The Top-3 Customer Experience Metrics That Matter: A Complete Breakdown

/ January 5, 2021 | 18 Mins Read

The Top-3 Customer Experience Metrics That Matter: A Complete Breakdown

A disciplined and effective customer experience measurement is required for businesses to understand which parts of the customer experience are relevant for you and which parts need to be improved.

The term "Customer Experience" - or CX as it is commonly known - is thrown around a lot, especially in the marketing circles. Some view it as a competitive differentiator (as Gartner has mentioned over-and-over again), while others view it as an integral element of their marketing and sales strategy. Interestingly, everyone is right in their own right. 

If you, too, have found yourself wondering what CX truly entails, here's a quick snapshot of its top-5 defining characteristics:

  • A company's ability to meet the customer's expectations and fulfill the brand's promises through various interactions and touch-points in the customer's journey.
  • A customer's perception of the interactions between the company and themselves.
  • The way customers feel when they engage with the brand consciously and subconsciously.
  • The end-value and desired results (think: trust, loyalty, rewards, recommendations, etc.) that customers leverage as a result of relationship-building efforts by the enterprise.
  • A business's ability to emotionally, memorably, and personally connect with customers through interactions.

All these definitions are correct and are prioritized by companies based on their business goals.

How To Collect And Measure The Customer Experience In Three Easy Steps

1. Identify Your Ideal Customer

If identified right, your ideal customers can become the lifeblood of your business. To understand who they are and what are their needs, you need to build an accurate buyer persona like the one shown below:

Identify Your Ideal Customer

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Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Use real-time, empirical, and accurate data extracted from your marketing campaigns, communication channels, CRM software, etc. Your persona is only as reliable and worthy as the data you input.
  • Roll out customer surveys to gather updated information quickly and cost-effectively.
  • Create multiple specific personas and segment them based on diverse factors (such as demographics, buying behavior, etc.) instead of going for a one-size-fits-all approach:

Create multiple specific personas

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  • Aim for building proactive and detailed bios to ace your persona.
  • Make use of pre-existing templates to speed up the process.

Bonus material: If you need more inspiration, here's a detailed list of 32 questions to ask that covers every important aspect when building a reliable user persona.

2. Map Out The Key Touch-Points In The Customer Journey

No marketing funnel is devoid of blind spots. The earlier you recognize the potential problem-points, the more laser-focused and seamless your customer experience will be. Typically, these are the common touch-points that need extra care and specialized strategy:

  • New user onboarding
  • First-time website visit
  • Post-purchase follow-up
  • Returns and cancelations
  • Renewals of subscriptions/deals
  • Lost deals
  • Closed support tickets

3. Gather Customer Feedback And Insights 

While there are numerous ways to collect user insights, the most effective way to do so is by running customer surveys. Even while considering which surveys to track, there are several metrics to consider. However, we're listing the most important ones:

A. Net Promoter Score (NPS) 

B. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) 

C. Customer Effort Score (CES)

Let's deep-dive into each to understand how these metrics work with the help of some useful (and inspirational) real-life examples.

A. Understanding Net Promoter Score (NPS) To Drive Growth

This metric was first introduced by Fred Reichheld in 2003, which gave companies a completely new direction to the way they measured their customer experience. Despite being a hyped and controversial metric, it works because of its simplicity, especially for the initial stages of the customer program. 

In basic terms, NPS determines a customer's loyalty towards the brand. It quantifies user sentiment, provides key insights at various stages of the customer's lifecycle, and allows brands to understand how users perceive their offering/company. It asks users a basic question about how likely they are to repurchase or refer a brand's offering to their friends and family:

NPS determines a customer's loyalty

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Transactional Vs. Relational NPS  

When measuring NPS, there are preliminary two types to bear in mind - Transactional and Rational. So which one should you choose according to your business needs? Here's a quick breakdown of each:

What is Relational NPS? 

Relational NPS factors into account how your customers feel about your organization and offers a high-level view of customer satisfaction and loyalty. It helps compare year-on-year improvement as well as industry NPS standards.

When Is The Ideal Time To Use Relational NPS:

You can use it when you want to:

  • Understand how customers perceive your organization
  • Know about the level of customer loyalty
  • Set a standard using internal/external NPS data

What is Transactional NPS?

Transactional NPS helps understand your customer satisfaction levels at a granular scale. Typically, it offers direct feedback about a specific issue and is generally used post an interaction (think: after a support call/installation). 

When Is The Ideal Time To Use Transactional NPS

You can use it when you want to:

  • Build an individual metric for various teams
  • Figure out the strengths/weaknesses of your customer interactions
  • Identify actionable insights at the transactional level

Net Promoter Score Surveys: Data Is Key 

The templatized standard question that's always asked with NPS is: “How likely are you to recommend our (company/brand/service) to your friends or family?” While this is a good starting point, the magic lies in getting answers to the “What." 

Shep Hyken a Customer Service Expert, Author, Blogger, and Speaker explains us why it is important to keep NPS surveys shorts:

The shorter and simpler you can make a survey, the more likely your customers are to answer it. That’s why I’m a fan of one-question surveys like NPS (Net Promoter Score). Of course, it’s less about what metric your organization uses and more about what you do with the feedback once you get it. I recommend asking simple follow-up questions to gain insight on specific areas where there might be room for improvement. 

Two of my favorite follow-up questions to ask are, “Why did you give us that score?” and, if the NPS score is low, “What would it take to raise our score just by one point?” In other words, what would it take to raise that score from a six to a seven? That is important and specific feedback that any company can use. But you must use it! It’s meaningless to collect data and then sit on it. Above all, customers want to know that their voices are heard. That will help drive a better experience that leads you to repeat business and, ideally, customer loyalty.

The idea is to keep asking questions without making it lengthy or boring.

Moving on, let's look at the various ways to collect NPS data. Considering that there are multi-touchpoints in a customer journey, you can consider the following methods: 

  • Email Surveys

email surveys

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You can roll out an email survey and invite your customers to fill it after a specific interaction or post-purchase. Offering a specific discount voucher or code can encourage users to fill the surveys. Here’s an example from Brenthaven:

roll out an email survey and invite your customers to fill it after a specific interaction or post-purchase.

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  • Website Surveys

Website Surveys

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This survey type takes the form of a pop-up and is essential if you wish to capture user feedback while they are browsing your website. As a best-practice, set it up on your primary conversion pages (think: checkout page) or when people are leaving the website.

  • Social Media Surveys

Social Media Surveys

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You can also send an NPS survey and encourage users to share their positive feedback on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

Key takeaway: NPS helps gauge your customer's lifetime value and quantifies user sentiment (often on a scale of 0 to 10). 

How To Use NPS Data To:

  • Predict Customer Churn

NPS surveys can be used to predict churn by offering customers a list of short predefined answers and understanding the root cause to the question.

If you are getting repetitive complaints from a specific set of your users, let’s take millennials as an example, it’s time to pay attention to what’s actually causing this poor review. If you do it the right way, you can predict the potential customer churn & prevent it more effectively. Here’s an example from Uber: 

Predict Customer Churn

  • Measure Your Customer Team's Effectiveness

eNPS surveys or employee NPS allows you to get a glimpse of how satisfied your employees are, which can ultimately affect productivity and growth:

Measure Your Customer Team's Effectiveness

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Using NPS To Improve The Internal Process 

One of the key aspects of collecting NPS data is to study and analyze dissatisfied customers. Although it’s never advisable to leave a dissatisfied customer, you should implement a closed-loop methodology and follow through the process - from recording the negative feedback to working on it and solving the issue. Let's look at Allianz' example to understand this better: 

Case Study: Allianz 

Objective: To measure the customer's loyalty towards the brand.

Approach: Post every interaction, the CX team called the customer to: 

  • Drive the NPS survey.
  • Ask the main reason for the rating given.

Additionally, the team also asked for:

  • The permission to call back in case of a poor rating.
  • The ideal time to call back.

A case study by Allianz

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The feedback was then emailed to the relevant employee, who took it further and contacted the customer in order to deep-dive into the latter's pain-points. The end-goal was to either resolve the issue or escalate it.

More importantly, the feedback was integrated into a centralized database that could be accessed by one-and-all. In the case of an emerging pattern, appropriate changes were made, thereby closing the feedback loop.

Result: Around 91% of customers responded to the survey, with 85% agreeing to a callback (which is unheard of). 

B. Understanding Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) 

Understanding Customer Satisfaction Score

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Do you know that good customer experiences pave the way for 42% of customers to purchase again? On the other hand, if your customers are unhappy, there's a 91% chance that they won't do business with your company again. Moral of the story? It’s important to understand if your customers are satisfied with your product/services. 

This is where Customer Satisfaction Surveys (CSAT) shine. These surveys are typically taken post a transaction and ask the customer to rate their experience with an organization’s products/services on a scale of 1 to 5 for questions like:

"How satisfied are you with our company/product/service?”

Or

"How satisfied were you with your experience today?"

You can use these type of surveys to:

  • Gauge users' needs and understand whether you’re meeting their expectations or not.
  • Understand their pain-points with respect to your products/services.
  • Provide insights into benchmarking customer happiness.
  • Categorize customers by their score. 

Why is it important? We asked Sean Donnelly, a marketing consultant from Econsultancy about the importance of CSAT Score & how to leverage the data obtained from it: 

As customer experience (CX) becomes a strategic priority for brands, marketing leaders need to acknowledge that CX is owned and measured by the customer. Therefore, the brand is not what we say it is. It's what customers say it is on social media and increasingly via online review communities like TrustPilot which aggregate review scores for the public to see.

In that sense, marketers need to utilise what I call Customer Performance Indicators (CPIs). CPIs are measures of business performance from the point of view of the customer. They include CSAT, NPS and other logistical factors such as delivery speed.  

Marketers need to draw a line between customer performance indicators (CPIs) and business performance indicators (BPIs). BPIs measure business metrics like revenue, sales, profit etc. This is key. Customer satisfaction scores should not exist in isolation. Marketers need to find the correlation between improving satisfaction scores and improving business metrics.

Sean also adds that customer satisfaction scores can be used in multiple ways:

  • When satisfaction scores are high, they can be used as a form of social proof and be displayed on marketing collateral to as trust signals which in turn can facilitate informed decision making and conversion rate optimisation.
  • They can also be used as research. After all, behind every instance of a customer providing a score is a customer experience that can tell you something about how customers experience your brand and its products. Tracking these scores and those underlying experiences may provide insights to improve product positioning or uncover friction points that might relate to poor workflow or underserved touchpoints in the customer journey.

Indeed there’s a strong inclination towards online reviews and online review platforms like G2, Capterra and TrustPilot have become quite popular names, especially in the b2b segment. Because, at the end it’s the reviews & ratings that matters.

Let’s be honest, your prospect would most likely have signed up for a demo alongside your competitors, and it’s those reviews that can either make or break the deal. The better your CSAT score is, the stronger your customer loyalty is going to be

When it comes to CSAT surveys, we've all been bombarded with lengthy and dull customer surveys that end up irritating the customers instead of motivating them to offer feedback. To that end, here a few strategies to embrace and ace your CSAT survey:

a. Keeping The Surveys Simple And Short

Customer satisfaction surveys are a vital part of understanding the customer's experience of connecting with your brand/company/service. With an average response rate of 10%, it’s time for the CX leaders to think about optimizing them and maximize its benefits. 

Example 1: Rent-A-Car

Businesses such as Rent-A-Car aren't away from experimenting with various versions of optimizing CSAT. Here's what Rent-A-Car did:

Step 1: It asked customers only two questions:

A. About the quality of their rental experience.

B. About the probability of whether they would rent from the company again.

Step 2: This simplified feedback gathering process "Allowed the company to publish ranked results for its 5,000 U.S. branches within days", according to the Harvard Business Review.

Step 3: This effort allowed the offices to gain real-time feedback and make iterations accordingly.

Here's the catch: Instead of focusing on the customers who gave below-average ratings, the business zeroed in on customers who gave the experience the highest possible rating. This ultimately allowed the top management to focus on enthusiastic customers and strategize about how to drive profitable growth.

Key takeaway: Rent-A-Car's out-of-the-box strategy was successful in getting quick, real-time feedback on how they are performing and how customers are talking to their brand. 

Example 2:  Skype

If you have been using skype for internal or external communication, you might be familiar with a pop-up that appears after every call. On the off chance that you aren’t, here's how the customer satisfaction survey from skype looked like a few years ago: 

survey from skype

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Needless to say, this survey is quite difficult to read and understand, right? And this was the collective feedback from a majority of users. So, the brand updated the survey to something like this: 

collective feedback from a majority of users

Granted that this a better version of the previous one, it is still a bit too long to answer just for a simple call, right? So, the brand made further changes and ended up with a short-and-crisp survey like this:

short-and-crisp survey like skype

The evolution of Skype's surveys demonstrates how brands have changed the way they collected customer data from 10 questions to just one simple question. 

Key takeaway: CX leaders should look at different ways to optimize their surveys by keeping the surveys short and focused on the questions that most matter for their business. 

b. Implementing The Voice of Customer Methodology To Gain Better Customer Feedback

You might be familiar with Voice of Customer Programs (VOC Programs) as they are an essential part of every CX program. After all, without feedback, you can not understand your customer’s perception of your product/service, and by extension, cannot improve it. 

According to CustomerThink’s research, around 90% of CX enthusiasts use surveys to collect feedback; however, response rates for customer satisfaction surveys amount to a mere 10%, leaving CX leaders to second guess what to do the remaining 90% of users think about their brand. Instead of making wild guesses, why not take the help of the existing data that you have collected to get a better understanding of your customer. The various data-points can be collected from: 

customer feedback scores

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  • Recorded Calls: You can go back to the call recordings to understand customer sentiment and pain-points:

recorded calls

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  • Email Conversations: You can browse through the text captured in emails & agent notes to see what exactly was the issue in the past, and how well it was resolved:

email surveys

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  • Previous Support/Service Issue Tickets: You can analyze feedback from past interactions/service tickets:

analyze feedback from past interactions/service tickets

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  • Website Conversations: If you have deployed a chatbot on your website, you can use it to analyze previous customer interactions, and certain modern-day chatbots have the inbuilt ability to collect customer satisfaction score, so you can leverage that information to find the actual reason behind dissatisfaction. 

analyze previous customer interactions through chatbot

Now that you have the data ready, let’s dive into understanding how you can leverage the data. 

How To Use CSAT To:

  • Identify Loopholes In Your Customer Journey 

Identifying critical issues that your customers may be facing throughout the customer lifecycle - and during key "moments of truth" or critical steps in your customer’s journey (such as onboarding new customers, prior to renewals, etc.) - can turn out to be a game-changer. Here’s an example of a customer journey map by Jim Tincher, a specialist at the Heart of the Customer who uses surveys to gather customer feedback that’s integrated into the user experience at every touchpoint:

Identify Loopholes In Your Customer Journey

This is a sample map for “Jane,” a customer who wants a good health plan. - Image Source

Handy tip: The trick lies in driving consistent, short, and mobile-optimized surveys to capture the voice (and opinion) of your customers at every important milestone. As long as your surveys are designed into the customer experience, you’re good to go.

Let’s look at how CSAT surveys can be administered at every step of the customer journey (also known as touchpoint surveys) and throw light on the good, the bad, and the ugly with respect to your brand’s products and/or services:

Stage 1: Awareness

You can use an analytics tool to get a CSAT score on customer sentiment and understand key issues that your prospects as well as existing customers might be facing on popular and public channels such as social media. By mining this important data and analyzing it, you can design how to move forward in the customer journey and get insights into:

  • Who are your competitors from your customer’s point-of-view?
  • How do prospects and customers feel about their experiences with your brand/competitors?

Stage 2: Research And Consideration

In the second stage, most customers will be doing their homework on which company to go with. This is where you can ask the customer to fill in a CSAT survey about their website/app experience and provide an overall rating. You can also take it a step further and question them about their goals:

Research And Consideration

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Stage 3: Purchase

After every purchase, it is critical that you evaluate your brand’s performance and ask customers how happy they were with the purchase. You can send a feedback link embedded into the order summary email or you could use in-app surveys:

evaluate your brand’s performance

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Stage 4: Product/Service Usage

For tracking the effectiveness of your product/service usage, you can roll out versatile CSAT surveys that take into account factors such as quality, performance, usability, and so on. The idea is to understand primary ‘loyalty drivers’ from the customer’s view point and understand metrics such as initial ease of use and onboarding, value extracted from product/service, etc.

tracking the effectiveness of your product/service usage

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Here’s another example of a CSAT survey that provides valuable insights into what may or may not be working for your product/service:

CSAT survey that provides valuable insights

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Stage 5: Customer Support

Most companies administer CSAT surveys for this stage to understand how well the customer support team is handling users and addressing their queries. Using a CSAT survey at this stage completes mapping the effectiveness of the customer’s journey and provides you with a 360-degree view of how your brand is faring:

customer satisfaction survey

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Handy tip: Since you’re going to be sending CSAT surveys frequently, keep them short and mobile-optimized to avoid ‘survey fatigue.’

  • Measure Your Customer Service Team's Performance 

CSAT surveys can also help understand how your team is performing both internally and externally, in addition to throwing light on which of your support agents need training. This data can help drive your customer experience as a happy and satisfied team leads to happier customers.

Plus, it drives team productivity and collaboration, aids in employee retention, and helps build an ‘employee-first’ culture. Take a look at this employee satisfaction survey to understand what your employees are liking (and disliking) about the organization and their team on the whole:   

Measure Your Customer Service Team's Performance

Measure Your Customer Service Team's Performance

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Jeannie Walters a customer experience expert & consultant from Experience Investigators explains us the importance of Customer Satisfaction score: 

Customer Satisfaction ratings are a good way to communicate with your employees and others. It's easy to understand an 80% satisfaction rate versus a more neutral average. But don't fall for ‘good enough’ thinking.

While the majority of customers may be highly satisfied, this type of CSAT result also means 20% of customers are NOT rating their satisfaction very high. What's happening with these customers that is creating dissatisfaction? Measuring CSAT along the journey, instead of just at one time, can help point to areas that need improvement and attention. Your customers have insights for you - you just have to ask!

Handy tip: When building an employee satisfaction survey, focus on the three M’s: 

  • Morale – Are they driven to work together and achieve results?
  • Mood – How happy and satisfied are your employees?
  • Motivation – What drives your employees to work hard and provide real-time results?

Remember that your survey can be as detailed or crips as you like as long as you’re capturing valuable data.

C. Understanding Customer Effort Score (CES) 

CES is an important metric to track in all forms of its application - be it as a blog section or a knowledge base article. CES plays a vital role in understanding how precisely and easily your product/service is solving the customer's pain-points. It also measures the amount of effort it takes for customers to use your product or fix the problem at hand.

To calculate the CES score, use the following formula:

calculate the CES score

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Mary Drumond, Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix explains why is it important to measure CES and does every business 

“I think that CES is a great metric, as long as it fits into your value proposition. For instance, a bank might do well in tracking their Effort Score, as would an e-commerce website. Any business model where friction can hinder the purchase decision should be mindful of the steps their customers must take in order to complete their journey.

Where CES makes less sense is for businesses where effort is part of the experience. Think Disney amusement parks, where effort and friction are high but compose the fabric of the experience itself. Some brands are even known for adding friction to the experience to create a sense of personal gratification. That way, the customer feels like they have earned it, and therefore value that experience more.

But most importantly, companies must consider whether the effort their customers are experiencing enough of a deterrent to make it "not worth it" to shop with that brand. For instance, customers may be OK with standing in line for designer doughnuts as long as they are scarce enough, Instagrammable enough, or FOMO-inducing enough to make it worth it. Just don't expect your local Dunkin' customers to be willing to go through the same.

The amount of effort customers are willing to put into an experience is relative to what they'll get in return. So, don't go all-in with CES unless you truly understand if effort is a detriment or a benefit to your customer's experience."

How To Use CES To Enable Product-based Growth

Understanding your customers and how your product/service is solving their problems plays a vital role when it comes to product-based growth. Based on the real-time feedback, you can incorporate relevant suggestions and offer customers exactly what they want.

Here's a brilliant CES survey example by HubSpot, which is rolled out 20 minutes post the close of a support ticket. This allows the customer to internalize whether or not the problem was fixed:

CES survey example by HubSpot

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How To Use CES To:

  • Predict The Future Customer's Purchase Behavior

Understanding the ease of purchase from your customer's viewpoint can drive 94% repurchase of products, according to the Harvard Business Review. This happens when customers experience a low effort in engaging with the product/service and hence are more willing to buy again from the brand. In other words, your CES score is reflective of your customer's behavior:

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  • Set Up A Base For A Rock-Solid Loyalty Program

Customers live in a world of instant gratification today and this where using CES is a smart move. CES helps improve your brand’s conversion rates and funnel metrics. Let’s understand how.

This type of survey helps determine how loyal your customers may be towards your brand as a result of the low customer effort. The lower the effort, the happier your customers will be, and in turn, the greater their loyalty will be towards your brand. An excellent example of a real-life brand that could use CES to determine customer loyalty is Amazon. How so? Since Amazon’s USPs include ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ shopping experience, using a CES survey fits the bill. 

Handy tip: You can use the CES survey during onboarding or checkout. 

Here are some examples of a good CES survey for your reference that can help you understand the flow and seamlessness of your product/service:

CES survey by Hem & Stitch

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You can also make use of stars, smileys, or other visuals to make the survey interesting, quick, and visually-appealing:

CES survey by Hem & Stitch

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To make things even easier for your customer while gathering more in-depth data, you can offer respondents a set of predefined answers or ask follow-up questions in response to the previous survey:

CES survey by Hem & Stitch

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Here’s another survey by Gartner that factors in elements such as ease of customer interaction and quick query resolution:

survey by Gartner

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Once you have all the data at-hand, prioritize the issues gathered based on three categories: “Solve Right Away,” “Solve Later,” and “Keep As Is.” This will allow you to maneuver methodically and productively.

Closing Thoughts: NPS vs. CSAT vs. CES - The Final Verdict

By now, you may have understood that there are numerous ways to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty, with Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) being the top-3 widely used CX metrics.

While all three have striking similarities, the key differences between CSAT, NPS, and CES are:

  • CSAT is more product and feature-based and measures a user’s satisfaction with respect to a product/service. It includes multiple statements where customers rate their agreement or disagreement on a scale of 1 to 5, input emojis, etc.:

multiple statements where customers rate their agreement or disagreement on a scale of 1 to 5

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  • NPS is a marker of customer loyalty and user perception of a brand. It is accompanied by a simple singular question based on the customers’ interaction with the brand and offers real-time qualitative feedback:

offers real-time qualitative feedback

  • CES focuses on the 'effort' the customer needs to make in order to interact with a brand's product/service:

customer needs to make in order to interact with a brand's product/service

It goes without saying that the metric you choose ultimately depends on your target audience, business goals, and the kind of meaningful and actionable feedback you're seeking. So get your CX, sales, and marketing teams together and brainstorm away.

Edited by: Savan Kharod

Sawaram Suthar is CMO at Acquire, and also a founder of Jagat Media, a digital marketing agency. A digital marketing consultant, he has experience in things including branding, promotions and page optimization, along with research and strategy. He has an MBA from the University of Pune. Anyone can find him on @sawarams.

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