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CSAT vs NPS: Which customer satisfaction metric is best?

10 min read
How do you measure customer satisfaction? What are NPS surveys? And which is the best customer satisfaction metric? Here’s everything you need to know…

CSAT vs NPS: What are they?

First up, let’s get those acronyms out of the way.

NPS stands for ‘Net Promoter Score’, and CSAT is ‘Customer Satisfaction. In super simple terms, they’re both customer experience metrics that describe how much your customer has enjoyed doing business with you – albeit each with a slightly different focus.

NPS was first developed by management consulting firm Bain and Company in 2003 and has since become an industry-standard measurement for customer loyalty. Likewise, CSAT scores provide a standardised measurement that allows satisfaction to be tracked and compared across industries as well as just across organisations. If you need additional in-depth information and specific guides regarding each consider our free downloadable templates.

CSAT vs NPS: What’s the difference?

The core difference between the two customer experience metrics is that they describe different elements of the customer experience.

CSAT measures customer satisfaction with regards to a product or service, whereas NPS is best used to measure the overall relationship the customer has with an organisation. So, whereas CSAT usually describes how your customer feels about a recent purchase, NPS can track their feelings about you as a brand, over a longer term.

Or, in other words, one is more transactional (CSAT), and one is more relational (NPS). Learn more about transactional vs relational feedback

How is CSAT calculated?

A reliable customer satisfaction metric can be measured by collecting answers to one very simple question via customer satisfaction surveys:

‘How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the [goods/service] you received?’

While the exact wording of the question can change, what’s important is the standardisation of the answer: CSAT surveys are always marked on a 1-5 scale:

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very satisfied

And to calculate customer satisfaction, it’s those last two – satisfied or very satisfied – that we want to focus on. That’s because the two highest values on feedback surveys are the most accurate predictors of customer retention.

The end calculation is just about turning those satisfied customers into a percentage of overall respondents. To do that, you just need to divide the number of satisfied customers (4 and 5 responses) by the number of survey responses and multiply that number by 100.

What you’ll be left with is the percentage of satisfied customers, and that’s your CSAT score.

How is NPS calculated?

NPS is just as straightforward as CSAT, again requiring that customers answer a simple, multiple-choice question. This time it’s usually:

‘How likely is it that you would recommend [Organisation] to a friend or colleague?’

This time the responses are marked between 0-10, with 10 being ‘extremely likely’ and 0 being ‘extremely unlikely’. Those responses are then funnelled into one of three groups:

●      Promoters (scoring 9 or 10)

These are customers who exhibit the most customer loyalty – the ones who love your brand and will recommend it to others.

●      Passives (scoring 7 or 8)

These customers don’t have strong feelings about you either way, which means they’re easily swayed by competitive offers.

●      Detractors (0-6)

These customers had a bad experience, and can actively damage your reputation by warning others to steer clear.

Your final Net Promoter Score can be calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. So if 20% of respondents are detractors, 10% are passives and 70% are promoters, your NPS would be 70-20, which would equal 50.

What is a Customer Effort Score?

One other metric to have on your radar is CES, or Customer Effort Score. Like CSAT surveys, CES uses a scale of 1-5, only this time to describe how much effort a customer felt they had to exert to solve a problem – normally with a focus on fine-tuning customer service interactions.

Can you convert NPS to CSAT?

In short: no, sorry! And the same goes for the other way round.

Your Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction score are complementary ways of gathering customer feedback. And because they speak to different facets of your customer’s overall view of you, it’s not possible to extrapolate information from one based on information from the other. In fact, they’re best used together.

Instead, you should be seeking customer feedback that includes both NPS and CSAT surveys as often as possible. That way, you’ll get a more complete view of the transactional customer experience as well as the relational views people have of your company.

After all, the more customer data you collect – frequently and at regular intervals – the more informed you’ll be about your business and areas for improvement.

CSAT vs NPS: Which is best?

Which is best: cats or dogs? Day or night? Food or shelter? Neither Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer satisfaction scores are seen as being the ‘better’ of the two – as metrics, they serve different purposes.

A customer satisfaction score can often highlight practical, short-term changes that can be made to impact the customer experience. NPS, on the other hand, describes a more long-term, holistic view of your company.

If you really do only have the resources to focus on one, you’ll need to prioritise based on your goals.

Finding the right solution based on your goals

Broadly speaking, CSAT is best used to highlight areas of improvement, while NPS tracks change over time – with less of a focus on diagnosing problems. That’s because CSAT surveys can generally be applied to more specific scenarios, while NPS deals with longer-term opinions.

For instance, you can gather CSAT data about a customer’s recent purchase or their experience dealing with an issue. By changing the wording of the core CSAT question, you can even run multiple lines of questioning in one survey, which might show you that your product lineup and purchasing journey are both great, for instance, but that your customer support efforts need a tuneup.

Net Promoter Score (NPS), on the other hand, helps you gauge how you’re doing in relation to your competitors in your industry, as well as ensure that customer loyalty is increasing over time. If not, then you’ll know there’s work to be done.

Alongside regular benchmarking, you might also want to run fresh NPS surveys after big company changes, recent marketing campaigns, or PR crises, to see how public perception of your brand has shifted.

Importantly for both, it’s a good idea to also ask customers to provide written feedback where possible, so that you can add that contextual, qualitative data to your raw quantitative scoring.

NPS is great because…
It’s simple and standardised
CSAT is great because…
It’s specific
NPS surveys tend to have high completion rates because they’re short and simple to understand. They’re also easy to use to benchmark, helping you see where you stand in relation to the rest of your industry. CSAT questions can be tailored to specific parts of your business, helping you to find out where customers feel satisfied and where they don’t. That should make it easy to find out where there are areas for improvement.
NPS can be tricky because…
It’s often contextless
CSAT can be tricky because…
It’s narrow
An NPS score gives you an overall indication of customer loyalty, but not much else – including things customers don’t like. So it’s important to gather it in conjunction with other (qualitative) data. Your customer satisfaction score’s specificity is a double-edged sword: that also means that customers can answer only about what’s being asked – and nothing more. This can create contextual information gaps if you’re not being thorough.

The key is to measure customer satisfaction alongside Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, with both metrics doing the heavy lifting in different areas, and at different times.

To do that effectively, you’ll need to employ a customer experience management software suite.

CSAT vs NPS: How Qualtrics can help

If you’re looking to capture customer satisfaction metrics and get an overview of customer happiness at the same time, Qualtrics can help.

For starters, we have great NPS and CSAT survey templates that are free to download and use:

But more importantly, we can help you take those metrics to the next level with intelligent customer sentiment tracking alongside regular CSAT surveys and NPS score tracking.

Qualtrics Experience Management software is the most trusted way to turn detractors into promoters, and loyal customers into fans – helping you unlock your customer feedback with intelligent, AI-driven insights.

Over 13K brands and 99 of the top 100 business schools use Qualtrics

With Qualtrics CustomerXM™, you’ll enjoy a next-level combination of customer surveys, always-on customer listening with natural language detection, trend detection, and actions that will help elevate the customer experience.

By monitoring quantitative and qualitative customer satisfaction metrics and data in one place, you’ll garner a 360-degree view of customer sentiment, and receive immediately-actionable suggestions about how to streamline every part of the customer lifecycle.

Discover next-generation customer satisfaction measurement