What types of metrics measure customer satisfaction?

In this article, we look at what types of metrics measure customer satisfaction. Find out where NPS, CSAT, CES and more are good, and where they're not.

What types of metric measure customer satisfaction?

There are many metrics to measure customer satisfaction such as passive data collection and growth in number of testimonials/reviews.

However, within the specific category of surveys, there are already well established and clearly defined systems for gaining insights into customer experience metrics, customer success and customer loyalty – all of these numbers pull together to give us a better idea of how satisfied customers are with our product or service.

The benefit of customer satisfaction surveys is that they provide cold, hard metrics that you can use to drive growth within your organisation. Additionally, some systems have well established benchmark scores for industries and countries meaning you can compare your performance to your industry or locality.

Let's take a look at the three most common customer satisfaction and customer service metrics.

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NPS - Net Promoter Score.

When talking to anyone about customer satisfaction, you're almost definitely going to hear the words Net Promoter Score mentioned near the top of the conversation. The reason for that is simple: it's a really good indicator of how satisfied your customers are.

Specifically, it measures the level of trust that a customer has in your brand (which is obviously linked to satisfaction.) This is a pretty good indicator for many companies of customer loyalty. And don't forget, high customer loyalty impacts positively on churn rate and is linked to increased overall turnover – when customers stay around, their lifetime value increases.

A quick aside

What is NPS?

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a system for measuring customer satisfaction. Created by Bain and Company together with Satmetrix systems, it asks respondents how likely they would be to recommend a brand to their friends. The idea is to get a very visceral gauge of how much they trust your brand.

NPS is so widely used for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it only requires respondents to answer a single question (in contrast to other similar systems).

Secondly, the calculation which goes on in the background is really effective at helping you know where you need to make changes in order to improve your customer satisfaction levels.

An example NPS question might be:

How likely would you be to recommend {{COMPANY}} to a friend or colleague?

The scale used for the question type is 0 (Not likely) up to 10 (Very likely). Sometimes, you see slightly different variations of the question but that matters less than what comes next.

After the scores are in, people use an NPS calculation that segments people into one of three groups:

  • Detractors - scores between 0-6 (inclusive) – these are the people who are most likely to churn
  • Passives - scores between 7-8 (inclusive) – this is a big opportunity for you. Increasing these by 1-2 points on the scale can have huge impact for your overall score
  • Promoters - scores between 9-10 (inclusive) – these are the people who are most likely to be loyal customers

Stick with us here. It's about to take another twist but it's really super simple when you get to know it. From there, the calculation goes like this:

(Number of Promoters — Number of Detractors) / (Number of Respondents) x 100

A quick aside

How to calculate NPS

NPS is calculated in three steps: 

  1. Ask the question: How likely would you be to recommend {{COMPANY}} to a friend or colleague?
  2. Segment the respondents into detractors (0-6), passives (7-8), promoters (9-10)
  3. Plug the numbers into this calculation: (Number of Promoters — Number of Detractors) / (Number of Respondents) x 100 and get your responses as a score of -100 to 100. 

What are the benefits of NPS?

NPS really does you two key things:

Tells whether people like your company enough to tell the people they like the most that they should use it - there's a huge amount of social pressure here. Don't recommend a product that is going to make my life worse, friend!

In fact, understanding customer service metrics like NPS at different parts of the customer journey can be vital to customer retention as well as acquiring new customers.

Net Promoter Score places a disproportionate weight onto the people who aren't having a good experience by making the category for detractors so much broader than the other categories.

In classic management scorecards (this is a slight variation of that), you can only get the lowest score because that's the one that's going to produce the biggest impact for you.

It's similar with NPS. Focusing on the detractors will produce tangible benefits for your company by producing a more robust system for creating a delightful customer journey than if you just simply focused on the promoter scores.

Someday, the pain of detraction will be useful to you!

Collecting a satisfaction score for everything from the onboarding process, customer support metrics, customer service response time and even post churn is important if you're hoping to meet your key performance indicators around customer success metrics.

The promoter score is particularly widely used in SaaS companies (software as a service) because of the low touch customer experience that many technology companies prefer. Using an NPS survey can help SaaS companies to continue to collect customer feedback metrics but do so at scale and without individual customer interaction that works better for other types of company.

Create your own survey at doopoll.co

CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Score

NPS is undoubtedly the most complicated of these established methodologies. But don't let complexity fool you, CSAT (customer satisfaction score) is also really effective and incredibly simple to do.

While it's a more basic sum to calculate and is actually much more subjective, a company who makes CSAT part of their CX metrics (customer experience metrics) will gain new insights into how effective their business is in many areas.

It's a simple satisfaction survey and gains valuable customer feedback into any product or service business.

A quick aside

What is Customer Satisfaction Score?

CSAT is a simple customer satisfaction question which focuses on satisfaction with a product or service. 

There’s no complex calculation and simply asks respondents a question like ‘How satisfied were you with your purchase today?’ It offers a scale like 1-10 or 1-5. It’s much less rigid a methodology than the NPS. 

CSAT is a simple customer satisfaction question which focuses on satisfaction with a product or service.

There's no complex calculation and simply asks respondents a question like 'How satisfied were you with your purchase today?' It offers a scale like 1-10 or 1-5. It's much less rigid a methodology than the NPS.

A lot of people will start their work around customer satisfaction by asking a question like this one. The reason for that is the plain simplicity.

Thinking about a different article in this guide on customer satisfaction, building this into your customer satisfaction lifecycle is an easy win and will give you some key insights into where the customers in your cycle are becoming dissatisfied.

For example, do customers lose interest after 30 days since purchase? Should you be doing something to encourage more usage after 90 days? 25 days to renewal - how satisfied are they?

These questions are easy to answer by sending out a super simple survey at each customer lifecycle stage.

Here's a template of the CSAT survey that you can use to get started:

Create your own survey at doopoll.co

CES – Customer Effort Score

The final metric that really establishes a trackable number for customer satisfaction is a customer effort score.

We've added it here at the end of this list because while it is useful for some people, it does not indicate the holistic satisfaction that you are probably needing to measure in your company.

Customer Effort Score measures how easy it was for a customer to solve their issue with a company. A classic example would be ease of resolution in a customer support request or, for bricks and mortar companies, the length of time it took to speak to a customer service rep in store.

It's actually contentious as to whether this works as an indicator of customer satisfaction though. The arguments are:

Arguments for using customer effort score

  • Harvard Business Review claims it is a more effective metric to improve than customer delight
  • It is really linked to transaction quality – if your business needs to support customers a lot, this might be a good one for you to use

Arguments against using customer effort score

  • It’s really linked to a transaction – sure, I listed this in pros, but I also think it’s a con. Unlike other metrics, this one gives you a super one sided worldview. You might have great customer service but a terrible product. Both those metrics need to be measured somehow. 
  • Unless you’re doing the segmentation manually (by asking some qualifying questions for example), unlike NPS, this just won’t give you insights into the difference in sentiment by detractors vs promoters etc. 

Here’s the truth: customer effort score, like all the other metrics that we have talked about in this and in other articles, still only paints a 1 sided view of an organisation. What you’re looking for is the whole picture. You should use this system together with a bunch of alternatives and try to get a health check of your entire business.

We've got a sample CES survey here. It's easy to get started. Just use this template 👇

Create your own survey at doopoll.co

What are some lesser known customer satisfaction scoring systems? 

As well as the ‘big three’ we listed above, there are also a number of smaller, lesser used systems. 

Here’s a quick overview: 

  1. Five star rating – this one is really great for public facing reviews but beyond that you’re not going to get a lot of information that you can use to actively manage customer satisfaction levels.
  2. Smileys – you might have seen Happy or Not machines at the exit of an airport or a department store. Those are a physical version of the smiley system. I hope I don’t need to explain how that one works. Oh, I do? Well, here you go: Best 😀🙂😐🙁😭 Worst
  3. Thumbs up, thumbs down – pretty simple! You ask your customers to play caesar for your brand. Let’s hope you don’t get eaten by lions!

Well, that’s it for our roundup of useful customer satisfaction metrics. 

If you’re somehow still not sure what you want to be measuring then the best choice for you is just to pick one and start using it. You’ll soon find out if the thing that you want to be measuring is reflected in the data that you’re getting back from customers. 

Now, follow me this way into an article about some of the more practical issues around collecting customer satisfaction scores. 

Marc Thomas

Marc is CEO and cofounder of doopoll.

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