The Customer Experience: Look Beyond Survey Scores to Make Business Better

Customer survey scores can be misleading with small sample sizes, low return rates, or poor survey design.

Customer Experience (CX) professionals love survey scores.  After all, what could tell you more about the customer experience than their own words and evaluations? Survey scores offer numerical evaluations, text analytics, and score trending over time which make them, hopefully, meaningful. 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey

CX professionals often employ the Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is based off the question "Would you recommend this product to a friend?” The NPS Answer is a numeric response ranging from a 0 (no recommendation) to a 10 (strong recommendation). In the NPS world, a 9 or 10 score is a Promoter; a 7 or 8 score is a Neutral; and a 0 to 6 score is a Detractor.  All companies want as many Promoters and as few Neutrals and Detractors as possible. The score element of the NPS is calculated as follows: % of Prompters - % of Detractors = Net Promoter Score (NPS).  Therefore, 30% Promoters minus 10% Detractors equals an NPS of 20 (30% - 10%).  The NPS score can range from a 100 (Apple is usually in the high 80s) to a -100, a very, very undesirable product or service. 

Survey scores and NPS have taken over the world of business executives because high NPS scores are strongly linked to superior business outcomes. Companies tout their survey and NPS scores across the pages of websites, corporate reports, and earnings statements as a central measure of their company’s value to customers. For a company, the sole focus of high survey scores and high NPS scores is potentially misleading both for a company’s executives and for a company to deliver a better customer experience. Even if a company has a high NPS, it means the company’s journey is far from complete and needs to strive to deliver even higher levels of meaningful customer interactions. 

Customer Survey Scores Can Be Misleading

Customer Survey scores are an indicator for the delivered customer experience, but they are also potentially highly misleading. If a company has a high NPS score, but very few customers respond to the survey, the company has a problem because the NPS score may not truly reflect customer opinions. NPS surveys must have a high response rate of similar customer segments over time (6 months+) to be truly meaningful. Survey scores also must reflect the full breadth of different customer segments an organization serves. If a company hears a lot from one segment and nothing from another, then they have a blind spot in their survey architecture. NPS surveys need high response rates and equal response rates from all customer categories to be truly meaningful.  

Build Customer Loyalty with High Satisfaction  

A more telling metric for business professionals than NPS is Customer Loyalty. The Customer Loyalty metric is simple: how many years has the customer been a customer? Customer Loyalty is an amazing CX metric because keeping customers as customers is one of the most essential business functions. Customers that are customers for years spend more, adopt more new products, grow more, and offer the best advice for how your business needs to change. Tracking Customer Loyalty will take the business down the path of churn reduction, preventing customers from leaving and ensuring new customers remain. Reducing churn and ensuring new customers stay are vital CX initiatives.  Finding customers that are loyal and have a high NPS will provide critical insights what the company needs to change to be more effective.   

Efficient, Effective, and Low Effort Customer Interactions  

Another evaluation difficult to quantify through surveys is how difficult is it for the customer to interact with the business? The overall goal is to determine how fast and how effectively can customers do what they need to do with your company? Business professionals need to look at abandoned form rates, dropped customer service calls, low website return rates, and mobile app deletion rates as key indicators that the company may be hard to do business with for the customer. A company must have the goal to make it fast, effective, and efficient for the customer to do what the customer needs to do. Towards a more efficient customer experience, some current metrics, like time on the website, may need to change because you do not want a customer there a long time. Instead, you want the customer to accomplish what they want quickly and then to return more frequently to repurchase.      

Solutions Based on Customer Demonstrated Preferences  

Businesses love mobile apps, website design, and other features for their customers to gather information, request information, find contacts, and purchase products.  However, the future of CX design, must be in reaching out to customers so they do not even need to come to your website. A businesses digital and physical presence exists to help meet a customer’s need, but a business that proactively interacts with a customer or a future customer based on their analyzed needs and preferences is a superior customer interaction because it is much lower effort for the customer. I am a customer from an outdoor company that I love but I rarely buy anything because of high prices. In addition, I never visit their main website through the year. The company, twice a year, proactively contacts me with the link to their “Annual Sale” webpage. I almost always buy something on sale. This needs to be the future of CX interactions based on customer preferences, analytics, and proactive outreach to meet customers based on their distinct preferences.

Build to Future Customer Needs 

Companies must create a better experience for the customer today while they discover, experiment, build, and deploy a better future for the customer.  A potential trap for businesses that seek to improve their Customer Experience is that they only look toward today’s realities. Instead, future driven CX must improve the present while simultaneously designing, testing, and building for the future. Future CX designs will incorporate seamless digital experience, integrated human intervention, and advanced predicative analytics to recommend specific products, alert customers to pay their bills before a late payment fee, and meet customers on their mobile, desktop, and other networked device at the precise point they need advice or to make a purchase.


Surveys are a wonderful device to help assess CX success, but they are only one of a variety of tools to truly make Customer Experience better. Surveys must have both large recipient populations and large return rates and businesses need to grow and maintain customer loyalty first and then worry about Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Finally, CX needs to enable more efficient, more effective, faster, and lower effort customer interactions driven by digital, advanced data analytics, and a constant eye to anticipating and building for the customer’s future needs. Delivering a great Customer Experience is more than a high survey score, it is a long term, repeat purchase, and highly satisfied ongoing customer relationship for today and tomorrow.

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