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One question can predict the future of your business

What is the single most effective way to assess whether a business will be successful or not?

I came across the possible answer while reading a blog by John Warrillow (author of Built to Sell). It is called the ‘net promoter score’ (NPS), and it’s incredibly easy to apply.

You simply ask the customer of a business one question:

“On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to refer to a friend or colleague?”

By comparing the number of answers of 9 or 10 with answers in the range 0 to 6, you get an NPS score.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Work out what percentage of your customers answer 9 or 10. These are ‘Promoters’ = A

2) Work out what percentage of your customers answer 0 to 6. These are ‘Detractors’ = B

(The 7 or 8 scores (‘Passives’) are ignored when working out the NPS.)

3) NPS is A minus B

For example, if 45% of your customers are Promoters, 20% are Passives and 35% are Detractors, then your Net Promoter Score is 10% (45-35=10).

The average NPS is 10-15%.  So if your score is more than 15%, you’re above average, and you can expect your company to grow at a rate faster than the economy.

A small handful of world class companies have achieved a Net Promoter Score of at least 50%, e.g. Apple, Google and Harley-Davidson.

If you are looking to buy a business, arguably, this is the question you need to know the answer to. Therefore, if you are even planning to sell, you should start to measure this so you can show a future buyer the (hopefully) upward trend in your NPS.

As a result of learning about this, I am going to change the ‘How are we doing’ question in the meeting agenda that we use with clients.

For more details of the NPS, visit John Warrillow’s blog.

Do you agree this is the best question to ask? If not, what is?

7 Responses to “One question can predict the future of your business”

  1. Bob says:

    That question tells you where you are, what referral potential you have.

    What about focussing on what drives the client’s score?

    Why do people make referrals?

    Is it because you save £x tax or because work is completed within 30-days?

    When you do you can ask yourself what have you do to stimulate a referral?

    It could be that some people more likely to refer because of the personality. If this is the case then you need to find the “talkers” and engage with them.

  2. Love it! A KPI every company should measure and pay close attention to. (off to ask my customers! 🙂 )

  3. Great post, well done Andy! Get the customer feedback, and then find out from the detractors and passives why they have the current view. Then determine what needs to be done to change their perceptions.

  4. Ken Good says:

    Very good Andrew. I think however to get a true reflection in the feedback from customers the answers need to be submitted anonymously. In the words of an English customer of mine “The trouble with the English is that when they go to a restaurant and have a meal which they are not satisfied with and the waiter or owner comes along and asks if they enjoyed their meal they say ‘Yes, thank you’ then go out and tell 10 of their friends what a bad meal they had. If they do complain then the waiter or owner is most upset.”. Most of us don’t like the conflict. We have set up a questionnaire form system so clients can add their own questionnaire on their websites with our content driven website system and then they can analyse the results submitted to the database. This system has been implemented for the Choose Caversham website competition on

  5. Tony Armstrong says:

    Great, simple and really meaningful test for any business!

  6. Andrew Gray says:

    Thanks for everyone’s feedback- all very welcome. Ken- Yes- very good point about us English! I have just got back from holiday in the US today and the “complaints culture” there is very different. (As you will probably be aware, the deviser of this one question test was American.) The other option would be to get a (genuinely) independent 3rd party to ask the question perhaps?

  7. Ken Good says:

    I agree, from my experience the US have a vastly different culture of complaint and service. An independent 3rd party asking the question is an option and would be better but I still think that unless it is anonymous one won’t get a true feedback result (not in England anyway) because the client will feel that ultimately the 3rd party will be feeding the information back to the business and they don’t want the hassle of handling the fallout from their response. I think the only way this can be done is by a website form which at the minimum clearly states the contact information is optional if the option to provide it is given at all, or a paper version which does a similar thing with a postage paid envelope but obviously the cost and effort will be more that way, besides anyone with a distinctive handwriting may hesitate to complete the form. I find the Net Promoter Score very interesting and I would like to apply a test to my own business sometime.
    Coincidentally the English customer I referred to in my previous post visited me yesterday and I got an email back from him later on in the day stating “Thank you too for such a prompt response following our meeting only today [we had already completed half the work he wanted]..your costs so far appear very reasonable…Thank you again for such a swift and professional response.” – nothing like good feedback to give you a boost. Ha!

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