What is a Good Net Promoter Score? (2021 NPS Benchmark)

What is a Good Net Promoter Score? (2021 NPS Benchmark)

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers at Retently is “What is a good Net Promoter Score®?”. Although we emphasize that the score value is irrelevant, we do understand that comparing the metric to other companies can help gain a more accurate picture of where they stand in the competitive landscape.

To be honest, benchmarking NPS® is a complicated process. Behind every customer satisfaction metric, there is a series of factors that influence it. NPS is no different.

To prove that, let’s look at the following examples. According to the latest Temkin study, the average Net Promoter Score for auto dealers lies in the range of 39 with the lowest having a value of 20, while the average NPS for Internet Service Providers – in the range of 0, with the lowest being -16 and the highest 19.

It essentially means that you cannot say a lot about a company just by looking at their absolute NPS, without considering their relative performance within the industry. While for some businesses an NPS of 30 might turn out to be the worst in the industry, for others – as being ranked among the market leaders.

So, from what you can see, Net Promoter Score can vary dramatically, and if you want to figure out whether your NPS score is good or bad, there are a variety of aspects to dig into. Further on we will be looking at the absolute values of a good Net Promoter Score across industries, factors affecting NPS benchmarks and steps you need to take when comparing your scores against competitors to get the most out of your NPS score.

Retently 2021 NPS benchmarks

We often outlined the importance of benchmarking NPS to make it work to one’s benefit. We used various sources to pinpoint the idea and bring about representative examples. But why use only external sources to surface specific conclusions when we have plenty of examples of our own?

With this idea in mind, we took a step forward to our objective. We needed to have a glance at our own customers and sort out the conglomerate of data to shape the Retently 2021 NPS Benchmark. With a large customer base from various industries, we selected only the ones with more than 10 clients. By looking into the NPS scores of the respective customers, we came up with an average value for each of the industries fitting the rule.

The aggregated data across our customers have led to surprising results: all of the analyzed industries crossed the zero threshold. Since none of the rated companies dipped into the negative NPS field, overall we could witness an average score value ranging from 3 to 62.

For a more vivid display, we decided to group our data into B2B and B2C companies. But before drawing up any conclusions let’s dive into the numbers:

NPS Benchmarks 2021 for B2B
Retently 2021 NPS Benchmarks for B2B

Thus, we’ve got the Consulting industry leading the pack with a quite impressive average of 62, being on an ascending slope over the last 3 years. Insurance and Digital Marketing Agencies are keeping strong with an NPS score in the high 50s, although both display a slight decrease as compared to the previous year. 

These industries, together with the Financial Service and Construction companies present on our chart, prove that an average NPS score over 50 is achievable if a customer-centric approach is adopted. Since a single negative experience is all it takes to turn a potential Promoter into a Detractor, brands have learned to pay due attention to each customer interaction. The numbers speak for themselves.

NPS Benchmarks 2021 for B2C
Retently 2021 NPS Benchmarks for B2C

We move towards Ecommerce, Retail, and Cloud & Hosting companies that enjoy a convincing average NPS in the low 40s, while Healthcare accounts for a steady increase with an NPS score of 38, as compared to 27 the year before.

B2B software and SaaS companies seem to hold to a quite decent score of 30 the third year in a row, while Logistics and Transportation, although at the end of the scale, registered a positive value of 3. 

Drawing a line under the numbers, we can outline the following highlights:

  • According to the aggregated data, the average Net Promoter Scores for B2B industries range from 3 to 62, while for B2C from 24 to 57. One can notice that for B2B markets the gap between the highest and lowest score is more considerable than in the case of B2Cs. 
  • Although the industries present in the benchmark enjoy a high average NPS score, the majority have experienced a decline in their numbers over the past year, the most affected being Logistics and Transportation (from 29 to 3), Ecommerce (from 62 to 45), and Insurance (from 70 to 57). 
  • The most noticeable boost was registered by the Financial Services companies with an increase of 22 points (from 34 to 56), followed by Healthcare and Consulting with 11 points. 
  • It seems that the pandemic has brought into sight more digital presence with Cloud & Hosting, Technology and Services, B2B Software, Digital Marketing Agencies, and Ecommerce that have earned the mid-values in our NPS benchmark. Since expectations are high, even seemingly the most adjustable industries, have not been spared of a critical eye.
  • The pandemic and the subsequent limitations have hit hard such industries as Travel & Tourism, Restaurants and Hospitality, companies which diminished in number and therefore are no longer recurrent in the Retently NPS benchmark. On the other hand we witness the Health industry gaining more attention given the new circumstances. Since most countries have already launched their vaccination programmes, in 2021 we expect an increase of the average NPS score for most industries, especially Ecommerce and travel-related.

With all this data in mind you may wonder, what is actually a good Net Promoter Score to have and how can you get a more accurate understanding of where you stand in a particular niche?

Well, it’s about time to get into more details.

What is a good NPS score?

Generally speaking, a Net Promoter Score that is below 0 would be an indication that your business has a lot of issues to address.

A score between 0 and 30 is a good range to be in, however, there is still room for progress. If your NPS is higher than 30 that would indicate that your company is doing great and has far more happy customers than unhappy ones.

An NPS over 70 means your customers love you and your company is generating a lot of positive word-of-mouth from their referralsThe higher your NPS is, the more likely it is that your customer referrals will convert into new leads, hence into more revenue for your company.

Do your best to keep your score above 0. Even though an NPS of -10 might be higher than others in your niche, finding yourself below zero might be discouraging and it should definitely ring a bell as to the provided customer experience.

what is a good NPS score
What is a good NPS score?

NPS trend over time

Did you ever think of how the NPS average value changed over the years?

We did, and it seemed to firmly slide down. To back up our assumption we looked into the data provided by the Temkin studies for a span of 3 years. As a result, we could witness a clear decrease in the average NPS score provided by consumers for 15 out of 20 industries, with sectors such as Banking, Software and Internet services accounting for a more significant decline.

The data reflected in the Satmetrix-NICE NPS benchmark reports for a similar period seems to be more optimistic with a clear decline in the received NPS scores for only 12 out of 23 industries, having Cable & Satellite TV and Internet Services at the bottom of the scale. However, what seems encouraging, at first sight, is merely a temporary spike on the overall picture. In this context, one should consider that only 2 of the 23 sectors got a slight increase – Health Insurance and Smartphones – while the remaining 9 sectors enjoyed a slight boost in 2018 followed by an even lower average NPS score in 2019 as compared to previous years.

A compelling study in the field, conducted by ProfitWell, supports our observations. By analyzing NPS data in both B2B and B2C from over 5,000 subscriptions and nearly 25,000 consumers, they reached a similar conclusion. Five years ago the average NPS was in the upper 20s and low 30s, today dropping to single digits. The numbers highlight that the average Net Promoter Score is undoubtedly trending down.

But why the change? Why did the average NPS score drop irrespective of the industry? It’s definitely not because the current offering is less attractive or quality-oriented, or because the customer support is not able to provide a positive customer experience.

We live in times when there is plenty of competition, when providing a product that simply works is not enough, and customer expectations are higher than ever. Coming up with something that will challenge your client’s interest over the entire customer journey is just so much harder.

A memorable customer experience is what makes the difference driving up a good NPS score. That is why diving into customer feedback in search of meaningful improvements that can impact your brand’s future performance is merely a necessity.

Benchmarking your Net Promoter Score, step by step

The perception of a good NPS and the accuracy of the above score segmentation is very relative. Truth be told, there are markets that never get a Net Promoter Score higher than 20. If you are one of them, there are several steps you need to go through to compare your scores against competitors’.

Step 1: Compare it with your industry average

To understand your Net Promoter Score better, start by comparing it with the average scores within your industry, and against competitors. This is also referred to as the relative method, as opposed to the absolute method, which involves benchmarking your number to an agreed standard across industries for what a good NPS is.

When comparing NPS scores, it’s important to understand what market you’re operating in. Some businesses have a more positive image than others. Department stores, for example, bring more happiness to customers than banks and insurance companies, thus they tend to have higher NPS.

If you are in a travel business you can’t compare yourself to a company that provides internet or TV services. It will simply give you the wrong idea.

To prove that let’s look at the Verizon NPS score, which in 2019 dropped to 19. Taking into consideration that the maximum score you can get is 100 (which no company ever did, by the way), you might think that it is pretty low. As a matter of fact, Verizon has had the best score in the ISP industry for the past years.

United, with an NPS of 10, on the other hand, ranks as one of the worst companies in the Airline industry. While both companies have a somewhat similar score, their performance among their peers differs considerably.

Satmetrix NICE 2018 Report
Satmetrix NICE 2018 average NPS by industry report

NPS shouldn’t be the endpoint of your benchmarking process. Conduct a competitive analysis to significantly broaden your ideas and inspiration base, as well as pinpoint your weaknesses and strengths.

Step 2: Compare the score within a region

NPS varies not only by industry, but also by geographical areas.

Cultural differences can influence NPS scores a lot. There is a tendency for different regions to rate companies with varying degrees of enthusiasm. For example, in some countries, customers are less willing to use the top end of any scale, whilst others opt for the extremes, avoiding the middle values.

Anyone who has ever compared NPS scores in the US and Europe probably knows what we are talking about. Europeans rate company performances very conservatively and they are less likely to give you 9s or 10s.

In Europe, children are graded on a scale of 0 to 10 and it’s almost impossible to get a 10. In Europeans’ minds – 8 is good, 9 is great and 10 is genius. So when confronted with a classical 0-10 scale in NPS, survey respondents give you 8 even if they are satisfied.

In Japan, customers tend to give lower ratings as well, since it is considered poor etiquette to rate any business too high or too poor, regardless of their performance. Americans, on the other hand, give higher scores than just about anyone else. And it’s not at all surprising since the Net Promoter System was originally developed in the US.

CheckMarket wrote a compelling article where it suggested the need for another NPS survey format for European countries, where respondents who give you 8s would also be considered Promoters. We think it’s a great idea, but for now, if you’re not happy with your NPS score, read step three.

Step 3: Consider the survey channel

Pay attention to the differences in the survey channel (email, in-app, SMS) and the methodology used to conduct the survey, since it can have a big impact on the NPS score. Big companies may have the financial means to do an outsourced survey, whereas small companies will most probably measure it on their own.

There is much discussion on the surveying methodologies favored by respondents. Fueled by the growth of the internet, web surveying seems to take the lead. However, criteria such as approach, outreach method, cost, demographics allow some of the channels to outperform in particular cases.

For instance, the social interaction proper to a phone call may determine more engagement from the respondent since he is assisted in the discussion. It may also affect their answers as people tend to present their opinion in a more positive light to a real person. Web surveys (in-app) turn out to be less expensive, less intrusive, but, at times, they might have a weaker impact on enforcing customer dialogue.

Whatever channel you go for, make sure you run your NPS campaign using the same method as performed by the benchmarked competitor, otherwise, the comparison will simply not give you accurate results. Don’t compare apples to oranges.

Step 4: Use your baseline NPS as your own benchmark

Since the score alone is nothing but vanity, it’s impossible to give you a certain number that shows you what a good NPS is. The only number that’s good, is the one that’s better than your previous score. That is the most important benchmark.

The best way of measuring progress would be to compare your NPS against your score over the last three or six months. If you notice a 5-10% increase in score, you’re going in the right direction and progressing towards building a successful business.

On the contrary, if you notice a significant decrease in the number, treat it as a warning sign that something went wrong and certain measures or actions need to be taken. If you are continually improving your own NPS, then you’re likely to be continually improving your customer satisfaction, encouraging growth, and increasing revenue.

However,  you should make sure that your pool of respondents is of a significant size to be able to draw accurate conclusions. Segmenting customers will prove useful in analyzing the results. 

Measure and Improve Your Net Promoter Score Send a NPS campaign to your clients and start collecting, analyzing and acting on the received customer feedback get started

Factors affecting NPS benchmarks

So, which are the factors that affect NPS benchmarks? How do you know if you have a good NPS, and how do you know it’s not enough? Primarily, there are three factors that affect NPS benchmarks:

1. Niche Competition

Generally, NPS tends to be a better indicator in highly competitive verticals with many players, since it helps you assess relative performance. For instance, the reason why Tesla has an NPS of 96 can be partly due to its unique position in the market of luxury, long-range electric automobiles. As a result, customers have little choice, therefore are more satisfied.

Of course, there’s no denying that Tesla is making awesome electric cars and Elon Musk is building an aspirational brand, but NPS benchmarks tend to be higher for industries dominated by a bigwig with minor competition.

If you think it over, you’d realize that Apple doesn’t make the cheapest smartphones (they provide the best user experience); Netflix doesn’t provide a generic, free video streaming service (they provide a uniquely affordable, personalized and on-demand premium content streaming service); Amazon doesn’t lure customers with cheap discounts or flash sales all year round (instead, it locks them in by offering Prime benefits).

All these companies lead their market-segment and have a unique brag-worthy proposition. That’s the prime factor to consider while evaluating your NPS – how crowded your industry is and how unique your value proposition is.

2. Customer Tolerance Levels

Tolerance is one of the crucial factors that affect Net Promoter Score benchmarks, as people are more likely to be opinionated by how much value your products and services deliver to them on a day-to-day basis or how much their business or life depends on it.

You can measure the tolerance level for your business by asking a simple question: “On the scale of 0-10, how likely are your customers to get mad, if you can’t address the needs on an immediate basis.”

If the number is closer to 10, your business is in a low-tolerance industry towards service interruption, but if the number is close to 3-4, you’re in a high-tolerance industry.

The easiest way to increase the tolerance level for your company is to transform the customer experience by providing more customer touchpoints, greater transparency, and easier accessibility. Perhaps, the best examples of companies that have managed to achieve high tolerance, despite being in a low-tolerance industry, are Uber, Southwest, and Netflix.

3. Vendor Switching Barriers

One of the reasons why non-SaaS businesses tend to fetch higher NPS than SaaS ones is because it’s easier to infuse brand loyalty and high tolerance, as they have inherently high switching barriers.

For instance, if you bought a car and you loved the driving experience, you are inclined towards recommending it to your friends, even if the car gave you a little trouble over time. It’s partly confirmatory bias, but mostly high switching barriers.

You cannot afford to switch to a different brand, without taking a financial hit. So, in order to stay consistent with your original conviction, you maintain a strong bias and keep referring the brand to others.

However, what would be the case if you rented the car? Switching barriers would be relatively low since you can easily rent a different one to see how it performs.

That’s exactly the kind of problem that SaaS businesses face. Usually, SaaS companies have an inherently low entry and exit barrier, thus, making it difficult to retain customers and build loyalty. That’s also one of the major reasons why most SaaS companies have an NPS in the mid-tier range.

4. Events of global significance

Timing is important in benchmarking: certain events, global or local, may influence results significantly as customer interests and expectations change.

Though events of global significance are rare, they do happen and impact the NPS. The COVID pandemic has become a challenge for many businesses which led to a notable decrease in the survey scores. A Qualtrics study showcases that the average NPS dropped by 15,2 points during the pandemic, that is from 29.8 to 14.6, with younger people giving lower scores.

Moreover, the NPS dropped more than 30 points with the youngest age group as compared to the oldest one (55 and older) which declined with only 3.2 points. The obvious reason behind such a striking difference is that the first are active users of digital products, which as a rule provide faster service, thus expectations are rather high. 

Industries, affected by the travel restrictions, like  rental cars and transportation, hotels,  credit cards and airlines, showed the biggest decline and the lowest NPS scores: their NPS went down by 24-28 points. The least affected industries were the health insurance, fast food, wireless carriers and TV/Internet service providers.

Qualtrics 2020 study
NPS changes in 2020 vs 2019, source: Qualtrics

Since the majority of services and products had to be digitized, many companies were not ready to deal effectively with the new reality. Initially, this led to slow processing, long waiting times, bugs, and errors that impacted the overall customer satisfaction.

Still, human emotions shouldn’t be discarded. There are claims that at the very beginning of the pandemic many people were more tolerant towards long waiting times and glitches. That was bound to end in a while, as customers became willing to get back to the performance they were used to. This shift in emotions should however also be considered when benchmarking the score.

NPS as a driver for feedback

Ask yourself, if you find out in your benchmarking process that your score is lower than your competitors’, will you stop attempting to improve it? And on the flip side, if you learn that you are doing better than your competition, will you stop then?

While most businesses are obsessed with growing their score, NPS is not really a quantifiable metric to merely grow, but mostly a qualitative metric to reflect, analyze and react.

The most important aspect of NPS that many companies miss is that the number is just a metric, what’s more important is the qualitative feedback you get from it and what you do with it to make sure you’re improving your customer experience.

The main purpose of the Net Promoter Score lies in helping you track and maintain the relationship you’ve created with your audience. And your main goal should always be to listen to the voice of your customers and act on it.

Instead of asking “What is a good Net Promoter Score?”, focus on understanding what drives the score and how to improve it day in day out, month in month out to produce long-term customer success.

Start measuring your Net Promoter Score today and look into the score insights, instead of interpreting it at its face value.

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