Customer experience survey types - which one is right for you?

Megan Wells

An excellent customer experience (CX) strategy can take your company from good to great, but if your plan needs some work, this crucial piece cannot be overlooked: talk to your customers, regularly.

Gartner argues that 80% of a company’s future revenue often comes from as little as 20% of their existing customers. Keeping customers happy while anticipating their needs promises a big payout, but without access to their feedback or KPIs to see where you stand, your improvement efforts will fall flat. If you haven’t set up a regular cadence with your customers yet, getting started can feel overwhelming. With the right tools and line of questioning, however, you can easily get a gut check on how your customers view your brand and products.

The following 5 types of customer surveys are the go-to for analyzing and collecting customer data. The results will help you hone in on what customers need, map out your CX strategy and rapidly improve your customer experience overall.

NPS or net promoter score

What is an NPS survey?

NPS is considered the standard metric for customer satisfaction and brand reputation across industries. First developed in 2003 by Bain and Company, it’s now used by millions of businesses to track their brand perception and give them the means to measure and improve their experience.

An NPS score in the broadest sense gives you a pulse on your company’s reputation and customer experience overall. This survey seeks to quantify a customer’s loyalty to your company based on one simple question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend [Your company, product, or service] to a friend or colleague?”

Respondents give a score from 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). The collective answers to this question are reported with a number from -100 to +100 -. The higher the score, the happier your customers.

After you have a broad swath of respondents, you can categorize customers into one of three categories:

  • Promoters: Customers with a score of 9 or 10 can be seen as loyal, happy, enthusiastic, and your best advocates.
  • Passives: Those that respond with a score of 7 or 8 are likely content with your services but don’t have the same zeal your Promoters do.
  • Detractors: Customers that respond with a score between 0 to 6 indicate an unhappy situation. These customers may be unlikely to buy from you again, and worse still may actively encourage others not to purchase your product or service.

How measuring NPS can improve customer experience

Should you set up an NPS survey? The short answer is yes - an NPS survey is a no-holds-barred gut-check on how well you’re doing as an organization. This is a standard by which you can measure yourself against competitors and benchmark your own internal success at affecting the customer journey.

While it will be valuable to measure your NPS score over time to see how your work internally is reflected in customer sentiment, an NPS score will do little to indicate where problems are and provide details on how to fix those areas of concern. For getting a pulse on where to turn your attention next, keep reading for more in-depth surveys.

CSAT or customer satisfaction score

What is a CSAT survey?

A CSAT survey is another common customer feedback tool - it acts as a key performance indicator for your customer service and the quality of a product or service. Similar to the NPS survey, CSAT survey feedback is gathered by asking customers a variation of one question:

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

Respondents use the following 1 to 5 scale:

 

  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied

 

The metric is expressed as a percentage from 0% (very bad) to 100% (excellent!).

How measuring CSAT can improve customer experience

CSAT measures customer satisfaction with a product or service in the moment, whereas a Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures overall customer loyalty and satisfaction to a company.


A CSAT survey will measure a customer’s immediate reaction to a specific interaction, product/service, or event, but it won’t be able to tell you about the broader relationship the customer has with your brand. A customer may have a consistently positive NPS score, but can give you a bad CSAT rating on a new product feature launched or new process involved in service delivery.


Use a CSAT survey to get specific feedback on a particular product or interaction in your customer journey. Your CSAT score of a particular product or event can be a great tool to measure whether your changes are creating a positive impact over time.

CES or customer effort score

What is a CES survey?

Customer Effort Score (CES) narrows the focus down to the level of measuring a customer’s effort needed to fulfill requests, resolve a problem with your product or service, perform a key product function or find answers to their questions.

CES surveys are built on a variation of the question:

 

“On a scale of (ex: 1) ‘very easy’ to (ex: 5) ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to interact with [your company / product or service]?”

 

This will measure the ease of use in a particular touchpoint or across your product/service and ultimately indicate whether or not someone is likely to continue purchasing.

How measuring CES can improve customer experience

Getting a CES read can inform multiple areas of your organization, from choosing how to craft your product workflows to which vendors you choose to work with for things like payments.

According to Gartner’s research on CES score measurement, “low-effort interactions result in lower costs,” - specifically, 37% less than a high-effort interaction. Furthermore, providing a low-effort customer experience with your product or service overall can eliminate up to 40% of repeat calls, 50% of escalations and 54% of channel switching (going from a FAQ forum to say, calling a service representative).

This score can give you a starting point to assess whether or not the channels and information you provide to customers are actually helping their journey along. Measuring your CES score may point you towards experimenting with new tools or workflows to help customers accomplish what they set out to do.

Point-of-conversion

A point-of-conversion survey is typically given to customers after they reach a specific milestone - whether it’s a touchpoint in their interaction with your product or service or they’ve just made a purchase. This kind of survey captures customer sentiment at a crucial moment in their journey and allows them to highlight any negative experiences that may have prevented them from taking this action.

An example of what this might look like:

  • After a customer buys your product online, a pop-up window surfaces asking them to rate the purchase experience from 1-5.
  • You may choose that if the customer rates the experience a 4 or 5, you’re golden.
  • If a respondent’s rating falls beneath a certain benchmark - 1-3 for example - you could ask them what they didn’t like about it or how you could improve the experience.

How a point of conversion survey can improve customer experience

The results of your point of conversion survey will highlight any pain points that need addressing so you can improve the experience for future customers. After all, who knows how many potential customers you could be missing out on!

Customer retention survey

Remember Gartner’s 80/20 assertion? A customer retention survey can tell you if a customer is in danger of leaving by asking them what they like and don’t like about your brand, product, or service. The data provided by a retention survey can indicate a potential churn while providing valuable feedback for your entire business.

The customer retention survey is a more in-depth inquiry that gives customers a chance to air their grievances and help you gauge the ease of your customer journey overall. Taken at regular intervals, results from these surveys can help inform everything from market positioning to product roadmap.

Questions in a customer retention survey should be manageable in length (taking no more than 2 minutes to complete) but will be longer than the other surveys on this list. Possible questions to include will depend on your business and unique goals, but here are a few samples:

  • Which product or service do you use?
  • When did you first purchase?
  • What prompted you to buy?
  • What problem were you trying to solve?
  • Overall, how satisfied are you with this product or service?
  • How easy to use is [product/service]?
  • In your opinion, what’s the overall quality of [product/service]?

How a retention survey can improve customer experience

A retention survey can give customers compelling reasons to reach out to your organization, purchase more, and become loyal advocates – if you listen to their feedback. Deploy a customer retention survey along with key milestones of their onboarding process or at critical lifecycle stages to alert you of any possible churn.

Beyond the immediate alarm bells, this survey can inform your growth as an organization and keep you and your team honest.

When it comes to customer experience surveys, there’s plenty to choose from. Where your priorities lie in your customer experience strategy will inform which survey to deploy and when as you bring your product or service vision to life.

When in doubt - experiment! The more survey data (if crafted correctly and with a clear purpose in mind) the more insight you have into how you can improve the customer experience for the better.

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