Net Promoter Score Considered Harmful (and What UX Professionals Can Do About It)

Jared M. Spool
15 min readDec 20, 2017

In 2003, a marketing consultant named Fred Reichheld lit the business world on fire with the Harvard Business Review article The One Number You Need To Grow. He asserted that by asking a single question — a question aimed at determining the organization’s customer’s loyalty — management could take the pulse of their customers’ feelings towards their business. He ended the article with “This number is the one number you need to grow. It’s that simple and that profound.”

It turns out, it’s neither simple nor profound. It doesn’t help businesses grow. It doesn’t even tell the management how loyal the customer is.

Yet, Net Promoter Score (also known as NPS) meets all the common requirements of a “useful” business metric:

  • It’s easy to measure.
  • It produces a number you can track.
  • It feels legitimate.

Even though NPS has been solidly debunked in many smart research papers, it’s still solidly embedded into many businesses. We hear about companies rolling out new NPS measurement programs every day.

Industry leaders continue to sing NPS’s praises. For example, Stephen Bennett when he was CEO of Intuit: “Every business line now addresses [NPS] as part of their



Jared M. Spool

Maker of Awesomeness at Center Centre - UIE. Helping designers everywhere help their organizations deliver well-designed products and services.