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Taking your customer’s pulse: How to measure customer satisfaction

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Every business wants to make sure that its customers feel satisfied. But how does one go about measuring this? How high (or low) does customer satisfaction need to be to have a noticeable impact on your brand?

Customer satisfaction has always been a tricky area for businesses. Consumers are known to be vocal when they’re unhappy with something – but less so when they’re content. So, what is the best way to get a grasp of how your customers feel about the shopping journey with your brand?

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

What is customer satisfaction?

Put simply, customer satisfaction is a measure of how happy a customer is with your products or services, and with the overall experience of shopping with your brand. 

For example, if a customer chooses to buy from your brand again, it’s clear that their satisfaction is high. But there are numerous ways that customers can express satisfaction with your business that don’t involve making purchases. Whenever a customer advocates for your brand on social media, leaves a positive review, or refers a friend, this is a positive behavior that contributes to your brand’s growth and reputation. 

This also means that there’s no golden formula for measuring whether your customers are happy or not. Customer satisfaction is a slippery concept to define, and an absence of negative reviews shouldn’t be used to confirm its existence. 

While some unsatisfied customers do choose to complain, the majority will just choose to shop elsewhere next time; according to Salesforce, 91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will simply leave without laying a complaint.

So, if you’re not attempting to measure customer satisfaction using a variety of methods, you could be experiencing high levels of customer churn – and have no idea of its scope or cause.

Why measure customer satisfaction?

Happy customers will buy from you again and recommend you to others…

Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty shouldn’t be confused as one as the same, but the link between them is obvious. When your customers are happy, they’re much more likely to form a lasting relationship with your brand. According to Zendesk, 52% of consumers say they’ve made additional purchases from a company after a positive experience.

Best of all, satisfied customers are the most 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, customer satisfaction is central to your brand’s ability to achieve robust customer retention and acquire new customers in cost-effective ways. With CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs) over 60% higher for D2C brands than they were six years ago, it’s never been more important to take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing to promote your brand.

…While unsatisfied customers can damage your brand’s reputation

Where happy customers are the engine for growing your brand, unhappy customers can be its downfall. A whopping 89% of U.S. consumers have switched to doing business with a competitor after a poor experience – and many of them will be vocal about it. According to research by American Express, the average American will tell 15 people if they’ve had an unsatisfactory experience with a business. 

So, not only do unsatisfied customers cause customer churn; they also make it much more difficult to convert new customers who may have heard less-than-positive things about your brand. Unless you’re actively measuring customer satisfaction, you could incur heavy damage which is difficult to fix later.  

Identifying pain points in the customer experience

Even with regular test orders, issues can arise that you won’t be aware of until a customer alerts you. Moreover, customer expectations for what constitutes a positive shopping experience constantly changing; according to Microsoft, nearly two-thirds of consumers have higher expectations for customer service than they did just a year ago.

If customers are complaining that they’re waiting too long to receive an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) this could indicate a range of different issues; your customer care team are under too much pressure, your system isn’t designed to process large return volumes, or isn’t integrating properly with your parcel carrier to generate return shipping labels. How you respond to these kinds of issues that negatively impact the brand experience will determine overall levels of customer satisfaction.

You can see the success of new policies

The most successful businesses are those that are constantly looking for new ways to streamline the customer journey. But unless you make an effort to track how customer satisfaction fluctuates over time, it’s impossible to know whether your initiatives are working. 

Returning to the previous example, your brand could decide to eliminate waiting time by allowing customers to initiate a return themselves. But rather than waiting to see whether customer complaints drop off, you can take a much more proactive approach by measuring customer satisfaction directly. 

Adding a pop-up survey asking about the quality of their returns experience is a great way to gather targeted feedback over your policy. Moreover, it also shows your customers that you genuinely care about their experience, which helps to strengthen customer loyalty.

Popular metrics for measuring customer satisfaction 

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 metrics are the most popular:

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) help you to measure customer satisfaction at specific touchpoints in the customer journey. It records a person’s sentiment within the context of going through the checkout, returning an item, or receiving their order. The question will be something along the lines of “How satisfied were you with your returns experience?’

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

CSAT is an excellent tool for businesses because you can get targeted feedback about a very specific aspect of the customer experience. It’s also very a low-effort survey that typically garners a high response rate.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a useful yardstick for customer loyalty by measuring 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 NPS in action.

If your customers show a strong willingness to be an advocate for your brand, it’s a good indicator that satisfaction is high. If the opposite is true, your churn rate could be on the rise.

However, it’s worth noting that consumers aren’t necessarily recommending you in practice, even when they score themselves highly. So, NPS shouldn’t be used as a measure of word-of-mouth 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 an issue resolved. This is usually done on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 using the prompt “how easy was it to answer this query/escalate this issue?’

Customer care plays a big role in customer satisfaction, so it’s important to understand how much effort your customers are having to put into troubleshooting problems. Difficulties with accessing help or resources will add friction to the customer experience, and so will lower customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction and customer feedback

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

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.

This is a huge missed opportunity because customer feedback is your best weapon in the battle to please customers. Not only do you get to hear your customer’s thoughts in their own words; consumers enjoy being asked for their opinion because it shows that you genuinely value their input – a great way to improve customer satisfaction in its own right.

Methods for gathering customer feedback can be split into two key groups: Direct and indirect feedback:

Direct customer feedback

Direct feedback is when a business makes the effort to reach out to customers to solicit feedback as part of an ongoing or temporary campaign. Brands will use the metrics listed above to ask customers about their overall satisfaction, or about a specific part of the shopping experience to gain a better understanding of possible pain points. Brands can use the following methods to collect feedback:

  • Customer surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Customer reviews
  • SMS

Indirect customer feedback

Indirect feedback is more challenging to gather than direct feedback, as it requires brands to continuously monitor their marketing channels and customer care tools for feedback volunteered by customers. Because customers feel empowered to share their experiences (either positive or negative) indirect feedback can be especially valuable. 

However, it’s important to make sure that you respond promptly to customer feedback, either just to say thank you or reassure them that an issue is in hand. Common forums for indirect customer feedback include: 

  • Social media
  • Live chat
  • Website analytics e.g. bounce rate, churn rate
  • Online reviews on third-party sites
  • Service tickets with customer care representatives

How to improve customer satisfaction BEFORE you start measuring it

Make sure your website is 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 your ability to deliver. When the shopping journey doesn’t feel easy and seamless, it drives prospective customers away from supporting your brand.

UX best practices, such as fast site speed, good product photography, and putting FAQs in a prominent location on your home page all help to streamline the shopping experience and foster trust in your brand. 

Offer a variety of self-service tools

Self-service is an approach to customer care where customers are equipped with the tools and information to troubleshoot issues, without needing to contact a customer service representative. Self-service has gained increasing popularity in the past few years; according to Bizreport, 73% of consumers 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 also takes a huge amount of pressure off your customer care team – an area where 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. 

Be proactive and close the feedback loop

When customers encounter an issue with a product or service, they’re not usually interested in why it happened; they just want to know what you’re going to do to fix it. So, when a customer raises an issue, either via a customer survey or 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 poor customer experience online had their complaints ignored.

This is known in customer service as ‘not closing the feedback loop’ i.e., not alerting customers to the steps you’ve taken to address their problem. When customers don’t receive any further communications, they’re going to assume they’re being ignored and aren’t important to your brand – 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 communications with a customer who emailed you with their initial concern or request. When customers know that their issue has been taken care of, their satisfaction will increase.

Ensuring consistently high customer satisfaction is the key to building a strong and resilient brand with a solid base of repeat customers. But unless you can measure it, it’s impossible to get a firm grasp on what is making customers unhappy and take action to rectify negative experiences. Because 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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