Which is More Insightful? NPS or CSAT?

Sarah Chambers Sarah Chambers · 5 min read

NPS or CSAT are very similar. They’re both easily deployed and easily analyzed. Both are useful for asking customers what they think!

Sometimes when I’m asked to write an article on customer service, I’m only given the title. This is one of those cases. When I opened the document, I had to stop and think – is Net Promoter Score or customer satisfaction more insightful? If I had to choose, which would I advise a client to measure? It’s not an easy choice to make.

First of all, what is insight?

I really like the first definition Google gives us: insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something.

That seems a relevant definition for support and product teams. It’s also the main reason to be surveying your customers at all – regardless of whether you use NPS or CSAT. But which metric will give you a more accurate and deep understanding of your customers?

In many ways, NPS and CSAT are very similar. They’re both easily deployed and easily analyzed. Both are useful for asking customers what they think and both often include a rating question and a follow-up question for more information. Both can be foundational in your Voice of Customer (VOC) programs and deliver actionable feedback – if you’re truly listening.

However, in many ways, NPS and CSAT are different tools and give you different results and insights. It’s these differences that make one of the two more insightful than the other.

Read on to follow my thought process as I consider which metric can tell you the most about your customers. (And I promise I actually stick to my guns and choose one…)

NPS is more predictive of loyalty

Have you ever had a customer that said they were satisfied after a support interaction but then canceled their account the next day? Of course – we all have. Just because a customer is happy with the service they received, it doesn’t mean they are still happy with your company and receiving value from your product.

Because of this, a more holistic survey like NPS is more predictive of a customer’s loyalty. If a customer responds as a promoter, they’re much more likely to stick around. In fact, that’s the main reason Fred Reichheld created the NPS system.

He believed that satisfaction had zero impact on the likelihood of a customer to purchase again. Instead, after interviewing customers on a variety of aspects, he found that the likelihood to recommend a company was far more predictive of what customers would do in the future.

Genroe, a customer experience consultancy, analyzed NPS and CSAT results for their clients to see which one more directly correlated with customer churn rates. They found that NPS was 2.7 times more sensitive to a customers intention to churn than CSAT.

If you’re looking to improve customer loyalty or to reduce churn, NPS can provide more insight into why your customers are leaving.

NPS or csatCSAT is more targeted

Just as NPS is a more holistic survey about the entire customer experience, CSAT is a more specific survey about the customer support experience.

NPS comments might include helpful opinions about the quality of customer support at a company, but that’s only one aspect of the customer experience.

CSAT surveys are typically only sent after an interaction between the customer and the company. They ask a specific question about whether the customer was satisfied with the service they received.

Although many customer support teams will despair at the non-service related feedback they get from the customer through their surveys (“why isn’t it free?!!???”), the vast majority of CSAT responses will focus on the quality of support.

Plus, if you use tags and categories to organize your customer support tickets, you can compare customer satisfaction across different types of cases or tickets.

Adjusting the follow-up question or the overall CSAT question can make this metric even more specific. For example;

  • “Did we answer your question today?”
  • “Was there anything we could have done better to help you today?”
  • “How did Agent do today?”

If you’re looking to improve the customer support at a company, CSAT surveys will give you more specific actionable feedback.

NPS surveys every customer

If you’re using a traditional customer satisfaction survey, you’re only sending surveys to customers who have needed to interact with customer support.

What about all the other people who have either not had an issue – or had one and didn’t get in touch? CSAT alone can’t tell you how these customers are feeling. Instead, you need to send out a more general survey, like NPS! These surveys can be sent to every customer and stakeholder – regardless of whether they’ve talked to your support recently or not.

NPS is best sent periodically, say every quarter or six months, to your entire customer base. This prevents survey fatigue from not asking too often, while also giving you enough information to generate a trend over time.

Is it cheating if I say both?

Both NPS and CSAT have their advantages. But they are the most powerful when they are combined. A customer that gives a high CSAT score every time they write in, but a low NPS every quarter is likely to churn.

A customer with a high NPS and a low CSAT score can be easily “rescued” with some special attention from the customer support team.

Together, NPS and CSAT can show you how your customer support strategy is affecting the customer’s overall view of the company. Combining these metrics together is far more insightful than either one of them alone.

I have to come up with an answer, so…

If I absolutely had to come up with an answer as to which survey is more insightful, I’d have to say NPS. Because it’s a more holistic question, it gives a wide variety of answers. It’s more predictive of your customer’s future actions and can be used to find brand ambassadors and locate potential churn risks.

While CSAT does an exceptionally good job at helping a customer support team get quick feedback on their actions, nothing compares to the depth of insights a properly run NPS campaign can deliver.

Plus, the simple act of surveying every customer, not just the ones that contact you, can give your survey responses a better range of answers.

Does this mean you should stop sending CSAT surveys?

Not at all. Instead, be specific about the insights you’re looking for from each metrics. At some point, CSAT surveys stop telling you as much – customers are happy with your support team’s responses, and that’s good enough. Instead, use a wider-ranging metric to understand how customers really feel about your company.

That’s why NPS might be the most insightful survey metric.

How did you like this blog?


Sarah Chambers Sarah Chambers

Sarah Chambers is a Customer Support Consultant and Content Creator from Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter @sarahleeyoga to keep up with her adventures.

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