3 Kinds of Passives and How to Deal with Them

By Kevin Stout on June, 3 2019
Kevin Stout

So you’re starting to get the hang of this Net Promoter Score thing (or curious about how you would use it). You have a solid Detractor strategy and your NPS score is starting to move up. You may even have a marketing plan to capitalize on your Promoters.

But there’s this huge bucket of 7s and 8s that are, for the most part, being ignored. What do you do with a customer that isn’t happy or upset? They’re spending money with you, they may even be coming back, but you’re getting just enough feedback from them to let you know their experience is “meh,” at best.

On top of that, there are three different kinds of Passives! All of which gave you that 7 or 8 with a very different context based on their history with your business. In this blog post, we’ll cover the three different kinds of Passives and how to deal with them. And click here for a more in-depth guide on creating your own strategy to dealing with Passives.


New Customers

This customer just finished their first experience with your business and left you a 7 or 8. Their experience was likely acceptable, but there’s nothing that sticks out to this customer as over-and-above their expectations. A Passive is open to alternatives and not very loyal. They are absolutely at risk of churning and, since this Passive is a new customer, even hearing about a 9 or 10 experience from a friend or colleague can lose you their business quickly.

As you may know, a Detractor is an urgent situation and should be called immediately, or you risk losing them as a customer. But what you may not know is that, depending on your business, Passive churn rate can actually be 20-30% over 6 months. If a Detractor is a fire that needs to be put out  immediately, a Passive is, at minimum, getting a whiff of smoke.

It’s safer to bundle Passives into your Detractor outreach strategy than to ignore Passives because you don’t have a specific strategy for dealing with them yet.


So what do you do with New Customer Passives?


Consider this your opportunity to EARN the loyalty of this new customer.

The most important thing to do with this Passive is to reach out and make it clear that you’re available to do anything in your power to improve their experience. It’s your goal to turn their next experience (or their current one, if possible) into a 9 or 10-worthy score and an honest motivation to tell their friends about how happy they are.

Also, take the next step to get them engaged with you. Provide education on how to get the most out of your product or service, give them a discount for a future purchase, or give them an update on something exciting you’re doing in the coming months.

Remember, if they had a passive experience with you, they probably view you on, at least, the same level as some of your competitors. That makes this your most price-sensitive group of customers. All things being equal (which is pretty much the definition of a Passive), pricing simplest reason passives churn. This is an opportunity to add value to make it clear that while you may be similarly or even higher priced than competitors, there’s a reason for that and they should gladly pay for it.  

Another definition of a Passive is someone who has not experienced a conversion experience with your business.  We use the term with all of it’s religious intention because that is exactly what you want: brand evangelists.  Your mission is to use data and feedback to construct conversion experiences for your customers.


Unhappy (former) Promoters

Nothing is more devastating than taking your NPS strategy seriously and seeing a Promoter fall to a Passive or Detractor. This was a customer you weren’t worrying about but, instead, was a source of referrals for your business and positive feedback. Now they left you a 7 or 8 after previous score (or scores) indicating they were one of your best customers. Pay attention, this is almost as urgent (and potentially more so) than a Detractor.

This very loyal customer that likely was generating new business for you through referrals had an experience bad enough to shift their mental average down from their usual 9 or 10. This poor experience was probably a Detractor level (1-6) experience, but they gave you a 7 or 8 because of their existing loyalty and memory of previous positive experiences.


So what do you do with The Passive Formerly Known as Promoter?


You need to follow up with this person ASAP — with a phone call.

While you should be calling EVERY Detractor and most, if not all Passives, this group of Passives deserves a phone call. A simple email or text message isn’t enough. This customer has experience with you, most of which was positive, and something went wrong.

In addition to the urgency of saving this customer, you will likely find incredibly useful feedback that you can take to your team to improve the way your business functions. Take this problem seriously — you probably have other repeat customers dealing with this problem and haven’t yet mentioned it.


Converting Detractors

This is your least likely Passive because, in many cases, it’s more likely to convert a Detractor to a Promoter than into a passive. This is because, generally, Detractors and Promoters tend to have strong feelings one way or another and Passives can be described as indifferent.

So you’re looking at a situation where, hopefully, you had a discussion with a Detractor after a 1-6 score and, on a later survey, they gave you a 7 or 8. This may look like improvement, but it’s not time to celebrate this conversion yet.


So do we just leave this alone and hope the next score goes up to 9 or 10?


NO! If this situation occurs, the issue your Detractor originally had is likely not completely resolved or they have run into a different, but less offensive issue. While it’s absolutely a positive move in the right direction, there’s still plenty of work to be done with this customer in order to both convert them into a Promoter and figure out what issues they’re running into that the rest of your customers are likely experiencing as well.

Follow up, specifically ask if their previous issue was taken care of, and ask what you can do to give them an even more positive experience next time.


You may be noticing a theme with the action items for these three groups of Passives — call them. It’s far too easy to ignore your Passives and bucket them into the “not urgent” pile, while focusing on making your Detractors happier and getting referrals from your Promoters. But Passives do not have strong feelings about your business. A hint of a good deal, a referral from a friend to a competitor, or even a good advertisement from a competitor can easily steal them away. Passives are one of your biggest opportunities to generate more Promoters and learn about the processes and people in your business keeping you from exponential growth.

Don't forget to take the next step and use this in-depth strategy guide to creating your own processes for dealing with each type of Passive.


MRKTmetrics Professional can help you be competitive in this volatile market. Learn more about our Net Promoter Score tools that will measure your patient loyalty, help you stop losing patients, and turn your happiest patients into your best marketing strategy.

Kevin Stout

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