• February 24, 2016

A Startup’s Guide to Scoring Customer Satisfaction: CES vs. NPS

A Startup’s Guide to Scoring Customer Satisfaction: CES vs. NPS

A quick Google search for “Net Promoter Score” brings back a seemingly infinite list of articles outlining how to define, measure, and use it to accelerate company growth and customer loyalty.  There’s also no shortage of excellent platforms than can help with its implementation such as Delighted and Promoter.io. I’m a huge proponent of keeping a close watch of this number and benchmarking it against your competitors as your company grows and scales, but there’s a lesser known metric that I find to be equally if not more important if your company is service based- the Customer Effort Score.

I often joke that Customer Effort Score (CES) is the shadowed little brother of Net Promoter Score (NPS), but it has been found to be 2x better at predicting customer loyalty and that is no joke.

So, what is CES?

There are currently two versions of the CES, with the initial version asking “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” on a 5-point scale from very low effort to very high effort, and the more recent, updated version, “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The company made it easy to handle my issue” with a 7-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The updated version is the preferred option as it solves the first version’s issue of an inverted scale and avoids using the more subjective and thereby confusing term, “effort.”

What’s the concept behind this? What makes it good?

First off, I highly recommend reading The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty. Secondly, if you haven’t read it, I’ll go ahead and crudely summarize the point of the book and the theory behind the CES score. Loyalty has much more to do with how well a company delivers on its basic promises than its ability to wow the customer. I know- this defies conventional “surprise and delight” logic, but repeatedly, research has shown that exceeding a customer’s expectations during a service interaction (offering a refund, free product, etc.) only makes customers marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs. In fact, customers are 4x more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal.

A piece by HBS summarizes this excellently, “The loyalty pie consists largely of slices such as product quality and brand; the slice for service is quite small. But service accounts for most of the disloyalty pie. We buy from a company because it delivers quality products, great value, or a compelling brand. We leave one, more often than not, because it fails to deliver on customer service.”

How do I leverage CES in my organization?

Collecting CES scores and feedback should occur whenever a particular interaction has been completed between a customer and a member of your customer support team. For most companies, this should be within 24-48 hours of a “closed” request. In an ideal state, CES feedback should be stored directly with the request so it can be referenced alongside the interaction. From there, negative CES feedback should be analyzed for insights into improvement and customer issues should be rectified if possible. CES feedback tends to provide more actionable insight than an NPS comment in that you’ll be able to pinpoint specific areas of improvement. It’s much harder to identify what makes a customer more or less likely to refer your product/brand to friends.

Track total #’s of CES feedback received vs. requested and distribution of ratings closely so that you can see changes over time and make improvements to your customer experience.

Do I ditch NPS entirely?

Absolutely not and in fact, they are complementary measures. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between NPS and CES scores and this makes sense. Customers who had their issues resolved with little effort are also more likely to give a high NPS score.

Whereas CES indicates your performance on customer support based issues, NPS gives you a picture of overall customer satisfaction. CES metrics should be used on a ticket by ticket basis whereas NPS should be sent out approximately every 90 days. In a blog post by Promoter.io co-founder Chad Keck, he recommends sending out a NPS survey to 1/90th of your users every day for 90 days, so that you can get a better glimpse of customer sentiments over time as opposed to a concentrated view (imagine sending it one day after a website crash).

Knowing what your CES and/or NPS scores are is only half the battle. Too often companies dwell on the score number without taking action to leverage their “promotors” and win back their “detractors.” Use your loyal customers and share their positive words socially and via the web. This will generate positive word of mouth and organic press. For those customers who have had less than exceptional experiences, reach out to them. Identify if there are ways to remedy the situation and use their negative experiences to make positive improvements and adjustments internally.

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