Want to appear loved? Bore your clients with endless surveys!

The cornerstone of measuring customer satisfaction in the business world is the “net promoter score” – which is derived from how people answer this question:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend company -X- to your friends and family?


As you can see, people are more likely to give a high score even when they don’t recommend you, and only people who give 9s and 10s are true net promoters in practice. Anything below a 7 means people are more likely NOT to recommend you.

The Net promoter score (NPS) is the percent that rate you 9 or 10 minus the percent that rate you 6 or less (7s and 8s are ignored).

Net promoter score ranges per industry

Source: Satmetrix.inc

Not surprisingly, healthcare.inc, Internet service providers, and life insurance companies rank lowest of anybody. On this scale, the US Congress would be around 10 and the much maligned Internal Revenue Service would be in the high 60s (well above average!) — it is a testament to good governance that many government agencies fare far better than any corporations who are engaged in industries where they have near monopoly power over their customers.


We’ve recently added the net promoter score to the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project do-it-yourself form builder. It is one of 35 optional questions in our pool:


And from this one question it would be possible to benchmark beneficiary satisfaction with the work of local non-profits, in spite of the positive bias in every answer. Keystone Accountability’s business is based around this idea, as its founder David Bonbright spent years studying and adapting JD Power & Associates’ model for benchmarking car quality to the nonprofit world.

In 2010 they offered nonprofits a free client satisfaction benchmarking tool, which GlobalGiving has been using with our hundreds of partner organizations every year. In fact, according to David, we may be the only nonprofit that has continued to use this tool with NGO clients every year since the tool was created.

At first glance, the results show stunning improvement in GlobalGiving partner organization satisfaction:


In 2010 GlobalGiving’s clients appeared to be less satisfied with us than other clients were satisfied with other organizations in our category (funding sources). We scored a 7.41 on average compared with 8.27.

However in 2011 the trend reversed. We jumped to 8.79, then to 9.02 and 9.00 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. What happened? Did we suddenly become awesome? We’d like to believe that, of course. But the numbers were too good to be true. There’s another more likely reason behind the shift, which we accidentally discovered by asking the net promoter question to the same clients on two surveys in the same year:

GG Survey Participants:         
2013: 323 respondents
2012: 249
2011: 178
2010: Not asked
Keystone Survey Participants:
2013: 80 respondents
2012: 57
2011: 42
2010: 68

Longer surveys dissuade detractors from giving feedback

The real story here is that for the last three years we’ve been sending all of our partner organizations an annual survey in wufoo with about 30 questions. At the end of this survey people are invited to continue onto a second anonymous Keystone survey. Most people do not. Those that do are twice as likely to be net promoters of GlobalGiving as they are to be detractors. We happened to ask the same net promoter question on BOTH surveys, which gives us real insight into the ‘bore away the bad news’ effect. Our net promoter score appears to be 36 from the first wufoo survey, or 71 when calculated from the subsequent Keystone survey.

So that jump in net promoter score from 2010 to 2011 probably has more to do with getting more people to answer this question on the shorter survey in 2010 – including more detractors.

Since 2011, when we asked the question twice, we always see a lower score when a larger fraction of our client base answers the NPS question. But each year that score has improved.

I’m not saying  that our 2013 score of 36 is bad. But it does place us somewhere between Verizon (NPS score = 37) and Costco (NPS score = 71). I believe we must be ahead of the rest of the NGO world on client (partner NGO) satisfaction, because we’ve asked this question every year for four years, and in that time, only four other funders in our category (funding organizations) bothered to use this free feedback tool at all (read the fine print on the Keystone image earlier in this post). Organizations that don’t ask if clients are satisfied tend to have much lower scores than those who do. And we definitely care a lot about what our partners think of us.

And we ask our donors for feedback, of course. Our donor net promoter score is 45, in case you were curious.

Shorten your surveys!

Discovering this ‘bore away the bad news‘ effect within our own data is why we should all use shorter surveys. Facebook is the ideal marketing survey; it has only one question, and people answer it several times a day.

Our do-it-yourself storytelling form is longer, but we intentionally limit the length to what will fit on front and back of one sheet of paper, because we don’t want the length of the questionnaire to limit who we hear from.

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