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How to use NPS surveys to drive customer referrals

By Mitali Shukla|4 min read|Updated Nov 17, 2022

How to use NPS surveys to drive customer referrals

Incentivizing happy customers to refer their friends is an effective way to acquire new customers at low cost. To make the process efficient, you have to identify the right customers to target for referrals, and then offer them the right incentive.

Customers typically fall into two categories: those who are satisfied with your brand and those who aren’t. And, one of the last things you want to do is unknowingly ask an unhappy customer to refer a friend.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey feedback can help uncover who’s who so you can follow up accordingly. Send your happiest customers a referral request, and route unsatisfied customers to support to turn the experience around.

So how exactly can you go about using Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to identify your happiest customers for your referral program?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey?

  • Best practices for sending NPS surveys

  • Using NPS to solicit referrals

Table of contents

What is a Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

Net Promoter Score (NPS®), developed by Bain & Company, is a measure of customer loyalty collected through first-hand feedback. An NPS survey asks customers how likely they are to recommend the company to someone they know on a scale of 0 to 10.

NPS rating screenshot

0 means not at all likely, whereas 10 is extremely likely. Those who score between:

  • 0-6 are called detractors,

  • 7-8 scorers are passives, and

  • 9 to 10 are promoters of your brand.

The final score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters, resulting in a whole number that ranges from -100 to 100. If you have a negative score, that means your detractors outweigh your promoters. Obviously, the positive end of the spectrum is where you want to be.

NPS score

NPS is instrumental in gauging which customers to approach for a referral for increased customer lifetime value. It’s also one of the most popular customer experience (CX) metrics given its simplicity, efficacy, and correlation with revenue growth.

Best practices for sending NPS surveys

Sending NPS surveys is easy when you have the right NPS survey platform, but there are a few tips and tricks to follow for high volumes of feedback.

Customize the NPS survey to fit your branding

Evidence shows customers are more likely to complete a survey if they recognize that it’s from your brand. As customers become more digitally-savvy and security-focused, they prefer to share information with only the brands they recognize.

Upload your logo and customize the color scheme of your survey to fit your brand to make sure your company is recognizable for all customers. Styling the survey interface to match your brand helps keep your digital brand experience unified no matter how they’re interacting with your company.

Keep your survey short

The briefer your survey is, the easier it will be for customers to complete, increasing survey response rates. Surveys that exceed 15 questions are often too long, which can cause customers to click away. Be sure to time your survey and make sure that it takes no longer than five minutes to complete.

The traditional NPS survey asks two questions: the initial rating question and a follow-up question that asks customers to explain their rating. Below, you can find an example of the follow-up question that seeks to uncover why the customer gave that particular rating.

NPS follow-up question

Choose the appropriate surveying channel

Selecting the right distribution channels for your surveys can increase feedback volume and create a holistic picture of customer sentiment. Choose from the following surveying channels depending on your demographic.

  • Email surveys. Make receiving feedback simple for customers through email surveys. Your customers can reply directly in the email without being redirected to an external page. Customize survey cadence based on triggers like a transaction or conversation with customer support.

  • Web surveys. Surveys on your web platforms are easy to deploy as they can live on any page of the site. Gather feedback at checkout, after purchase completion, or even as the customer browses your website.

  • Link surveys. For flexibility, link survey URLs can be placed anywhere customers interact with your brand, from social media, QR codes, or receipts. You can even ask customers for feedback in an email signature or on printed marketing materials – the choice is yours.

  • Kiosk surveys. Collect in-person feedback in seconds with a touch screen interface. Place your kiosk on counters or mount near store entrances for easy customer access. Customize survey questions to be most relevant to the insights you’re looking to surface.

Whether you choose email, web, link or kiosk surveys, choosing the right survey channel can improve response rates and get you a smooth flow of actionable feedback.

survey channels

Personalize the survey to each customer

Making sure your customer feels like more than a number will keep them coming back. Personalize their survey by:

  • including their name in the email,

  • referencing their most recent purchase or interaction,

  • changing the language of your survey to the local language,

  • segmenting your audience by geography or interaction channel, and

  • ending with a customized “thank you” page.

survey thank you message

Send your survey at the right time

The best time to send an NPS survey to increase the volume of feedback is after a customer interacts with your brand in a meaningful way. This could mean:

  • after they receive their order,

  • make a return, or

  • speak with a customer support representative.

Depending on your business model, the timing of your surveys may vary given transaction frequency and customer demographics.

Follow these best practices to get the NPS feedback you need in order to improve customer experience across the board. With the help of NPS surveys, you can start identifying where your customers’ biggest pain points are and strategize your business goals to resolve them.  

Using NPS to solicit referrals

Your promoters (those who rated you a 9 or 10), are the perfect candidates for a referral program since you know they had a positive experience with your brand. In fact, companies that provide a good experience result in customers being 37% more likely to recommend your brand.

There are a few ways you can set up your program to automatically request referrals from your promoters:

  • Ask them to refer a friend as part of the survey flow. At the end of your survey, encourage promoters to recommend your brand and increase referrals.

  • Integrate NPS feedback into your email marketing tool. This way, all of your promoters get automated follow-up messaging about your referral program.

  • Ask them to leave a review on a third-party review site. Building your online reputation doesn’t have to be difficult: solicit review requests and referrals to spread the word.

Now for the customers who aren’t likely to promote your product or service: your detractors (folks who rated you a 0 to 6). The most important thing to do is follow up with them to see where your company can grow and improve, specifically by immediately routing them to your customer support team for help.

Close the loop by collecting more information about their experience. If you find out you can fix their poor experience, you could even turn a detractor into a promoter. Following up with detractors gives them the opportunity to share the shortcomings of your company’s customer experience.

With that knowledge, your business can be proactive in solving customer pain points and improve customer experience overall. Collecting customer feedback closes the gap between customer expectations and their experience to uncover what can be improved.

Learn more about customer referral programs.


Customer experience is the hallmark of a successful business: if your customers are happy, they’ll keep coming back. If you add a referral program to the mix, you’ll create a system that further engages your existing customers, while rewarding them for spreading the word. It’s a win for everyone.

Once you implement a system (like Delighted) to identify your top customers, the next step is choosing the right incentive. Tremendous identified five clear-cut times when cash is king for customer referral programs.

About the author: Mitali Shukla is a content marketing specialist at Delighted with over 2 years of experience in content creation and SEO for a variety of industries from entrepreneurship to startups. Based out of Southern California, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee, or curled up with a book.

Published November 17, 2022

Updated October 2, 2023

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