. Convert detractors into promoters
The audacious goal of any customer focussed company is to deliver a perfect experience to every customer, every time. A lofty goal for sure, and it’s unrealistic to expect you’ll be able to meet this level of experience each time. Knowing that you’re almost guaranteed to miss the mark sometimes, then you should view detractors as gift not to be squandered. You’ve successfully unearthed a tangible opportunity to right a wrong (or series of wrongs). It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll likely find that some of your most loyal customers are former detractors. A detractor’s expectations are already low, which means they have high upside. Simply showing them that you care is often enough to turn them around.
2. Hold you and the team accountable for each customers’ experience
As your company and customer base grows, it’s all too easy to drift into thinking about the customer experience in numerical terms, instead of real human experiences. You begin to say things like: “1% of customers experienced a late shipment”, or “3% of customers were affected by this bug”. This sort of thinking leads to a disconnect between what you deliver, and what your customers actually experience. When you follow up with folks who didn’t have a great experience, it’s impossible to escape the fact that you let a real person down. Having a one-on-one conversation with a customer, forces you to own the decisions you’ve made. You can either stand behind them, and risk losing the customer, or you can fix them. Whatever you choose, these one-on-one conversations serve as a mirror for the experience you actually deliver.
3. Fill in the blanks when a detractor does not leave a comment
Detractors may not always leave a comment with their score. And if they do, they may not share the whole story. When you close the loop with them, you have the chance to learn more about their entire experience. What caused the issue? What were they expecting? Were they told something that wasn’t true? This is invaluable for both helping the customer in the moment, as well as providing your team with a complete picture of where you can improve.
4. Connect with people who may never have contacted support
Many issues, like a slightly late package, or a couple small bugs in a piece of software, don’t usually warrant an email to customer support. But these experiences add up! And they will slowly turn people into detractors. If you’re not actively looking for detractors, you may never know they exist. Only a small percentage of your total customer base will ever contact customer support, but a much larger percentage will happily share their experience with you when asked in a simple way.
5. Stop issues from becoming unsolvable
As stated above, people don’t typically start out as detractors. They come into the relationship hopeful that your company will help them solve their problem. Sometimes there’s an acute issue that triggers someone into becoming a detractor overnight, but the more common scenario is an accumulation of small issues – each one amplified by the last. Annoyance turns to frustration, and frustration turns to rage. Following up with detractors as soon as you identify them can help stave off negative snowballing of irreparable harm.
6. Open a line of communication for any future issues
Once you’ve turned a detractor around, they will remember that positive experience. If they should encounter any new issues, they’ll feel comfortable knowing they can reach out to a real person on your team who cares. This is incredibly valuable. It gives you the opportunity to head off any future problems before they have chance to sour the relationship.
7. Show you care and that you are listening
Providing feedback to a company is much like tossing a penny into a fountain – you hope something good will come from it, but don’t expect much. When you follow up with a detractor, you’re sending a very clear signal that your company actively reads and responds to feedback. Even if you’re simply apologizing for a minor annoyance, this is far beyond what most companies are willing to do. When customers feel under appreciated, they adopt a less forgiving posture. Issues are met with hostility and fervor. People have been trained that this sort of reaction is the only way to get the attention of a company. Responding to detractors in a timely fashion can disarm them, and pave the way for a much more constructive conversation.
8. Solve problems proactively
Detractors are often upset about things that can be solved relatively quickly by your support team. Maybe they can’t find their tracking number, or they want to return something but missed the window by a day. Maybe they’re requesting a product feature that you happen to have in private beta. Many of these acute issues can be resolved by your support team instantly. They can respond with the customer’s tracking number and info about when it will arrive. They can grant an extension on the return policy and include a free return shipping label. They can invite the customer into a preview of a feature that has yet to be launched. There’s nothing more rewarding than realizing that you already have a solution for a customer. These customers are often the easiest to convert to promoters.
9. Share upcoming improvements
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to address the issues of your detractors immediately. But some feedback will illuminate “soft” areas of your product or service for which there is no quick fix. These typically surface when an otherwise happy customer happens upon a blind spot, or takes a path outside of your finely optimized core experience. While you may not be able to fix these issues immediately, it’s still good practice to acknowledge the pain the customer is feeling, and share any upcoming improvements that could address their concerns. The key here is to open a channel of communication that you can use to inform them of any new developments, and give yourself more chances to retain them.
10. Find the root cause
You may find that a seemingly innocuous piece of feedback actually speaks to a much larger systemic problem within your organization. As you follow up with detractors, you’ll have the opportunity to dig deeper into each particular experience, and uncover details that would rarely be shared in customer feedback. While these problems are trickier to identify, they typically solve an entire class of issues for people once they are resolved. For instance, you may find that many first-time customers don’t buy again or are confused about policies around returns. As you dig in, you may come to learn they are unsure of the quality of your products and are nervous about your return policy. This may lead you to create a whole campaign about how you offer a 100% happiness guarantee.
11. Minimize fallout
Some detractors are more vocal about their negative experiences than others. They leave feedback on review sites, forums, and other channels where word-of-mouth testimonials can carry a lot of weight. Reaching out to your detractors as soon as they leave feedback can help you nip any potential fallout in the bud. Once they know you actually care and are working to fix their issue, they’ll be far less likely to share their initially bad experience with others. Better still, they may share the positive interaction they’ve had with you.
12. Get a better grasp on churn risk
Detractors carry higher churn/attrition rates than passives and promoters. However, not all detractors are equal. Some may have just tipped into being detractors, while others maybe be on the verge of calling it quits. Following up with detractors can help you prioritize your efforts, focussing first on the most at-risk customers.
Following up with detractors is a critical step towards improving your NPS and providing a world-class experience for your customers. It’s easy to be excited when the feedback is flowing in and you are working to improve the experience behind the scenes. But as we’ve covered, there are many great reasons to follow-up with detractors the moment they reveal themselves. It will certainly take extra energy, but the benefits are multi-dimensional. You’ll speak with more of your customers, learn more from them, convert many into loyal promoters, give them a great reason to stick around, and better prioritize product improvements – all leading to more revenue and growth.