In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about NPS surveys, the importance of carrying them out and how they can be beneficial to your startup as a whole.

NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and is a customer satisfaction score created by Bain and Company. When carried out properly, NPS surveys give you an idea of how your customers feel about your company.

They have become very popular with startups in the last few years. However, due to the nature of the surveys, they also have some criticisms. For example, some critics point out that results are arbitrary and “made up”.

Tune-in to find out more about NPS surveys, at what stage to conduct them in your startup, the importance of tracking your business’s progress through customer ratings, and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 What NPS is all about.

01:08 Some criticisms of NPS surveys.

01:45 Some benefits of carrying out NPS surveys.

02:47 The current state of NPS surveys in the startup world.

04:00 A mistake Steli made at

04:30 How surveys their customers.

05:30 Why we’re talking about NPS surveys today.

07:28 A major reason why companies are not consistent with NPS surveys.

08:12 What “Allergies to processes” means.

09:05 Another major benefit of carrying out NPS surveys

09:20 Some tools you can use to carry out NPS surveys.

10:22 Some things to keep in mind when carrying out NPS surveys.

3 Key Points:

  • Surveying customers is not a bad thing. Annoying them with lots of surveys is a bad thing.
  • If you’re not doing it on a regular basis you’re missing out on a key part of your learning process.
  • NPS surveys help you figure out if improvements you’re making at your startup are good for your customers.


Steli Efti: All right everybody, Hello, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. And today, we’re gonna talk about NPS surveys. See, we like talking about more than just sales and marketing.



Steli Efti: We just want to bullshit and chat about business and life, and hopefully while we’re doing that, provide a lot of value to people.



Hiten Shah: The world’s best business podcast. Shit.



Steli Efti: Oh, shit.



Hiten Shah: For people trying to get shit done.



Steli Efti: Done, yeah. We don’t want to give you feedback that’s bullshit.



Hiten Shah: Yeah we want you to do your best. Which is short for Net Promoter Score and we talked about it in a prior episode, about early access and competitor research. It’s something, I think … NPS, Net Promoter Score is a customer satisfaction score. It’s a methodology created by Bain and company. It’s actually a registered trademark, but there are a lot of tools that let you do it. It’s a simple zero to ten question, which, the question is basically how likely are you to recommend this product, and it’s very popular. Lots of companies have adopted it and more recently, in the last few years, startups have really become drawn to it. There’s also some controversy around it because some people say it’s just arbitrary and made up, because based on the response from zero to ten that someone gives, they are bucketing it into one of three groups. They are either promoters, detractors, or do you remember the last one, Steli? promoters, detractors, or …



Steli Efti: Passive! Passive.



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: Passive. Yes. And you, it’s just based on their score. Nines and tens are promoters, and the rest is split up between detractors and passive. And so it’s become super popular but it’s arbitrary according to many, some users, experienced folks. So I just wanted to point that out. That being said, I’m gonna throw the first kind of nugget about it. For me, what’s important is that we have some way of knowing whether people care about our products or not. We have a simple way to do it, even if it’s not perfect, and then the most important piece of it, for me, is when you, after they tell you the score of how likely they are to recommend it from a zero to ten, you ask them what’s the most important reason for your score? And it really changes the sort of feedback you get. And then you can segment that feedback by promoters, passive, and detractors. And then you get a lot of valuable information. And I’m gonna say something, because Steli, you don’t know this, but I’m actually working on something related to this from a software standpoint that I’m not ready to talk about yet but I thought I’d talk about it right now, because we’re talking about NPS so we won’t get more into that, it’s just a teaser for anyone listening. But yeah, you wanted to talk about this I think, Steli, so let’s talk about it, what’s on your mind?



Hiten Shah: Yeah, so first of all, my Ahmed, there’s almost not a thing I can talk about where you’re not like, “I have a product in the pipeline that is brewing.” You’re killing it right now, so that’s awesome to hear. I think honestly I just think that NPS is one of those things that most startups are not doing early enough, and when they’re doing it, they’re doing kind of one-off, they’re very, it’s one of those things that companies are like not doing, not doing, not doing, and then they do it once and then they don’t do it again, right? For a really long time. And I think, just like everything else, consistency is really key and I’m not a huge like, survey guy. I know you’re really good at doing surveys really mindfully, and we’ve had super popular episodes in the past on how to do customer service and you’re killing it on that front. But the NPS survey, to me, is so powerful because it’s A, a survey that so many fucking companies have run so you have so much data to compare with, right? There’s a lot of data, there’s a huge dataset and sample set of companies that you can compare with, but also because of its simplicity. It’s just a very, very, it’s not perfect, but it’s very simple and I love simple. And I think that if I could run back the clock to Day 1, this is a mistake that we made as well. We didn’t do an NPS Survey at all for the first, I think, year and a half of Close, and then we did one NPS survey and we looked at the results and we had discussions, and whatever, we made some decisions based on it and then we didn’t do it anymore for another year and a half. I think that’s just dumb. I wish we would have done it the way we’re doing it today, which is we’re using a third-party tool that’s in-app, and every single month we survey a certain amount of customers and users and then we track and report how our NPS score is moving every single month, but even more importantly we’re actually looking at every single comment people make. As you describe, that’s really where the gold is. Not just the score, the number, but the explanation for why they’ve given a certain number. And we’re trying to learn from these things and in many cases we’ll reach out and call people, especially when they’re unhappy or when they have a problem, and issue, or we make a mental note when somebody is really suffering because we’re lacking something in the product that we know internally is upcoming, so we’ll make a note and we’ll make sure that that person is gonna get a personal email from us or get an early invitation to it. But just like doing, surveying our customers every single month, or like every day automatically, basically like looking at the survey results every month and reading the comments every single week and responding to them, emailing people, calling people, and collecting context and insight, I think has been incredibly valuable. And then looking at, and I wish we had done that from Day 1. I wish it didn’t take us three years to start doing this. Or four years to start doing this. So that’s really one of the reasons that I wanted to quickly talk about this is because I think it’s an incredibly valuable tool, I think if you do it consistently over real long periods of times, you’re gonna really know how your churn and relationship with the happiness of your customers is moving, you’re going to have a lot of data to understand where the direction of your company is going in terms of how successful and happy your customers are. There’s a lot of benefits to it, right? You can send… There’s just more insight and information about your customers, like people that are super happy, we’ll reach out to them now on NPS course, and we’ll ask them to do a case study with us. Or we’ll send them a little gift. It’s just, we learn these things from customers because we do these NPS surveys consistently, and I can’t believe that it took us so long. So that’s one of the main reasons why I want to talk about it.



Steli Efti: Yeah, I think it just goes back to being customer-centric as a company and realizing that there are some easy things you can do. Surveying customers is not a bad thing. Annoying them with lots of surveys is a bad thing, so I think a lot of companies forget that like, those two are completely on opposite sides. You can find a tool like Net Promoter Score and send it regularly to your different cohorts, different groups of customers, and get really valuable feedback. If you’re not doing it on a regular basis, then you’re missing out on a key part of your learning. It’s that simple, right? And so I think, it’s something I used to say also about interviewing customers and customer development, of learning from customers, talking to them, that companies are really good at doing it early on and then they stop doing it. One of the reasons they stop doing it is they just get caught up in the rest of it. They get caught up in scaling a team, get caught up in those things and they don’t make it a core process, or core part of their business. Move a little bit slower and build a little bit of those customer-centric processes into the company much faster, even if it slows us down a little bit, just because then you don’t stop doing that. And so it’s very much like that allergy to process that I’ve found as to one of the core reasons why people don’t continuously do things like Net Promoter Score in order to kind of learn from the customer.



Hiten Shah: Can you say that again, allergy to process?



Steli Efti: Yeah, it’s like startups have an allergy to process, right? They’re like, look, we’re just getting shit done. Okay, you’re getting shit done, how do you know you’re gonna be able to get shit done in a month? The shit that works, the shit that works, you know that shit right there? You want to do it again, right? Right. And they’re just like, “Oh, crap.” I get this look all the time, because I can look at a business these days and say okay, you’re early, cool. A bunch of stuff working, a bunch of stuff isn’t working and they ask me, “Hey , how do we do marketing?” And I’m like, “Well what have you been doing that’s already working?” I don’t know. Yeah we’re doing a bunch of stuff that’s working. Okay, can you repeat it? Oh, really? You can repeat it? Yeah, you can repeat it if you have process, you can repeat it. And this Net Promoter Score thing is one of those things. It’s like, hey, how do you know whether the improvements you’ve made in your product or even in your business are and if you can’t answer that question to me, you know, definitively, then what are you doing? How do you know that you’re making improvements? And Net Promoter Score helps you figure out if the improvements you’re making are leading to better results for your customers or not.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any excuse anymore for not doing this. We at Close, we use Wootric and it works really perfectly well, we’re super happy with it, but I know there is other tools out there. There’s Promoter and a bunch of them if you just Google them, you’ll find an NPS survey tool from… Simply if you want even something better that doesn’t exist yet you probably just email and he tells you what he’s got in his computer’s pipeline.



Steli Efti: Yeah actually, actually yeah. You should email Hiten, H-I-T-E-N at on that one. I’ve looked at all the tools, there’s another tool called as well for doing this, and I promise whatever I’m going to create will be very disruptive in the market because that’s the goal. But on a high level, just do it. It doesn’t matter what you use, you could even use SurveyMonkey to do it. You can use Typeform to do it. You can use anything to do this survey, it’s not really as much about the tool, it’s more about how are you doing it, how often are you doing it, and are you actually getting the learnings you need from it?



Hiten Shah: Yeah and I think that my tip there is also don’t do it and then try to compare whatever the numbers that you have with some number that some other company or startup published in the space, or with Apple, or whoever. Don’t worry about comparing yourself immediately with others and creating anxiety or creating false positives and thinking, false confidence, and thinking oh my God, we’re having a better Net Promoter Score than Apple, we’re gonna rule the world. It’s just like chill out. Just take whatever the number is, I think the first few times you do this it actually doesn’t even matter that much. The comments matter, right? But the number itself I don’t think is that important. What is important is how that number moves over time. If it gets better and better and better, you know you’re doing things right, you know you’re on to something. The number is getting worse, you might know that you are, you know, getting out of touch with your customer, that you’re building the wrong things, that you’re not serving them the right way. Like it’s a great way, a great compass, for you to know if you’re moving in the right direction, the goal should just be to improve that score every single quarter versus to do it once and then compare yourself with others to either think that you are failing or succeeding based on one NPS survey. Like that’s not gonna really do anything. And then make sure you do it consistently, make sure that you read the comments, you respond to the comments, make sure that you use those as an opportunity to set up calls, as an opportunity to learn where to upsell somebody on a feature that exists and they don’t know, how to train people better, how to product prioritize, how to do more customer case studies. In many cases maybe you want to start reaching out to customers that are saying yes, I want to tell everybody about you, and give them some gifts and some, an easy way to tell more people about you. There’s a lot of benefits that you can gain from that and you don’t have to over-complicate it, just get started doing it in a small way and do it consistently over long periods of time and then that number, and the data that you’ve collected, will be really, really valuable. It’s going to be more and more valuable every single month that you do it. It really compounds its usefulness. And that would be kind of my biggest piece of advice, and don’t push this off to next month, next year, next quarter. If you have customers, if you have users, if you’re not like at day zero, but if you have already a few hundred users or even just 20, 30, 40 customers, implement this and just make it part of everything else that you do and part of the way that you run the business. And I love, and don’t be allergic against this. I love, we’re gonna have to use this term and do a future episode on process allergies that startups have. I love that term.



Steli Efti: Yes. Yes. All right, have a good one, happy NPS-ing.



Hiten Shah: Happy NPS-ing everybody, bye bye.