NPS vs CES: How to Tell the Difference Between "Delighting" Customers and "Making it Easy" on Them

Should you make it great, or make it easy?

The simple answer is: you should make it both. In the business world, the ideal situation for a company is always the same: to deliver a high quality product or service in a way that is most convenient and satisfying to the consumer.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that many companies around the world are keenly attuned to the concept of "delighting" their customers, and exceeding all of their expectations around the product or service involved. Such an experience-centered focus certainly has its benefits. For instance, many customers stay loyal to certain hotels because of the exceptional service that they receive from the staff.

But here's the question: even if the service itself is great, are you making it easy for the customer? Exceeding expectations of quality definitely has its place; but what about exceeding expectations of speed and convenience? If a consumer is held up on the phone for an hour of "great" customer service when he or she only wanted to spend 10 minutes on the interaction, are you really adding value, or just wasting time?

Here's the key: what keeps your customers loyal to your brand? Is it world-class customer service, or maximum convenience? And that is where two vital customer experience metrics come into play: NPS and CES. This article will discuss what these metrics measure, why they are important, and how they differ from one another.

person climbing snowy mountain
It might be great, but is it easy?

What is NPS?

NPS stands for Net Promoter Score. It is basically a way to measure how likely your customers are to recommend your company or product to their friends and family. Put another way, it is a measure of customer loyalty to your brand.

In principle, NPS is fairly easy to calculate. It revolves around this question:

"On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being most likely and 0 not likely at all, how likely are you to recommend [company product] to a friend/family member/colleague?"

After gathering data from relevant customer surveys, you take the percentage of your "promoters" (customers that gave a response of 9 or 10 on the scale) and subtract your "detractors" (customers that gave a 0 to 6 answer) from that number. So if 80% of customers gave a 9 or 10 response, and 15% gave a 0 to 6 response, then your net promoter score would be 65%.

What is CES?

CES stands for Customer Effort Score. It has a much narrower focus than NPS: it involves your consumers' answer to the following question:

"On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of agreement, to what extent would you agree with the following statement: The company made it easy for me to handle my issue?

Generally speaking, responses of 5 or higher indicate that your customers are satisfied with the ease of interaction; responses below 5 indicate increasingly dissatisfied customers.

Even though CES only measures how easy it was for a customer to get a question answered, or an issue resolved, research has shown that it is one of the most important customer satisfaction metrics out there. Ease of effort (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest factors that determine customer retention rates in industries across the board.

With that in mind, here's another question: of these two metrics, which one is more vital to your company?

NPS and CES: Strengths and Weaknesses

The fact of the matter is, both NPS and CES are important metrics that can help you to discover opportunities for improvement within your customer service process. That being said, they do have completely different objectives, strengths, and weaknesses.

NPS

The first thing to keep in mind about NPS is that it is a "big picture" metric. In other words, NPS can help you to keep a pulse on your customer satisfaction scores at the macro level.

One of the best things that you can do to boost your NPS is to include a comments section in any NPS-oriented survey that you send out to your consumers. When it comes to customer satisfaction, these are always the two big questions: What needs to change? What needs to stay the same? In this regard, dissatisfied customers can provide valuable feedback on which interactions need to be changed (or dropped completely), and happy customers can help you to see which processes you should keep in place.

On the other hand, NPS is weak in identifying customer frustration that results from the loads of time and effort that may be required to resolve one simple issue. For instance, a customer may be very happy about his/her interaction with a single service representative at a call center; but if the customer has to talk with five more representatives after that initial interaction, then overall dissatisfaction with the company can quickly creep in.

CES

On the flip side, CES is just a small piece of the customer satisfaction puzzle. It is not as helpful as NPS at the macro level; after all, it only gauges customer effort level, and ease of interaction.

Nevertheless, the strength of the Customer Effort Score lies in its ability to laser in on specific pain points for your consumers, thus enabling you to fix those gaps in your customer experience. In fact, research published in the Harvard Business Review suggests that reducing customer effort is more important for building loyalty than "delighting" customers with exceptional experiences.

Bell Canada provides one example of how making things easier for the customer is a key factor in reducing customer churn. Many customers who purchased a particular feature from this company had to call back for instructions on its use. In response, Bell trained its call center reps to provide customers that had just purchased the feature with a brief tutorial on its use before ending their calls. What was the result? A reduction in "calls per event" of 16%, and a 6% drop in churn rate!

man in grey crew-neck t-shirt smiling to woman on counter
You need to think - will focusing on NPS or CES bring your customers back again and again?

Summary

You absolutely want your customers to advocate for your brand. You want them to sing your company's praises, and recommend your product to friends and family. NPS can help you to measure how well your company is doing in this regard.

On the other hand, you also want to retain current customers; and one of the best ways to do that is to make customer service interactions easy and simple. CES is an excellent method of determining how easy your processes really are on your consumers.

How can you keep track of these and other important metrics? Many companies use customer experience management tools to help them stay on top of customer satisfaction levels. For example, a well-rounded CXM platform that leverages AI capabilities can help you to not only measure, but also predict your NPS and CES metrics, so that you can make adjustments as needed.

Whatever method you use, work hard to make your customer experience great; but don't forget to make it easy too. When you can do both things at the same time, you'll have a competitive edge that will be hard to beat.

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