Measuring customer satisfaction is incredibly important for both product development as well as improving your company’s support.

A satisfied customer is one who will continue to buy from you, seldom shop around, refer other customers and in general be a superstar advocate for your business.

But measuring satisfaction can be a bit tricky. Where should you start? What should you be measuring?

Today you’ll find the answers to these questions and more as we dive into how to correctly track and improve your overall experience to create more satisfied customers.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction the Smart Way

When it comes to analyzing and improving customer satisfaction, professor Scott Smith (co-founder of Qualtrics) offers up some of the smarter ways to turn the feedback you’ve gathered into useful insights on overall customer happiness.

Smith’s system examines four fundamental measurements:

  • Perceived quality
  • Loyalty
  • Attributional satisfaction
  • Intention to repurchase

Let’s break down these measurements.

1. Perceived Quality

Sample question:
“Overall, how was your experience with XYZ Company?”

According to Smith:

It is commonly believed that dissatisfaction is synonymous with purchase regret while satisfaction is linked to positive ideas such as ‘it was a good choice’ or ‘I am glad that I bought it.

Simply put, you need to have a strong read on your overall quality of service, especially as it pertains to fulfilling customers’ needs on a regular basis and creating the sense that your company is reliable.

This can often be accomplished with a simple follow-up question to describe overall service quality, as seen in this 37 Signals happiness report:

Happiness Report

A similar system can be achieved by using the Hively app in conjunction with your help desk provider (we also integrate with Hively).

Not matter what system you use, Smith argues that this broad assessment of your customer’s satisfaction is a must-have in order to evaluate the overall service experience you deliver.

2. The Loyalty Measurement

Sample question:
“Would you recommend XYZ Company to a friend?”

If this question sounds familiar, it’s because it is the foundation of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a key metric first put forward by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company that offers a snapshot of a company’s performance through its customers’ eyes.

Since we’ll be covering NPS more in depth later on, I’ll keep this short. The most important thing to know is that your NPS score is highly correlated with how likely a customer is to continue to purchase from you, so it’s incredibly important.

Keep reading to find out how to measure your NPS score and what can be done to improve it!

3. Attributional Satisfaction

Sample question:
“How important is Feature A in your decision to buy from XYZ Company?”

One of the best ways to measure the like/dislike of a certain product is to frame questions in the context of a specific attribute. It is your job to define and develop measures for each attribute that pertains to a customer’s satisfaction.

While these sorts of questions are great for improving your product/service, they can also be applied to support. Was our support staff friendly? Did you feel rushed? How useful was our support content? Do you feel that our service exceeded expectations or didn’t meet them?

These attributional questions go a long way toward answering specific queries that a general overview may miss. One useful tool in gathering responses to these questions is Qualaroo, which can be customized for specific web pages so you can find out what customers liked and what they hated.

4. Intention to Repurchase

Sample question:
“Do you intend to repurchase from XYZ Company when your subscription runs out?”

This question is obviously relational to the offering at hand (some products are purchased regularly, some at longer intervals).

Smith notes that heightened satisfaction during the post-purchase process can influence this score as well as a customer’s willingness to recommend the business to others. This probably sounds familiar, because it’s exactly what we talked about in this article on post-purchase follow-ups.

Support and supportive content are the keys here for online offerings, since they can lead customers to stop “dating around” with other services and instead focus on the value that you provide.

It All Comes Back to Support

You’ve probably noticed that outside of product quality and improvements, it’s really support that matters most to improving customer satisfaction.

So measuring the impact that your support has is the best way to improve it. But what sort of things should you be tracking?

Below, we’re going to take a look at what support metrics matter and discuss what can be done to improve your overall support experience—not just the numbers behind it.

What Support Metrics Actually Matter?

Business owners know that they have to be careful of vanity metrics, but I’ve noticed this sort of thinking mostly permeates the areas of marketing and customer acquisition.

We’re all warned by the experts to be wary of tracking superfluous statistics like pageviews, as those top-level numbers don’t really tell us how our bottom line is performing.

The problem is, this smart way of thinking isn’t applied as often when measuring your customer’s satisfaction! Instead, your team should be taking a close look at the metrics that matter most to your customer experience and doing everything they can to improve them.

Here are the truly important metrics you should be keeping an eye on.

1. Total Volume by Channel

It’s difficult to get a handle on how you can improve your support channels if you don’t know the volume of the channels you are using.

One of the most important ways to improve your online support is to find a channel that works with your team size and the types of questions you commonly receive. For instance, our friends at Wistia found that they could offer better service by removing their phone number and sticking to mostly email support.

Tracking volume will also help you begin to see when you need to hire (before things start getting crazy) and where you should shift support focus, as well as offering data to serve as baselines when looking at other customer service metrics.

2. Overall Response Time

You know that it’s okay to spend more time with customers, but speed is still important since slow service can be interpreted as meaning your business is uncaring or incompetent.

When it comes to online service, support rates vary for each channel. Most data shows that customers looking for live help want it in >5 minutes, those contacting you for email support are okay with up to 24 hours, and most folks on the phone want to hold for less than 10 minutes on their initial call.

These numbers make a clear case for email support: Since most non-urgent problems can be solved by email, it’s good to focus on a platform that scales well and that people are very patient about. A few consumer studies have even noted that:

50 percent of consumers give a brand one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.

But you shouldn’t wait that long. Exceptional service is a way to stand out from the competition, and the best companies are constantly looking for methods for improvement. Check out out how the BufferApp team looks at improving their 1-hour response rates via email, giving you an idea of what it takes to deliver superior service goals.

3. First Contact Resolution Rates

Even the quickest response rates in the world won’t help your bottom line if the quality of the responses you send out aren’t up to snuff. This is why it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on how able your team is to solve a customer’s dilemma the first time around.

This seems to be especially relevant for customer complaints. Data from Lee Resources shows that up to 95 percent of customers are willing to give your business a second chance, but only if you solve their problem upon initial contact.

So remember to take that bit of extra time to get things right on the initial contact. Most customers are willing to wait a bit, as long as the answer they receive addresses their issue in full!

4. Hold Time & Abandonment Rates

For digital support channels that do require a live person, keeping tabs on abandonment rates and hold time is important.

As mentioned above, customers are much less patient with live support channels. One study shows that 71 percent of consumers expect assistance in 5 minutes, and 31 percent of those folks want you to respond immediately.

Since a majority (48-65%) of consumers will outright abandon a site if they don’t hear from someone, you upset otherwise happy customers if you don’t respond quickly. Once you have them, feel free to slow things down a bit to get to the root of their problem, but make sure you start the conversation off quickly!

5. Content Use

While I’m sure your team is all about hearing from happy customers (as we are!), there comes a time when you need to get out of your customer’s way.

Using content as customer service (FAQs, tutorials, etc.) is a fantastic method for letting self-helpers solve their own problems, responding to folks with common questions, and providing additional “how-to” support to get the most out of your product (like we do on the Help Scout blog).

For this sort of content, on-page time, bounce rates and other analytics data is key. If most of your customers are immediately clicking away from your tutorial pages, something is obviously wrong.

KISSmetrics is especially useful here, since it lets you understand how your customers are using your content, not just who is visiting it.

Now that we’ve covered the five main metrics that matter to customer support, it’s time to take a more qualitative approach to service data, examining just how happy your customers are with your business by utilizing a single simple question.

Measuring Happiness with the Net Promoter Score

The well-established Net Promoter Score is the often-cited way to measuring the sixth sense in customer satisfaction: overall happiness with your brand.

It seeks to find this answer by determining whether or not a customer would refer you to someone they know. This is the least data-driven metric we’ll talk about, but it’s highly important. Qualitative data is just as important as all of the other metrics you can track, and just because it doesn’t fit as neatly in a spreadsheet doesn’t mean it isn’t impacting your bottom line.

Gathering opinions on this singular question is best done through a customer survey that asks participants to rank (1-10) how likely they are to recommend you. The data can be evaluated using this chart from the official Net Promoter System:

Net Promoter Score

As you can see, calculating your NPS isn’t all that difficult. Once you have the responses, you can figure out where people stand by using the following standards:

  1. Those who indicate a 9 or 10 are "promoters."
  2. Those who indicate a 7 or 8 are "passive."
  3. The rest are "detractors."

To make a final calculation of your NPS, take the percentage of all respondents who are promoters and subtract the percentage of all respondents who are detractors. That’s all there is to it! Now you are left with a number that serves as a useful benchmark.

Remember that this information needs to be considered with some context if you are trying to use it to improve overall satisfaction and customer retention rates. If you don’t understand why your customers rated you the way they did, you’ll be left with no idea of how to improve your score.

After getting feedback from customers to determine your NPS rating, be sure to follow-up with questions about what affected their score and what you can do better in the future. This is especially relevant for promoters.

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Gregory Ciotti

About the author: Gregory Ciotti is on the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.