If you don't have satisfied customers, your company will fail long term. Competition is more brutal than ever, and your company simply can't afford to ignore customer satisfaction. High satisfaction levels can ensure your survival today and lay a foundation for future success since highly-satisfied customers are often your most successful salespeople.
Keeping your current customers happy is good business in the long term. Conventional wisdom tells you that acquiring new customers is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. For that reason, a company can't have sustainable growth if it has a high customer churn rate - the rate at which your customers stop using your company's products or services.
However, there's good news - by gauging customer satisfaction, you can identify potential causes of churn and fix them before customers fall away. This saves you money in the short term and gives your business the conditions it needs to grow in the future.
If you're a decision-maker at a B2B company, it's essential to demystify customer satisfaction and condense it to a single measurement that you can monitor and work to improve. For that reason, we created this guide to talk you through the essentials, from definitions to tools and tricks. It'll help you ensure you're gathering data correctly and that you can use it to grow your business.
What is customer satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is a metric that quantifies how satisfied a customer is with a product, service, solution, or experience. Customer satisfaction measures how a customer feels - it's an emotional and instinctual concept that is hard to uncover and track. There are plenty of business terms that are vague and nebulous, and customer satisfaction is undoubtedly one of them.
To find out your company's levels of customer satisfaction, you need to ask customers how satisfied they are.
This can be done in many ways, using different surveys and touchpoints and at various stages in the customer journey. The best approach for your company depends on the nature of your business, your customers' preferences, and the areas you want to improve.
There's some commotion around the definition of customer satisfaction and how you should measure it. But as you choose your approach, try to remember that customer satisfaction is simply the absence of customer frustration.
Aim for delight
The end goal of measuring your customers' satisfaction levels should be to make them delighted. If you succeed, they'll become enthusiastic promoters of your company. If you just want to give them an average experience, you're aiming too low.
Why measure customer satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is important - as you can read more about in our appropriately-named article, 'Why is customer satisfaction important?'
That's why it's important to measure! If you don't measure customer satisfaction today, you can't identify unhappy customers. If you don't know who is unsatisfied, you don't know who will stop being a customer - and once they've found a new supplier, it's too late for you to fix the problem.
Your business will fail if your existing customers churn faster than you can acquire new ones. Measurement is the first step that gives you control and, eventually, allows you to make improvements. If you don't measure customer satisfaction, you won't understand the problems you face. If you can't understand them, you can't be in control. If you're not in control, you can't improve.
Without contact with your customers and feedback from them, you will be isolated in a bubble.
Nonetheless, the truth is that even some of the best, most innovative, top-performing companies have their faults. They don't offer fantastic customer service one hundred percent of the time. However, these companies have succeeded because they actively measure customer satisfaction and always act upon the data.
If you want to improve customer satisfaction, it's worth spending time on setting up measurement solutions and collecting the desired data. If you manage to uncover problem areas that cause deals to stall and customers to leave, you'll quickly regain your investment.
Customer retention is arguably an essential prerequisite for your company's growth. You can acquire new customers rapidly, but you don't have a sustainable business if they aren't sticking around.
Retention has a significant effect on business success, from your customer acquisition cost to customer lifetime value and customer loyalty and rates of word of mouth recommendations. The ratio of these metrics is crucial. You can invest more money to acquire customers if they stay longer and will be worth more. It's one business lever that genuinely impacts every other.
We've established that customer satisfaction matters and that you should measure it - so now, we move over to how.
How to measure customer satisfaction
All methods of collecting customer satisfaction data come down to some sort of customer survey.
Using analytics tools, you can determine how customers interact with your company, which offerings they find most interesting, and whether they're struggling to complete a task. But you can't use these tools to gauge their emotional response.
Surveys may seem simple, but to get answers that are relevant and can be tracked over time, you need to use them in the right way.
Surveys: When to send them, and to whom
These are crucial questions — and it depends on what you want to answer. For example, with a customer satisfaction survey, you're primarily looking to answer a particular question about how the customer feels about a specific, usually transactional, situation.
In this particular case, you're best off sending the survey as soon as you can. The longer the delay, the more skewed your data. Our memory does strange things to us regarding emotions and experiences. So if you want accurate feedback on your customers' experiences, send the survey as soon as possible - for example, after a closed deal or a product delivery.
However, sometimes we want to learn if there has been a longitudinal change in customer satisfaction, either individual or aggregated. For example, have you and your company improved or not over time? In this case, you need to control time and ensure that all surveys are sent to the customers in a similar time interval. This allows you to analyse customers' responses in cohorts to determine differences in customer satisfaction scores over time.
Who should fill out customer satisfaction surveys? Ideally, every customer has an experience with your business. Therefore, I would do so wherever you can bake in an effortless customer satisfaction survey (barring an annoying user experience, of course).
You'll want to isolate particular customer groups to do more in-depth surveys in some cases. In this case, it will depend on the answers you're looking for.
For instance, if you want to find out what your most satisfied customers like about your company, you would isolate customers with that cluster of characteristics and survey only them. But, of course, the same goes for any group of customers from whom you'd like to get insights.
What does a good customer satisfaction survey look like? What kind of questions should you ask? How do you determine your customer satisfaction score?
These three questions can be tough to answer in a broad sense because many different schools of thought constantly evolve. So, to a certain extent, you need to customise the survey to your companies goals. What is it that you want to know? Which questions and scores can you use as leading indicators of growth or churn?
We are fans of straightforward solutions, as they tend to be more understandable and actionable for the business, so NPS wins.
You can customise things to your use case. Here are a few potential questions to measure customer satisfaction using some ordinal scale to inspire or give you some ideas.
The general experience:
- Overall, I am delighted with my experience with [Company].
- How would you rate [Company] overall?
- How well do our products/solutions/services meet your needs?
- How responsive have we been to your response, feedback, requests, and questions?
- How likely are you to purchase from us again/repeatedly?
- How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?
The product, solution, or service:
- How do you rate the quality of the product/solution/service?
- How would you rate the product/solution/service value for money?
- Why did you purchase from us?
- How do you describe your experience with us in three words?
- Was there anything you want us to improve about your experience?
These are usually measured using ordinal scales. This means you measure your customers' responses on a scale, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 to 7, or 1-10.
There is much academic debate over which method is the best, and it's more vital that you choose a way and stick with it. A change over time is more important than the number is.
NPS (Net Promoter Score)
NPS is a prevalent type of customer satisfaction and loyalty survey called Net Promoter Score, or NPS.
You can calculate your NPS by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the portion of Promoters. NPS is quite popular, especially in quickly growing companies. We use it regularly at Zooma to track our customers' and employees' happiness. It's a metric you can use to rally your team around to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
It's the best way to track how the changes in your offering affect your user experience. We like the simplicity and actionability of the NPS, and you should always add an open-ended follow-up question, such as, "What's the reason for your rating?" to couple your measurement with some qualitative insights.
A benefit of NPS is that it can benchmark it against others in your industry to truly understand your customer satisfaction. To rally your company to focus on NPS, a customer satisfaction metric, will help you create a customer-centric culture and improve this score with time.
There are several ways to measure customer satisfaction, and what's important is that you can measure changes over time and use the data to improve the customer experience. Of course, if your method is too complicated for your organisation to rally behind, it won't be helpful. But that's the power of a single-question survey like the NPS.
If you want to get started with NPS surveys, this article is an excellent starting point - 'How to measure customer satisfaction with NPS surveys'.
Customer performance indicators (CPIs)
Although they're not a direct measure of satisfaction, CPIs can be a great indicator of how you're succeeding in solving your customers' concrete issues and problems. Customer performance indicators differ from key performance indicators (KPIs) in that they refer to the things your customers really care about.
A typical KPI for a marketing team might be the number of sessions they've got to their knowledge hub. But few customers care about the traffic levels on one of their suppliers' websites. A CPI, however, is something that is highly noticeable for your customers - for example, whether a problem with a product is fixed in the first visit from a service engineer, or the length of time it takes for them to get a quote when planning a new purchase.
The relationship between CPIs and real customer satisfaction isn't 1:1. It's possible to be meeting all your CPIs but still have dissatisfied customers, for various reasons. But they can at least give an indication - if you're consistently meeting your customers' needs quickly and effectively, you'll have impressive CPIs and probably a high level of customer satisfaction.
You can find out more about CPIs and how to develop them in this article, 'Customer satisfaction: What is a CPI?'
How to increase customer satisfaction
Now that we've covered the importance of achieving customer satisfaction and some methods for measuring it, the question is how we improve customer satisfaction. But, again, it's evident that there is no tried-and-true silver bullet approach here.
But, there are some guiding principles and evidence-based tactics that can get you some quick wins. They'll get you started on the path to an improved customer experience:
- Ask for customer feedback
- Educate customers and provide answers
- Make things easy to accomplish
- Leverage social media
- Check out your competitors
- Use focus groups
Ask for customer feedback
This one is basic - make it easy for your potential and existing customers to complain. When your customers can't give you feedback or complain directly, they'll complain to their friends or colleagues. As a result, they'll be frustrated — both with the poor customer experience and the lack of a solution.
This means that you should invest in customer feedback tools and customer support. Often, if you have a well-placed approach and process in place to catch customer feedback and respond in real-time, you will prevent a user or a customer from becoming a detractor in the first place. Even when things go wrong, a speedy and satisfactory solution can turn the customer's negative experience into a positive.
Don't let your potential and existing customers get to the point where they'll be a detractor in the first place. To do this, you must understand their desired outcome and operationalise around ensuring they achieve that — known as customer success and satisfaction.
Make sure you give your potential and existing customers touchpoints to provide feedback ad hoc, e.g., service tickets, open service tickets, feature requests, bug reports, chat, and more.
Never let the NPS survey be the only way — or the only time — that your potential and existing customers can give feedback to you. Instead, continually remind them about the other available feedback modalities for them to use.
Most dissatisfied customers will simply walk away unhappy, and you'll never know why. They'll then tell their colleagues and friends, and your reputation will worsen. Negative word-of-mouth is not a good treatment for a company. The most unhappy customers don't take the time to explain or complain; they stop doing business with you.
So what can you do?
To avoid losing customers based on bad experiences, you must make it easy for potential customers to complain and give feedback. Let them know their complaints, and feedback is welcome. Keep in mind that; a complaining customer cares enough about the relationship with you and your company to bring the issue to your attention.
Collecting customer feedback is essential in itself, and not enough companies do it. And it can be complicated, and many companies tend to make common mistakes. Many companies want to help their favourite companies improve. Still, potential and existing customers get obstructed at every turn by companies who give them transparently lousy survey questions, the wrong type of questions and ask them when it's too late or when their memories have faded.
Many companies use the 'autopsy approach' to customer satisfaction: they wait until the event is over to figure out what went wrong. Instead, your customers should get the question while it still matters to them and while their feedback can still make a difference.
The only incentives that matter to your potential and existing customers are answering their main questions:
- Was my voice heard?
- Did what I say make a difference?
- How do I compare to others?
Instead, companies insult customers by offering them some unknown chance of winning some generic gift.
Many companies still think it's 1996. Asking your customers to take their time to help you improve didn't work 30 years ago and certainly doesn't work today. Companies must stop focusing on self-centred rationales to fill out surveys and give customers internal incentives.
Representativeness' is critical, and too few companies consider this. Getting responses from 1-10% of your customers is meaningless if you don't know what the "silent middle" is saying. Unfortunately, companies sometimes take action on the misleading results from a non-representative portion of their audience because it's all the data they have. That's one reason that some companies stay mediocre.
Guide your customers and provide answers
All your customer questions should be readily answerable, either manually, within your interface, or with documentation. It's very frustrating when you can't find an answer to a question or concern while using a solution, product, or service, or even when browsing a website. How often do you experience this and try to find a live chat or some way to get an answer?
Firstly, conduct user experience (UX) research. If you run a few user tests and watch some recorded sessions, you'll find tons of UX-driven problems that you would never have noticed otherwise. It's inarguably helpful to identify these problems.
From here, you should have a substantial list of low-hanging fruit that you can prioritise and fix.
Secondly, look into more innovative content and documentation. When fielding support inquiries — or any customer touchpoint — make sure you're firmly documenting, categorising, and quantifying all common questions and complaints. This data will serve as your ground for solid documentation planning.
Where are your users and visitors struggling, and with what? And what can you answer that with content in real-time, so users don't even need to reach out to you? We do this here at Zooma with user guides in Zooma's customer portal's knowledge base.
Finally, look into more innovative customer support options. For example, live chat is increasingly a necessary site element to provide. Most visitors and customers expect that your company has a live chat.
Leverage your social media
Customer satisfaction isn't always well expressed. As a result, customers will often use third-party avenues, like social media and review sites to share their customer experiences.
If you track and monitor your potential and existing customers' social media activities, you will better understand any feedback about your company. As a result, you can also feel better equipped to address feedback and improve your overall customer experience and satisfaction.
Whether or not you and your company use social media as an active part of your customer service, your company should be ready to respond to feedback and questions within 24 hours, on Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or Instagram or LinkedIn comments. A social media listening tool can help and support you with this.
You can also use social media to collect customer feedback and measure customer satisfaction proactively. For example, consider offering live chats or Q&A sessions where customers can ask questions, express concerns, connect with your service or sales team, or even with your experts. The extraordinary thing about social media is that you can meet your customers wherever they are, allowing you to improve their customer's satisfaction in the process.
Make things easy to accomplish
Usability is essential to the customer experience. Yet, it's not often thought through in terms of customer satisfaction. We often think about the power of our features and what you can accomplish with them, but we tend to forget that users have to learn how to use the platform — that it's often not an intuitive experience. The easiest-to-use products are the most addicting.
Companies with positive and healthy missions think a lot about this because they aim to create habits. I love that Amazon makes it easy for me to purchase.
Delight your customers
To satisfy your customers is a good start, but you should aim to delight your customers. A business that has delighted customers has a credible extra salesforce; You don't see them, but they are talking to other people, friends, and colleagues all the time. Here's where things get tricky regarding practical advice, though; there's no silver bullet approach to delight your customers. To be truly remarkable, you have to, by definition, do something a little outside of the ordinary.
Some companies make that a core part of their operating ethos. When you genuinely rally your company around customer delight, you don't need to worry about the individual tactics; those ideas will come.
Whether it's something quirky, something remarkable like staying on a call, or something thoughtful like writing thank-you notes to your partners, delighting your customers can bring fantastic commercial results.
Use focus groups
One thing is to offer customers various channels for sharing feedback; it's quite another to seek feedback proactively. For example, focus groups gather a number of your potential or existing customers to collect and gather constructive feedback or criticism.
Focus groups allow you to get honest responses. It creates space for you to ask pointed questions without the risk of losing the participants' interest, and it also encourages your participants to answer candidly. When someone writes a review or gives feedback, they often edit or "clean up" their answers.
Focus groups happen in person and allow you to gather unfiltered feedback and criticism, including body language and nonverbal responses.
These responses could be some of your best tools to understand the desired customer experience, to improve customer satisfaction.
Check out your competitors
When customers are unhappy, they often move to take their business elsewhere. Where would your unsatisfied customers go? Have a look at your competition to understand how they may make your customers happier.
What your competitors do right and wrong can teach you a lot about your potential and existing customers:
- Go to your competitor's websites to understand the online customer journey they provide.
- Ask someone to contact their sales and service teams to see how they interact with potential and existing customers.
Do you find yourself delighted? The odds are, your potential and existing customers are, too. So incorporate some new ways to boost your customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction software and tools
Now that we've covered why you should prioritise to care about your customer satisfaction and how you can measure it let's cover some essential software and tools you can use to measure and improve customer satisfaction.
Tools for measuring customer satisfaction
The main thing to decide is how you'll collect customer satisfaction data. Depending on your goals, you could manage it via customer surveys (and you could send your customer surveys multiple times), in-app surveys, post-service surveys, or even customer interviews or longer form surveys.
The recommended way
Place the survey right after a critical moment in the user's experience on your website or app. For instance, if you have a video-sharing app, triggering a survey after users upload their first video could be a significant inflection point. Similarly, after a user purchases an e-commerce site, you'd ideally be able to trigger a survey to get their immediate thoughts.
Many tools do this; here are two examples:
When you target a specific category of users or a particular time interval, sending out email surveys is a good option. You can also collect more desired data from your customers this way. But be careful not to get greedy. Even if you give a reward for completing the survey, long surveys are a pain to fill out.
Even for this, there are many tools to do this; here are three examples:
There's no shortage of customer survey software. You'll see what I mean if you now do a Google search. But, of course, it's challenging to compare all the available options, which is why we recommend you and your company to use simply like the three above.
Customer satisfaction measurements and methods
You need to consider which customer satisfaction methodology to use outside of the specific tool you use and the time you will trigger the survey. And, again, there's no shortage here, either.
First, as we mentioned in this guide, NPS is a popular method because of its simplicity and actionability. Data is useless if you can't make better decisions, and NPS seems to have high predictive validity and actionability. In addition, people understand what it means to be used in an organisation quite easily.
There are other one-question methodologies like SUS and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score). CSAT is probably the most common satisfaction method, and it's likely the most straightforward as well.
You and your company ask your customers to rate their satisfaction with your company, product, service, or solution, using a survey scale from 1 – 3, 1 – 5, or 1 – 10.
Academics disagree on what the best scale to use is. It's not as essential to spend too long weighing which scale to use; instead, implement one that you and your company can agree on and stick with it. It's more about establishing a foundation and improving than being perfectly accurate in measurement. important
CES (Customer Effort Score) is another standard single-question survey. Instead of asking your customers how satisfied they were, you ask how easy it was to purchase or complete an action in your product.
This score is more predictive of consumer behaviour than CSAT or NPS. Still, there's much disagreement among academics on the specifics, so it's best to choose the method you can get started with the quickest.
Possibly, things can get more complex, and you will be able to add on more questions.
It's mostly best to keep things simple. However, customers don't want to fill out never-ending surveys, and you certainly want to make sure you get accurate data from the responses.
Guide: Boosting customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is vital to your company's health. If your customers are unhappy, they'll leave sooner or later, and no company can survive and compete long term with a severe churn problem.
In this guide, we try to define customer satisfaction and give you some ways to measure it. We hope that this guide gives you some inspiration and ideas on getting started with increasing your customer satisfaction. Now it's on you to implement your measurement approach and customer satisfaction program. Then, it's time to iterate and even innovate in the area of customer satisfaction. Your company's growth depends on it.