Lessons Learned from
Low-NPS Companies

What did these brands do wrong?

There's much to be learned from companies that have high Net Promoter Scores (NPS) - companies that deliver the kind of quality and service that delights customers and keeps them coming back.  However, there are also valuable lessons to be learned from companies that fall on the other end of the spectrum.  These low-NPS companies have relatively few customers who are likely to recommend the brand to others.  What did these brands do wrong, and how can your company avoid the same pitfalls?  In this article, we'll look at some of the common characteristics that fuel poor customer-satisfaction levels.

  • Poor Support:  Bad service will turn customers off your company more quickly than nearly any other factor. The TV-service provider Comcast learned this lesson the hard way, earning a Net Promoter Score of -17. [1] Comcast's reputation for poor customer service has been a problem for some time, but it spiraled out of control after a recorded phone call between a subscriber and a customer-service representative went viral.  The recording captured a Comcast rep keeping a customer on the phone over 18 minutes and stubbornly refusing to cancel his service - a tactic Comcast was training its representatives to employ as a misguided "customer-retention technique". [2]

  • Confusing billing practices:  Among anti-virus software makers, McAfee earns the dubious distinction of having the lowest Net Promoter Score, with a NPS of 2. [3] What's responsible for souring customers against this company?  The majority of complaints center on McAfee's practice of "negative-option billing", where customers are automatically billed for a product or service after a free trial until they explicitly opt out. [4] Plenty of companies utilize negative-option billing without raising the ire of their customer base, but these companies tend to be extremely clear about the billing option, letting customers know exactly how they'll be billed and how to cancel.  When your billing practices are perceived as confusing or even deceptive, customers are likely to flee.

  • Negative customer experience:  A terrific product just isn't enough - you have to make sure that your customers have a positive experience buying and using it.  The customer experience can have a tremendous impact on loyalty and NPS.  Fast-food giant McDonald's struggles with customer-experience issues, coming in with a NPS of only -8. [5] While McDonald's succeeds in delivering popular food options, customers often complain about rude, apathetic employees. [6]

  • Lack of response to customer feedback:  The power of NPS doesn't lie in the score itself -it's all about what a brand does with the information.  Closing the feedback loop is essential; when you respond to customer feedback and take the appropriate steps to improve satisfaction, you're well on your way to becoming an NPS leader in your industry.  United Airlines provides a good example of what happens when you fail to close the feedback loop.  Despite tracking their NPS for years, the airline only has a Net Promoter Score of 10. [7] Even worse, United continues to suffer high-profile customer-service problems and earns thousands of customer complaints each year. [8] It's safe to assume that United is failing to respond to negative customer feedback, at least in a manner that's quick or decisive enough to satisfy angry customers.

If you want to position your company for long-term growth, you need to have loyal customers who are enthusiastic about your brand and are quick to recommend it to others.  Take inspiration from the success stories of NPS leaders, and remember the cautionary tales of low-NPS brands - this combined wisdom will help your business "wow" customers and inspire them to sing your praises to others.


1. https://experiencematters.blog/2015/10/13/report-net-promoter-score-benchmark-study-2015/

2. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/07/comcast-memo-on-viral-cancelation-call-it-was-painful-to-listen-to/

3. https://npsbenchmarks.com/companies/mcafee-nps

4. https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/how-to-disable-mcafees-auto-renewal-022513.html

5. https://npsbenchmarks.com/companies/mcdonalds

6. https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/how-mcdonalds-can-improve-customer-service

7. https://npsbenchmarks.com/companies/united_airlines

8. https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/an-angry-passenger-posted-thousands-of-united-airl.html