Understanding Negative NPS Score: Causes, Impact and Solutions


Last updated on March 19, 2024

You’ve designed your NPS survey and emailed it to all your customers—and the results are in… but not those you were expecting.

When it comes to gauging customer sentiment and loyalty, few metrics enjoy such widespread acclaim as the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Its lean and straightforward formula for measuring customer contentment has made this metric a veritable “gold standard” in the customer experience space. According to CustomerGauge’s 2022 report, NPS sports an impressive 41% trust rating among B2B businesses – higher than any other rating system of its kind!

Moreover, at least two-thirds of Fortune 1000 companies pore over their NPS results religiously, using the metric as a barometer of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Clearly, NPS occupies a special place in customer experience stardom, sitting atop the throne with its crown of glory firmly affixed.

But what happens when your NPS score isn’t quite as rocketing as you’d like? Or, more terrifyingly, when it’s plummeting into negative territory?

Does it spell doom for your business? Should you throw in the towel and brace yourself for the inevitable worse?

Well, not so fast. In this blog post, we’ll answer all these questions and more. We’ll explore the causes and implications of a negative NPS score while providing practical advice on fixing them.

So keep reading if you want to get your NPS score back on track and supercharge your CX efforts.

Causes of Negative NPS Score

You can’t get your NPS score back on track without understanding why it took a downturn in the first place. Before we dive into our remedies, let’s take a look at some of the root causes that could be behind your score going south:

Inadequate or Poor Customer Service

Many customers tend to be unforgiving if their support experience isn’t up to scratch. Whether that’s because of long wait times, an unfriendly attitude from staff, or a slow resolution of their issues – customers are increasingly becoming more and more intolerant of sub-par customer service.

Think about it. Would you ever return to a business that gave you terrible customer service? Or recommend them to your friends and family? Probably not. And you’re not alone in feeling that way. 

Zendesk’s research found that an overwhelming majority of consumers (nearly three out of five) stated that quality customer service is paramount in cultivating brand loyalty. Meanwhile, 50% of consumers will likely switch to a rival after just one bad support experience. 

In other words, failing to provide adequate customer service can be enough to trigger a negative NPS score and, consequently, drive customers away. 

Quality of Product/Service Falling Short of Customer Expectations

As consumers, we all have expectations from the products and services we acquire. We expect the product or service to meet certain pre-defined standards and deliver the promised value. 

But, if it falls short of those expectations, we’re often quick to voice our displeasure. After all, why would any customer want to stay loyal to a product or service that’s not delivering the expected value?

Microsoft’s Zune debacle is a perfect example of this. The product promised to do everything that Apple’s iPod could do—but failed miserably in delivering on that promise. 

understanding negative NPS: Microsoft Zune

And customers weren’t shy in expressing their disappointment, even going as far as to make the president-elect of the United States an unwitting recipient of their disdain. 

Now if a prominent tech giant like Microsoft can’t get away with underwhelming products, you can bet that your business won’t be able to either. So, if your product or service isn’t meeting your customer’s expectations, a dip to the negatives on your NPS score could soon follow.

Negative Online Reviews or Ratings

Your online review reputation goes a long way in shaping consumer opinion about your business. As per research, 79% of customers put as much weight on online reviews as they would on personal recommendations. 

If your business is attracting unfavorable reviews like flies to honey, the perception of your business can take a severe hit. And as those negative reviews mount up, so too can the chances of your NPS score slipping into negative territory.

To illustrate, let’s take the example of United Airlines’ reputation crisis. As a result of being continually subjected to scathing customer reviews, United’s NPS score has hovered around 10 since 2014. That was a far cry from its competitors like Southwest, JetBlue, or Virgin America, all posting scores in the high-60s and 70s. 

But since they’ve gone all out to improve their customer service and received more favorable reviews, United Airlines’ NPS score has improved significantly and currently stands at a much healthier 50. Likewise, if your business is plagued with negative remarks, you’ll want to take steps to fix it ASAP. Otherwise, your NPS score could plummet and carry your customer loyalty along with it. 

Impact of Negative NPS Score

A negative NPS score means your business has more detractors than promoters. 

Detractors are unhappy customers who are quick to vent their frustrations and spread the word about your business in a negative light. And that, of course, is bad news for any business – big or small. 

Everyone from customers to investors and stakeholders will be wary of associating with a company that can’t seem to get its customer experience right. But the damage doesn’t stop there. Here’s how detractors can ruin your business:

Decrease in Customer Retention Rate

The age-old axiom of ‘It’s easier to keep an existing customer than acquire a new one’ will ring true no matter how often you hear it. According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring a customer costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one. This should be a good enough reason why customer retention is something your business takes very seriously.

Unfortunately, with a negative NPS score, you’ve already lost the loyalty of your detractors, many of whom will likely churn soon. Almost 40 to 50% of them, in fact. That’s a huge chunk of customers gone in the blink of an eye. If you don’t take action quickly, the number can get even higher, and you’ll be back at square one, trying to win over new customers. 

Negative Impact on Brand Image

Where positive referrals and reviews are like the breath of life for any business, negative word of mouth is like cancer, capable of spreading at an alarming rate and wreaking havoc in its path. 

A survey of over 3,200 random customers revealed that an overwhelming 75% would likely share their negative experiences with friends and family. In contrast, merely 42% said they’d recommend a product or service they enjoyed. That’s a huge disparity.

Plus, with the proliferation of social media and online communities, it’s become ever more convenient for customers to share their experiences with a larger audience. Your detractors can quickly go online and blast your business with a slew of angry testimonials, damaging your brand image and reputation beyond repair. 

A Decline in Revenue

It goes without saying that a drop in customer loyalty will result in a direct fall in revenue. A bad NPS score means you’ll have fewer loyal customers, which translates to fewer sales. That’s not to mention the additional costs you’ll incur in order to acquire new customers and the steps taken to restore your brand image.

Recent research by SimplicityDX shows that the cost of acquiring new customers has increased by 222% over the last eight years. That’s an alarming trend that you can ill afford to ignore. Plus, with 86% of people refusing to patronize businesses with negative online reviews, you’ll face a costly uphill battle in getting new customers on board.

Solutions to Improve Negative NPS Score

All is not lost, though. You can still take steps to stop the rot and turn your NPS score around. Here are some handy tips to help you get started:

Respond To Negative Reviews and Feedback

Too many businesses squander the treasure trove of information they get from negative customer reviews, consigning it to the dustbin of unheeded customer feedback. That’s a huge mistake. Because even though you can’t change a bad review, you CAN respond to it and use it to turn an unhappy customer into a loyal one. 

For example, Domino’s, one of the world’s largest pizza chains, was under fire because its customers weren’t happy with the taste of their pizza.

Instead of sweeping the problem under the rug, Domino’s took a revolutionary step by listening to the grumblings of its discontented customer base and addressing their concerns head-on. They revamped their entire menu, from the recipe to the ingredients, and even went so far as to launch a marketing campaign around their “pizza turnaround.”

understanding negative NPS: Domino's

This bold move paid off in spades and helped them return from the brink of disaster. Sales surged, and their stock prices skyrocketed. That’s the power of responding positively to customers’ negative feedback.

While positive feedback can be encouraging and gives you an idea of what to keep, it’s the negative comments that’ll help you make the real changes. Doing so will uncover where customer experience falters and reveals potential areas for improvement, empowering you to take your product to the next level. 

Elevate Your Customer Service Experience

Amazon. Netflix. Starbucks. What do they have in common? If you guessed ‘exceptional customer service’, you’re right. All these companies understand the value of customer service, and it shows in their soaring NPS scores.

Amazon is often hailed as the king of personalized, frictionless, and joyful customer service experiences, going above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction. They employ a customer-first approach, offering generous return policies and letting customers keep items they accidentally ordered. For example, Amazon’s legendary customer service once again shone through when a customer’s Christmas gift package was stolen from their doorstep. Amazon shipped them a replacement free of charge – no questions asked. Such acts of generosity go a long way in earning customer loyalty.

Netflix, on the other hand, is no slouch, either. The streaming giant offers 24/7 customer support in multiple languages, including live chat and phone support. But that’s not all. Netflix also has a reputation for proactively addressing customer issues before they even have time to complain about them. This was one of the email messages a customer received from them:

understanding negative NPS: Netflix

This is the kind of customer service that creates and engrains a strong sense of brand loyalty. Another thing that this email makes evident is the witty and engaging tone of voice that Netflix adopts when communicating with customers. By inserting humor, wit, and enthusiasm into their customer interactions, Netflix shows that they are not only listening to customers but also engaging with them on a personal level. Even the CEO is known to take customer service calls every once in a while – talk about customer centricity!

Starbucks’ customer service strategy differs from both Amazon and Netflix but is equally noteworthy. The coffee chain encourages customers to feel like they belong by making them part of the Starbucks community. 

For example, in 2008, they launched ‘My Starbucks Ideas‘ – an online platform where customers could submit their requests and suggestions. This initiative not only gave customers a voice but also helped Starbucks gain a better understanding of its customer base. Over 300 ideas from the website have made it into Starbucks stores worldwide.

Starbucks also trains its baristas to remember customers’ names, creating an ongoing customer relationship. Such a personalized touch helps customers feel valued and appreciated, likely contributing to the high NPS scores that Starbucks has consistently enjoyed for many years.

By taking a customer-centric approach to customer service, these three companies have managed to set the bar for the industry and establish themselves as customer service champions.

So, if you want to take your NPS from negative to positive, start by taking cues from these customer service superstars. Go the extra mile for your customers – surprise them with offers, ask for feedback, and use it to improve their experience. When you focus on meeting and exceeding customer expectations, you’ll be rewarded with lasting brand loyalty.

Webinar: turn unhappy customers into opportunities

Train your Staff to Become Customer-centric

How do you create a customer-centric culture? By starting from the inside. Your customer experience team is the first link in the chain of your company’s customer care journey, so they should be the ones to set the tone and lead the charge toward customer-centricity. Some things your customer experience team can do to show customers they are valued include:

Speed Up Response Times

Mckinsey’s research found that slow response times are one of the biggest frustrations for customers. Avoid letting an unaddressed issue fester for days or even hours. 40% of business buyers become highly disgruntled when response times drag on. 

Show Empathy

Statistics show that the vast majority – 79% – of consumers favor human-driven service over dealing with a chatbot or self-service options. The reason behind this preference is understandable; customers can often sense when an agent is following a script, leaving them feeling like just another problem to solve. When customers contact you, they want to feel like their concerns matter and that you understand where they’re coming from. Engage in natural dialogue and voice empathy to make the customer feel validated and understood.

Underpromise and Overdeliver

Nothing frustrates customers more than an unrealistic promise. Train your customer experience team to be honest with customers. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than vice versa. This way, you’re more likely to keep customer expectations in check and leave them feeling satisfied with the service they received.

Employ the Latest Tech Tools

You can’t douse the flames of customer dissatisfaction with outdated or inefficient customer service processes. The digital age has ushered in a host of incredible technological marvels, greatly enhancing the customer service landscape. Some of the latest digital tools you can employ to bring your customer experience up to speed include:

Task Management Apps

No matter how adept you are at steering the customer experience ship, eventually, you’ll reach a breaking point. It’s in times like these that task management tools can come to the rescue. Using them, you can streamline and organize customer service tasks, ensuring all customers get the same consistent service they expect from your business. You don’t even have to be tech-savvy to get up to speed with these tools. 

Most of them come equipped with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and many helpful resources to help you get started. But if you don’t have the time to learn all the bells and whistles or the budget to justify the premium price tag that comes with these apps, you can always rely on the miracle worker that is Google Sheets to get the job done without a fuss. Just find the right Google Sheet task management template that suits the depth of your projects, and you’re good to go.

Customer Insight Platforms

Customers often leave behind a trail of valuable crumbs in their digital journeys ripe for exploitation. These crumbs can provide invaluable insights into their purchase intent, customer preferences, and brand loyalty – if you know where to look. But, without an insight platform to help you pull all the pieces of a customer’s digital footprint together in one place, it would be impossible for you to take advantage of the data. 

Fortunately, customer insight platforms like Lumoa assist in making the customer data-gathering and analysis process a whole lot easier. With their sophisticated analytical and visualization capabilities, you can quickly identify and address any underlying issues causing customers to jump ship and make necessary changes to improve the customer experience.

Resource Capacity Planning Tools

Although resource capacity planning is commonly associated with dynamic company projects like product development or software engineering, it can also be applied to more static fields – like customer service. In recent years, sophisticated capacity planning tools have sprung up to help CX pros plan and manage their project workloads more efficiently.

Poor capacity planning in your customer service team can lead to overworked and understaffed agents, negatively impacting work quality and productivity over time. Inadequate planning also leaves no room for managing unforeseen events that could increase workload demand, such as a product outage. Deploying the right resource capacity planning tool can help you maneuver your way around such challenges and ensure your CX team is always ready to tackle customer service tasks head-on.

Customer Sentiment Analysis Tools

Gone are the days when you had to manually comb through customer feedback or comments to determine their sentiment. Disruptive tech trends like artificial intelligence and machine learning have spawned some very potent sentiment analysis tools capable of uncovering customer sentiment in real-time. 

These tools can help you gauge how your customers feel about your product or service, allowing you to refine and strengthen your customer experience before you lose their loyalty. That way, you can nip any potential customer dissatisfaction in the bud and ride the wave of disruptive tech advancements to position your business as a leader in the customer experience domain. 

Workflow Automation Platforms

Getting lost in the thicket of digital chaos is a common plight of most modern business verticals. That’s where workflow automation tools come in. These tools integrate seamlessly with your existing CX tools and technologies, allowing you to design automated processes that connect the dots between different pieces of your workflow.

With automation tools, your customer service team can rest easy knowing that the right tasks are being completed at the right time with minimal room for error. Moreover, many of these tools feature no-code or low-code configurations – perfect for busy CX pros who typically don’t have the time or resources to learn complex coding techniques. So, if you want to streamline your workflow and add an extra layer of efficiency to your customer service operations, workflow automation tools are the way to go. 

Use a Presentation to Present your NPS results

To help your team understand your current NPS score, its implications, and the necessary steps to improve it, consider presenting the NPS results through a presentation. An editable NPS presentation template can help you effectively communicate the importance of NPS and the changes you need to make within your organization and a C-level audience.

QR codes 

The comeback kid of 2020, QR codes, have impacted many business verticals – including CX. Quick Response codes are now popping up in retail stores, helping customers access product information and create a more seamless shopping experience. However, the power of QR codes extends far beyond retail: they can also be used to track customer service requests and provide customers instant access to relevant information, such as sharing customer support details or even making a call directly from the QR scan.

With QR codes, you can make the entire customer service experience more accessible and faster – bringing it closer to your customers and enhancing their overall engagement. What’s more, these 2-D codes are super easy to create and deploy. All you need is the right QR code generator tool, and you’re good to go. So start exploring the possibilities of QR codes to bring your customer service game to the next level.

Turn NPS Scores Around and Make Your Customer Experience Great Again

Few things are essential to the success of a business as the understanding of their customer’s sentiment and loyalty. And yet, achieving a top-notch NPS score isn’t always as straightforward as we’d like it to be.

But all hope isn’t lost. With the right knowledge and approach, you can easily turn a negative NPS score around and start seeing your business’s customer experience efforts take off. Start by recognizing the cause of your negative NPS score and then work your way up to developing strategies and solutions to address those issues. We hope this article has given you the information and inspiration you need to determine the best solutions for your unique situation. So what are you waiting for? Take the first step in turning your NPS score around today!

NPS facts

State of AI in CX 2024

Be a pioneer in your industry! Download the State of AI 2024 Report today and join our elite community of over 10,000 CX leaders focused on the future of artificial intelligence.

Latest Articles

Mastering Customer Feedback Strategy: Essential Steps to Enhance Your Business and Service Quality 14 May 2024

Customer feedback is a direct line to how your customers feel about your organization, its products and services. It’s one thing to believe your products are the best in the business, but if they’re not meeting your customer’s needs, you might as well be selling pie in the sky. Customer feedback analystics are invaluable to […]

Read more
Lumoa and GPT: How Lumoa Complements GPT for Actionable Insights 29 Apr 2024

Recently, we did a study at Lumoa on the state of AI in Customer Experience and found out that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has quickly become a core component of improving customer experience (CX), especially in service industries. The uptake of AI in customer experience is very visible in its use across diverse industries, from manufacturing […]

Read more
Medallia vs. Qualtrics vs. Lumoa: A Buyer’s Guide 29 Apr 2024

Every interaction with your business has the power to build or damage the relationship with your customer – and can directly impact your revenue. 78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience (CX).  The pressure is rising for businesses to step up their CX game. More than 80% of […]

Read more