Exploring the User Experience of the NPS in online purchases

In theory, the Net Promoter Score is supposed to tell you about customer satisfaction. The question “Would you recommend [product X] to a friend or colleague?” is based on the assumption that if you are happy with [product X] you will definitely talk about it with your friends or even recommend it to them, which will inevitably bring more people into the brand etc.

It is not an unreasonable metric, and it can give some valuable insights to what might happen in the future, but it’s not the whole story, for three reasons.

The first one has to do with consumer groups and age. I would love to run this study, but unfortunately at the moment of writing this article it’s only an assumption based on anecdotal evidence, but here’s my hot take:

Older online buyers tend to talk to others about their purchases while younger people don’t. However, younger buyers are more than older ones.

At the same time, younger consumers are more likely to be sceptical about how to answer such a question for their purchases. This can be attributed to a variety of factors: type of socialising, amount of free time, frequency of purchasing goods online, etc. It is far more likely to talk about something you bought online to a friend if the purchase itself it’s something “out of the ordinary”. That is not to say that if you don’t talk about it, you’re not happy with your purchase.

55–74y/o are steadily buying less than their 16–24 and 24–54 y/o counterparts

The second reason is linked with the nature of the buying goods. Is it something physical? Some online service? A holiday package? Something personalised that would not make any sense to recommend it to someone else? All these factors play a role on how someone might decide to answer the NPS question, but the NPS question is not as flexible as the goods. A review questionnaire will always ask “Would you recommend this product/brand?” regardless of the product or the nature of the good.

Which can sometimes lead to situations like the one shared below:

The nature of the buying goods plays an important role

Finally, the third reason has to do with Covid-19 and its massive influence on people’s purchasing habits. As of the date this article is being written, many parts of the world have not yet eased their lockdown rules due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and thousands of people depend on the internet for all their purchases. From everyday grocery shopping, to products of personal care, to entertainment and work-related products, an entire population is dependent on the same online buying system as the one that existed before the pandemic happened.

This mass temporary shift to online will inevitably result in a huge permanent change, as many people will choose to continue buying online even after the lockdown is lifted. Do we really expect from people to be willing to recommend every product they purchase, if they purchase everything online?

In this case, what is an appropriate question that measures customer satisfaction, that can apply to every purchase without creating bias? How can we be sure that we are not pushing people away from our products by asking them if they would recommend them (for the third time this month) to their friends and colleagues (that they don’t even see for water-cooler chat anymore)?

User experience does not stop on the moment of the purchase, and the way we ask about our products and brands can have a great impact, not only on how willing our customers might be to recommend our products, but how willing they are to return to our products too, so we really need to think a lot about these questions, especially as the world shifts to a new reality with every passing minute.

User Researcher & Designer, PhD Adventurer, Full-Time advocate of making the world suck less.