Turning passive guests into promoters


Turning passive guests into promoters

Zone Of Indifference

When it comes to measuring guest perceptions, we can be inclined to focus on the negative and where are we going wrong. And it’s completely understandable, no one wants to be in the red zone for NPS. But this might not always be where your time and energy are best placed. It’s those passive guests and average scores you mustn’t forget.

Before we get into that, a quick refresh on what NPS (Net Promoter Score) means.

NPS is a calculation rather than a rating. It’s used by many businesses across multiple industries, to measure loyalty. The NPS score is based upon the question “How likely would you be to recommend?”. Guests who score 9 or 10 are promoters, 7 or 8 are passives, and less than 6 are detractors.

Your NPS score is the difference between the percentage of guests likely to promote your brand (promoters) and the percentage of guests likely to do the opposite (detractors). So, if 60% are promoters and 20% are detractors, your Net Promoter Score is 40. NPS can range from minus 100 to 100.

Average scores

Now let’s uncover more on the zone of indifference - those passive scores. It may seem obvious but improving your passive scores can make for an easier win than focussing on negative scores. But not many operators actively focus on improving these average experiences. In fact, when we break down our clients’ NPS scores, on average, 8% are detractors and 14% are passives – almost double. Guests tend to sit in this pool for a longer time, with the opportunity to lift them out of it often missed.

These passive guests like your offering. They enjoy eating your food and likely find your staff satisfactory, if not friendly, and they might keep coming back… so what’s the problem? Your problem is that they aren’t shouting about it to their friends and family, they aren’t giving you amazing reviews on TripAdvisor, and you aren’t their first thought when they decide to head out for dinner on a Saturday night. Ultimately, you aren’t their favourite, so chances are that they are promoting someone else, one of your competitors.

The good news is that a proportion of these passive guests can, with a little effort, be squeezed into the promoters. After all, you’ve already got their attention – so make the most of this opportunity!

The element of surprise

It’s worth considering what you can do to stand out. For consumers faced with a sea of sameness, being different will set you apart more than being better. The minimum guests expect is good service and great food. What can you do to provide a memorable guest experience? One that will make them want to tell their friends? Don’t always focus on what you can do to make yourselves interesting – consider how you can make your guests interesting. These opportunities often happen in the moment rather than being dictated by the brand. It’s a case of giving your team the freedom (within certain boundaries) to be creative and to be alert to the opportunity.


If your team are not shining through in reviews, there could be several causes – recruiting the wrong people, for a start. But once recruited, the priority is to get them up to speed on key processes quickly so that you can free their minds to relax, engage, enjoy their role, and be creative. This comes from a structured training and assessment programme. The two should go hand-in-hand.

As part of the training, illustrate the silent impact on trade of having a large proportion of guests leaving as passives. Contrast this with the difference it could make if a few of them became promoters, and explore or roleplay ways in which they might achieve this.

HGEM’s Head of Implementation, Lauren Gould comments:

There is a massive, often missed, opportunity to improve your NPS score by focusing on how you can convert passive guests into promoters who are actively going to recommend and return to your sites. Training your teams on how to recognise chances to enhance a guest’s experience with small acts such as remembering what they were drinking, recommending a tasty new dish will not only help increase revenue, but build brand loyalty and drive recommendations.

Negative scores

Detractors are of course very important to consider, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that bad reviews can be bad for business. But it’s worth questioning whether these guests are your target audience who received a bad experience, or whether these guests didn’t enjoy your experience because of their personal expectations and perceptions. For example, if you are a burger restaurant and you receive negative feedback because your menu is not varied with different dish types, this may be noted but is unlikely to be actioned.

In addition, looking at patterns in feedback is important. If there is a particular team member who consistently gets complaints, it is worth investigating further so you can determine when and how to rectify. Where possible, contact your detractors, apologise for their experience, take whatever action is appropriate to the case (both in terms of rectifying what went wrong and making up for it with a suitable gesture), such as a voucher. Even here, the element of surprise can be powerful – a complaint well-handled can easily convert a detractor straight into a promoter. To discover more about measuring your NPS via our feedback survey sites, get in touch with our friendly team today.

Back to Blog