6 Proven Methods for Measuring Customer Satisfaction

91% of unhappy customers will never buy from you again (Liveworkstudio). The number one objective of any business should therefore be to create happy customers. Businesses that do, grow and flourish; those that don't, stagnate and perish.

But for the #1 objective it's poorly presented in companies' metrics to track. This is partly because measuring customer satisfaction is not as straightforward as e.g. measuring revenue streams or website visitors, making it hard to set up clear goals.

There are, however, some great methods and metrics out there designed for exactly this purpose. Let's go through some that you can apply in your business today.

1
Customer Satisfaction Surveys

The customer satisfaction survey is the standard approach for collecting data on customer happiness. It consists of asking your customers how satisfied they are, with or without follow up questions. Three useful variations:

  • In-App Surveys
  • Post-Service Surveys
  • Long Email Surveys

In-App Surveys. With this you integrate a subtle feedback bar inside your website, with generally not more than one or two questions. It’s one of the methods with the highest response rates, thanks to the fact that the customer is asked for her opinion while she’s engaged with your company. In-app surveys are especially handy to measure some of the standard customer satisfaction metrics, like NPS or CES covered below.

Good tools for in-app customer surveys are Floq and SurveyMonkey.

Image from the website of SurveyMonkey, a tool for measuring customer satisfaction.
SurveyMonkey offers some great tools for implementing an in-app survey on your website.

Post Service Surveys. This type of survey focuses on the customer’s satisfaction with a specific service she’s just received. You ask it right after the delivery, when it's still fresh in the mind. This can be done in email support with a rating link in the mail, or in live chat with a rating view that appears after the chat. It can also be done over the phone, but it's somewhat problematic because it takes more time from the customer, and she might not feel comfortable sharing an unfiltered opinion.     

Screenshot of Userlike chat survey function.
Post-service satisfaction surveys are a built-in feature of most live chat solutions.

Email Surveys. The above survey methods aren't suitable for in-depth insights about your customer happiness. Why are they happy or unhappy? Email surveys, on the other hand, are a good tool for this. Although they have a downside of low response rates (10% - 15%, according to SurveyGizmo), they do allow your customer to take their time in answering multiple questions. Google Forms is an excellent free tool for this purpose. Find an email survey template here.

Image from the website of Google Forms, a free tool for email surveys.
Google Forms allows you to create powerful surveys, fast.

2
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

This is the most standard customer satisfaction metric, asking your customer to rate her satisfaction with your business, product, or service. Your CSAT score is then the average rating of your customer responses.

The scale typically ranges between 1 – 3, 1 – 5, or 1 – 10. A larger range is not always better, due to cultural differences in how people rate their satisfaction. An article in Psychological Science, for example, showed that people in individualistic countries choose the more extreme sides more frequently than those in collectivistic countries.

An American is more likely to rate a service as “amazing” or “terrible” than for example a Japanese, who will stick to “fine” or “not satisfactory”. Such differences are important to be aware of with an international customer base.

Picture from US government feedback system.
The US government gathers feedback with a simple emoji-based CSAT question.

Simpler scales are more robust to cultural differences and more suited for capturing service quality. This is why the US government uses a simple emoji-based CSAT question for its feedback, and why the live chat survey example above uses a 5-star rating.

The charm of the CSAT metric comes from its directness. The downside, however, is that satisfaction is hard to estimate, even for the customer. It’s directed at a sentiment, which is fleeting and mood dependent.

3
Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the likeliness of a customer referring you to someone, and it’s probably the most popular way of measuring customer loyalty. Customer are asked how likely they are to recommend you on a scale from 1 to 10.

screenshot picture of net promoter score plugin tool

The strength from this metric is that its question isn’t about an emotion (“How satisfied am I?”), but about an intention (“How likely am I to refer?”), which is easier to answer. It cuts down to the question of whether the product is good enough to refer it and put your own reputation on the line.

Calculating your NPS score is quite easy. Take the percentage of respondents who fall within the ‘promoter’ category (10 - 9) and subtract the percentage of ‘detractors’ (0 - 6).

Image from the website of Wootric, a tool for measuring NPS.
NPS data is easily gathered through in-app or email surveys.

Some tools for measuring NPS work with email questionnaires. Examples are Trustfuel NPS (free) and Promoter.io (paid). Others work with in-app surveys, like Wootric (freemium). The Net Promoter Network offers a a benchmark report to give you insight about how you compare in your industry.

One added benefit of NPS is that it directs your customers’ attention towards referring, an option they might not have thought about before.

4
Customer Effort Score (CES)

With this method, customers aren’t asked for their satisfaction or likeliness of referring, but for the effort it took them to have their issue solved — generally on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 7 (very high effort).

Your aim is, of course, to lower this average score. According to CEB, 96% of customers with a high effort score showed reduced loyalty in the future, while that was the case with only 9% of those who reported low effort scores.

Image from the website of CheckMarket, a tool for creating and tracking your CES.
Source: CheckMarket.

This idea for a customer satisfaction metric was introduced in the HBR article Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.

It challenges the accepted idea that excellent customer service equals exceeding customer expectations. Through their analysis, the authors found that customers are much more likely to punish bad service than to reward good service.

They showed that the costs of exceeded customer expectations are high, while the payoffs are minimal.

Instead of putting all that effort into delighting the customer, the authors argue it should be invested in making the customer experience and problem resolution as easy as possible.

The authors found that the the ease of having your problems resolved was a much better predictor for satisfaction than the exceeding of expectations. Improve the customer experience by easifying your customer’s journey.

This new service philosophy requires different measurements, which is why the CES was developed. They showed that CES is superior to CSAT and NPS in predicting consumer behavior.

Don’t ask, “How satisfied are you with this service?”; ask, “How easy was it to get in contact/make a purchase/have your issue resolved?”

Relevance is crucial here. The time to pop the question is right after your customer had her experience. Otherwise, the ease of the experience might have been forgotten. It can be asked in-app (ease of the website/app experience), via live chat, or via email (ease of the service).

CheckMarket offers a free template to create your own CES survey. With some tweaking, many customer service tools are suited for this purpose. Read more in our post on how to get to the right customer effort score question.

5
Social Media Monitoring

Social media has had an immense impact on the relationship between business and customer. Where before, a great or poor service experience would maybe be shared with the closest family and friends, social media offered an outlet and reach to potentially millions of people.

Screenshot of Mention website, a tool to track social media mentions.
Mention provides you with real-time updates on brand mentions.

Because of that, it’s the perfect place to hear what your customers are really thinking about you. If you have the right tools to track this, that is.

Facebook and Twitter are of course relevant platforms to track, but also platforms like Quora, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.

Some helpful tools:

  • Google Alerts. This Google service notifies you when your brand appears in a prominent position.
  • Mention. A powerful freemium tool that gives you a heads up whenever your brand is mentioned on the web. It’s especially handy for social media tracking, for which Google Alerts is not suitable.
  • Socialmention. A free tool that analyzes social mentions of your brand on the web. Among others, it shows the likeliness of your brand being discussed on the web, the ratio of positive to negative mentions, the likelihood of people mentioning your brand repeatedly, and the range of influence.

6
Things Gone Wrong

This metric originates from the Lean Six Sigma approach, and measures the number of complaints, or "Things Gone Wrong", per 100, 1000, or up to a 1,000,000 units of survey responses, units sold, or other.

The standard approach to measure TGW is through complaint sections in customer surveys, but you could also maintain internal metrics. In the worst case scenario your score is 1 or higher, meaning that you get at least 1 complaint per chosen unit.

Picture of mismatching slippers on shoes.
Nobody likes things going wrong, which is exactly why we should focus on it.

Once you start measuring, you can start optimizing. And optimizing your customer satisfaction is the best investment you can make.

For related topics on measurement methods, check out our posts on measuring customer loyalty, how to measure service quality, and customer service KPIs.