Which Customer Satisfaction Metric is Right for You?

NPS, CSAT or CES? Which metric should you use to measure customer satisfaction? Here's a quick guide to give you the pros and cons of each.


Jeremiah Chua

March 1, 2018

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Improving the customer experience is on the top of the list for most businesses. After all, happy customers have higher retention rates, higher lifetime values, and are more likely to share their positive experiences with friends and colleagues. In fact, most customers care about their experience that 86% of consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better one.

In order to ensure your customer experience is up to snuff, you need to measure it. You can send out a lengthy annual survey and cross your fingers, hoping that many of your customers will take the time to fill it out. Alternatively, you can get strategic and employ an established customer scoring system.

There are a few different customer scoring systems that may be right for you, all with different pros and cons. Today, we’re discussing the power of Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer happiness by asking a single question: How likely are you to recommend us to your family or friends? Customers can then give a score from 0-10, where 10 represents “extremely likely.” These responses categorize customers into three categories:

  • Promoters – those who give a score of 9-10

  • Passives – those who give a score of 7-8

  • Detractors – those who give a score of 0-6

From here, a business calculates the overall score. Equipped with this overall NPS, businesses can identify how customers feel about their business.

Businesses usually send NPS surveys via email, or within an app, after a specific experience. For example, some businesses send out NPS surveys after someone has contacted customer support or made a purchase for the very first time.

Why it’s great: NPS is great for measuring the holistic customer experience. It can help give you an idea for how customers feel about your brand as a whole. It’s also great because you can track the score over time, and it’s easy for everyone within your company to understand.

What to watch out for: Some find that measuring NPS is too simple to be helpful. Yes, you can understand that customers are having a negative experience, but NPS makes it difficult to find out why. Some use a secondary follow up question, which is open-ended, to curb this issue.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is arguably the most common way to measure customer experience. These surveys are used to measure customer satisfaction with specific experiences. For example, in a CSAT survey, a business might ask: How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the service you received today?

Answer choices are graded on a scale, usually from 1-5, where 1 represents completely unsatisfied and 5 represents completely satisfied. Once customers respond, the average of their scores gives you the overall CSAT score. This score indicates how satisfied or dissatisfied customers are with a particular service, interaction, procedure, or product—whatever the survey is measuring.

CSAT surveys are used for customer support interactions, sales interactions, customer onboarding, conference and event feedback, website and online check process, and many more instances.

Why it’s great: CSAT surveys are an excellent tool to measure customer satisfaction at specific touch points. This specificity allows a business to improve very tangible and specific aspects of their business. Additionally, CSAT scores show teams the impact their actions have on customers.

What to watch out for: Unlike NPS, CSAT does not give you a big picture view of the customer experience. Rather, it only tells you about specific interactions. Even if a customer says they had a good experience with your support team, you don’t really know if they would recommend your business to friends or family.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The Customer Effort Score (CES) quantifies the effort customers have to expend in order to get their questions answered. To do this, CES focus on the processes customers have to go through in order to get help. Was it easy for them? Difficult? What was their experience?

A common problem with a customer support experience is the number of times a customer has to re-explain their problem. This involves switching through multiple representatives they’re speaking to, or repeatedly having to call back the company for the same issue. CES can help you understand if these types of issues are happening for your business.

In order to measure CES, businesses ask customers for the level of difficulty it took to resolve their issues. Measuring customer effort commonly occurs after customer service interactions, purchase or sales interactions, online checkouts, and customer meetings or consultations.

Why it’s great: CES catches metrics that NPS and CSAT simply don’t. Additionally, the metric CES is measuring may be more crucial than the others. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that the Customer Effort Score more accurately predicted customer loyalty than the standard Customer Satisfaction Score.

What to watch out for: CES can be an extremely helpful metric, especially because it provides so much actionable information. However, it may not measure customer sentiment quite as accurately as NPS, so choose carefully.

Wrap-Up: Which Customer Satisfaction Metric is Right For Your Business?

As you can see, NPS, CSAT, and CES are all valuable feedback tools. All are good, but none give you a complete view. When it comes to gathering customer feedback, you need to consider your individual business goals. No business should employ the exact same survey solution.

In the end, your best bet is to use a variety of surveys at different times in the customer journey. When a customer makes a purchase, you might use NPS, whereas you might use CSAT or CES to find specific problems within your support experience. When utilized appropriately, all three surveys will give your company the leverage it needs to improving the customer experience.

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