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The most comprehensive guide to customer satisfaction

Achieving and maintaining customer satisfaction is complex as it’s more than just a few returning customers. To truly achieve customer satisfaction, you need to consider your approach to the customer life cycle, focus on gaining regular and targeted feedback and also use customer feedback to make improvements.

In this guide, we'll look at the approach you can take to improve satisfaction, including how to measure customer expectations and survey customer satisfaction and the tools you can use to measure loyalty.

There are numerous ways to describe customer satisfaction. Essentially, it focuses on how happy your customers are with your service or product. Or how their experience in liaising with you was, how loyal they are and how likely they are to recommend you to others.

According to McKinsey, there are three Cs to achieve customer satisfaction, consistency, consistency and consistency. The research suggests that the customer experience must include consistency for all customers across the customer journey, emotions (trust) and communication.

Businesses cannot survive without customers regardless of the type of business, size or sector. Therefore, if you don't make a good impression on customers, then they may not return to you or recommend you to others. Even worse, they may openly criticise your products or services. Research shows that 83% of customers trust an organisation more if it provides excellent customer service, and 74% would change to a competitor if they discovered it provided better customer service.

Reputation is crucial for success and often new business can come from word of mouth. Marketing costs money, but loyal customers will potentially discuss their positive customer experience, refer others and keep returning. Plus, it's more expensive in terms of time and marketing to attract a new customer than to make a sale from an existing customer.

In addition, a seamless customer experience appears to align to a positive employee experience. Often organisations with excellent customer satisfaction are also some of the best places to work. Motivated employees will provide better service to customers, and their intention to remain at their organisation can increase by up to 17%. So, if employees are happy, they can boost your reputation, attract and retain talent, and be incredibly loyal and productive.

Finally, treating your customers well and providing a positive and attentive experience is the right way to treat your customers. It can build trust and loyalty, and treating them well means they should want to use you repeatedly. This may also help to attract and retain employees as they may feel loyal to a business that puts others first and considers customer needs.

The customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is a standard, straightforward metric for customer service and can measure product, service or interaction satisfaction. It involves asking the customer a question that they answer using a rating scale.

For example, you might ask: ‘How satisfied were you with your recent purchase?’ and you give them a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 (or other options) to rate their response.

CSAT scores are brilliant for gaining quick and direct feedback. However, they are impacted by customer mood, time and also potentially culture. So, consider where and when you use them and research what has worked well in the past or what other organisations are doing.

You can measure customer satisfaction using CSAT scores, Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Customer Effort Scores (CES) and more in-depth customer satisfaction surveys. It's important to consider what you want to measure before you send out surveys or questions and also consider the timing of when you send them out.

The NPS tests loyalty and how likely customers are to refer or recommend you to family and friends. The one-question rating is from 1-10. To calculate your NPS score, you can use our NPS calculator or work it out by using the calculation of % of Promoters - % of Detractors.

Promoters are the most satisfied customers you have and are those who gave a rating of 9 or 10. These people are most likely to recommend your products or services and are the respondents you’re aiming for!

Passives are those who are slightly satisfied but could be easily lost to a competitor. These are the customers who give a rating of 7 or 8 and are the ones you need to work to push to Promoters.

Detractors are the ones to really focus on as they’re the least satisfied customers and are the ones likely to be negative about you or leave you. Their rating will be between 0 to 6.

CES are focused on the effort it took the customer to have their issue solved. Again, scores are ratings and generally go from very low effort (1) to very high effort (7). For example, you could ask, ‘How easy was it to resolve your issue?’

According to Gartner, 96% of customers will become disloyal if they experience a high-effort service interaction with you, compared to just 9% who experience a low-effort interaction. Low-effort interaction can be phone lines that are easy to connect to, questions that are answered quickly and efficiently (and actually answer the question) and customer service representatives who are knowledgeable and helpful. High-effort service experiences may include being passed around by representatives, poor information or knowledge or slow responses.

You can survey customer satisfaction using different types of surveys:

For in-depth insights about how happy your customers are, e-mail surveys can help you to gain this information. They allow customers plenty of time to complete them, but the response rate can be low.

These surveys use your website to ask one or two questions to customers. You can add a feedback bar to your website that immediately shows customers or potential customers that you are interested in their opinion and feedback and can measure different aspects of customer satisfaction. These surveys also generally offer a high response rate because if your customer is on your website, they are already engaged with your brand and may be more likely to give an opinion.

If you're looking to gain feedback on a specific service or product the customer has received, you can use these surveys to get your feedback immediately after their interaction with you. For example, if you ask for feedback straight after a customer makes a purchase, their feedback is fresh and is likely to be honest. You can add the survey link via e-mail, social media, over the phone or in a live chat. This can also work if yours is a service a customer visits where you can have a touchpad or screen in the location and ask for feedback on the spot. 

Therefore, before you begin to measure satisfaction, be clear about your objectives, choose your customer satisfaction survey questions to reflect your objectives and ensure that you analyse survey data and act on it as soon as possible.

It’s vital to forge strong relationships from the beginning of each customer interaction and continue to nurture every customer relationship. You don't need to have long-term customers to ask for feedback, but the feedback you ask for will depend on the customer’s status. For example, for a new customer, you may ask them immediately after purchase to give their rating on the service they received or you may ask a longer-term customer how likely they are to recommend you to their friends or family.

Without regular feedback from your customers, you cannot speculate where the issues or concerns might be or know how to improve the customer experience. You will need to find ways of connecting with your customers for feedback that suits your business. This might be through face-to-face interaction, surveys on social media or via e-mail, or reviewing customer expectations. Whatever feedback method you use, you must make the effort to listen to your customers and understand their experience with you.

Customer satisfaction is an ongoing requirement of any successful business and should become part of your brand and culture. You should never stop asking for customer opinions and continually look to improve the service or product you offer. Essentially, you must align your business goals with the needs of your customers; otherwise, business success may be at risk.

At Momentive, our SurveyMonkey service can help you with consumer segmentation and review the customer experience over time and across locations. Sign up now to assess and enhance your customer satisfaction. 

Poor customer satisfaction can reduce business success and, therefore profits and potential growth. If your customers aren't satisfied with your products, services or their interaction with your business, not only are they likely to look into moving to a competitor, but they may also negatively affect your reputation by giving negative reviews to others. All this can prevent your likelihood of business longevity.

There’s no specific frequency required to measure satisfaction, but you do need to be consistent with how and when you measure satisfaction and ensure that you take the same approach for every customer. For example, you may decide to carry out a customer satisfaction survey after every interaction that a customer has with you, or you may do this every time they buy a certain product that you want more feedback about. You may also use CSAT before renewal or after a customer event.

To calculate a CSAT, you can do the following:

Divide the total number of positive responses (eg, 20) by the total number of responses (eg, 40) and multiply by 100. In this example, your CSAT score would be 50%.

Customer satisfaction scores will vary by industry and it's very difficult to gain a top score of 100%. This is because the metrics only include positive scores. For example, if nine out of 10 customers positively rated their customer service experience you would receive a score of 90%. So, for a perfect score everybody has to respond positively. Generally, a good score would be between 75 and 85%.

It depends on what you want to measure and what success looks like for you. You will use different metrics to meet different goals. So, if you think customer turnover is high, look at your churn rate to see how and when you are losing customers or look at the length of customer lifecycles or how long it takes for customers to purchase again, etc. Then you can decide what you need to do to gather more information about the whys.

There’s many to choose from and some will suit your organisation more than others. You could focus on customer churn rate, repeat purchase or product return rates, customer retention rates or the NPS and time between purchases.