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The vast majority of NPS survey results are worthless - Part 1


The short version

Most survey results are worthless because the response rates are too low. The response rates are too low because emails containing web links are used to send out what are often long surveys. This can be addressed through technology without going to the expense of phoning everyone. In any case, phoning people has become less and less effective due to mobile phone call screening. Here is how I propose to solve all these problems.


The detailed version

According to Reichheld and Markey in The Ultimate Question 2.0, NPS surveys become completely reliable once response rates are at around 70%. The indicate the issue with the diagrams below:


The first positions the question: given an NPS of +50 with a 20% response rate, what is the NPS of the non-respondents?




The psychology turns out to be that almost all Promoters respond to surveys immediately. Passives and Detractors are much more likely to dismiss surveys as a waste of their time. When added to the first respondents, Reichheld and Markey suggest it gives the overall picture below:




Why are response rates so low?

The main reasons response rates to email-based surveys are low are as follows:

  • Surveys often come from an anonymous mailbox and lack personalization.
  • Surveys usually take the form “Dear Mr. Smith, please take a few minutes of your valuable time…. Please click on the link below.” Our security experts have taught us not to click on every link we receive. When we do click on the link, we can be greeted by a long survey that will take far more than the promised “few minutes”.
  • Surveys are often too long, so people drop out before completing them.
  • Experience has also taught us that we will hear nothing more from the person surveying us, in almost all cases. We sometimes hear back when we complain bitterly. Otherwise… silence, giving us a clear message that our time has been wasted.


OK - so this is the problem. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I lay out the first elements of the solution, and compare them to what is on the market today from various companies.



Maurice FitzGerald - Customer Experience and Strategy consultant
About the Author


Maurice FitzGerald ecently retired from his position as VP of Customer Experience for HPE Software after a career in hardware, software and services at DEC, Compaq and HP.

Rachael Perez

HI Maurice,

Thanks for this post!  I have struggled with "non-responders" in the past, and ended up with a two pronged approach...


1) Financials - I mapped the YoY Financial growth of the non-responders to the growth patterns of my NPS Promoters, Passives and Detractors.  It's not perfect, but I thought I could see the populations of each group and I did Identify about 18 accounts that had not grown at all which was a great indication for me.   However the rest of the accounts far outgrew my responders!!  So that was good confirmation that they're growing well but no indicator of actual loyalty. 


2) Response rates!!  I have been working with the team to focus on response rates, and we've gone up closer to 35% of responses.  That is still too low given the potential blind side you reference above, but I figure every increase in responses gets us closer to the truth, right?


Hopefully the two above approaches will help other CE Experts, and looking forward to Part 2 of your post!


Thanks for all you do!


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