CSAT vs. NPS vs. CES: Your Guide to Customer Support Scores

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CSAT Scores

There are a lot of customer care metrics to choose from. Make an informed decision.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is a key performance indicator for business-to-consumer companies, but the abundance of customer service support metrics has made it hard to identify the best way to gauge how your customers actually feel. We help you understand the pros and cons of the most prevalent scoring systems to help you understand your options.

CSAT Scores 

CSAT is a broad term that describes many different types of customer service survey questions. The goal of any CSAT score is to measure a customer's satisfaction level with your company's product, service or interaction. CSAT score is often determined by asking customers a single question, a set of queries, or a long survey to asses their experiences, for example:

Q: How would you describe your overall satisfaction with this product?

  • Very dissatisfied
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Very satisfied

Measurement: The answers are quantified, then expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100%. A high percentage indicates that your customers are highly satisfied.

Pros: CSAT's best asset is versatility because it allows you to ask customers a variety of questions. CSAT score allows for the most customized survey questions, so you can delve into different strengths and weaknesses, which lets you focus on finding the best ways to meet your customers' needs.

Cons: This method doesn't take into account that people who are either somewhat dissatisfied or somewhat satisfied are unlikely to complete surveys, which is known to skew results. The CSAT is the weakest predictor of future behavior because it often limits its scope to a single interaction. The CSAT score is also a poor predictor of any type of loyalty; although a low CSAT score can predict attrition, but a high CSAT doesn't accurately predict repeat business.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) 

The Net Promoter Score, or NPS score, has garnered a lot of attention lately as the go-to customer satisfaction metric. At its core, NPS embodies the fundamental idea that all of a company's customers fall into one of three categories: promoters, passives, or detractors. Promoters are dedicated, repeat customers who enthusiastically recommend your products or services to others. Passives are customers who are satisfied, but lack any enthusiasm or loyalty; passives could easily switch to a competitor. Detractors are customers who are decidedly unsatisfied with your company. For example, you may ask a customer "How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend?" and give them the option to select a score on a scale of 0 - 10 where 0 means "not at all likely" and 10 is "extremely likely."

Measurement: The numerical scores to categorize each customer: Detractors have scores in the 0-6 scores range; Passives are in the 7-8 range; Promoters have scores in the 9-10 range.

Calculate your NPS by starting with the percentage of customers who are promoters and subtract the percentage who are detractors. The larger the difference is between the number of promoters and detractors, the higher your company's NPS.

Pros: NPS only requires a customer to respond to one simple question, which makes it easy to complete and more likely the customer will do so.

Cons: The main criticism for NPS is that asking just a single question is one-dimensional, so it gives only a narrow perspective of customer satisfaction. Additionally, there's no proof that promoters will actually recommend your company to those in their lives, so the score doesn't necessarily correlate with a boost in real world business.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The CES looks at how much effort a customer must exert to have their needs met by a company.

Q: How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request on a scale of 1-5?

A: Choose between 1 and 5. 1 indicates very low effort and 5 indicates very high effort.

Measurement: After aggregating the replies, a low number indicates that your company is making things easy for the consumer. A very high number means that customers are putting in way too much work to interact with your company.

Pros: One benefit of the CES is that it keeps solutions focused on a single element - customer effort. The sole goal of calculating a CES is to eliminate or minimize any barriers for customer service. CES has been proven to be the best indicator of customer loyalty.

Cons: CES can address obstacles for customer service, but doesn't delve into why customers have any issues in the first place or what those obstacles may be.

Ultimately, all three systems of measurement useful for evaluating the effectiveness of changes in processes, products, or services on customer satisfaction; company's can compare a score before and after implementing a new protocol to measure the impact. Additionally, these metrics are designed specifically to help businesses identify their strengths and weaknesses. The whole purpose of consumer research is to translate those insights into action items that will in turn improve your customer's experience overall.

As you might suspect, no single measurement can properly address all of your company's concerns with customer support. These measurements can be combined and used with other complementary tools to render a comprehensive look at your company's needs. The best advice is to use these tools in tandem with any industry specific tactics or anecdotal evidence that you uncover.

Through experimentation, you'll find the blend that is the most effective for your company, and most importantly, your customers.

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September 01, 2014