CSAT, NPS, or CES. Which Survey Is Right For You?

This post was originally published on the FCR blog on September 25, 2015.  Click here to read the original.

Mugato-meme2In the words of Mugatu (Will Ferrell) from the movie Zoolander, the customer experience is so hot right now.  In a world where customers have more places than ever to take their business, and thanks to social media, a louder voice than ever when they are dissatisfied, smart companies are beginning to realize that it’s really important to pay attention to what their customers are saying.

Voice of Customer (VOC) is all about listening to what customers are saying about your product or service in an effort to learn what’s working and what needs to be improved.  What better opportunity to improve than to listen to the folks actually using our product or service?

In a previous post I shared three easy ways to gain valuable customer experience insight.  In this article, I want to spend a bit more time on the various surveys for listening to the VOC, specifically Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES).  I’ll briefly talk about what they are and share a few best practices for your consideration.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is a popular survey that asks a customer to rate their satisfaction with your product or service on a scale of 1 (unacceptable) to 10 (excellent).  From there, it’s simple to get an overall average rating.

Common practice in a customer service environment is to send a survey out to a customer after they contact support.  Many customer engagement platforms on the market like Zendesk and Desk.com have this functionality built in.  For systems that don’t have this integrated, survey platforms like SurveyMonkeyand QuestionPro can easily connect to a variety of CRMs, even homegrown ones, without a huge amount of time or expense.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is another simple survey that is rapidly increasing in popularity as a measure of customer loyalty.  NPS asks respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend the company to a friend or colleague on a scale of 0 to 10.  The people who respond with a 9 or 10 are considered promoters, 7 and 8 are passives, and 0 to 6 are detractors.

To calculate NPS, take the percentage of detractors and subtract that from the percentage of promoters.  According to Satmetrix, promoters are much more likely to spend more money, remain a customer longer, and tell others about your company through word of mouth.

While we find that it’s fairly common for companies to ask this question after customers contact support, there are pros and cons to asking a questions about loyalty when their support experience is fresh in their mind.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES is a survey used to gauge how measurementsmuch effort a customer had to put forth to resolve their issue.  According to an article in the Harvard Business Review titled Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers, this survey invites customers to rate their level of effort on a scale of 1 (minimal effort) to 5 (maximum effort).  Unlike CSAT and NPS, a lower score indicates less effort and is therefore better.

According to the article, a reduction in customer effort comes as a result of agents being empowered to solve problems and it prevents customers from switching from one support channel to another (like griping on Twitter when no one answers the phone).  They also cite that it’s a better predictor or repeat business than NPS or CSAT.

Words Of Wisdom

Now that you know a bit about CSAT, NPS and CES, I want to take a few moments to share a some words of wisdom as you consider the right survey for your business.

Measure something

At FCR we’ve found that 50% of our clients are currently surveying their customers for CSAT.  Another 6% are also measuring for NPS on their CSAT survey.  Regardless of the survey you select, there’s a good chance that it can be activated through your current technology with very little effort.

By beginning to measure the level of satisfaction of your customers, it sets a benchmark by which you can set goals for improvement month over month and year over year.  If you are uncertain as to the survey that’s right for you, Jeff Toister wrote this fantastic article with some things to consider when selecting the ideal survey.

Keep it simple

Don’t overthink your survey.  Everyone is being bombarded with emails and surveys all the time.  Remember that the more questions you ask and the more frequently you poll your customers, the less likely they will be to respond.  That’s what makes these one question surveys so great.

Read the comments

Don’t forget to leave a place for your customers to include comments on their survey.  The insight as to why they left the rating they did is invaluable to understanding how to improve your customer experience.  If the customer indicates they want a call back, call them!  In the words of Ken Blanchard, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  Accept it as a gift, be grateful, and take action.  Without specific goals for improvement, the scores aren’t worth a whole lot.

Celebrate the positive.  Approach the negative with caution.

Most customer engagement platforms can tie the scores back to the individual customer service representative that worked with the customer.  While we typically find that the scores correlate well with our internal quality monitoring, we also find that some survey scores are completely out of the control of agent they spoke with.  Perhaps the customer was truly unreasonable and took it out on the survey.  Or perhaps the customer spoke with multiple agents and the score was tied to one agent who actually did a great job.  Consider also that an agent might receive low marks for correctly enforcing a company policy that the customer didn’t agree with.  It’s important to ensure fairness and avoid making your employees accountable for things that are totally out of their control.

Benchmark your data

Finally, one of the coolest things about all three of these surveys is that you can take your scores and benchmark them against other companies, and even see how you stack up against your competition.  To learn more about each, check out these sites:

CSAT- The American Customer Satisfaction Index

NPS- The Net Promoter Community

CES- CEB

What’s your customer survey of choice and why?  Leave us a comment and weigh in with your thoughts.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

2 comments

  • Great technical advice and great ways to measure customer satisfaction. As you know I am a huge fan of communication, as a business owner I am constantly on the lookout for ways to keep hi-touch approaches to dealing with customers. I love making improvements, bettering my systems and simplifying my process. Thanks for all you do to make the experience even better Jeremy…xo

    • Thanks Doug! One thing I didn’t mention is that it’s a great idea to survey your customers in person wherever possible. Unless of course you’re limited by scale.

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