Which CX metrics offer more value, and in which circumstances?

You’ve done the hard work to earn your customer’s attention, but how do you know if they’re loyal to your brand or how engaged they are with your business?

You’ve done the hard work to earn your customer’s attention, but how do you know if they’re loyal to your brand or how engaged they are with your business? Do you know why some customers tend to stay while others go? The best way to answer these questions is to measure customer experience and satisfaction. Three metrics inevitably arise as preeminent: Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS),  and Customer Effort Score (CES). 

In a recent analysis undertaken by Clarasys, we surveyed over four hundred Customer Experience (CX) managers in selected industries and departments to try and gauge which metrics were most used. Over half of firms (50.5%) surveyed use CSAT, 49% of firms use NPS and only 9% of firms use CES as customer experience metrics. Only 32% of firms surveyed use more than one CX metric, most commonly CSAT and NPS.

So, which is best for you? NPS, CSAT and CES all focus on how customers feel about your company, services and products, but each has the potential to extract more valuable insights in certain scenarios. In this blog, we’ll explore their value propositions to help you understand how to use each to measure your CX.

It’s critical to first outline the objective of your CX measurement. These objectives can be categorised into two types of CX study:

Relationship study Transactional study
  • Assessing the quality of a business-customer relationship in its entirety
  • The objective is to understand how, over time, your customer base feels about your company throughout multiple touchpoints
  • Evaluating how well your company delivers for customers on certain tasks, or “transactions”, both from your product and support team
  • The objective is to garner actionable feedback to improve specific services, products or processes

CSAT or NPS: relationship studies

Both CSAT and NPS can be used in relationship and transactional studies, simply by modifying the structure and content of the survey questions. Let’s start with relationship studies.

CSAT and NPS can be used for relationship studies because they can both ask customers to assess their experience with the company as a whole:

  • CSAT: How satisfied are you with [company]?
  • NPS: How likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?

The key difference here is the sentiments behind “satisfaction” vs. “recommendation”. Satisfaction implies a short-term sentiment and the meeting of basic needs and requirements, whereas recommendations tend to be harder won over time, and extend further than meeting of needs, exceeding expectations and excelling in service / product supplied. For an individual to go out of their way to recommend a product, service or company, it will like need to exceed mere satisfaction of what it was purchased for.

Consequently, think of CSAT as a short-term assessment of customer experience useful for iterative improvement. When used to study your business-customer relationship, it should be used frequently, often after periods of heavy interaction with your customers. This allows for a more targeted root cause analysis of what has caused ‘delight or dismay’ points in the relationship.

NPS on the other hand is more of a long-term indicator of loyalty. It should be used less frequently to give an overall picture of your business’s relationship with its customer base. Rather than a tool for informing actionable change, NPS serves as a litmus test for whether the company is moving in the right direction overall.

CSAT or NPS or CES: transactional studies

Both CSAT and NPS can be modified to focus on a transaction rather than the business-customer relationship overall, although to different degrees:

  • CSAT: How satisfied are you with [interaction]?
  • NPS: How likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend or colleague based on [interaction]?
  • CES: Rate how easy [company/person] made it for you to accomplish [interaction]?

As you can see, the CSAT question for transactional study is simple. A customer can easily rate an individual transaction with your company, whether that be with a product feature or a customer service, independent of their sentiment to your company overall.

Transactional NPS studies pose more problems. Customers may have had a smooth experience in an individual transaction, but still may dislike your company overall. In this regard, NPS is unable to give you an accurate appraisal of your performance in an interaction, as it is inextricably linked to the action of recommending.

CES questions are inherently suited for transactional studies, as they mandate an effort rating for the completion of a task. However, while a customer can easily rate the effort of a transaction, effort is not everything! An interaction may have been easy for the customer, but they still may be dissatisfied with the quality of service. CES questions are therefore a brilliant tool when focusing on time to resolution or customer friction in transactions, both areas where effort is the primary concern.

In summary: NPS, CSAT or CES?

The first question you should be asking is: What’s the objective of my CX study?

If you’re looking to make significant changes to your services or products, a CSAT transactional study will help you decide at each interaction whether changes are a good idea, and help guide you in deciding what those changes should be.

If you’re looking for an overall assessment of how your brand is perceived by your customer base, or if the bulk of changes to your brand over time is improving your customer loyalty, then an NPS relationship study will be most valuable.

If your focus is on isolated instances of customer friction or overly protracted time to resolve, CES transactional studies are your best bet. CES is a useful barometer of whether customers felt an interaction took too much effort in proportion to what was achieved.

Without doubt, a combination of the three metrics will offer you the most valuable assessment of customer experience. Experimentation with multiple metrics will help you understand which offers the most insightful or actionable feedback for your business. Irrespective of the metric you use, as long as the feedback informs change you’ll be well on the way to taking your CX to the next level.

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