4 Ways to Measure Consumer or Patient Satisfaction

At Stafford, we work with hundreds of brands. So, we get to see a variety of different approaches to answering the question “Am I making my consumers happy?” We are often asked our opinion on different approaches, so we wanted to share a quick view of four of the ways that we see brands, healthcare systems, and others measuring consumer or patient satisfaction.

Let’s meet the contestants!

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) CSAT is most often measured via a five- or seven-point scale with a simple question such as “How satisfied were you with your service experience?” There have been many books written on survey question design, so we won’t go into that. But this is a fairly common method used by brands and healthcare systems alike, and responses seem to correlate well with the quality of service experience. This approach is the workhorse of customer care organizations – it can be used across different channels and hones in on a specific service experience rather than an entire ‘brand experience.’

Net Promoter Score (NPS) NPS originated at Bain consulting and is a zero-to-10-point scale, asking if you would recommend a product or service. This is a different way of asking about your relationship with a customer. It takes a broad view rather than honing in on one aspect of the experience. But given that you’re asking your end-user to mentally stake some of their reputation on their response, it does add a bit more weight to the question. Additionally, NPS has been widely understood by marketing functions, making it a great way to tie your customer care efforts to marketing goals. The other key benefit we see for NPS is that a large number of companies have adopted it. With a universal question format and scale, NPS is one of the few satisfaction measures where it’s fairly easy to find benchmarks or to compare data with other brands.

Customer Effort Score (CES) This is a methodology adopted by research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB – now part Essentially, CES seeks to understand how easy the experience was for your customer. CEB research determined that effort is the most important contributor to customer loyalty, so they built this question around it. Typically, it’s a seven-point scale, as is often the case with CSAT, with the two ends anchored with very easy or very difficult. CES seems to have a good grounding in research, but it also hasn’t quite gotten the traction that NPS has. So it’s not as easy to benchmark yourself with other organizations.

Emojis Perhaps asking the question “How did we do today?” with just two responses (smiling or frowning face) is a great adaptation to the modern attention span. This is a very simple visual intuitive way to ask your customers how you’ve done. It also works very well on mobile phones, which is helpful given the large proportion of web traffic and emails that are consumed on mobile devices. But of course, it really only works visually – it is not easy for an agent or an IVR to ask for a smiley/frowny response! In our experience, the emoji does drive a higher response rate, likely because it is so much easier for people to process.

So, which one is best?

Well, the answer is, as always, it depends! But in general:

  • NPS is the easiest to do external benchmarking and comparisons, plus it can be used in different parts of the enterprise. However, by design, it focuses on more than just your contact center.
  • Emojis probably will get you the highest response rate but is not suited for all communication channels or survey approaches.
  • CES is based on strong research and can be compared across businesses, but doesn’t have the same usage that NPS does, so expect fewer benchmarks.
  • CSAT is very focused on the contact center but difficult to benchmark, given the use of different questions and scales. It also doesn’t have a following outside of the customer care department.

While there are some clear differences, it is very important to note that when we see an operation use different measures at the same time (often due to testing a new approach or a short-term study), the changes in one measure are always mirrored by changes in the other parallel measure. So, while they clearly have different intent, they do seem to gather very similar feedback.

So, while “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is usually not a great reason to avoid change, in this case, there may be some value. Oftentimes it is most helpful to be able to compare yourself to yourself to identify trends, determine what isn’t working, and set goals based on historical performance. So be careful making change for its own sake!

It is a great business builder to be sure to reach back to them to apologize and ask for more detail. Or at least let them know they’ve been heard. Feedback is a gift – make sure to write thank-you notes! If we can help or offer any perspective on how you might drive your satisfaction higher, please let us know.

Contact us today for more information.

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