Increased competition in nearly every market is leading businesses of all types to search for ways to attract and retain their ideal customers. Customers have unprecedented access to information about products and services. And with a few clicks, they can compare your company with your competitors, and learn how others perceive you. As competition and buyer empowerment accelerated, customer experience (CX), is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage.
Not only does exceptional customer experience make customers happier, it drives desirable customer behavior. More purchases and renewals. More referrals and positive word of mouth.
When you start your CX efforts, you need to consider how to measure it. But “it” is a multi-layered concept, and to truly understand customer experience at scale, you may need to track three very important metrics. Together, these can give you insight into where you stand and how to improve your CX:
Of course, no single metric is going to give you a complete picture, and you will have to discover how to adapt the big three to your business case. Nonetheless, these tried and true customer experience survey methodologies are used across industries, and are a great place to start as you grow your program.
What Is Customer Experience? A Quick Definition to Get Us Started
Customer experience (CX) is the cumulative impact of every touchpoint throughout the customer journey. CX managers first listen to the voice of the customer at various touchpoints in the customer journey, identify points of friction, leverage CX software and text analytics to understand why negative experiences happen, invent action plans to solve those problems, and, finally, use results to show the positive impact of improving customer experiences on the business.
With new technology and social media, we have more ways to listen to customers than ever before And, that means, we have nearly infinite opportunities to delight them—or disappoint them. And while it’s important to make improvements at specific touchpoints, it’s also important to measure and gain an overall understanding of how your customer experience is fairing across the entire journey.
How Do I Measure Customer Experience?
Measuring customer experience (CX) requires a layered approach that can include in-depth user interviews and gathering data at key points of contact, as well as tracking metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES).
The Three Most Popular CX Metrics
What Is Net Promoter Score (NPS)?
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a CX metric that surveys customers based on one question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Customers who are promoters score 9 or 10. Passives score 7 or 8. Detractors score 6 to 0.
NPS is such a valuable tool for measuring not just customer experience, but also customer loyalty, because it transcends single experiences. It is often referred to as a brand or relationship metric. The NPS question asks the customer to draw on the sum total of their experiences with your company, not just the most recent, making it a good indicator for repurchasing (and growth). As a result, it is often considered a “board level” metric.
It is paired with an open-ended follow-up question, like “Care to tell us why?,” so you also get rich qualitative feedback that can guide improvement efforts from product to support to marketing.
While NPS surveys are sometimes deployed once or twice a year, a good, modern NPS program will use “drip NPS” to keep an ongoing pulse on customer sentiment, so you can react in the moment, instead of after the fact.
If you are launching a customer feedback program, the Net Promoter cycle is a great place to start. However, NPS surveys are high level. How do you learn more about the experience you provide at specific touchpoints or transactions along your customer’s journey? This is where CSAT comes in.
What Is Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)?
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is the most popular transactional metric. A CSAT survey asks a customer how satisfied they are with a recent interaction—often a purchase or a customer service call—on a rating scale. CSAT is flexible and highly customizable.
You can also ask multiple questions in the CSAT format to create a longer survey (and then average those responses for a composite CSAT score), but we recommend you keep it simple. An open-ended follow up question allows your customers to tell you what attributes of satisfaction are working—or not working—for them.
You can also try other survey formats. Here is a smiley-face based CSAT survey embedded in an email:
In the realm of CX, a short CSAT survey is most often used to gauge customer satisfaction with interactions with support personnel. It’s a great tool for identifying support agents who may need more training or quantifying the impact of your last team-wide training effort.
Customer satisfaction metrics are useful for gauging the ‘happiness’ resulting from recent interactions, which is valuable information, especially when you’ve been making changes and need to track the results. You will need to dig into the qualitative feedback you receive to understand which attributes of satisfaction are most important to your customers and which are areas that require improvement. In the food delivery example, those attributes could be promptness of delivery, quality of food, price/value, etc.
A related survey is PSAT or Product Satisfaction Score. This is an adaption of the CSAT survey that is popular with software developers and advocates of product-led growth. An example is an in-app survey that asks a software user “How satisfied are you with [this product or feature]?” The specific, contextual feedback that users provide in a PSAT survey helps to prioritize a roadmap of product improvements.
What Is Customer Effort Score?
Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys ask the customer “How much effort did you have to expend to handle your request?” and is scored on a numeric scale. It’s a customer service metric that is used to improve systems that may frustrate customers.
Essentially, CES advocates believe that when it comes to customer service or support, “effortlessness” is the most relevant attribute of customer satisfaction. In fact, Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) customer experience research confirms that exceeding customer expectations results in little change in loyalty. The CES survey helps you identify and remove obstacles, and solve problems, so your customers can find success with ease.
Here is an example of an in-app CES survey:
Here is another common way to ask the Customer Effort Score question in a survey:
A CES survey is typically deployed after a support interaction. But, for SaaS businesses, the CES survey can also help gauge the effort the customer must expend to onboard with you, the process of installing and becoming trained in the use of software. Onboarding can be self-service or high touch, and likely a combination of both. These steps that lead to a customer’s first experience of value are critical to success. CES survey feedback can help you get it right.
According to the Harvard Business Review, CES can predict repurchasing even better than CSAT, making it a go-to, critical metric for SaaS companies, that depend heavily on successful onboarding and customer success to lay the foundation for repeat purchases.
CSAT vs NPS vs CES
These metrics differ in terms of the insights they provide and the areas of customer satisfaction they focus on. CSAT captures satisfaction with specific interactions, NPS evaluates loyalty and advocacy, and CES assesses the ease of the customer experience. By utilizing a combination of these metrics, businesses can gain a more comprehensive understanding of customer satisfaction, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to enhance the overall customer experience.
How Do CX Metrics Work Together?
If measuring customer experience requires a comprehensive view, these three metrics help you get there. Net Promoter Score delivers the big picture of customer loyalty and relationship over the long-term. CSAT & CES are typically transactional metrics that can help you analyze key touchpoints in the customer’s journey. CSAT can measure overall satisfaction on a number of attributes so you can discover and refine those that are most meaningful to your customers. And, Customer Effort Score dials in on one attribute, effort, and is incredibly useful for smoothing the customer’s path to their desired outcome.
You’ll always need Net Promoter Score, “The One Number You Need to Grow.” However, the numbers you need have grown. CX improvement takes focus, but modern survey platforms can help streamline the process. The reward is market success. When you edge out the competition through world-class customer experience—think JetBlue, Starbucks, Charles Schwab, and Trader Joe’s—your customers will reward you with repeat business and brand advocacy.
And remember, scores can only get you so far. They are a great starting point, but as you grow your customer experience program, you’ll be able to aim higher than just putting a few points on the board. You’ll be able to leverage the insights you gain from your program to influence big-picture business goals like customer acquisition, customer retention, customer lifetime value, and cost reduction across the business. Read more about how CX programs can influence your business here.
How Can I Improve Customer Experience?
Optimizing to improve customer experience begins with establishing a starting point with your current metrics, then designing your program, listening to customers, understanding the insights through analytics, and leveraging those insights to form an action plan. After you take these actions, you measure the response to your improvements and determine the success of your efforts. And once you’ve completed the cycle, it’s vital you do it all over again (this is what our experts at InMoment call Continuous Experience Improvement).
This series of designing, listening, understanding, transforming, and realizing is meant for agile companies and can be a challenge if you’re using a dated methodology.
For example, a traditional approach of sending out feedback surveys only once or twice a year (often via bulk email to all customers) means that it can take a long time to see results, and response rates can be low. However, always-on listening through various channels like social media, online reviews, and targeted surveys deliver results in real-time, which is especially vital for rapidly evolving businesses.
Once you have access to nearly instant customer feedback, the challenge becomes digesting it and taking action. And that’s where a partner with industry-leading, action-enabling text analytics (like InMoment) comes in.
Unlocking the insight from qualitative feedback is key to making the most of your CX metrics. Machine learning enables you to auto-categorize the topics and emotions in open-ended feedback, and do so at scale in real-time. Pair that with operational data about your respondents—like role, location, account, associated revenue—and you’ll be able to diagnose the “why” behind your scores and quickly prioritize improvements that will drive your business forward.
Customer experience isn’t just about making the customer happy during a single interaction, though it is important. In fact, each interaction is a small part of an equation that spans the entire relationship you have with that customer. With that in mind, you’ll want to start by taking stock of each potential interaction with your company, website, products, self-service support, and customer-facing representatives.
Improving the customer experience is truly a team effort, so you’ll want to systematically go through each touchpoint to see who is in charge of it, how well it’s working now, and what improvements are feasible to make in the short term and the long term.
Your Next Steps
Want to dive in deeper to discover what CX Metrics are right for your business? Check out our eBook on the subject!
CX Metrics Cheat Sheet
Get Away From Confusion & Gain a Clear Understanding of Your Customer Experience with the Right Metric
This CX Metrics Cheat Sheet details the top three CX metrics leveraged by world-class programs:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
You’ll gain an understanding of how they work as well as the pros and cons of each measurement so you can choose the best match for your business.
Download the cheat sheet and do away with segmented views of your customer experience and gain a clear, integrated understanding so you can take action today!