NPS, CSAT or Customer Effort Score – Which Metric is Right for Your Business?

NPS, CSAT or Customer Effort Score?

As the saying goes – you can’t manage what you don’t measure.  To overcome this many companies look to a single metric that they can use to measure the health of their company and that business leaders can use to predict future performance of the organisation.

No one question can give all the answers needed across a business – but compromises have to be made between the simplicity of a single question and a drawn out survey that results in a poor response rate.  A single question can be asked frequently and across multiple industries and countries giving business leaders a sense of momentum of their own organisation and comparison with others.

Which question to choose?

With many options out there, which single question is the best measure of today and predictor of future performance?

NPS – Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score is perhaps the most famous of these metrics – sometimes known as The Ultimate Question!  The question is founded on the assumption that happy customers are more likely to recommend a company to others:

On a scale of 0-10 how likely would you be to recommend [company name] to a friend or colleague?

Responders are split into three categories:

  • 9-10 - Promoters
  • 7-8 - Passive
  • 0-6 - Detractors

The Net Promoter Score is a simple calculation of the percentage of detractors subtracted from the percentage or promoters.  Any score over zero is a good start and the top businesses in the world would be happy with a score over 50.

Potential Concerns

Whilst NPS provides a simple question concerns have been raised that agreeing you are ‘likely to recommend’ does not infer that you have or will recommend and therefore might not be a good predictor of future performance.

CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Scores

CSAT is a broad term that covers many question types that all attempt to uncover how satisfied current customers are with the product, or a particular interaction they have just completed.

A typical example would be customers being asked to rate a customer support interaction or their renewal process with a question such as:

How would you rate your experience with your recent support requirement?

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

The CSAT score is derived by looking at the percentage of respondents that select somewhat or very satisfied and a score of above 70% would make many companies feel they were doing enough.

Potential concerns

The CSAT score is probably the weakest predictor of future behaviour of the three.  The questions are often framed around a specific interaction – a support event or a product delivery – and the customer is focused on that rather than their wider relationship with the company.

It is also important to choose the wording of the options correctly.  The selections we’ve listed make it easy for customers to select 3 or 4 without having to commit to a strong point of view.  It should also be remembered that mildly satisfied or dissatisfied customers are less likely to complete your survey thus skewing the results.

CES – Customer Effort Score

The newest metric to gain popularity is the Customer Effort Score.  Extensive research over 5 years by the team that created it showed that once a customer had received a satisfactory experience there was very little increase in loyalty by wowing them even further.

The team found that the real uplift in loyalty came from having a very poor customer experience to having one that meets their expectations.    The best way of bumping an experience up to satisfactory, according to the research, is to remove as many of the barriers as possible from the customer’s path.

Typical obstacles in a customer’s path might be:

  • an overly complex IVR with many dead end choices
  • multiple transfers between departments
  • having to call in multiple times to resolve a problem
  • not listening to preferences or selections made
  • having to switch channel from social, to email, to phone to resolve a problem

The CES is derived from asking a simple question:

How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?

Scores range from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort)

Learn How to Use Post Call Surveys to Collect CSAT & NPS Info


To repeat what we said at the start – no one question can determine the future success of your business – but some questions can give better actionable insight than others.  CES gives you a focus on removing obstacles from your customers path and encourages you to contact any customers that are scoring you anything other than 1.

It is also important to remember that any metric requires regular, continual measurement rather than a single audit.  You need your team to understand that the metric selected is important and that continual improvement in it is a core business goal.

What metric do you follow in your business?  Why did you select that metric above others?  We’d love to hear your thoughts here on the blog.

Charlie Cowan
Charlie Cowan

Charlie is passionate about cloud computing and how it can help real businesses to run more profitably.

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