Is there an NPS advantage we cannot deny?

If everyone used NPS in the way it was originally intended to, it could represent a decent tool, although still not my top pick. Unfortunately, we have seen many businesses measure NPS incorrectly, doing more harm than good to the CX profession. Therefore, I often campaign against using NPS as a part of a feedback strategy, knowing it will take companies in the wrong direction.

Considering there are quite a few alternatives to NPS, I frequently recommend using tools such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer effort score (CES). Both of these have several arguments in their favour.

Still, despite my constant fight against the (mis)use of NPS, I must admit there is one crucial NPS advantage that outperforms both CSAT and CSET. In this article, I will share with you a rarely discussed advantage NPS has against its competitors.

Consistency and simplicity as the primary NPS advantage

If I use NPS as a primary method of service evaluation, you will instantly know a few things about my approach:

  1. I ask people how likely they are to recommend a product/service/company to family/friends/colleagues.
  2. Nine times out of ten, the scale will go from 0 to 10 (10 being extremely likely).
  3. The data will be broken down into three categories: detractors, passives, and promoters.
  4. % Promoters – % Detractors = NPS

All in all, the process is straightforward and everyone tends to follow the four points above. The simplicity and consistency of measure are what makes NPS so powerful.

Indeed, neither CSAT nor CES can boast this consistency. CSAT may not be the same depending on whether it is you, me, or one of the many vendors in the Voice of Customer (VoC) category describing it. The same applies to CES, albeit to a much lower extent. So, where does measuring tools fall short and what can we do to fix this challenge?

Urgency of standardizing customer satisfaction metrics

Now, how do you ask your customers if they are satisfied? This may appear to be a question with an obvious answer, but the reality is quite different. As an industry, we are yet to agree on how we should measure our customers’ satisfaction.

How do you measure CSAT? It depends on who you ask. I know at least 10 different methods to measure CSAT across the public, academic, and private sectors. That means you would theoretically have less than a one in ten chance to measure CSAT in the same way as the person you’re interviewing.

Basically, we are unable to reliably compare notes, learnings, and practices with each other without first assessing whether our feedback programmes are even comparable. That is quite the friction on our respective journeys to improve customer experiences.

What is your CSATs method measuring?

I am not going to list out 101 different ways of capturing CSAT but let me share some of the ways it could be captured.

  • How satisfied are you?

Most companies keep satisfaction scales (very dissatisfied – very satisfied) ranging between 5, 7, and 11 points. Some organisations even have CSAT measured at the ‘feature’ level (satisfied with the knowledge of the agent, the battery life of the device, the speed of support). They further have the numbers averaged out or indexed into a single CSAT measure – which is an approach used across several VoC software providers.

  • Agreement scale

Devised by Westbrook and Oliver in 1981, this is a one-question measure that asks respondents to agree with the statement ‘I am satisfied with a product/service’.

I confess to struggle with this one as it steers people towards answering more positively in a rather obvious way.


Benchmarking studies across the UK, the USA and Sweden, amongst others, use their own unique methodologies to capture CSAT.

The ASCI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) and the SCSB (Sweden Customer Satisfaction Barometer) have both been used extensively in peer-reviewed scientific research. However, to my knowledge, the UCCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) has not.

Each of these studies has its own way of approaching the measurement:

  • The ASCI relies on a trio of indexes within an econometric model to calculate a single number.
  • The UKCSI offers a weighted average of its components, with weighting based on the calculated importance of each element.
  • The SCSB takes yet another angle and looks at two key components: how customers perceive their experiences and the expectations they had of said experience when engaging with the brand.
  • Advocacy-led CSAT

Finally, this is one of the oldest methods I encountered. In the methodology, the researchers ask respondents about their likelihood to recommend the current account across a few features. Essentially, a report is branded as customer satisfaction capturing advocacy, not satisfaction.

Advancing NPS through collaborative efforts

In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface on the ways of measuring CSAT. Yet, the listed diversity shows we are comparing fundamentally opposite things. The truth is, there’s far less room for benchmarking and knowledge sharing than the prevalence and popularity of the name CSAT implies.

On the other hand, the undeniable NPS advantage is in equal meaning to almost everyone. It lends itself far more to benchmarking and comparisons than CSAT ever would. With this in mind, I think we should recognise the importance of updating and working on NPS despite its flaws. Personally, I must admit I am very dissatisfied with our approach to CSAT and can’t help but feel we could do better.

This article was originally published on CX Magazine.

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