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Topic(s): Customer Centricity Metrics & Methodology

6 steps to deal with your NPS detractors

What is a detractor?

To put it in simple words: detractors are unhappy customers, who had a bad experience with a company's product, service process, or employee - referring to the service profit chain.

The term "detractor" is used in customer experience when sending out NPS surveys. The score customers can give ranges from 0 to 10.


A customer is considered to be a detractor based on a certain NPS score: depending on the score they gave, they can be divided into 3 categories:

  • Promotors (9-10)
  • Passives (7-8)
  • Detractors (0-6)

Having detractors is inevitable - in every company. But how you deal with unhappy customers is extremely important. And obviously, having too many detractors may have consequences in the short or long term. 

Here's a famous quote from Sam Walmart:

“There’s only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Dealing with your detractors in 6 steps

When a customer has a problem, there are normally 2 things they could do:

  • Shout it from the rooftops
  • Walk away without saying anything

The problem is most people fit into the 2nd category, the silent majority that walks across the street and into someone else’s shop. Many will also tell their friends and colleagues about the bad service they received, which is not so good for your brand. So, what can we do to make them stay, make them loyal, and make them spend their hard-earned cash with you and not someone else? 

  1. The first step is monitoring.

    Use the outputs to make decisions about how you manage your customers off the back of it. Each time you transact with a customer you have a prime opportunity to gather feedback. You must go beyond just asking the NPS question but ask the customer why, always providing an open feedback field. This is where you can start building a real understanding of what makes someone a promoter, passive or detractor.

  2. Follow up on detractors 

    Depending on how depends on your contact strategy. We would suggest for operational easiness categorising the complaints depending on their severity. For the most severe you want to follow up immediately, preferably within 1hr. Equally when your customer gives you great feedback say thanks. You can probably automate this one though.

  3. Knowledge is key here, you must understand what you are looking at.

    So, you have fed the big survey NPS thingy with lots and lots of data. Make sure you have regular reports coming out, that are of use to the business. These should be shared wide and far making your staff part of the solution, by arming them with the right information. The next step is to get an understanding of the underlying trends. These will become apparent over time, for negative ones it will be the same fire being put out. For positive ones, you’ll see it clearly. 

  4. Wisdom is the application of knowledge into wider things.

    You can have all the data, reports and analysis in the world but if you fail to act on it, then your Cx programme is no more than a vanity project. Over time trends will appear so you must be ready to act on them. No one likes to put out the same fire over, and over, and over…. Set up customer experience workshops, with a good facilitator. This will help you to develop strategies to improve the overall customer experience. 

  5. Diving headfirst into a new strategy could lead to larger issues, especially if you’ve got it wrong.

    Developing a series of pilot schemes, with differences between how they are implemented can help weed out the poorly performing strategies. This allows you as a business to focus on what delivers on what works.

    One of our retail clients ran a pilot on a new store design. They found, through using our system that customers were more likely to talk about the helpful staff over the products in their pilot stores. The new stores freed up the time of the staff so they could interact more with customers. This translated into a higher NPS, more loyal customers and higher repeat business.

  6. Once you have analysed the outputs from your pilots you need to scale them across your business.

    When you design your pilots, you must keep an eye on scalability, or it won’t work. Choose the strategies that deliver most success and scale them across your business. If you’re a larger organisation you may have to phase implementation. If your smaller, phasing matters less as you’ve already done the leg work with the pilots.  

Summing up

If you only focus on responding to customer complaints then you will spend all your time putting out the same fires. If you listen and act on feedback, then you will build a business that customers will want to come back to over and over.