Over the last couple of years, Net Promoter Score (NPS) has become a hot management metric for business-to-business IT companies. Where almost none of our clients were using it 5 years ago, it now seems that they are all either using it, implementing it, or thinking about using it.

If you need an intro or refresher on NPS, read our previous post A Primer on Net Promoter Score.

While NPS is well established as a powerful and simple metric in consumer goods, our experience indicates that companies engaging in Enterprise B2B sales find it much trickier to use than consumer businesses. As there is very little information published on this topic, we thought we’d share the lessons we’ve learned in working with clients.

1. 0% is Actually a Pretty Good Score
Our work shows a strong inverse correlation between the degree of complexity in a business/product and the NPS score: the greater the complexity, the lower the score. Consumer goods, being relatively simple purchases, tend to have high NPS scores for top performers, in the range of 50% to 80%. In enterprise class B2B purchases, scores will be much lower.

When you have multiple decision makers that value different features, the likelihood of satisfying all the constituents is low. In addition, most enterprise software/hardware solutions are not sold as a finished product. Unlike consumer goods, where ‘what you see is what you get’, B2B, buyers know that they are getting a work in progress. There will be upgrades, updates and add-ons. Thus, by definition, customers are rarely completely satisfied because they are getting an unfinished good.

So what score should you be shooting for? Our projects have shown that Enterprise B2B companies with scores between 0% to 10% are doing well.

Enteprise B2B NPS Benchmarks & Business Impact

  • 0% to 10% Overall you have pretty happy customers who will help fuel growth.
  • -15% to 0% While you are not at risk of wholesale customer defections, you are missing opportunities for follow on sales and getting a few negative references.
  • -15% to -35% This indicates that you should start making serious changes – starting with getting to the root cause of the problem.
  • Less than-35% A score this low means your business continuity is in real jeopardy and a drastic solution may be needed.

2. Sample Different Constituents in Different Roles
Given that several decision makers and users will have touch points and experiences with your product, it is important to get a sample of inputs and to track scores by role. While the end users of your product may be satisfied, the business sponsor may not be – or vice versa. Programs that only target a small subset of the user community or average together all responses can miss critical insights.

One reason why companies don’t usually do this is that their databases are limited to just the key contacts from the sales process or the system administrator. One method to expand the scope of your NPS program is to get one person to recommend others to provide inputs. You should preferably get a cross section of end users, administrators, decision makers, and business sponsors.

3. Extend NPS to People who Didn’t Buy from You
For Enterprise B2B companies, one of the critical blind spots of NPS is how you performed in the sales process with the companies that didn’t buy from you. When you sample customers, especially when you include former customers in your program (another best practice), you get feedback on both the good and the bad about your products and services.

However, if you only sample people who bought from you, you only hear from successful sales processes.To learn how to improve, you need to ask the people where you didn’t perform as well. Obviously, you can’t ask people who didn’t buy from you whether they are going to recommend you. But there are other questions that can effectively measure your sales performance that should be integrated into your overall NPS program.

If you are looking to implement an NPS program or get more out of your current program, let us know.