Net Promoter Score

Expert Advise on the Impact of Color Coding the NPS Scale

Feb 17, 2023

7 mins read

Manisha khandelwal

There has been a lot of discussion around the NPS surveys, but one question, however, remains unanswered – 

Should you color code the NPS scale?

Mr. Tanuj Diwan, Head of Product at SurveySensum, took this discussion to LinkedIn, and many interesting and informative insights were shared by CX thought leaders. 

And with many expert people sharing their thoughts, we collated everything here to give you a comprehensive picture of the controvertible topic of color coding the NPS Scale.

An example of a color-coded NPS scale

Why SHOULD you NOT color-code the NPS scale?

– It leads to biased customer feedback.

The NPS (Net Promoter Score) question in surveys is effective, but the response options being color-coded can influence respondents and result in distorted data. For instance, if a participant intended to choose a ‘6’ but sees the red color associated with it, they may alter their rating due to the impact of the colors.

Just as you drive when the traffic signal is green, similarly, customers are likely to click on the green color score, regardless of their actual experience. This results in biased responses, which is not suitable for a customer-focused organization. 

By coloring the NPS scale, there is a significant chance of obtaining biased answers, which limits the ability to understand what customers genuinely feel, expect, and experience.

Rahul Sharma, Agile Coach and Customer Logistics at Delivery Hero, commented on the same –  “The scale should not be color-coded because it can influence the customer to choose the color that might not reflect their honest feedback, instead go for conceptual recommendation on the full scale.” 

Rahul Sharma, Agile coach and Customer logistics at Delivery Hero, talking about his thought on color coding the NPS scale. 

Michael Brandt, Founder, Senior Consultant & Trainer at CX-Excellence, strongly agrees with those who don’t support color-coded NPS scale because it blatantly guides the respondent. And here, he shares his experience: 

Michael Brandt, Founder, Senior Consultant & Trainer at CX-Excellence, expressing his view on color coding the NPS scale.

Sandip Gupta, Senior Manager of Customer Experience Transformation Specialist at HCL Tech, asserts the same opinion about not color coding the NPS scale. He believes that the core purpose of the survey should not be influenced by other factors. 

The customer experience transformation specialist, Sandip Gupta from HCl, saying no to color coding the NPS Scale

– Customers tend to shift their responses from yellow to green color.

Karthik Srivatsa, the CX consultant at Cisco, says that most of the responses are polarized in NPS surveys because respondents who’re happy or unhappy with the services will give a definite score. However, the passive respondents will get biased while responding because if they wanted to give an 8 yellow score, they might give a 9 because it’s green.

Having said that, he believes that coloring helps in reducing false positives or negatives. Moreover, in a country like India, it is best to make the survey as simple as possible and A/B test it before jumping to any conclusions.

Karthik Srivatsa, CX consultant at Cisco, explaining how color coding the NPS Scale impacts the survey results.

– Orgs sway from their objective of listening to the customers.

The reason we launch surveys is that we want to listen to the voice of the customers, and we need reliable, honest feedback for it. So, to make the best use of it, it’s best to use a neutral or colorless scale while gathering customer feedback. 

– this will give you honest responses.

Sergio Rossini, Sales, Marketing & CX Director at Sagres, says that we should avoid guiding or influencing customer feedback and should ‘learn the art of listening’ to capture the feedback. 

Sergio Rossini, Sales, Marketing, and CX director at Sagres, explaining the importance of customer surveys

– It can be really challenging for color-blind respondents. 

In the other comment Ryan Jones, Senior Director at Silverline, shares an example of red/green color blindness and how that respondent would never pick the yellow color because of that. That’s why closing the loop is important. 

The senior director at Silverline, Ryan Jones, talks about red/green color blindness and its impact during surveys

However, there are a few experts that believe that one should color code the NPS scale.


Why SHOULD you color code the NPS Scale?

– Educates the respondents on the ratings

Kentaro Abe, Vendor Operation Manager at ByteDance, talks about the usage of the NPS scale in Japan, specifically about how they don’t use 10 point scale and instead consider 5 as an acceptable score. Further, he emphasized the importance of identifying the key areas to improve and working on those.

Kentaro Abe, Vendor Operation Manager at ByteDance, talks about the usage of the NPS scale in Japan

– Makes it easy for the respondents to respond 

Julia Forsyth, Director and CEO of BigEars, says coloring the scale into red, yellow, and green makes the responder easily respond to the survey despite being illiterate or aged. Also, it requires less effort from customers to fill out the surveys. 

Julia Forsyth, Director, and CEO of BigEars, explains how color coding can help ease the NPS surveys

– Enhances inclusivity 

Contradicting the popular belief, Doug Rabold, Senior Manager of Customer Support at Amwell, states that color coding and emoticons can enhance inclusivity because it makes it easy for disabled, illiterate, or dyslexic respondents to respond to the surveys. In CX, it is really crucial to gather feedback from all the customers.   

Doug Rabold, Senior Manager of Customer Support at Amwell, explains how color coding and emoticon can enhance inclusivity.

These were the significant pros and cons of coloring the NPS 11-point scale. It leads to biased feedback which is of new use and won’t help in improving the NPS score or enhancing the customer experience. 

So, what is the solution?


Recommendations by the experts

Here are some great recommendations shared by experts on how to use the right NPS scale.  

Go for performance-based surveys, instead of NPS surveys 

Instead of gauging the loyalty of the customers by asking NPS surveys, you must ask performance-based questions. So, keep the surveys as short as possible, like a yes or no, or maybe you can use a 5-point scale. 

And here is what Debbie Akwara, Chief Executive Officer at Niche Customer Experience Group, has to say.  

The CEO at Niche Customer Experience Group, Debbie Akwara, pitches her experience with running an NPS survey in Nigeria

Use 3 colorless emojis instead

An example of colorless emojis to use in NPS surveys

Emoticons are universal. 

So why not use them? – A short, easy, and straightforward scale to gather honest responses. 

This scale will clearly tell you whether the customer is happy with your product or service or not. 

Sreekiran KR, Senior Manager of Customer Success Operations at Trellix, comments if only 0 is colored as red and 10 is colored as green, and the rest of the scores are colored in progressive colors then that could justify the 11-point scale else a 3-point scale is also sufficient to gather customer feedback. He further says that in Japan, an emoticon just at the bay of 10 and 0 indeed spiked the score and response rate. And to get some valuable insights, conduct an A/B test. 

Sreekiran from Trelix opines that a progressive shade from red to green will be a good idea for the color code 

Also, Bethany Baker, a Program Manager at CHI Health, prefers to see emoticons with no NPS color coding because that helps deaf or illiterate patients. 

“I’d like to see emojis used with no color coding. I believe this helps patients who may not speak or read the language well, and it’s universal. The numbered scale is always open for interpretation; emojis are clear – you’re happy, sad, angry, etc.”

Bethany Baker, program manager from SHI Health, comments that colorless emojis can help with patient surveys

While so many opinions were shared (all of which were incredibly insightful), a few experts stated that it really doesn’t matter – if you color code the NPS Scale. 


However, some say that coloring the NPS Scale has no influence

Simon Korsholm, Contact Centre Contract and Commercial Performance at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, says that coloring the scale doesn’t really matter. 

Because if you are labeling the ends right and they still are unsure about what to score, then those responses are not worth worrying about. 

Simon Korsholm from SC Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust pointing out that coloring the scale doesn't matter 


And the answer lies in the follow-up question

Thomas Johnston, Senior Vice President of Latam Operations and Global Quality Assurance at KM2 Solutions, shares some great insights on how and why follow-up questions are important. 

One question cannot tell you the entire customer experience. You need to ask an open-ended question to know exactly what your customer feels about your products and services, their expectations, their likings and dislikes, and so on. 

Asking an open-ended question after the NPS question will help you know where you’re lacking, what can be improved, and what you should continue to keep doing.

Thomas Johnston, Sr Vice President at KM2 solutions, shares his insight on how coloring can influence the responder 

We believe..

We believe that customer feedback is conducted to listen to the customer’s experience and expectations. So, we should not influence the scale or anything that misleads the calculation of the particular metric, be it NPS, CES, or CSAT

To get honest responses, ask straightforward questions and choose the right scale with no color. Your focus should be on the key areas where you can improve to deliver the best customer experience and not just increase your NPS score.

How much did you enjoy this article?