How to Keep Your Customer Passive In Three Easy Steps

In customer experience analysis, it’s common to break customers into three groups based on their Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating: Promoters, Detractors, and Passives. Promoters actively recommend your product, while Detractors speak out against it. Passives sit quietly in the middle, daring you to move them to another group.

In this guide, I’ll show you have to ensure Passive customers never progress to Promoters. Keep the status quo!

Passive Customers

 Step 1: Constantly “check in”
Passive Customers - Step One_Check In Meeting for Customer Experience

When asked if “everything is okay”, Passive customers will usually say yes. After all, by their very nature, they are satisfied and everything is fine.

(In fact, research shows most people – Passive or otherwise – will say yes. It’s why only 4% of dissatisfied customers complain and why people hesitate to contribute during meetings. People don’t want conflict or to cause strain to a relationship.)

The most important reason Passives say yes when you ask if they’re okay: it’s the wrong question. Take this recent example shared by one of our Program Consultants:

“I spoke with a buyer who initially selected our client, then cancelled the contract. The respondent mentioned that there were many issues with the implementation. In a call with the client a few days later, I mentioned this buyer’s feedback. The response was that the sales lead had been continually checking in with the customer to make sure everything was going smoothly. The customer assured the sales lead that all was fine when, in reality, it was not.”

What likely went awry? The sales rep failed to ask the right questions. They left it up to the customer to fill in the blanks for them – to give their own detailed health check – rather than asking probing questions and then applying their own assessment of the situation.

Do This Instead

When speaking with Passive customers, ask open-ended reflection questions about specific parts of their experience you know typically have an impact on satisfaction. For example,

  • “During the implementation phase, how would you describe the communication from our team?”
  • “Now that you’ve added the advanced analytics tool, how is it being used by your team?”
  • “What should our CEO know about your experience with our product?”

Step 2: Avoid talking about successes

Passive Customers - Step Two_Avoid successes for Customer Experience

I recently participated in a training session with John Covey from Kyazma Consulting. John shared an idea that stuck with me: customer success stories are just as much for the customer as they are for you. Asking someone to share a benefit or success they earned from your product solidifies it in their mind, giving the assurance they made the correct purchase decision.

This is especially critical with Passive customers, a group who lacks strong feelings one way or the other about your product. It’s possible they haven’t bothered to assess the benefits. Your product is currently a tool, not a problem-solver worthy of recommendation.

Do This Instead

Listen for clues during conversations and then ask the customer to elaborate. Try to identify specific measurements of success, avoid generalities. Once you understand the success, summarize it back to the customer to confirm accuracy. This additionally allows the customer to hear the result again, creating that tighter connection.


Step 3: Never, ever evaluate product use

Passive Customers - Step Three_Product Use for Customer Experience

In addition to meaningful conversations with a customer, I’d suggest looking at hard numbers for evidence of why the customer is not a Promoter. While the Passive customer can explain where the shortcomings are on their end, your data can identify patterns before the customer is even aware of a shift in their loyalty.

Social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn have figured this out well. When my usage dips from normal patterns I can expect an email or alert about what I’m missing. The same applies to B2B customers and your product, even if usage isn’t as simple as number of logins. Track spending, frequency of meetings, or anything else that indicates an actively engaged customer.

Additionally, because Passive customers are not as emotionally invested in your product, they won’t typically know the nuances or features as well as another customer. Months could go by before they realize what they are missing out on.

Do This Instead

Don’t be passive too. Look for depth and breadth of usage. Find purchased products or features with little or no use, and work with the customer to explain how to use the features and where they might be beneficial.

Watch for spikes or dips in activity, especially when new users are added. Use marketing automation or other tactics to give light nudges when needed.



P.S. If you are unfamiliar with NPS, I would highly recommend this classic Harvard Business Review article from Fred Reichheld, the creator of the measurement: The One Number You Need to Grow.

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