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If you are adopting Net Promoter as part of your survey/metrics approach, there's a rich part of the findings that many who are implementing this approach don't consider: learning from your detractors.

As you get your Net Promoter methodology stabilized, the most important action for your company is how you actively use the information to (a) hold your "Promoters" close; (b) understand what makes people ambivalent about you (the "Passives"); and (c) really understand and feel the pain of your "Detractors."

Here, I focus on Detractors and how to mine the gold by listening hard to their feedback to improve your organization and relationship with your customers. I'll make this simple and break it down into five key action items:

Action No. 1: Know your Detractors by segment

The importance of driving the "customer mission" as a strategic imperative of the business is to throw a bright glaring light on the profitability levels of customers who are your detractors and advocates.

Do the hard work to not just understand your Detractor score or metric but to know that metric for the profitability segments of your business. Are your most profitable customers delivering (hopefully) high scores as Promoters or low scores as Detractors? Do you see fluctuations in your Detractors among your segments? As you see your scores over time, can you identify flare-ups in your Detractor scores that are particular to segments of your business?

If you can understand how your mix of customers who are Detractors impacts your profitability, this will be one more tool in your arsenal to drive the reprioritization of resources and focus within your company.

Action No. 2: Know the reasons why customers are your detractors

This requires additional conversation with Detractors. Ensure that knowing the "why" is as important as the score. To get that information, you need to reach out to these customers and genuinely ask what went awry in the relationship.

If you make this a reliable part of the process, this data gathering will not seem as daunting as it sounds. Monthly, contact 100 Detractors. At about number 25, the themes will start to repeat. They usually do.

Also, refer to Action No. 1—to ensure you know if there are differences in Detractor issues by segment.

Action Number 3: Conduct a monthly loss review

Add an action that I call a "culture boost" to your monthly outreach to Detractors: Identify customers who have left and also call a sampling of them to find out the reasons for their departure. You will likely see that these issues coincide with those that the Detractors give you.

Again, know the reasons by segment. This should give you plenty of momentum to focus and attach resources to problems that are driving your customers and your profitability out the door.

Action No. 4: Get the voice of Detractors in the ear of executives

I've mentioned this before... but it bears repeating. Have your executives and others in your organization do a healthy portion of the outbound calls to Detractors and customers who have left you.

Reports are great. But there is nothing as powerful as hearing the voice of the customer personalizing and bringing the issues to life to drive traction.

Action No. 5: Establish accountability to remove the Detractor issues

As we know, our corporate lives are filled with lists of priority action items. These Detractor items could easily land on one of those lists with great intention, but no real action or accountability applied to it.

The key here is to create a simple accountability process: Identify the top five issues, then create a standard process of accountability for how to dig into and diagnose the problem and resolve the issues. An example:

  • By week 2: Map and diagnose the root causes
  • By week 3: Identify potential solutions
  • By week 4: Proposals and budget implications
  • By week 6: Action

* * *

When you make the effort be about not just "managing" (i.e., trying to push down) the number of Detractors but about asking the "why" behind the numbers—you will have turned the corner to confront the true purpose of the Net Promoter approach.

This is when it will start to become part of the DNA of your organization—something that prompts repeatable processes that impact how people do their work and how the company conducts itself with customers.

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image of Jeanne Bliss
Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS (, a consulting and coaching company, and the author of Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action.