How to measure customer satisfaction: advice from industry leaders
Measuring customer satisfaction is critical to growing your business, but don’t take our word for it. Here's how industry experts use customer satisfaction metrics.
Published August 6, 2020
Last updated September 21, 2021
How well are your company’s products and services meeting your customers’ expectations? More importantly, how can you tell?
The answer lies in measuring customer satisfaction. It’s a common buzzword thrown around in management and customer service meetings, but there isn't a single metric that can fully capture your customers' happiness. Instead, customer satisfaction is best quantified using multiple metrics.
Measuring and seeking to improve customer satisfaction continuously is vital to your business's success. We’ve rounded up tips and advice from industry experts to help you get started on both fronts.
Measuring Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction can’t be perfectly measured with only one metric.
To get a complete picture, you must combine metrics from various sources.
Start with CSAT surveys
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) surveys are presented to customers at the end of a customer service interaction with your company. They're the perfect metric to begin with, because they're quick and easy for customers to respond to.
CSAT “is a very simple way to measure satisfaction,” says Nicolas Mérouze, a cofounder of social media marketing platform Tigerlily. “You ask your customers how satisfied they are and the answer is either good, neutral, or bad.”
The best way to implement CSAT surveys is as a follow-up to a recent customer service experience. You can create surveys using a third-party tool, such as Qualtrics. Or you can enable them to pop up at the end of every customer service interaction with specialized customer service software, such as Zendesk’s built-in customer satisfaction feature.
CSAT surveys should be quick and painless, increasing the chance that customers will fill out the surveys instead of skipping them. We recommend keeping the survey short (three questions maximum) and offering a mix of open-ended and ratings-based questions.
Some suggested CSAT survey questions:
- “How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend?" Ask customers to answer this classic Net Promoter Score (NPS) question with a 1-10 rating, with 1 being "not at all likely," and 10 being "extremely likely." Use these responses to sort your customers into detractors, passives, and promoters.
- “Did this experience meet your expectations? Why or why not?” Offer this question as an open-ended text box so customers can explain their experiences in greater detail.
- “How would you rate the customer service you received?” We ask this question in Zendesk’s simple one-question survey, with two clickable responses: “Good, I’m satisfied,” or “Bad, I’m unsatisfied.” The survey maximizes response rate by requiring only a single click. Once an option is clicked, customers can also type a more detailed comment if they want.
Take a multifaceted approach
While CSAT survey responses are a good starting point, they should be collected in conjunction with other metrics to get a complete picture of customer satisfaction.
“Prioritize a single [customer satisfaction] number — to the exclusion of all others — and you’ll invariably leave a lot of people and priorities out. Moreover, you’re likely to constrain your growth,” says Jonathan Golden, partner at New Enterprise Associates.
In order to understand customer satisfaction from every angle, include both qualitative and quantitative research.
"Prioritize a single [customer satisfaction] number — to the exclusion of all others — and you’ll invariably leave a lot of people and priorities out. Moreover, you’re likely to constrain your growth."
Jonathan Golden, Partner, New Enterprise Associates
One qualitative way to understand customers’ motives and behaviors is through a client advisory group, a panel of customers who meet to discuss your business’s products and services.
“[Client advisory groups are] a more-involved version of a focus group,” explains Jeanne Bliss, president of Customer Bliss. “In general, . . . advisory boards are a much underused way to improve customer service, develop new services, and encourage repeat business.”
Following Bliss’ advice, consider putting together a team of target customers to meet with regularly to gather feedback on current or future business offerings and learn more about your audience’s needs.
Quantitative customer satisfaction metrics matter, too
You can go beyond qualitative data when evaluating customer satisfaction.
“If you’re seeing an increase in support requests around a particular feature or task, that’s a sure sign that something needs fixing before happy customers start getting frustrated,” says Shonak Patel, director of customer experience at Appcues.
You can also infer customer satisfaction from your call resolution rates and average issue-handling time:
Taking the multifaceted approach to customer satisfaction metrics ensures that you’re viewing customers from multiple angles — understanding their behaviors, but also their feelings — in order to be armed with the tools you need to increase satisfaction in the future.
Improving customer satisfaction
Accurately and thoroughly measuring customer satisfaction provides the data necessary to see whether you’re keeping your buyers happy or not.
Once you’ve gathered the metrics, see if they’re meeting your expectations for customer satisfaction. If they’re not as high as you want, don’t panic.
Here’s how you can improve customer satisfaction metrics, according to experts.
Go beyond customers’ basic needs
In order to boost your company’s customer satisfaction metrics, you have to specialize in surprising and delighting your buyers.
"At the heart of a successful business strategy is a customer experience that is elegantly simple and positive, where consumers are likely to come away satisfied and return.”
Andres Angelani, CEO at Softvision
Impressing customers should be the priority of every single employee, so make going above and beyond with customer service part of your company culture. Mention your commitment in your company’s mission and values, and ensure that legendary customer service is featured prominently in your onboarding and training programs for new employees.
For a great example, consider online retailer Zappos:
- The company has an onboarding program in which every new hire, whether in leadership or an hourly employee, learns and practices customer service — and those skills are revisited yearly
- Around the holiday season, Zappos’ busiest time, all employees are expected to take customer service calls, says Christa Foley, Culture Adviser and Director of Insights at Zappos
Making customer service part of every single role keeps it top of mind as a company priority.
"Our busiest time at Zappos is the holiday season; during that period, all employees take customer service calls — myself included."
Christa Foley, Culture Adviser and Director of Insights at Zappos
It’s especially important to go above and beyond for customers with your customer service process. Suppose a buyer is already frustrated or upset or is looking for a way to resolve an issue, and your service interface is clunky and difficult to navigate. In that case, it can further push a customer away.
Ensure that help is easily accessible, and minimize multiple interactions by offering multichannel support. Examples include live chat, a 24/7 AI chatbot, a help desk email, and a well-stocked knowledge base community.
With more service methods available, customers are empowered to resolve their issues smoothly and quickly.
Become your ideal customer subject matter expert
No one should understand your customers better than you.
“If you’re truly focused on your customers and listen to them, you’ll be able to accurately guess what they’ll want next,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, after the company acquired Zappos.
The key to customer satisfaction is to take the time to truly understand your customers, working hard to fill in any knowledge gaps and ensuring that your brand offers solutions that feel tailored to address their pain points.
"If you’re truly focused on your customers and listen to them, you’ll be able to accurately guess what they’ll want next."
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
Your customers aren’t responsible for telling you what they need. You, as a company, are responsible for predicting their future needs:
To understand buyers’ future pain points:
- Conduct focus groups
- Study their feedback and commentary on social media
- Analyze industry trends
Then, work to alleviate pain points even before they arise—any company working to solve a customer’s issue after it’s become a problem is already late to the game.
Growing customer satisfaction metrics can grow your brand
Prioritizing customer satisfaction doesn’t just help your buyers: it can also help grow your brand. The goal is happy customers, but happy customers provide more value than just repeat purchasing.
"When your customers are happy, they bring you new customers. They become advocates for your product, sharing their positive experience and encouraging others to come on board. You can’t ask for better advertising than that."
Shonak Patel, Director of Customer Experience at Appcues
A business’s greatest asset is happy and loyal customers. Focus on measuring and growing customer satisfaction today and you’ll help your brand flourish tomorrow.