What are NPS detractors? Turning them into promoters

Customer Analytics

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What’s the consequence of not listening to customer feedback? By not listening to quantitative and qualitative feedback from your customers, you’re missing a huge opportunity to learn more about their needs so you can better serve them. By not listening to your customers, you could end up with more unhappy customers than happy customers, with no way to earn their loyalty and trust back again.

You can use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey to help identify your unhappy customers (otherwise known as NPS Detractors). Once you can identify these unhappy customers you can take steps to make them happy and loyal to your brand. 

In this article, we’ll talk more about the value of recognizing an NPS Detractor in your customer base and how to turn these unhappy customers into Promoters. 

What is a Detractor?

In its simplest form, a Detractor is a person who wouldn’t recommend you to their friend or colleague. You can identify them by their Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS measures customer satisfaction by asking just one question: how likely are they to recommend this product, company, or service to a friend or colleague? They’re asked to rate their satisfaction on a scale from 1-10. 

According to your customers’ answers, they’ll be classified as one of the following based on their rating score:

  • Promoters: 9 or 10
  • Passives: 7 or 8
  • Detractors: 1 through 6.

An NPS Detractor (score of 1 through 6) is a customer dissatisfied with your company as a whole or in part. At first, that may seem like a bad thing, but if you know how to use this information to turn Detractors into Promoters, it’s extremely valuable information for increasing overall customer satisfaction and seeing customer growth. 

The earlier you identify these Detractors, the better your chances of turning their opinion around. In this case, they’re more likely to remain loyal, leave you positive reviews, and recommend you to their friends.  

What is the difference between Promoter and Detractor in NPS?

Promoters and Detractors are opposites on the customer satisfaction scale. Passives fall in between. Here’s a comparison of the key difference between Promoters, Passives, and Detractors in NPS surveys:

Detractors Passives Promoters
NPS Ratings 1-6 7-8 9-10
Customer satisfaction Low Generally happy High
Likelihood to recommend you to others  Low Sometimes High
Customer Lifetime value Shortest Uncertain Longest
Customer Churn Very likely to leave soon if not resolved. Likely unless you can turn them into Promoters Unlikely


👉 Not sure which scores are benchmarked averages for your industry? Learn more about what makes a good NPS score

What are Passives in NPS?

Sitting between your Promoters and Detractors are the Passives. Passives are the customers who select a 7 or 8 on their NPS survey. They’re neither fully satisfied or dissatisfied but could be easily swayed in one or the other direction and are likely to churn if not turned into Promoters. 

Why is it important to identify Detractors?

A business’s goal is to have as many satisfied customers as possible. While your business is likely to have at least some Detractors, you need to work to move them back into Promoters quickly before they harm your business’s reputation or bottom line. To do this, you need to be customer-centric and focus on what they need from you to become and stay loyal customers. 

There are many other benefits to identifying your Detractors. With this information, you can:

  • Discover details of customer journey pain points.
  • Increase customer satisfaction.
  • Increase customer loyalty.
  • Decrease customer churn.
  • Increase customer lifetime value.
  • Get actionable insights on how to turn unhappy customers into happy customers.

Getting as much detail about why (or where) customers are dissatisfied will help you understand what to fix or change to earn their loyalty again. 

How? By using an AI-driven customer feedback platform like Idiomatic, you can learn more detail about why your Detractors are dissatisfied by collecting and analyzing customer feedback from multiple sources at scale. Then, once you know where you’re not meeting their expectations, you can change your offerings or customer service to make them happy again and win back loyalty. Most companies don’t dive into this level of detail and are missing key details and insights that can be used to turn Detractors into Promoters. 

Where can you get more information about your Detractors?

Once you identify your detractors, you need to learn more about their behavior to understand what led them to their dissatisfaction. You can get this data by looking into other sources of customer data and feedback, including: 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys (if you have follow up NPS questions)
  • Customer Effort Scores (CES)
  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Feedback platforms and surveys
  • Social media 
  • Online reviews
  • Support and helpdesk transcripts

How do you identify your Detractors? 

An NPS survey can quickly identify your Detractors. Here’s how:

Step 1: Create a customer satisfaction survey

As mentioned previously, the way to identify your Detractors is through an NPS survey that’ll ask one question: “How likely are you to recommend [company/product/service] to others.” If you wish, you can ask a follow-up, open-ended question to get more details, but make it optional as it could affect survey completion rates if it’s a mandatory question. Score the NPS question out of ten.

Once your survey is ready, distribute it. You can collect survey responses in different ways depending on what NPS question you are asking. For example, you could collect feedback by emailing it to customers, inviting them to do the survey after a customer service interaction, or including a feedback button on your website or app platform. When surveying for a specific user experience, such as a customer support interaction, be sure it’s sent immediately after that interaction. 

👉 Learn more about how to create and distribute an NPS survey

Step 2: Collect responses

Continually collect customer feedback over time to see how it fluctuates and changes as you act on the insights. Feed all sources of customer feedback into an AI-powered customer feedback analytics software like Idiomatic to help you keep all feedback data in one spot and categorize and analyze the data for you with less manual analysis. 

Step 3: Analyze and generate actionable insights

Take a look at the detailed feedback from your Detractors to see if any trends or commonalities exist. This way you get not just the ratings but insights and feedback to understand the reasons behind the customers’ ranking.These indicate more global issues that you can work to resolve. This manual analysis of your data can be very time-consuming, however, unless you use a machine learning-supported platform like Idiomatic to help. 

Idiomatic‘s AI-powered customer feedback analytics software takes large amounts of user feedback, tags, analyzes and categorizes it for you, helping you uncover any roadblocks to your company’s growth or retention rates at a faster rate than human analysis. It will also generate real-time insights so you can identify your Detractors immediately and take action to turn them into Promoters.

👉 If you’re combining customer feedback from multiple sources, read our step-by-step guide to customer feedback analysis

4 Steps to identify unhappy customers and earn customer loyalty 

Identifying your NPS Detractors is important, but knowing how to turn them into Promoters is the key to your business scalability and growth. Your process for actioning on any feedback from Detractors will likely include the following steps:

1. Acknowledging the issue

The worst thing you can do is pretend the issue doesn’t exist. Today’s customers demand brand transparency, so be honest about your mistake or the issue. This doesn’t have to be a public apology (for most issues), but acknowledging the error to your existing customers experiencing the issue is essential. 

Do your best not to be defensive. Admit the issue and tell the customer how you’ll make it right, so it doesn’t happen again. 

2. Learn more about the issue 

If you discover your customer satisfaction scores are low for a particular issue, for example, interactions with your customer service team, dive deeper to see what is causing the problem. This may include going into any open-ended, written responses to get the specifics of where the dissatisfied customers are unhappy. If that doesn’t give you enough data, look at other data sources for your Detractors. 

👉 Discover helpful tools and additional sources of customer data that can help you learn more about your detractors in our complete guide to measuring customer satisfaction.

3. Derive your actionable insights

Now that you understand the issue, it’s time to decide how to deal with it. For example, with detailed user feedback and metrics, you might learn that many of your Detractors contacted customer service multiple times within the past three weeks about the same technical bug in your software. With this valuable insight, you can remedy the bug. You should see your Detractors turning into Passives and Promoters shortly after (assuming other issues don’t exist). 

4. Follow up

Following up with your Detractors is helpful to get more feedback about the issue (if you don’t have the data to dig deeper) and to earn back their loyalty. Contact an NPS Detractor as soon as you identify them and their issue. Let your unhappy customer know how you’re fixing their complaint, then follow up as soon as it’s fixed to keep them in the loop. 

To determine if you turned the Detractor into a Promoter, follow up later to see if their opinion has changed. Ideally, it will, but if not, it’s an excellent opportunity to get more information about their customer journey or experience so you can pinpoint the source of their negative feedback. 

Responding to specific customer feedback by source

In addition to the above four steps to turn Detractors into Promoters, you may need to take additional steps, depending on the source of the negative feedback. Here are some examples:

Leaving bad online reviews

Did you know that 94% of customers report that a bad review will convince them not to buy from a business? While most consumers are savvy enough to understand that experience may vary from person to person, they’re more likely to forgive a negative public online review if the company makes a public effort to respond and remedy the complaint.

Over half of your customers expect you to respond to their negative reviews within one week. Many of them expect you to respond in 3 days or less. When you respond, acknowledge their pain point and provide a solution. Reach out to them in the comments section of the review itself. Contact the customer directly if you can identify them in your customer database.

Social media posts

Many people complain about businesses through their social media profiles. They often do this (and tag your business) to get your response. If a Detractor posts public (or direct message) feedback or complaint, it’s essential that it’s addressed ASAP through a respectful and professional reply. 

Your reply should address the customer by name (their real name if it’s in their social profile) and acknowledge their struggle. Offer a remedy for them if possible, or ask them to contact you so you can get more information to solve their problem. 

Via feedback form or system

If you received the Detractor’s feedback through one of your internal feedback systems, ensure you have a way to tag the feedback to a user profile or that they provide a contact method (phone or email). All negative feedback should be followed up promptly using the same acknowledgement, learning, action, and follow-up steps as above.  

💡TIP: An AI-powered customer feedback platform analytics platform like Idiomatic can alert you to Detractors feedback in real-time so you can respond immediately.  

Strategies to turn an NPS Detractor into a Promoter

Here are some more specific ways you can turn Detractors into Promoters:

Encourage feedback

Don’t shy away from collecting customer feedback. Provide several outlets and opportunities for customers to provide honest negative and positive feedback. 

Practice high emotional intelligence 

No matter the feedback, it’s important that anyone who responds to the feedback exhibits high emotional intelligence and professionalism. They should empathetically use phrases like, “I know you’re upset” or “I know it’s frustrating.” Good emotional intelligence and calm can make a difference and keep a bad situation from escalating.

   👉 Learn more about the role of emotional intelligence in customer service.

Respond quickly

Customers expect you to respond to their feedback right away. When the feedback is over social media, they expect it near instantly. Half of your customers expect you to respond within 4 hours, and about 12% expect a response within 15 minutes. The longer your dissatisfied customers are unhappy, the harder it will be to win back their loyalty.  

Have systems in place to monitor the web and your feedback sources for unsatisfied customers and alert you immediately so you can respond quickly. Idiomatic, for example, uses machine learning to check all incoming feedback for these Detractors and alert you in real-time. 

👉Learn more about how Idiomatic has helped customers increase customer satisfaction

Triage Detractors’ issues

If it’s not realistic to respond to all customer issues promptly, you’ll need to triage them. There are many ways you can determine which Detractors to help first, including prioritizing Detractors:

  • With a history of negative scores or issues
  • With issues that affect a large subsection of other users (such as a software bug)
  • From VIP or highly influential clients
  • Who contact you via “live” sources (like a helpdesk chatbox, phone call, or social media) over those who email or submit a feedback form or survey)

The prioritization criteria will be specific to your business. 

Be honest and don’t over-promise 

Customers can sense if you’re not being truthful with them. Throughout the process, be honest and set expectations. Be especially careful not to over-promise a resolution (such as a full refund if that’s not part of your customer resolution playbook). If you say you can deliver a specific solution, that’s the solution you should provide. If you can’t make that reality, you risk losing their trust even more. 

Learn and correct

To turn your customer service experience into a proactive rather than reactive experience, you need to take all feedback to heart and ensure that resolutions are applied for all customers, not just one. For example, if you hear constant complaints about customers struggling to find your resource library on your website, you could send each complaining customer a direct link to the page. However, a more proactive solution would be to redesign your website navigation to make the content easier to find. 

Not only will this help you cut down on customer complaints, but you’re also creating a better user experience for all and showing customers that you are learning from your mistakes. 

Close the feedback loop

Always ensure that any feedback you receive is acknowledged and dealt with in a completed feedback loop. You will likely go through additional communication with the customer as you investigate the problem and develop solutions. These solutions should be applied to the specific customer and any other customers it applies to (such as making a universal change to the UI to improve the user experience for all). 

Your final stage of this feedback loop is to follow up to ensure the resolution was satisfactory. This is how you can gather metrics regarding how many Detractors you can turn into Promoters.

👉For more strategies and tips to increase customer satisfaction, subscribe to the Idiomatic Newsletter at the end of our homepage.

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What about Detractors you can’t convert?

Don’t forget that you can’t please everyone. Even if you do your best to turn NPS Detractors into Promoters, you may need to accept that that could take time. They may stay in the Passive zone for a while until they’ve had enough positive experiences with your brand to weigh the negative ones. 

For some customers, the experience was just too bad, or they’ve found a better solution to their problem (likely with your competitor) before you could solve it to their satisfaction. You may not win back every Detractor, but make it your goal to earn the loyalty of as many disgruntled customers as possible.

Using machine learning and AI to detect an NPS Detractor  

The best way to turn Detractors into Promoters is to identify them quickly and provide a reasonable resolution to their problem. This is near impossible by manually analyzing data from multiple customer feedback sources. To help you identify Detractors or potential Detractors in real-time, you need a customer experience management platform like Idiomatic. 

Idiomatic can take large amounts of customer feedback data, tag and categorize it to make analysis easy. It will alert you to any urgent customer feedback that needs to be addressed immediately. Idiomatic  reviews customer feedback from multiple sources (such as surveys, social media, and support tickets) and, with its sophisticated algorithm, identifies the exact reasons people are dissatisfied with your company, and potentially what events or actions led to their opinion.

The “why” is where you’ll obtain the actionable feedback you need to understand the problem and promptly provide the customer with a solution. 

Using Idiomatic’s reporting functionality, you can view your customer satisfaction trends over time to see if your solutions are decreasing your Detractors and increasing Passives and Promoters. 

👉 Request a demo of Idiomatic to learn how it can help you identify Detractors in real time and provide the insights you need to turn NPS Detractors into Promoters.