New Trends in Customer Service Metrics: Making the Shift

As financial services institutions attempt to move closer to customers to improve their experience and satisfaction, many are making the move from traditional CSAT to NPS or CES as their metric of choice.

 Measuring the Customer Experience

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) asks about a customer’s level of satisfaction for whatever issue they experienced today. This metric is based on asking a question about attitude or opinion and, by its nature, looks back rather than forward. The other issue with traditional CSAT is that it doesn’t connect with business results, which is one reason why financial services firms are seeking to make the switch.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is based on a different question that looks forward to what a customer may be inclined to do next. It asks; how likely are you to recommend my company? NPS seeks to understand how willing a customer would be to put his personal reputation at stake by introducing the company to its network. It takes more of a personal investment to tell someone about your experience than just to be happy.

Research has shown that companies with higher NPS scores are more likely to grow revenues faster which have helped the appeal for this metric to grow at the corporate level. However, there are as many detractors for NPS as there are promoters of the metric. It’s easy to get people to rally for NPS as it’s so easy to understand.

Customer Effort Score (CES) is the latest metric and is based on asking the question; how much effort did you have to put in to solve your issue? Customers don’t like it because it puts the onus on them. And it’s more difficult to use with precision because there are two types of effort involved. Real effort is about the customer’s time and energy investment. Psychological or perceived effort is about how hard the customer thought it was to resolve the issue. Both soft skills (do you feel in control and trust the agent) and hard skills (how difficult was the process) are involved.

What to Consider When Shifting from CSAT to NPS

Moving from CSAT to NPS can be a bit tricky as you lose the history and baseline of your current metric. Where CSAT is a 5 point scale with a neutral midpoint, NPS uses an 11 point range.

The NPS point scale breaks down as follows:

  • People who give a 9 or 10 likeliness to recommend your company are promoters
  • People who give a 7 or 8 score are positive
  • People who score the experience as 6 or below are detractors

To calculate your NPS score, you subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Scores can range from -100 if all customers are detractors to 100 if all of customers are promoters.

To manage your NPS score, you’ll need to zero out the detractors and move the positives to promoters. With CSAT, the objective is to get more people into the top 2 boxes on the five-point scale. The challenge when working with the NPS score is that it’s difficult to know what to fix with only one question. An additional option for gaining better insights that can point to where a problem may exist is to split up the NPS score by measuring NPS for the brand and NPS for the agent.

More sophisticated companies are using text and speech mining to understand more about what’s happening to cause the high scores vs. the lower scores. Analytics can allow you to compare phone calls with promoters to those in the middle of the range. Look for differences in tone, topics, customer needs and agent behaviors and the process.

If market conditions mean that retention is more important than customer acquisition, NPS can be a good indicator of whether or not the customer will stay. Therefore NPS is a good assessment of brand reputation, but is difficult to make accountable at the call level as it asks for an overall willingness to recommend, but not in relation to the experience the customer had today.

To make the shift, add the metric to a customer survey to collect data to form a baseline so you can set a new goal. Introduce it to the account, team or contact center site. Once you’ve put new goals in place, then you can assess your workflow, processes, coaching and skills training for adjustments that will need to be made to help agents meet them.

While attributes such as agent courtesy, professionalism, and clarity of speech are associated with CSAT, they have less influence with NPS. NPS has shown to be influenced by the agent’s ability to provide the right solution and their level of efficiency in resolving the issue. This means that when you shift from CSAT to NPS you also need to be aware of how the skills you’ve trained your agents to use may need some modification.

Customer Service Metrics are About Perspective

CSAT is about soft skills—things that make people feel good. NPS is about getting the job done to drive promotion. CES is impacted by gaining efficiency in process so that people can experience how easy it is to do business with you.

It is important to remember that a change to CES will have an effect on measures like NPS and CSAT too. When creating an environment that makes it easy to do business with a company, customers are going to naturally be more satisfied, so CSAT will improve.  Those customers, are more likely to make positive recommendations.

It used to be that the agent could side with the customer against the company to drive higher CSAT. This won’t work with NPS. Instead, agents must be advocates for the company to drive promotion. For example, with CSAT, an agent talking to a bank customer who wants a lower interest rate might say they’ll lower the rate for six months due to some issue the customer complained about. With NPS, the agent would tell the customer how happy they are to give them the reduction in interest rate because they are a valued customer. While the message is the same, the way it’s delivered impacts customer service metrics differently.

When selecting which customer service metrics to use that will best align with business objectives, it’s important to understand what will need to shift based on your choice in order to use them successfully. And remember that you don’t need to choose one metric over another. Blending metrics could be the path to greater insights that drive satisfaction, promotion, and affinity.


Michael Clarkin, Vice President of Marketing, Contact Center Services, Sykes Enterprises, Incorporated, leads the development and communication of SYKES service offerings to its global clients concentrated in the Financial Services, Telecom, High Technology and Health Insurance marketplaces. He is deeply involved in bringing an analytical approach to evaluating customer needs and satisfaction, and developing breakthrough products and initiatives as a result.

Michaud Ray has fourteen years of experience in the business-to-consumer contact center industry across a broad range of operational and support services responsibilities. He is a customer experience focused executive with proven success within both large corporations and emerging start-ups. In his free time, Michaud is a practitioner of yoga and enjoys cycling with his family.