The top 3 customer experience metrics

The top CX metrics—NPS, CSAT and CES—and how to use them successfully.


Jeannie Walters

March 18, 2020

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Customer experience (CX) is sometimes distilled into the idea of collecting customer feedback and not much more. This, of course, is about as short-sighted as a brand can get. After all, it’s not just the collecting of feedback, it’s the understanding of that feedback in meaningful ways that leads to customer experience improvements. 

As we explore some standard customer experience metrics, it’s critical to understand how to turn the data into better outcomes for your customer, your brand and your overall business.

CX Metric 1

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) asks the question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” 

The respondent ranks their likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10—0 being highly unlikely, 10 being extremely likely. You can also add an option for the respondent to leave a comment and explain his or her rating. On the rating system, people who select 9 or 10 on the NPS survey are considered Promoters, people who select 7 or 8 are Passives, and people who select 6 or below are Detractors. 

To calculate the NPS score, you subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters (percent Promoters –  percent Detractors = NPS). 

Also, it’s a good idea to ask one open-ended question in your NPS survey to give customers a chance to explain their ratings, or to share issues not represented in the survey. 

An NPS rating score above 0 is considered good, an NPS score above 50 is considered excellent, and any score that is 75 and above is considered world class. 

NPS is helpful, but it's not the only CX metric!

NPS is used by a majority of brands who measure customer experience. It’s easy to use and understand, so it’s easy to see why it’s popular! 

NPS is a good, consistent indicator of how your customers are feeling about the overall brand and relationship. But that’s only if it’s used very consistently and communicated throughout the organization.

Use NPS to create a customer-centric culture

The best companies in the world don’t just report on the numbers. Leaders may look at a dashboard and feel good about achieving a Net Promoter Score of 70, but then what? 

Brands create improvement by using NPS throughout their organizations. Here are some examples of how to use this CX metric to create a customer-centric culture:

  • Share the why and why not answers to the departments mentioned in the organization. If delivery is consistently mentioned as an issue to your Detractors, then it’s time to get that department involved in the CX conversation.

  • Promote your Promoters by seeking out ways to connect with and recognize them. These customers took the time to share their positive feedback, so invite them to your customer advisory boards or special customer events. Some CEOs even call a few promoters each month to say thank you and hear from them directly.

  • Listen to those complaints! Your Detractors have important things to say, too. Calling them can be a little daunting, but inviting them to share their concerns directly with someone at your organization is a great way to recover from a potentially problematic event.

  • Communicate throughout your organization with what improving your NPS will mean to your brand. It’s not just a number. It’s a measurement of how your customers feel about their experiences and relationship with your overall organization.

CX Metric 2

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

The Customer Satisfaction Score is assessed by asking customers: “How would you rate your overall satisfaction?” with your company and its products, services, and interactions. 

A five-point scale is most commonly used, with options very unsatisfiedunsatisfiedneutralsatisfied, and very satisfied

There are two ways companies can calculate CSAT: an average of 1-5 or by focusing on the 4-5 responses.

GetFeedback recommends using this formula: (Number of  4 and 5 responses) / (Number of total responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers. 

While you can use CSAT as an average, that isn’t as useful as calculating the percentage of those customers who consider themselves satisfied. If you stop and think about it, that makes sense—the metric is looking at the percentage of happy customers specifically.

The final score is typically represented as a percentage of the maximum. With a five-point scale, for example, a CSAT rating of 80% means that the majority of customers are giving a satisfied rating (4 out of 5).

Like the NPS survey, with a CSAT survey you can also add an option for the respondents to leave a comment and explain their rating. 

A CSAT score of 80% is a good indicator of success, although it will vary by industry. For the latest CSAT benchmarks, check out this article. 

CSAT pros and cons

There are challenges with generalizing CSAT results, because the wording, unlike NPS, can vary from company to company or industry to industry. CSAT is not as widely-used as a CX metric as NPS, but it is still a popular and easily understood metric.

One way to leverage CSAT is as a touchpoint metric. Instead of relying on NPS for understanding specific parts of the customer journey, CSAT can help you zero in on one stage, one touchpoint, or one relationship.

For example, customers may conflate the entire journey when asked if they would recommend their most recent experience to their friends or colleagues in NPS questioning. However, customers will be able to provide important feedback on the 5-point scale of CSAT specifically around the delivery experience, for example.

Use CSAT to improve touchpoints along the journey

Customer Satisfaction Scores are easy to understand, easy for the customer to provide, and easy to focus on a particular part of the journey. 

Customer-driven brands use CSAT with the appropriate focus and understanding to create specific improvements along the customer journey. Here are some examples:

  • Drill down on specific goals the customer has at each stage in their journey, then use CSAT to understand if those goals are being met. If CSAT is lower at a particular stage, that’s where improvements should be prioritized.

  • Use CSAT to incrementally measure improvements. Once a touchpoint is changed for the better, validate that with your customers by comparing CSAT before and after those improvements roll out. Sometimes we think we know what’s best but our customers have different ideas once they see it in action!

  • Track those big, complex interactions with CSAT. Complex buy cycles and complicated B2B service issues aren’t just one call. After the resolution, ask the customer for their satisfaction levels. Service recovery should build loyalty by taking care of customer problems. If that’s not happening, CSAT will tell you.

  • Review CSAT throughout the journey. Even if you are collecting CSAT at specific interaction points, take a step back and review the big picture of these scores within your overall customer journey. The lower scores highlight gaps in the experience. Address those improvements and watch the scores rise again!

CX Metric 3

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The Customer Effort Score asks the customer to score the amount of effort involved with a specific interaction. 

The CES survey asks customers to agree or disagree with the statement: “[Placeholder for company name] made it easy for me to handle my issue.” You can also include an open-ended follow-up question that asks for feedback on the response. The respondent can choose from 7 answer choices ranging from strongly disagree (score 1) to strongly agree (score 7). 

To calculate your company’s CES, find the average of all responses. Use the total sum of responses, then divide by the total number of survey respondents.

The equation: (Total sum of responses) / (Number of responses) = CES score. 

When it comes to evaluating your CES score, generally speaking, an average Customer Effort Score that is more than 5 is good. A score that is 5 and lower is not. Some theorize that you actually don’t want a perfect score, because that shows your customers aren’t putting in any effort themselves to get their questions answered, etc. So somewhere between 5-6 is the sweet spot. If you’re averaging at a CES of 7, especially when measuring for your support team, you might want to encourage more self serve.  

Why CES matters

Customer Effort Score is the new kid on the block of customer experience metrics. It’s important because customers report ease as a key factor in choosing a brand and remaining loyal to that brand. In some businesses, this might be a high indicator of customer loyalty, but in others, it may not be the key driver to customer loyalty. 

As customers demand more effortless experiences, CES can help guide your organization to create less effort for customers throughout their journey.

Use CES to reduce effort at key touchpoints

Customer Effort Score can be particularly helpful as a measurement for key touchpoints which you know require customer effort, leading to customer frustration. For example, it might be common knowledge that your customer onboarding process is cumbersome for customers. As you make incremental improvements, CES could provide more insights than just CSAT alone. 

Brands use CES to measure not just how a customer feels, but what actions are leading them to feel that way. Here are examples of how to use CES:

  • A customer might report high satisfaction with the buying phase, but report the purchase online required more effort than they would’ve liked via CES. Determine what factors led to the feeling of effort for the customer, then provide improvements or peripheral guidance like additional instructions, online support, real-time chat, etc. Measure CES again and see the results of your efforts.

  • CES may tie to referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. Bring your CES up and watch your referral rates and social media sentiment increase. This can also be measured in reverse–so as your CES dips, pay attention to the way customers are discussing your brand.

  • Customers often have ideas on how to make it easier! CES is great for soliciting open-ended feedback from customers who may have great ideas on how to reduce the effort for their fellow customers. Sometimes customers do know best.

Customer experience metrics are an overall gauge

There is no one, perfect formula for what to track and measure for your organization. Each brand, each industry, and each customer experience deserves customized views to understand your customers, gather insights and use those insights to improve the journey. 

Leaders who care about CX will take what’s most important and track consistently. This consistent measurement leads to better understanding and ability to predict when things require attention. Your customers share because they want your brand to sit up and take notice!

The Catalogue of Customer Experience Metrics
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About the guest author 

Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext 

Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and is CEO of Experience Investigators. She is a customer experience speaker, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in assisting all types of companies, including Fortune 500. Specialties include in-depth customer experience evaluations, customer journey mapping, user experience analysis, and leading workshops and training programs. Her mission is: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.™ Connect with her: | @jeanniecw

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