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What Is A Net Promoter Score? One Of The Most Important Metrics In Your Startup

Todd Belveal

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“How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend?”

It’s a simple question. And if it pops up on your phone right after you drop off a car rental or leave a restaurant, it’s not hard to answer.

This simplicity is what makes your net promoter score (NPS) the most valuable metric for your startup.

The net promoter score asks customers, on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely they are to recommend your service or product to a friend. People who answer 1–6 are detractors. They wouldn’t recommend your service based on their experience. Those who answer 7–8 are passives. They like it, but they’re not telling their mom about it. The users choosing 9–10 are your promoters. They’re the people who are likely to spread the news about your company.

Subtract your percentage of detractors from promoters, and you’ve got your net promoter score, which will fall somewhere between 0 and 100.

Honestly, it’s the only metric I recommend any consumer-facing startup founder bother paying attention to.

But that’s not the only reason why it’s important.

Your score is an indication of quality.

The net promoter is a great way to assess quality because it tells you whether or not people are likely to recommend your company to their friends.

Friends don’t recommend bad products or services to friends. They don’t even recommend decent ones. Most only recommend something when it’s clearly better than what they’ve been using and what their friends are still using.

When my team at Washlava took our laundry app and new machines to the University of Florida for a demo, we let people use the app and do loads of laundry for free. And our first net promoter score was something like 99. Which is obviously unrealistic. Anything over 70 is excellent — I mean, Apple’s score hovers around this figure. Once we started charging the students, those numbers came down. But they were still in the high 70s and 80s.

I remember been just blown away by that response. It’s inspiring to see people valuing your product so highly. And honestly, it’s a morale boost.

If users are saying they’d recommend your product, they’re likely talking to others about it.

It’s a good way to gauge your product adoption.

Most startups can’t afford to advertise, so they grow through word of mouth.

It’s easy and cheap to track that type of growth with the NPS post-experience survey. If your score is sitting somewhere in the 30s, your app probably isn’t going to explode across the country anytime soon. But at least you know where you stand, and you have the opportunity to do something about it.

If you have a strong net promoter score, your company may be able to scale quickly.

To test this, give people a financial incentive to recommend your product. Make it easy for them to answer questions about your product, and see if word spreads.

I find it incredibly useful to get our score every 30 days to gauge what people think. It gives us a benchmark to work with — a measurement of customer satisfaction we can continually track to identify trends and refine our roll-out methods.

Ultimately, you learn who your customers are.

People in the laundry industry don’t really know who their customers are.

How do you track a quarter back to the person who dropped it in the machine? The only way to get real visibility on users is through an app.

As a result, laundromat owners underestimate their customers. I hear these people say, “Our customers don’t have smartphones. They’re low-income. They’re minorities.”

The thing is, they definitely do have smartphones. Smartphone ownership has more than doubled since 2011. And plenty of low income users are just young people starting out. Smartphone adoption in the 18 to 29 demographic is 94%. Race doesn’t factor into it, either. The white, black, and hispanic populations are practically even when it comes to smartphone adoption.

I’ll admit, I was guilty of underestimating our customers at first.

When we first converted our laundromat in Tampa from coins to Washlava technology, I was worried about adoption risk, because the store serves an older demographic.

But I was completely off-base. Our first NPS after the conversion was 92. I was shocked because the average for laundromats is somewhere close to 40. It’s clear I was dead wrong about our customer base in the neighborhood.

The truth is, if your theory is correct and your quality of execution is high, you’ll be surprised by how much people enjoy your product.

Your net promoter score is a simple way to identify whether or not people like what you’re offering. And for a startup, that’s essential for growing and adapting.

Founder and CEO at Washlava. Todd has more than 20 years of professional experience in the retail, consumer products, travel and technology industries as operator, analyst, advisor and entrepreneur. He is the CEO and founder of Washlava, a connected laundry startup disrupting the self-service laundry industry. His previous venture was the successful mobile-enabled car rental startup, Silvercar, which was recently acquired by Audi.

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