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Your Customer Satisfaction Metrics Do Not Show the Full Picture

A feeling of “missed opportunity” is common for many organizations and companies using traditional top-level metrics, like customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and Net Promoter Score (NPS). According to McKinsey, “Only 37 percent of organizations feel that they are using advanced analytics to create value; this finding reveals significant missed opportunity.”


While these metrics are helpful, they lack the necessary context customer support teams need to truly understand the “why” behind customer satisfaction metrics and take customer support to the next level. With that in mind, it’s important to look beyond traditional satisfaction metrics and consider customer sentiment and emotions. This provides more of a big-picture view and leads to profitable, more valuable customer relationships.

Preetham Gopalaswamy

Mar 22, 2021
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The traditional customer satisfaction metrics

NPS and CSAT are two common tools used for measuring customer satisfaction. Both customer satisfaction metrics are based on survey results and only provide a high-level overview of customer satisfaction.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A Net Promoter Score is a metric that determines whether or not someone would recommend your company to someone else.

The NPS is generally determined using a survey question, with a 1-10 scale, sent out following an interaction with your business. The survey asks some version of  “What is the likelihood that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Based on how the customer responds, they’re considered a Detractor (low score), a Promoter (high score), or Passive (somewhere in the middle).

You can then take the responses and subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters to get your overall NPS.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Score

A customer satisfaction score is similar, but rather than focus on how likely a customer would be to promote or recommend your business or product, this metric highlights how satisfied they are with their overall experience with your company.

Like NPS, CSAT is determined on another 1-10 scale survey question which is typically sent following an interaction with a brand. Based on responses, you take the number of people who answered that they were “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied,” divide that by total survey responses, and then multiply it by 100 to get a percentage.

Why these common KPIs fall short

These metrics have their place in measuring customer satisfaction, but they also have some serious shortcomings. They don’t provide a complete picture of customer satisfaction on their own, and they often leave customer support leaders wondering how to improve customer interactions or where those fell short. These metrics work best alongside other data points that provide valuable insight into customer sentiment (which we’ll discuss below).

They’re not specific enough

While CSAT and NPS numbers may indicate how satisfied your customers are or how likely they are to recommend your product or service, it doesn’t go much deeper than that without more data.

According to SurveyMonkey, “Critics of the Net Promoter Score say that, while it may help you understand customer loyalty, it doesn’t specifically identify the reasons why your customers may be Detractors.”

Why did a customer give you a low score? What could you have done to improve? There’s a lot of information lacking if you want to understand the reasoning behind the score and share that information across teams.

Luke Williams of Qualtrics XM Institute also notes that absolute metrics like NPS And CSAT don’t consider how competitors or other available options may impact customers. Your company may be doing well, but that doesn’t mean your competitors aren’t also receiving high satisfaction scores. Without further context, it becomes difficult to figure out how you can differentiate yourself in the market. NPS and CSAT scores are limited in what they can do to help you stand out from the competition.

They’re not driving loyalty

Just because your customers appear to be satisfied based on these traditional metrics doesn’t mean they won’t jump ship as soon as a competitor with a better option comes along. In fact, “60-80% of customers who churn said they were satisfied or very satisfied in their last CSAT survey.”

So, don’t confuse a high CSAT or NPS as an indicator of customer loyalty. You may have a good relationship with customers, but not a great one. In fact, these customer satisfaction metrics tell you little when it comes to actionable ways to better serve your customers.

If you want to retain your customers, you need more insights than these scores provide. Per Qualtrics XM Institute, “The most common takeaway for executives using relative metrics is this: ‘we’re doing well, but there is more work to do if our goal is to be our customers preferred brand and win greater market share.’”

They’re reactive 

You’re generating these scores after someone has already interacted with your sales team or product, which doesn’t allow for a proactive approach or solution.

Because these surveys show reactive customer satisfaction metrics, support teams are unable to get ahead of the issues. If the customer is already dissatisfied, the damage is done. In that case, you’re simply reacting to their dissatisfaction rather than finding proactive ways to pinpoint potential stumbling blocks along the customer journey. Create a smoother journey and you’ll have fewer dissatisfied customers to begin with. 

They’re subject to sampling bias 

Since it’s typically not feasible to survey all participants and users, especially for businesses with many customers and touch points, these survey methods are also subject to sampling bias.

According to MarketingTech News, NPS is “prone to the twin drawbacks of segmentation-based bias or self-reporting bias. Segmentation bias comes from the very nature of selecting who gets a survey or who does not, to increase response rate.

Self-selection bias arises when individuals select themselves, or where the characteristics of the people who select themselves create abnormal results. This is a reason why political phone surveys are getting more flawed by the cycle. Self-selection causes a non-response bias, when the groups of people responding have different responses than the group of people not responding. Customers who are indifferent or apathetic are less likely to respond. This means the middle range of the NPS is under-represented.”

Leverage emotions to gauge satisfaction

Putting more focus on the customer and the emotions driving their decisions provides a more accurate picture for growth and improvements. It showcases the “why” behind some of the higher-level metrics you’re already looking at.

According to research by Gartner, “Measuring emotion lends deeper insight into customers’ experiences than conventional CX metrics. While conventional CX metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer satisfaction (CSAT) measure general belief, sentiment, or future behavior, measuring customer emotions gives more specific, qualitative insight into why customers think and act the way they do.”

Emotional experiences are more memorable to customers

Customers are much more likely to remember and connect with a company when an interaction sparks an emotional response. Figuring out what made that moment memorable provides a lot of context and influence on their overall satisfaction scores.

Take, for example, a traveler who uses a wheelchair who planned to see a Broadway show for the first time. When she inquired ahead of time about accessibility, the staff could have just shared the details she needed over the phone. However, they opted to go above and beyond. On the day of the performance, they allowed her early access to avoid navigating through crowds, showed her the location of accessible restrooms and elevators, helped her to her seat, and introduced her to an usher who was available for further assistance.

While the performance was great, the customer service she received from the theater made her first Broadway show even more memorable. While a simple survey would have shown she was satisfied with the experience, the glowing, detailed review she provided gave the customer service team even more insight into where they excelled and how they could continue to serve patrons well.

Emotions can consciously (and subconsciously) influence behavior

Emotions may impact customer satisfaction without you or your customers realizing it—and customers may be hesitant to share their true feelings with you. Getting to the bottom of those emotional triggers will serve you well when trying to understand customer satisfaction metrics.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “simply asking people how they feel doesn’t guarantee accurate information: people may be biased or uncomfortable with their own emotions, or they may be unsure how to verbalize their feelings.”

This rings true all the time with how we share content online. Harvard Business Review notes that a study using facial recognition technology found that people were significantly more likely to share videos that sparked an emotional response. Both engagement and facial recognition can be helpful in understanding customer satisfaction in a more holistic way.

Emotional check-ins are proactive

Gauging emotions throughout customer interactions allows you to pivot and make proactive decisions to improve customer satisfaction. There’s no need to wait around to see survey results after the fact. By being proactive, you can quickly turn a bad situation into a good one, thus improving overall satisfaction metrics.

For example, business analytics platform Qlik recently partnered with SupportLogic to create a more continuous customer service experience. They began using customer sentiment and attention metrics to prevent churn. With this proactive AI, Qlik saw great success and reduced customer escalations by 30% in just six months.

How to track customer sentiment

Tracking customer sentiment signals can be challenging, but it’s worth the extra effort. Thankfully, artificial intelligence (AI) software and advanced technology, like SupportLogic, make tracking and understanding sentiment easier. Here are a few ways to measure customers emotions:

  • Social listening: Tracking and recording what customers are saying about your brand (both tagged and not) via social platforms is a key way to track customer sentiment. Keeping on top of trends, conversations, and keywords can help you read between the lines and address issues quickly.
  • Direct person-to-person contact: Interviews and focus groups allow you to ask questions and gauge reactions, response time, and other nonverbal indicators of customer satisfaction in real time.
  • Virtual chats: Customer service live chats and bots also let you track common issues, keywords, and responses in real time and be proactive in responding before problems arise to improve customer satisfaction.

How SupportLogic can help

SupportLogic’s service experience (SX) platform can help you to go beyond CSAT and NPS scores and proactively track customer sentiment. Our SX platform provides numerous features for tracking advanced metrics, including:

  • Inbound sentiments and key phrases that integrate with CSAT and NPS survey programs to provide additional context
  • Natural language processing (NLP) to analyze support tickets and get automatic notifications when a customer is unhappy
  • Analytics that allow you to easily track customers expressing negative sentiments and predict likely escalations
  • A “Favorites” section where you can add top accounts to start receiving proactive alerts

With these AI, NLP, and sentiment analysis capabilities, you can gauge important emotional signals from interactions already captured in your CRM system.

Customer satisfaction metrics work best in tandem

Data is powerful, and the more you have at your disposal, the better. Using real-time customer sentiment data and a variety of high-level metrics, like CSAT and NPS, will provide the most holistic, valuable picture for future success.

According to research from Gartner, “Measuring customer emotions, in combination with traditional CX metrics (e.g., NPS, CSAT, customer effort), is key to gaining a deep understanding of customers’ experience, driving customer loyalty, and creating truly differentiated customer experiences.”

To read more about customer metrics, download the white paper on The Challenges and Limitations of Customer Survey Metrics from our Resources page.

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