Difference Between: Promoters vs Passives and Detractors

What are promoters?

Promoters refer to customers who are highly satisfied with a product, service, or experience and are likely to recommend it to others. In the context of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system, promoters are respondents who give a high rating, typically 9 or 10, on a scale of 0 to 10 when asked how likely they are to recommend a product or service to others. Promoters are considered loyal and enthusiastic customers who can contribute positively to a company’s growth by spreading positive word-of-mouth recommendations.


Let’s say you own a small bakery called “Sweet Delights.” You recently introduced a new type of cupcake, and you’ve been collecting customer feedback to understand their satisfaction levels. You ask customers who have tried the new cupcake to rate their experience on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “Very Dissatisfied” and 10 is “Very Satisfied.”

Here are a few customer responses:

  1. Customer A: Rates 10 – “I loved the new cupcake! The Flavors were fantastic, and it was perfectly moist. I’ll be back for more.”
    • Category: Promoter
  2. Customer B: Rates 8 – “The cupcake was delicious, but I think the frosting could be a bit less sweet. Overall, it was a great treat.”
    • Category: Passive
  3. Customer C: Rates 4 – “I didn’t enjoy the new cupcake. The texture was off, and I expected better taste.”
    • Category: Detractor

In this scenario, Customer A is a promoter because they rated 10 and expressed a high level of satisfaction with the new cupcake. They are likely to recommend it to others and might become loyal customers. Positive feedback from promoters like Customer A can help your bakery build a strong reputation and attract more customers.


Promoters, in the context of customer satisfaction and loyalty, offer several significant advantages to businesses and organizations. Here are the main advantages of having promoters among your customer base:

  • Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Promoters are highly likely to recommend your products or services to others. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers can lead to organic growth, as their endorsements are trusted and can attract new customers.
  • Enhanced Reputation: Having a base of satisfied promoters contributes to a positive reputation for your brand. As they share their positive experiences, your business gains credibility and trust among potential customers.
  • Increased Customer Loyalty: Promoters tend to be more loyal to your brand, products, or services. Their likelihood to recommend indicates a strong connection and positive relationship with your business, which can result in repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.
  • Lower Customer Acquisition Costs: Since promoters actively refer new customers, your customer acquisition costs can decrease. You rely less on expensive marketing efforts to reach new audiences when satisfied customers are bringing in new business.
  • Positive Feedback for Improvement: Promoters can also provide valuable feedback. While they may be highly satisfied, they might still offer insights on how you can enhance your offerings further, contributing to continuous improvement.


While promoters can bring many benefits to a business, there are also potential disadvantages or challenges associated with having a base of promoters. Here are some possible drawbacks:

  • Overly Positive Bias: Promoters might be so enthusiastic about your products or services that they overlook certain issues or limitations. This can lead to a lack of critical feedback, which is essential for identifying areas of improvement.
  • Potential for Unrealistic Expectations: Over time, promoters might develop high expectations for your offerings. If you introduce changes or new products that don’t meet their elevated expectations, they could become disappointed or dissatisfied.
  • Dependency on a Small Group: Relying solely on a small group of promoters for word-of-mouth marketing can be risky. If these promoters become less engaged or their circumstances change, your business could suffer from a sudden drop in positive recommendations.
  • Limited Perspective: Promoters might have a specific set of preferences that align well with your current offerings. Their perspective might not reflect the broader market or potential customer segments.
  • Resistance to Change: When your business wants to make changes or updates, promoters might resist them due to their strong attachment to the status quo. This can hinder your ability to adapt and innovate.

What is passives?

“Passive” is a term used in the context of customer satisfaction and loyalty measurement, particularly in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system. Passives are customers who fall in the middle of the satisfaction spectrum – they are moderately satisfied but not as enthusiastic as promoters, nor are they dissatisfied like detractors.


Imagine a restaurant named “Taste Haven” that specializes in gourmet burgers. After a dining experience, the restaurant sends out a post-dining survey asking customers to rate their overall satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being “Very Dissatisfied” and 10 being “Very Satisfied.”

Here’s a customer response:

Customer: Rates 7 – “I had a good meal at Taste Haven. The burger was tasty, and the service was decent. However, I found the prices a bit on the higher side for what I got. Overall, it was a nice experience.”

  • Category: Passive

In this scenario, the Customer is classified as a passive customer. They rated 7, which indicates moderate satisfaction with the dining experience at Taste Haven. While they enjoyed their meal and had positive aspects to mention, they also expressed concern about the pricing being a bit high. They fall between being an enthusiastic promoters and a dissatisfied detractor, representing a middle-ground viewpoint.


  1. Room for Improvement: Passives provide valuable feedback that falls between strong satisfaction and dissatisfaction. This feedback can help businesses identify areas for improvement and refine their products, services, or experiences.
  2. Potential for Conversion: Passives can be nudged towards becoming promoters with the right actions. By addressing their concerns and making improvements, businesses can turn passives into more enthusiastic advocates.
  3. Moderate Feedback: Passives often offer a balanced perspective. They can provide insights that are less emotionally charged than detractors and less biased than promoters, offering a more objective view of the customer experience.
  4. Stability: Passives indicate a certain level of satisfaction. While they might not be actively recommending your offerings, they are not expressing strong negative sentiments either, contributing to a more stable customer base.
  5. Loyalty Potential: Although not as immediately enthusiastic as promoters, passives can still exhibit brand loyalty. With consistent positive experiences and improvements, they might become more loyal over time


  1. Lack of Enthusiasm: Passives are less likely to actively recommend your products or services. Their lack of enthusiasm can limit the positive word-of-mouth marketing that comes from promoters.
  2. Competitive Vulnerability: Passives might be more easily swayed by competitive offerings or alternatives that match their preferences better. This makes them vulnerable to switching brands if a better option arises.
  3. Risk of Neglect: Because they are not strongly vocal about their concerns, businesses might overlook addressing the needs of passives, focusing instead on pleasing promoters or managing detractors.
  4. Limited Growth Potential: While passives provide some growth potential, their impact on driving new business is generally lower than that of promoters. Depending solely on passives might restrict rapid expansion.
  5. Underestimating Detractors: Relying on the relatively neutral feedback from passives might lead businesses to underestimate the issues that detractors raise. Detractors’ feedback often highlights critical pain points that require attention.
  6. Stagnation: If not properly engaged, passives might remain in a state of moderate satisfaction without evolving into more engaged and loyal customers.


What are detractors?

Detractors are customers who are dissatisfied with a product, service, or experience and are unlikely to recommend it to others. In the NPS system, detractors are respondents who give a low rating, typically between 0 and 6, on the likelihood-to-recommend scale. Detractors can have a negative impact on a company’s reputation and growth due to their potential negative word-of-mouth reviews and their impact on overall customer satisfaction.


Let’s consider an online clothing retailer named “FashionHub.” After customers make a purchase, the company sends out a post-purchase survey asking customers to rate their shopping experience on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being “Very Dissatisfied” and 10 being “Very Satisfied.”

Here’s a customer response:

Customer Y: Rates 3 – “My experience with FashionHub was terrible. The clothes I ordered didn’t match the pictures on the website, the sizing was way off, and the customer service was unhelpful when I tried to return the items.”

  • Category: Detractor

In this scenario, Customer Y is classified as a detractor. They rated 3, indicating a high level of dissatisfaction with their shopping experience at FashionHub. The customer has encountered multiple issues, including product quality, sizing problems, and poor customer service. Detractors like Customer Y often have strong negative sentiments and might be unlikely to recommend the business to others.


  1. Feedback for Improvement: Detractors provide direct and often candid feedback about areas where your products, services, or processes are falling short. This feedback can serve as a roadmap for making necessary improvements.
  2. Early Warning System: Detractors can alert you to issues before they escalate into larger problems. Addressing their concerns promptly can prevent widespread dissatisfaction and help maintain customer loyalty.
  3. Opportunity for Recovery: Successfully addressing detractors’ concerns and resolving their issues can turn a negative experience into a positive one. This recovery effort can demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction and potentially retain the customer’s loyalty.
  4. Innovation Spark: Detractors’ criticisms can spark innovative thinking. Their feedback might reveal opportunities for novel solutions or new features that address their pain points.
  5. Comparative Insights: Comparing detractor feedback with promoter feedback can help you understand the gap between expectations and experiences. This insight can guide your efforts to align customer expectations with what your business offers.


  1. Negative Word-of-Mouth: Detractors are more likely to share their negative experiences with others. Negative word-of-mouth can spread quickly and damage your brand’s reputation, potentially leading to lost business.
  2. Customer Churn: Detractors are at a higher risk of not returning as customers. Their dissatisfaction can lead to customer churn, impacting your long-term revenue and growth.
  3. Resource Intensive: Addressing detractors’ concerns and resolving issues requires time, effort, and resources. This can divert resources from other business initiatives and potentially strain your customer support team.
  4. Reduced Customer Lifetime Value: Detractors are less likely to become repeat customers, which reduces their lifetime value to your business. This can impact your overall revenue and profitability.
  5. Competitive Disadvantage: A high number of detractors can affect your competitive position. A reputation for poor customer satisfaction can put you at a disadvantage against competitors with higher customer satisfaction levels.

Differences Between Promoters, Passives, and Detractors

Promoters: Passives: Detractors:
Score Range: Typically rate 9 or 10 on a scale of 0 to 10. Score Range: Usually rate 7 or 8 on the satisfaction scale. Score Range: Generally rate 0 to 6 on the satisfaction scale.
Description: Promoters are highly satisfied and enthusiastic customers who are likely to recommend your products or services to others. Description: Passives are moderately satisfied customers who are content with your offerings but not as likely to actively promote them. Description: Detractors are dissatisfied customers who are unlikely to recommend your products or services due to negative experiences.
Characteristics: They have a positive emotional connection with your brand, are loyal, and may become brand advocates. Characteristics: They have a neutral or lukewarm relationship with your brand. They might have specific suggestions for improvement. Characteristics: They might have encountered issues, dissatisfaction, or unmet expectations. Detractors can be vocal about their negative experiences.
Impact: Promoters contribute positively to word-of-mouth marketing, brand reputation, and business growth. Impact: While not as impactful as promoters, passives can provide valuable feedback and have the potential for conversion into more engaged customers. Impact: Detractors can spread negative word-of-mouth, harm your brand reputation, and potentially lead to customer churn if their concerns are not addressed effectively.

Strategies to Improve Promoters:

  1. Leverage Advocacy:
    • Engage with promoters and encourage them to actively refer friends and family to your products or services.
    • Offer incentives, such as referral discounts or exclusive promotions, to motivate promoters to spread the word.
  2. Collect Testimonials:
    • Request testimonials or success stories from promoters to showcase their positive experiences on your website, social media, or marketing materials.
  3. Build Community:
    • Create a community or loyalty program exclusively for promoters, providing them with special perks, early access to products, or exclusive events.
  4. Request Feedback:
    • Regularly seek feedback from promoters to understand what they love about your offerings and what could be improved to further enhance their experience.

Strategies to Improve Passives:

Target Feedback:

Engage with passives to gather more detailed feedback on areas where they feel your products or services could be improved.

Offer Incentives:

Provide incentives for passives to become more engaged, such as offering discounts on future purchases or exclusive content.

Highlight Improvements:

Communicate any changes or enhancements you’ve made based on their feedback, demonstrating your commitment to listening and improving.


Use their feedback to personalize their experience. Show that you’ve taken their suggestions into account, creating a more tailored interaction.

Strategies to Improve Detractors:

Prompt Resolution:

Address detractors’ issues promptly and professionally. Resolve their concerns to the best of your ability and ensure they feel heard.

Apologize and Compensate:

Apologize for any negative experiences and consider offering compensation or discounts as a goodwill gesture.

Feedback Integration:

Use detractors’ feedback to make concrete improvements in your processes, products, or services. Show that you’ve taken their criticism seriously.

  1. Follow-Up:
  • Follow up with detractors after resolving their issues to check if their experience has improved. This shows your commitment to customer satisfaction.
  1. Recovery Offers:
  • Offer special recovery promotions to detractors, allowing them to experience your improved offerings at a discounted rate.


In conclusion, promoters, passives, and detractors represent distinct categories of customers within the spectrum of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Each group offers unique insights and challenges for businesses. Understanding the characteristics of these categories and implementing targeted strategies is essential for optimizing customer relationships and overall business success.