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Taking your customer’s pulse: How to measure customer satisfaction in e-commerce

Taking your customer's pulse: How to measure customer satisfaction in e-commerce

[Updated post from August 5th, 2021]

Every business wants to make sure its customers are happy with their experience. But what does customer satisfaction look like?

Customer satisfaction has always been a tricky area for businesses to define. Most customers don’t shout from the rooftops when they’re happy (or unhappy). So, what is the best way to understand how customers feel about their experience with your brand?

In this blog, we’re going to cover some actionable ways that you can measure customer satisfaction in e-commerce and how you can improve customer satisfaction – starting now.


  • Customer satisfaction refers to the happiness and contentment that customers feel about a brand’s products, services, and overall shopping experience.
  • Measuring customer satisfaction is crucial for understanding customer sentiment, identifying pain points, and improving the customer journey.
  • To measure customer satisfaction in e-commerce, businesses can use metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES) as well as gathering direct and indirect customer feedback to gain insights and identify pain points in the customer experience.

What is customer satisfaction?

Customer satisfaction refers to how happy a customer is with your products or services, as well as their overall experience and perception of shopping with your brand. Customer satisfaction data is often used to measure the overall success of a brand’s CX strategy and identify areas of friction that are jeopardizing customer happiness.

However, customer satisfaction can be a tricky concept for brands to pin down. It shouldn’t be confused with metrics such as customer retention or customer lifetime value, which focus purely on sales.

If a customer chooses to make repeat purchases from your brand, this is a clear sign that customer satisfaction levels are high. However, numerous interactions allow customers to express positive customer sentiment that don’t involve making purchases.

For example, any time that a customer advocates for your brand on social media, leaves a positive review, or refers a friend is a sign of satisfied customers, as well as contributing to your brand’s growth and reputation. 

This means that there’s no golden formula for measuring whether your customers are happy or not. E-commerce brands need to track a variety of customer satisfaction metrics to build a clear picture of how satisfied customers are with the shopping journey and gain valuable insights that drive improvements.

Why measure customer satisfaction?

It’s easy for e-commerce brands to assume that their customers are happy unless they say otherwise. But in reality, this isn’t how most customers behave.

While some dissatisfied customers will complain or leave a negative review, the majority will simply choose to shop elsewhere next time. According to Salesforce, 91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will simply leave without providing any feedback.

If e-commerce brands aren’t attempting to measure customer satisfaction, They’re unlikely to have much understanding of the scope or cause of customer churn in their business. When it’s all too easy for online shoppers to find an alternative vendor that meets their needs, they aren’t to hang around to help you fix the customer relationship.

This is why brands need to cultivate highly satisfied customers from day one and make an ongoing effort at collecting customer feedback throughout the shopping journey. In addition to building more robust customer success strategies, this also demonstrates to customers that your brand cares about providing a positive brand experience.

Here are some other reasons why measuring customer satisfaction is a great value to your business:

Happy customers purchase from you again and advocate for your brand

Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are not the same thing, but the link between them is obvious. When your customers are happy, they’re far more likely to form a lasting relationship with your brand. Best of all, satisfied customers are more likely to refer your brand to others; customers who had a very good experience with a brand are five times more likely to recommend them to friends and relatives.

In sum, measuring customer satisfaction enables brands to achieve robust customer retention and acquire new customers in more cost-effective ways. With CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) over 60% higher for direct to consumer brands than it was in 2014, it’s never been more important to take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing and referrals to promote your brand.

Track customer satisfaction to identify pain points in the customer experience

Customer expectations for what constitutes a ‘good’ shopping experience are always shifting. According to Microsoft, nearly two-thirds of consumers have higher expectations for customer support than they did just a year ago. Even with regular test orders or shipment tracking, issues can arise in the shopping experience that brands aren’t aware of until a customer alerts them.

For example, if customers are often complaining in customer satisfaction surveys that they’re waiting for a long time to receive an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) this could indicate a range of different issues, such as:

  1. Your customer support team could be facing a backlog
  2. Your system isn’t able to process large return volumes
  3. Your platform doesn’t integrate with your parcel carrier to generate return shipping labels

But unless you are making the effort to run regular customer satisfaction surveys, it’s not easy for consumers to give constructive feedback. Without collecting customer insights, brands can be totally unaware of these pain points – meaning they go unresolved.

Measure whether new policies are improving customer journey touchpoints

Successful e-commerce brands are constantly on the lookout for new ways to streamline the customer journey and increase customer satisfaction. But unless you make an effort to understand how customer satisfaction fluctuates over time, it’s impossible to know whether new CX initiatives are working. 

In the previous example, your brand could decide to eliminate wait time by allowing customers to initiate returns themselves, instead of your customer service team. But rather than waiting for several months to see whether customer complaints subside, you can take a much more proactive approach by measuring customer satisfaction from the moment you introduce this new workflow.

For example, adding a pop-up NPS survey asking about the quality of the return experience is a great way to collect data specifically about your return workflow and whether it meets that customer’s expectations. Moreover, it also shows that you genuinely care about their experience, which helps to strengthen customer loyalty and create more positive customer support interactions.

3 customer satisfaction metrics to track in e-commerce

A massive 90% of customers want to provide feedback about their experience with a brand or product – but only 37% have the opportunity to share it.

There’s no one-size-fits-all method for measuring customer satisfaction, and the best approach will depend on what your brand is seeking feedback about. The following customer satisfaction measurement tools are the most popular:

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) helps you to measure customer satisfaction during specific touchpoints in the customer journey. It records a person’s sentiment specifically within the context of navigating the checkout, returning an item, or receiving their order. The prompt should be something along the lines of “How satisfied were you with the return process?’

CSAT surveys are straightforward because they only require customers to choose a response on a sliding scale, usually between one and five. Five represents high satisfaction, whilst one would be ‘highly dissatisfied’. Brands can determine average customer satisfaction by adding together all scores and dividing them by the total number of customers who responded. The higher the score, the better customer satisfaction is.

CSAT is an excellent tool to give e-commerce brands targeted feedback about specific aspects of the customer experience. Because it’s a very low-effort customer satisfaction survey, it also garners a very high response rate.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great yardstick for measuring customer satisfaction by determining the likelihood of a customer recommending your product or service to others. If you’ve ever downloaded an app from the App Store and later had that app ask you how likely you would be to recommend it, this is a typical case of Net Promoter Score in action.

If your customers show a strong willingness to be an advocate for your brand, it’s a good indicator that customer satisfaction is high. If NPS is low, this is a clear sign of unhappy customers – and your churn rate could be on the rise.

It’s important to note that consumers aren’t necessarily recommending you in practice, even when they score your brand highly. So, the results from a net promoter score survey shouldn’t be used as evidence of word-of-mouth marketing activity.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Customer Effort Score (CES) takes a slightly different approach than CSAT or NPS. Rather than determining overall satisfaction, it asks customers about their experience in getting a customer support issue resolved. This is usually done on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 using a prompt like “How easy was it to answer this query/escalate this issue?’

Responsive customer support plays a big role in fostering higher customer satisfaction, so it’s important to understand how much time and effort your customers are having to put into troubleshooting. Difficulties with accessing timely support or resources add friction to the customer experience, and so result in higher levels of customer dissatisfaction if left unchecked.

How to create a high-quality customer satisfaction survey

Customer satisfaction metrics are useful for getting an overview of customer sentiment toward your brand. However, they do have some limitations. Because a customer satisfaction score is qualitative, this makes it harder to determine whether there are specific aspects of the customer experience that are causing friction.

So, what is the best way to find out how satisfied your customers are? By getting them to share what they think in their own words.

Customer feedback via online surveys is your best tool to enhance customer satisfaction. Consumers enjoy being asked for their thoughts because this shows that a brand genuinely values their input – a great strategy to improve customer satisfaction in its own right.

Methods for gathering customer feedback can be split into two key groups: Direct and indirect feedback. Both have their pros and cons when it comes to understanding customer satisfaction, so it’s important to use both if you want to gather actionable insights.

Direct customer feedback

Direct feedback is when a business reaches out to existing customers to solicit responses as part of an ongoing or one-off campaign to measure customer satisfaction. Brands will ask customers about their overall satisfaction or about a specific part of the shopping experience to gain a better understanding of pain points.

Brands can use the following methods to collect feedback:

  • Customer surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Customer reviews
  • SMS

For example, follow-up email surveys can be sent to unsatisfied customers who have given you a low score on net promoter score surveys to inquire about what is causing frustration. This allows your brand to gather more customer data that provides more details and context on problems within the shopping journey.

Leather accessories brand Status Anxiety always sends an email follow-up to customers to help measure satisfaction about their latest purchase and solicit actionable insights. They also offer 10% off their next purchase to boost the response rate.

follow up email from status anxiety leather company to measure customer satisfaction

Indirect customer feedback

Indirect feedback is more challenging to gather than direct feedback, as it requires brands to continuously monitor their marketing channels for feedback volunteered by customers. Because it isn’t solicited by the brand, indirect feedback can be especially valuable. Customers may address parts of the customer experience that are overlooked, or make suggestions for improvements that you haven’t considered asking about.

Common forums for indirect customer feedback include: 

  • Social media comment sections
  • Live chat
  • Online reviews on third-party sites
  • Service tickets with customer care representatives

You must respond promptly to customer feedback when you see it, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Indirect feedback can affect your brand’s reputation if it goes unresolved, as potential shoppers may see comments left by unhappy customers and be put off from purchasing. Below is a good example from Charlotte Tilbury, who is responding to a customer query about product ingredients:

customer question on instagram post about concerns over product ingredients

3 Tactics that all e-commerce businesses should implement to improve customer satisfaction

In addition to relying on customer insights, there are some basic steps your business can take to improve customer satisfaction by addressing some of the most common reasons for poor e-commerce experiences:

Make your website easy to navigate

There’s nothing like a poorly designed website to put consumers off from purchasing. Struggling to find shipping or product information on-site adds friction to the customer experience and undermines confidence in a brand’s ability to deliver. 46% of consumers will not buy a product online if in-depth product details or brand information aren’t provided.

Good site speed, high-quality product photography, and putting FAQs in a prominent location on your home page help to streamline the shopping experience and foster trust in your brand. 

Offer a variety of self-service tools

Customer self-service is an approach to customer support where shoppers are equipped with the tools and information they need to troubleshoot issues, rather than being forced to contact a customer service representative.

According to Bizreport, 73% of consumers now want the ability to solve product or service issues on their own. One of the biggest advantages of self-service is that when customers feel equipped to control the end-to-end shopping experience themselves, they’re much more likely to feel satisfied; 65% of consumers say they feel good about themselves and the brand when they’re able to solve problems solo. This takes a huge amount of pressure off your customer support team – an area where e-commerce customer satisfaction commonly falters.

So, what does self-service in ecommerce look like? Chatbots, knowledge bases, customer-initiated returns, and real-time order tracking all contribute to customers’ ability to proactively engage with your brand and solve problems. 

Close the feedback loop

When customers encounter an issue during the shopping journey, they’re not interested in how or why it happened; they just want to know how your brand is going to fix it.

When a customer raises an issue, either via a customer survey or a social media comment, they expect to receive an update or resolution quickly. However, this isn’t what happens in practice; 79% of consumers who shared complaints about a poor customer experience online had their complaints ignored by the business.

This is known in customer service as ‘not closing the feedback loop’ i.e., not alerting customers to the steps you’re taking to address their problem. When customers don’t receive any further communication, they’re going to assume they’re being ignored – a guaranteed way to send customer satisfaction plummeting.

You can close the feedback loop by ensuring that you communicate with customers using the appropriate channel e.g., maintaining frequent email or DMs with a customer who contacted you with their initial concern or request. When customers know that their issue has been taken care of, their customer satisfaction levels will increase.

Ensuring consistently high customer satisfaction is the key to building a resilient brand that garners strong customer loyalty and repeat business. But unless you can measure customer satisfaction effectively, it’s impossible to get a firm grasp on what is causing unhappy customers and know how to take action to rectify negative experiences.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why unsatisfactory experiences happen; what matters are the steps that your brand takes to restore customer confidence. By doing this, you can strengthen customer relationships and encourage referrals that grow your business.

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