What Is a Detractor and How Can You Make Them Promoters?

Updated January 4, 2023

Customer satisfaction and loyalty are essential components for operating a business successfully. Satisfied and loyal customers bring in more sales to your business by purchasing from you or promoting your products and services to others. When reviewing your satisfaction ratings, you may encounter detractors, and understanding these individuals can help you implement methods to improve the experience of such customers. In this article, we discuss NPS customer surveys, detractors and methods that businesses can use to turn their detractors into promoters.

Read more: What Is Customer Satisfaction and Why Is It Important?

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What is NPS?

The net promoter score (NPS) is a metric that businesses use to measure customer loyalty. They gather the NPS by conducting short customer surveys focused on the following question or some variation of it: "How likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend or colleague?" Respondents can answer this question using a scale from zero (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). The rest of the survey may comprise follow-up questions that ask customers for more details about their dissatisfaction or feedback for improvement.

Businesses can choose to implement NPS surveys in two ways:

  • Transactional NPS surveys: In a transactional survey program, the business sends out surveys following every interaction. For example, customers may receive a survey link after they make a purchase or contact customer service.

  • Relational NPS surveys: In a relational survey program, the business deploys NPS surveys to customers periodically, such as once or twice a year. Businesses that have regular interactions with customers throughout the year may consider this method to gauge customer satisfaction regularly, providing a benchmark to compare against year-over-year.

Related: Learn How To Calculate NPS

What is a detractor?

A detractor is an unhappy customer based on the NPS results. These customers represent a risk to the business, as they might avoid purchasing from it in the future or may discourage people they know from becoming customers. Within the open-ended question section of an NPS survey, these customers may offer more insights into why they had a negative experience. When businesses identify detractors, they typically act quickly to resolve the issue and keep that customers' business or otherwise satisfy them. Based on their NPS survey responses, customers get divided into three categories:

  • Detractors: Detractors are customers who responded with a score from zero to six. They represent individuals who are dissatisfied with the product or service and potentially won't return to the business, speak badly about it to their friends and colleagues or start frequenting the business's competitors.

  • Passives: Passives are customers who responded with a score of seven or eight. They represent individuals who are generally satisfied with the business's product or service, but not necessarily going to promote it to others.

  • Promoters: Promoters are customers who responded with a score of nine or 10. They represent individuals who are extremely satisfied and enthusiastic about the business's product or service.

Businesses can calculate their NPS score by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. For example, a retail store reviews its survey results and finds that 65% of respondents offered scores of nine or 10, and 25% offered scores between zero and six. According to these results, the retail store has a net promoter score of 40%. Now that the business understands how customers feel about its products or services, it can begin creating and implementing strategies to help boost that score and customer loyalty.

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Ways to turn detractors into promoters

If your business identifies detractors, you can try several techniques to turn your relationship with them into a positive one. While detractors may leave negative reviews, your promoters maintain loyalty to your business and promote its offerings to their friends, families and colleagues. You can use the following advice as guidance for methods to turn detractors into promoters:

Ask open-ended NPS survey questions

Incorporating additional, open-ended questions into your NPS surveys can help you gain a clearer understanding of your business's customer experience. When developing your NPS surveys, consider using questions like the following to gather more insights into customers' satisfaction ratings:

  • What's the primary reason for your score?

  • What do you like most about [the product, service or company]?

  • What do you like least about [the product, service or company]?

  • What's missing from [the product, service or company] that could improve your experience?

  • What was disappointing/satisfactory about your experience with [the product, service or company]?

  • Why would/wouldn't you recommend [the product service or company] to a friend, family member or colleague?

  • How can we improve your experience with [the product, service or company]?

  • Do you have additional feedback to provide?

Asking these questions gives you more specific insights into individuals' feelings and experiences regarding your business. You can use these insights to address and resolve issues, helping you maintain the customer relationship or otherwise improve your business's overall customer experience. This tactic can help boost your relationship with detractors because it shows them you want to understand why they feel dissatisfied and learn how to improve the situation.

Read more: 23 NPS Questions To Learn From Customer and Employee Experiences

Create a culture that encourages feedback

While sending out surveys is effective in gauging customer satisfaction, having numerous methods of gathering feedback can help prove to customers that you value their opinions. When customers feel valued, it helps encourage them to remain loyal. The more feedback you get, the more trends or patterns you might identify. These trends can help you understand your areas for improvement or where your business succeeds. When possible, you may call customers directly, send follow-up emails or host feedback forms on your website to ask them about their experience with the business.

When you make an effort to contact them for feedback rather than waiting for them to contact you, it shows your interest in them. Prove that you value this feedback by responding to customers' comments as needed. Address negative comments as quickly as possible and showcase how you plan to use these insights to make improvements. Another way to promote feedback is by offering something in return. For example, you may encourage customers to leave a review on your website or fill out a customer satisfaction survey by entering respondents into a monthly giveaway.

Related: How To Get Feedback From Customers

Make it easy to contact you

Your business can also encourage feedback by ensuring that customers know how to submit comments to you. Prominently display an email address and phone number for customer feedback on your website and social media profiles. You may also consider introducing a live chat or support feature on your website, allowing visitors to speak directly to a customer service representative and get their comments or questions addressed quickly.

Providing simple methods for contacting the business can help passionate detractors voice their concerns to you directly, allowing your business to start a conversation with them. If they can't find this information easily, however, it could further their feelings of dissatisfaction. Having this one-on-one conversation allows you to address that detractor's specific needs and collaborate with them on how you can improve their experience. When they feel you care about those needs, it can help convince them to give your business another chance.

Establish customer service priorities

When gathering feedback, addressing issues promptly can help your business satisfy and retain customers. You can help your customer support team manage its workflow by establishing priorities for customer feedback. These priorities allow your team to assess which comments or concerns they need to resolve before others. The rules you develop may vary depending on your business or goals. For example, you may establish that a complaint from a customer about the quality of a product they received should be prioritized before a customer's question about shipping labels, even if the latter customer submitted their question first.

Some customer support software enables you to flag comments and feedback automatically by setting rules, such as specific keywords used by the customer. By prioritizing negative experiences and comments, you provide prompt engagement with detractors. Because these individuals already voiced that they're having a negative experience, addressing them first can help avoid further escalation or frustration. Depending on your business's capabilities, you may set specific timeframes for responding to detractors, such as 24 or 48 hours.

Implement customer service training

Customers' interactions with your customer service and support staff can affect their experience with the brand. Ensuring your team knows how to engage with customers effectively when receiving feedback can help boost satisfaction scores. You can use internal or external sources to provide workshops, courses and assessments for skill development. When possible, use customer feedback as guidance for setting training strategies. For example, if customers complain about slow replies to their messages, you may set goals for your service team to respond to messages within 24 hours.

Some key customer service skills include active listening, empathy and interpersonal communication. Even when a customer is angry, service representatives need to remain calm and polite to avoid escalating the situation. If a detractor feels their feelings are heard and respected, rather than ignored, it can help ease their frustrations with the business. For example, you may train representatives to use empathetic language, such as, "I understand, I'd feel upset if that happened to me, too." Empathy shows customers that the business values them as people rather than problems to solve.

Read more: 20 Exciting Customer Service Training Ideas

Show your appreciation

To help offset a detractor's negative experience, you can take actions that show your appreciation for their business and feedback. Offering a personal message or apology helps prove your interest in their specific issue, rather than sending an automatic general reply. When possible, you might also give them something of value, such as a gift card or discount on their next order.

Showing these customers that you're apologetic about the situation and want to remedy it may help them feel better about your business. Rather than sharing the negative experience with their friends and colleagues, they may mention your efforts to turn it positive. This action helps your business maintain a positive reputation. Your willingness to help the detractor may also help convince them to give your business another opportunity.

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