Measuring customer experience can, at first, seem an impossibly daunting task. After all—customer journeys diverge frequently based on touch points. However, there are customer experience metrics out there that help categorize this experience into hard, actionable data. Through surveys to their customer base, with numerical scale questions, businesses can measure different aspects of a customer’s experience (transactional surveys), or their overall experience with the company (relationship surveys).
Some of the most popular customer experience metrics are Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES). So how do you choose which one works best within your customer experience program? In CustomerGauge’s 2018 NPS® & CX Benchmarks Report, respondents had a lot of opinions. Some companies reported that they used all three, others used two in tandem with each other, and many focused on a single metric.
In a similar study conducted in 2016 by CustomerGauge, far fewer companies were engaging in this type of customer experience metric cross-over; only 32% of respondents said they used CSAT in addition to Net Promoter Score, and no one indicated they used CES. However, in 2018, more than one-third of companies used CSAT in addition to NPS, and 1 in 6 used CES. All together, 49% of NPS users also measured an additional metric, reflecting a trend of companies relying more on customer experience metrics as a whole, and finding that by linking them together, they can get a more holistic view of their businesses.
There are a lot of perks to using these metrics together, but some difficulties as well if not done properly. We’ll explore each of these metrics, and how they can be used independently, then we’ll explore using them together.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is a metric that asks a single question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company/good/service to a friend?” This question is asked in a survey. The format of the question maybe modified depending on whether your business is conducting a relationship or transactional survey (you can learn more about these differences between each ).
Based on a customer’s response to that question, they’re categorized as promoters, passives, or detractors. Promoters are customers that give a score of 9 or 10. They are customers that are very happy with their experience, and are more willing to spread good word of mouth to others, even without your prompting.
Customers that give a score of 7 or 8 are passives, a category that encompasses those that aren’t unhappy with their customer experience, but they aren’t overly thrilled either. Passive customers are more susceptible to competitor offers, and likely won’t talk about their experience with others, whether it be positive or negative.
Detractors make up the rest of the customer base, giving a score somewhere in the range of 0 to 6. These are people who have had a bad experience with your company, and they are likely to complain to others unless you quickly take action to address their concerns.
A company’s NPS is determined by taking the percentages of promoters and detractors, and subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. So if you have 60% promoters, and 10% detractors, your NPS would be 50.
NPS is first on this list for a number of reasons: it is simple, actionable and focused towards growth. With one platform, you can get a view on overall customer experience and customer loyalty, and take action on the problems it surfaces. Whenever a customer is found to be a detractor, for example, a frontline employee or automated system can automatically reach out to them, and seek to understand their complaints. With those complaints understood, action can be taken to correct the issue, increasing customer retention and reducing customer churn. However, that follow up is key to taking action; without it, NPS is just an overview.
What sets NPS apart from other customer experience metrics is NPS transcends single experiences for customers; it provides wider view, an overall summation of a customer’s experience with every aspect of a business. However, we’ll be the first to admit that NPS, by itself in a survey, isn’t always enough to determine root cause.
So, yes, while NPS is considered the “Ultimate Question,” don’t be afraid toto this question to more easily determine root cause.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
Customer Satisfaction Score, or CSAT, is another of popular customer experience metrics, likely because it’s highly customizable, and can be applied to a number of situations. It can exist on a scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 7, or a 1 to 5 scale of "very unsatisfied" to "very satisfied", or even on a scale of smiley faces; whatever metric you feel like utilizing. Then it can ask the question “How satisfied are you with [blank],” and have the blank refer to almost any part of the customer journey, depending on what you want information on. Perhaps you want to evaluate how well customer support staff are doing, and identify team members worthy of praise, or that need more training. Perhaps you want to know how a software update is performing, or if a customer is enjoying their newest purchase.
CSAT is calculated by finding the percentage of customers that gave the two highest scores. On a scale of 1 to 10, that would be 9 and 10; on a scale of 1 to 5, that would be 4 and 5, or “satisfied” and “very satisfied.” The idea behind using the highest scores is it gives the most accurate predictor for customer retention, as customers who are likely to stick around will give higher scores. Essentially, to compare CSAT to NPS, you’re looking for your percentage of promoters. The higher that percentage, the better your company is doing in the area you’re surveying.
A big benefit to CSAT is it’s a great way to close the loop with customers. A customer makes a purchase, and they can be automatically sent a quick CSAT survey asking how they feel about the product and the ordering process, giving them a chance to make any complaints or praise they wish to make, and in turn giving your business a chance to respond and take action to handle any complaints.
CSAT is wonderful for its customization options, so it truly shines when it’s seeking to understand customer satisfaction in particular moments of the customer journey. It’s designed to understand an individual interaction, not look at the big picture of customer satisfaction; CSAT is not a good predictor for customer loyalty or repeat business. NPS is the metric for a wider scope, as it focuses on customer intention. CSAT looks at customer satisfaction, which can change much more quickly, and doesn’t account for a customer needing to purchase a product again, or only needing a good or service once. So the secret to using CSAT as a customer experience metric is to know what you want to evaluate, like your frontline, or a new product, and surveying for that. Leave overall satisfaction with your company to other metrics.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
Customer Effort Score, or CES, measures how much effort a customer has to put in to complete their interaction with a company, and use a good or service. Customers generally respond to CES survey questions on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 meaning little effort, and 5 meaning high effort. In a newer version of CES surveying, CES 2.0, sometimes the question is turned into an agree/disagree statement like “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue,” and answer on a scale of “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” In either case, you’re evaluating to see if you have more customers that put in minimal effort than others—you want the average of responses to be low, reflecting the low numbers for effort, or an average response of “Agree” or “Strongly Agree.” That average is your CES.
CES, unlike CSAT, is a great metric for customer loyalty. Generally, if customers are putting in a lot of effort every time they interact with your company, in time they will go elsewhere for their goods and services. However, if it’s easy to work with your company, and customers barely have to do anything, they’re very likely to repurchase with you. So CES is a great metric for predicting customer retention, as well as following up with customer support interactions and customer on-boarding to evaluate their efficacy, and the customer experience with them. Customer support and customer on-boarding can be very hands-on from your frontline, or highly automated. Evaluating how well either method work for you is very valuable for making your business successful.
CES primarily evaluates how effective your customer service is via effort. However, CES has its drawbacks, such as having a limited scope of inquiry for your company. Much like CSAT, it tends to work best when asked about specific interactions, rather than how easy it is to interact with your company as a whole. Additionally, CES can identify issues with the customer support journey, it doesn’t identify what those problems are. Much like with NPS, to fully utilize the data gathered from CES, a company must ask follow up questions, which necessitates extending surveys, getting enough responses to those surveys for statistically significant findings, and having structures in place to answer these problems. So there’s a lot of value in knowing your CES, but it applies to particular instances, and it still requires follow through.
Using NPS, CSAT, and CES Together
When considering each of these customer experience metrics, it’s easy to see how they intersect. Each metric seeks to numerically explain some part of customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty, allowing companies to create better customer experiences. They all give numbers to customer experience, and therefore give a company goals to achieve with those numbers. They all help give an overview on your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and they all require some form of follow through to get specific, actionable tasks to accomplish based on the data they provide.
Below we look at why a company may—or may not—choose to use multiple metrics.
Pros of Using Multiple Customer Satisfaction Metrics
There are a number of reasons why using multiple metrics might be useful:
- Distinguishing a purpose for each metric: CSAT seeks to understand customer satisfaction as a metric, while NPS and CES both give you data for customer loyalty. NPS and CES are complementary metrics that way, while CES and CSAT share the commonality of being good for evaluating specific interactions with customers. NPS, meanwhile, is a good big picture metric, a better method for evaluating a larger view of a company’s customer experience. (Though in the next section we'll get into how NPS can also be used for this purpose as well. Here, we simply discuss how each, if used in conjunction, can be used.)
- CX metric layers: It’s helpful, then, to think of the metrics as working in layers. NPS gives you an overview of how customers are feeling towards your company, and if there are larger issues. CSAT then evaluates how satisfied customers are with specific interactions or processes, as CES sees how easy they are for customers to carry out. Each metric is important. You need to understand customer loyalty in a larger sense while you also start to see that your customer service process involves a few too many hoops, and is driving customers away. Fixing the customer service process addresses some concerns, but seeing the bigger picture via NPS allows for you to see that most of your business has too many hoops, for customers and employees alike. Fixing customer support will only address so much. So you have to evaluate CES in other areas as well, along with CSAT, to see what to prioritize, and what processes can stay a little more elaborate.
- Close the loop: NPS goes up when companies close the loop, as does customers’ overall experience with a company. CSAT surveys are a great way to close to loop after a sale that gives customers a place to issue complaints, and have those complaints addressed, as well as a place to express joy with a sale, helping companies also see what they’re doing right. CES surveys are another way to close the loop, particularly on customer support interactions, allowing for similar interactions with customers, and similar benefits. Net Promoter Score offers a clear picture of not just dissatisfied customers, but promoters and passives as well. This makes Net Promoter survey particularly well-suited for follow-up processes across your customers base.
Cons of Using Multiple Customer Satisfaction Metrics
There are things to keep in mind with using multiple metrics, of course.
- KISS Approach (Keep It Simple Stupid): The BIGGEST issue with using multiple metrics is not using them for a specific purpose, as we pointed to above—and making that purpose transparent throughout the organization. At CustomerGauge, we often recommend picking one customer loyalty metric and sticking to it. Simplicity typically wins out in the end. Which brings us to our next point:
- Metrics are flexible: We say this because NPS, for example, can easily be used to measure interactions as well. NPS transactional survey can pick up the slack of CES or other metrics that help understanding individual interactions.
- Keep surveys short: You don’t want surveys to be too long—short and sweet should be the goal, so evaluating for too many metrics at once can make a survey long, and make fewer customers respond to it. One way to counter longer surveys is to use drivers with a metric. We typically encourage using drivers with Net Promoter surveys to represent different aspects of the experience. Drivers allow more accurate root cause analysis.
In the end, NPS, CSAT, and CES each have their benefits. Companies like HPE Software use multiple metrics, however, you might find that difficult within your own business model to adapt to that practice. We recommend starting with one metric and evaluating if it is providing actionable data. After all—it's not the number that matters, it's what you do with it.