Net Promoter Score March 16, 2017 7 min read by Alex

Detractors Will Ruin Your Business (7 Actionable Tips to Prevent It)

Detractors Will Ruin Your Business (7 Actionable Tips to Prevent It)

“The brand is no longer what we tell the customer it is – it is what the customers tell each other it is.”- Scott Cook

Detractors are everywhere. These people can damage your reputation or sometimes even kill your brand by leaving negative reviews on the Internet and making sure their bad experience is heard by absolutely everyone they know.

At some point, you were probably a detractor yourself. Have you ever loved a brand so much and then suddenly stopped buying from them because they treated you badly?

In this article, we will talk about the dangerous power of detractors, horrible consequences that had happened to companies which ignored them and provide you with solutions on how to treat and turn detractors into a valuable business resource.

What is a Detractor?

Generally speaking, a detractor is someone who is unhappy with you, your product, service or company. Someone who finds fault with everything you say or do. In other words – a critic.

More often this term is used when referred to a customer segment in the Net Promoter Score framework. Detractors are the respondents that score you from 0 to 6 on the NPS scale. They are unsatisfied customers who will recommend against your company.

In times where negative word of mouth publicity can have exponential effects on your business, ignoring such customers would be a big mistake. Thanks to the power of social media, people can now easily capture, gather and share information.

Customers are more inclined to trust an online review written by other consumers than an advertisement. Click To Tweet

But here’s the tricky part. According to TARP’s research, for every customer who does complain to customer support, there are 26 others who have the same complaint but will “remain silent”.

The reason I placed these words in quotation marks, is because not complaining to customer support team doesn’t mean that these people will not share about their negative experience with their friends or family.

In fact, Detractors are twice as likely to talk about their bad experience with someone else than your loyal customers – Promoters – are to share their good experience.

That is exactly why you need to identify detractors as soon as possible and be proactive in addressing the issues they face and doing everything in your power to remedy the situation.

Detractor Statistics

  • 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.
    Source: American Express Survey, 2011
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
  • News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.
    Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • A typical business hears from only 4% of its detractors.

    Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
  • 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.
    Source: Lee Resources
  • Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.
    Source: American Express Survey, 2011
  • It costs 7x more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one.
    Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs

How to identify a Detractor?

There are several customer satisfaction metrics that you can use to identify your detractors. But the top two are – traditional Customer Satisfaction Surveys (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS).

To understand the difference between different survey methodologies let’s consider the following analogy.

Let’s assume that your company is a bucket holding a “pool” of customers. The water flowing from the above tap denotes the newly acquired customers, while the holes in the bucket are potential bottlenecks in customer experiences that push the water out.


The rate at which the water flows from the tap would be your company’s growth rate (G), while the total outflow of water through the holes would be your churn rate (C). Ideally, you would want to reduce your churn rate and increase the growth rate, so that you could serve the maximum number of customers and build up revenue.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) helps you assess the number of holes in your bucket, and provides actionable insights into solving them. It’s measured by asking how customers rate the recent business experience on the scale of 1-5.

Net Promoter Score, on the other hand, tracks the overall customer experience. It’s measured by asking the question:

“On the scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?”

While CSAT measures customer satisfaction for every activity, NPS helps you assess the growth rate of your company and provides open-ended actionable feedback to bring down the churn rate.

To explain it with the pool analogy, CSAT aims at just filling up the holes (C), but they don’t give you solid insights into the projected growth trajectory (G).

It can be used to discover leaks that you didn’t even know existed. It’s focused on the overall customer experience, instead of a specific interaction.

It also offers a much wider coverage than satisfaction surveys. While CSAT surveys mostly reach active users (who are already engaged with your product), NPS surveys can be sent to users who are about to switch to a competitor (detractors) or newly acquired users (who have not yet used the service).

For any conventional business, CSAT scores act as lagging indicators of short-term customer happiness (satisfactory transactional experiences), while NPS acts as the leading indicator of long-term customer happiness (great product experiences).

Since you are at a higher risk of losing non-engaged and dissatisfied customers than active users, NPS proves to be a much better metric for identifying core issues and reaching customers before they switch to a competitor.

That, however, does not mean that CSAT surveys are inferior to NPS.

Often, feedback captured from satisfaction surveys can be instrumental in root cause analysis and improving customer experiences. These surveys can be used in conjunction with NPS surveys to narrow down on short-term problems, weigh their importance and take corrective action.

Industries with most Detractors

It’s impossible to please everyone, even the best companies have detractors. The only difference is that some might have less unhappy customers than others.

In general companies with low Net Promoter Scores have a high number of detractors. Typically, industries that are known to have more detractors than promoters are Internet and TV service providers, with an average NPS score of 11 and 16, followed by Healthcare companies with an NPS of 24.

NPS scores across 20 industries:
NPS scores across 20 industries

In a 2016 Temkin Group NPS Benchmark Survey, for the second year in a row Comcast TV earned the lowest NPS both in its service category and overall – a score of -5.

The fact that Comcast has a lot of detractors is by no means surprising. They are known to have poor customer service, among the lowest-rated in the United States. Comcast even became the subject to senate hearings, in which the company presented a plan to improve its relations with its customers.

In an effort to retain as many customers as possible, Comcast raised prices above advertised rates and made it hard for customers to downgrade or cancel service.

Fellow TV operator – Time Warner Cable, which comes in just below Comcast in Net Promoter Score, has similar detractor problems. They have been overcharging customers at least $7.2 million per year for equipment and service.

There are mainly three lessons that you can learn from the world’s least successful companies:

  1. Bad customer service can and will definitely hurt your brand’s reputation and relationship with your clients.
  2. Transparency and honesty about your business practices is a must when it comes to customer satisfaction.
  3. Taking a short-term approach to retention, through aggressive retention tactics, will likely backfire.

Taking into account, that in 2015 Comcast had an NPS of -17, I can conclude that they have been delivering on the promise to majorly transform their customer experience. It only proves my point that identifying detractors as soon as possible and figuring out what ails them is critical when you aim to improve retention and customer satisfaction.

How to convert Detractors into Promoters

Even though identifying detractors might seem like a terrible thing, customers that express their dissatisfaction are creating an opportunity for you to improve their experience.

Each detractor has the potential to become your brand’s promoter if you are following these steps:

1. Make it simple to get in touch

If detractors run into another barrier of not being able to voice their complaint or notice that you ignored their negative review, that can only make them more infuriated. Be available to provide customer support on multiple channels. Be it over the phone or on social media – detractors should be able to get in touch with you without having to go through an additional channel.

2. Provide a speedy response

If a detractor is in a “pulling my hair” state, responding as soon as possible should become your first priority. One unresolved issue can escalate to several brand-damaging comments on various websites. Replying to detractors within an hour rather than 48 hours can make a huge difference.

3. Beware of the script

Talk to your customer as you would in person, act like a human, not a robot. Being more personal and eager to solve their concern can calm down even the most frustrated customer.

4. Reach out personally

According to Genesys Global Survey, the most requested improvement from customers is better human service”. Having someone from the board of directors or yourself reach out to this person will make them feel good. As a customer, they will feel that their concern is a top priority.

5. Offer them a discount

Show your customers that you are truly sorry by giving them a discount voucher, free shipping or even offering your product free of charge. You don’t have to do it for every detractor, start with just a few customers and then decide according to their reaction.

6. Make them feel special

Sometimes this might mean that you need to go a step beyond the regular customer service. Do something they will remember. You can surprise them by sending a personal “apology” note, a gift card or even something related to their interest, like a football with their favorite team. Customer service at this level increases the likelihood of them sharing this positive experience with others.

7. Find a solution

When you understand why a detractor is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Once in awhile, it can take more time to implement customer suggestions or solve their problem, so be sure to inform them that their feedback is being considered, or better yet, applied. And even if you can’t fix the issue, make sure to explain the reason why.

These are just some of the many steps you can use to delight your detractors. The most important thing to remember is to always put your customer first – it takes more time, but the end result is worth it.

Engage detractors before they churn

Figuring out how many detractors your company has isn’t always easy. Employing the right tools gives you a competitive advantage and makes communication with your customers easier.

Net Promoter Score lets you identify your brand detractors by asking one simple question: would you recommend the product experience to your friends/colleagues?

Retently makes it easy to measure the customer loyalty towards your brand. With easy-to-use survey customization and insightful documentation, you can proactively reduce churn and build strong relationships with your customers.

Start turning your Detractors into Promoters today.


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