5 meaningful ways to measure customer satisfaction

Have you ever seen a car in front of you with their turn signal on but they’re not turning? It’s the worst. It’s confusing, and it points to a major flaw of the turn signal: it’s not always a reliable point of reference for whether or not someone is about to make a turn. The same is also true when someone does intend to turn but doesn’t use their blinker. 

When measuring customer satisfaction you can run into a similar set of issues. The standards we think of like CSAT or NPS, can be misleading because they only tell part of the story. In order to have a true idea of how people are feeling, you need more than one source of truth. 

With that in mind, we’re sharing five different ways you can measure customer satisfaction. By using multiple measures you’ll have a better understanding of how your customers are doing, and will be more able to address any potential issues quickly, and effectively. 

CSAT

When you’re finished with your meal at a restaurant, what does the waiter almost always ask? “How was everything?” They’re asking you, the customer, directly how satisfied you were with the meal. It’s effectively a live customer satisfaction survey. 

If you’re not familiar, CSAT (an abbreviation for customer satisfaction) is a metric used to measure the degree to which a customer is happy with a product, service, or experience. As alluded to above, CSAT is assessed by asking customers directly how they would rate their satisfaction with either a product, service, or interaction.  

CSAT commonly uses a 5-point scale survey to measure satisfaction (1 being unsatisfied, and 5 being very satisfied). Those looking for a more precise measure may opt to use a seven or 10 point scale. In most cases, there’s a threshold for unsatisfied, neutral, satisfied, and very satisfied. 

The great thing about CSAT is that it’s very specific. As mentioned earlier, you can use CSAT to measure any number of things. In that way, it’s a very flexible metric, which is a valuable trait. However, it can be misleading. 

When you send a CSAT survey you’re just getting how the respondent feels at that very moment. That means, if a customer is frustrated with a bug or an issue, they may express that in the survey, though in general they may like your product. Since feelings change frequently and are subject to many outside factors, it’s not always the most reliable source of long-term satisfaction. 

CES

Have you ever needed to contact a company’s support team, but when you went to find contact details they were nowhere to be found? It’s an incredibly frustrating experience when it happens and that’s for one main reason: it requires a lot of effort. 

Though we may not always actively think about it, every interaction we have with a business requires some amount of effort. And, generally speaking, the more effort something requires, the worse the experience. 

In fact, one of the biggest hindrances to completing an online purchase is the need to create an account. Companies like Amazon are clearly trying to reduce effort by offering things like one-click ordering. The best way to measure how much effort a certain task takes is by utilizing a CES survey. 

CES (standing for customer effort score) isn’t aiming to understand customer sentiment like  CSAT does, but instead wants to find out how difficult it was to complete a certain action. For example, if you have an online store you might send out a CES survey to see if there are ways to optimize your checkout flow. 

Similar to CSAT, CES surveys typically ask respondents to rate their effort on a fixed scale ranging from “very difficult” to “very easy.” CES surveys are also quite flexible and can shed light on any number of business functions. 

But also similar to CSAT, CES surveys have some shortcomings. Mainly, while they’re good at uncovering inefficiencies, they don’t do much in the way of understanding customer sentiment. For that reason, CES surveys are often best used as a supplemental effort along with some form of sentiment analysis. 

NPS

NPS (short for Net Promoter Score) surveys have become quite popular over the last few years. One of the main reasons for that is their simplicity. NPS surveys only have two questions: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague (on a scale from 1-10)?”, and a follow-up question asking why they gave the score they did. 

The two question format of an NPS survey is great for a couple of reasons. First, they’re really short surveys, which tend to be much more attractive to respondents. The second reason the format is so great is that it gives you both quantitative and qualitative data, which can help paint a more complete picture of how satisfied a customer really is. 

When measuring NPS, score ranges are segmented to describe the type of user someone is. Low scores go into the “detractor” category (0-6). Middle scores go into the “passive” category (7-8). And high scores go into the “promoter” category (9-10). 

Just as with the other two measures, NPS surveys aren’t without their challenges. The main criticism is that the two-question survey isn’t thorough enough to truly give much insight into why a customer gave a certain score. 

Some are also quick to point out that since NPS is really a measure of sentiment, how someone feels about your brand is quite fluid. In fact, a study done by the Harvard Business review found 52% of people who actively discouraged others from using a brand, also actively encouraged others to use that brand at a different point in time. 

Referrals 

Though NPS surveys may not always offer the most reliable data on how someone will actually behave in the real world, their idea to focus on optimizing for customer referrals is spot on. There are a litany of reasons why referrals are important, but there are two statistics about referrals you should absolutely know. 


First, people are four times more likely to purchase when referred by a friend. It makes sense. We trust our friends much more than we do marketing campaigns. So, their referrals hold a lot more weight in our minds. 

Second, a study by the Wharton School of Business found referred customers are 25% more valuable than customers coming from other sources. So, not only is someone more likely to become a customer if they’re referred, they also spend more with you, too. 

Unsurprisingly, customers who have had a good experience with a brand are 5x more likely to refer others to a brand when compared to someone who’s had a poor experience. By virtue of that, how many customer referrals you’re getting can be a strong indicator of how satisfied they are. 

Renewals

How often do you repurchase something you don’t like? The answer is probably “not a lot.” Now there are some potential exceptions, but most of the time if we decide to repurchase something it’s because that item has proven useful to us. 

The same is true of your customers. In fact, one very strong indicator a customer may take their business elsewhere is if they start engaging with your product, or service, less. And when someone stops using your product, it’s very likely the reason is they’re not satisfied with it. 

Now, there is an important distinction to make here. Just because someone is satisfied with your product, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re satisfied with the overall customer experience. For example, they could love how well a product works, but then truly dread contacting the support team on a rare occasion they do have an issue. 

With that in mind, as with all the other measures mentioned before, renewal data should really just act as one piece of the whole. 

Continued effort

As our products, and services, have become more complex and varied, so has the customer experience. Though it is tempting to try and find some sort of perfect metric that can measure every facet of a customer’s satisfaction, it’s simply not an option in modern times. 

In order to truly understand how satisfied your customers are, you need to look at a number of metrics. By doing so, you’re able to create a more detailed picture of the whole experience, which allows you to serve your customers better. 

Make sure you’re continually refining your approach to understanding your customer’s satisfaction. Also, don’t be afraid to implement multiple measures, and think outside the box. When you do you create a richer experience for everyone. 
Have we piqued your interest? Learn more about getting started with measuring customer satisfaction.

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