3 Customer Satisfaction Surveys: How To Write and Measure CSAT, NPS, and CES Surveys

Get the full breakdown on customer satisfaction surveys. Including real-world questions, examples, and clearly defined benchmarks for CSAT, NPS, and CES.

Even in uncertain times, focusing on customers always leads to success. We’ll show you how to create customer satisfaction surveys to help you pivot your business to meet changing needs.

Using three questions as our guide, we’ll break down the essentials:

  1. What is a customer satisfaction survey?
  2. How do you write a customer satisfaction survey?
  3. How do you measure customer satisfaction?

Early on in my career, I considered customer satisfaction surveys background noise. The surveys didn’t seem to add much value as a front-line agent. I interacted with customers everyday; I didn’t need a number to tell me what made them happy or angry.

When I stepped up to team lead, I finally got a look behind the curtain. Turns out, these surveys act as a Rosetta Stone. They translate customer sentiment into data points, allowing other departments and stakeholders to prioritize it within the organization and make business decisions based on real customer feedback.

We’ll break down exactly what these surveys are, the proper way to execute them, and how to interpret the results.

Customer Satisfaction Survey: Questions, Samples & Formulas
Grab your copy of the Customer Satisfaction Survey Cheatsheet for at-a-glance definitions, formulas, and benchmarks for CSAT, NPS, and CES.

What is a customer satisfaction survey?

A customer satisfaction survey enriches a business’s understanding of customer sentiment as it relates to their products or services.

Surveys ask pointed questions to pinpoint areas of interest, gather responses in an analytical format, then assign a numerical value to describe customer happiness.

There are three general types of customer surveys you’ll see in the wild:

1. CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)

The namesake CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) survey reveals customer happiness as it relates to a particular interaction.

CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)

2. NPS (Net Promoter Score)

NPS (Net Promoter Score) measures a customer’s desire to recommend a product or service.

NPS (Net Promoter Score)

3. CES (Customer Effort Score)

CES (Customer Effort Score) defines the amount of effort a customer needs to exert to resolve an issue with a product or service.

CES (Customer Effort Score)

How do you write a customer satisfaction survey?

A good customer satisfaction survey starts with a hypothesis: a clearly defined assumption to gather definite proof. Set out to answer a specific question with each survey and you’ll always be satisfied with the results.

First, format your hypothesis in the cleanest way possible:

  • Hypothesis: Customers are very happy with our support team’s responses.

Next, you’ll need to determine how to test it:

  • Proof: CSAT = over 80%

The proof — the data you’ll collect — also acts as a KPI (key performance indicator). In essence, you’re setting your goal for this metric then working backwards to achieve it.

Types of customer satisfaction survey questions

We both know great customer service requires top notch communication and linguistic skills. But, for now, we need to focus on science and math.

The best types of surveys keep words to a minimum and ask deliberate questions. Unclear prompts lead to cloudy results. You’ll want to strip away as much fluff and jargon as possible.

Customer satisfaction survey formats fall into two categories:

1. Multiple choice questions

Drawing concrete conclusions from CSAT surveys relies on objective, numerical responses. Multiple choice questions offer exactly that.

Presenting pre-written answers to your survey questions not only saves the respondent’s time, but also keeps your results streamlined.

Multiple choice answers ask customers to select from a number or a text scale. A good survey question makes it glaringly obvious which number or text option is good versus bad.

Answer options range from two binary choices up to a ten point scale. After ten, the survey rears into cloudy territory, causing customer confusion and scattered results.

Customer satisfaction survey responses range from two to ten multiple choice options.
Multiple choice questions keep customer satisfaction surveys objective and easy to evaluate

2. Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions leave more room for interpretation than multiple choice.

These types of questions alone won’t garner numerical values for customer loyalty. However, when used in conjunction with multiple choice questions, open-ended responses provide qualitative explanations to color quantitative data.

Even with open-ended answers, you want to keep the survey question as straightforward as possible. The best open-ended question is usually just one word: Why?

Since open-ended questions require more of the customer’s time (and more of your own time to read through responses), best practices advise us to make these optional. In doing so, existing customers who lack the time or desire to leave a written response can still be heard.

Sample customer satisfaction survey questions

To make this actionable, let’s look at how three different companies prep for and write their customer satisfaction survey questions.

CSAT for SaaS

First, a newly hired customer support manager at a SaaS company wants to find out the support team’s current CSAT.

Before writing or sending an online survey, she jots down her hypothesis.

  • Hypothesis: Customers are not happy with the support team’s replies.
  • Proof: CSAT = 30% or under

Then, she writes the question:

  • How was my reply?
    • Bad
    • Okay
    • Good

She’s been working in support long enough to know to keep it simple.

She inserts the question and answer options into her helpdesk’s CSAT integration. The inbox does the heavy lifting from here. Each email displays the question at the bottom of the response. The helpdesk tracks scores automatically.

CSAT example
CSAT survey sample email

NPS for e-commerce

For our second example, let’s see how an e-commerce company tracks NPS.

They send an NPS survey every six months to gauge satisfaction. Since the last survey, their customer base has doubled in size. The team’s customer experience manager wonders how this affected NPS.

  • Hypothesis: Customers would definitely recommend our store to a friend.
  • Proof: NPS = 50+

Survey questions:

  • How likely are you to recommend our store on a scale from 0 to 10?
  • Optional: Why did you choose this rating?

She sends the email to all active customers from the past six months and waits for the results.

NPS example
NPS survey email sample

CES for startup

Our final example customer satisfaction survey tackles CES at a startup.

The team recently unveiled a huge knowledge base where customers can live out their wildest self-service fantasies. The founder wants to make sure this knowledge base is actually reducing customer effort, though.

They put together a hopeful hypothesis:

  • Hypothesis: Customers find it easy to get the information they need.
  • Proof: CES = 6+

CES survey question:

  • To what extent to you agree or disagree with the following statement: It was easy to find the information I needed.
  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Somewhat disagree
  4. Neither agree nor disagree
  5. Somewhat agree
  6. Agree
  7. Strongly agree

The startup adds this survey question at the bottom of each knowledge base article.

CES example
CES survey sample

They’ll track the results to determine overall satisfaction with the base, as well as to pick out certain articles that are struggling. Customers expect things to be easy. Lower effort correlates with higher satisfaction. Higher effort means it’s time to re-evaluate the experience.

How do you measure customer satisfaction?

Each customer satisfaction survey comes with it’s very own system of measurement. That’s what makes these surveys so valuable after all.

CSAT formula

The CSAT formula is the sum of all scores divided by the number of respondents, multiplied by 100 (to get a percent) .

CSAT formula

CSAT is measured as a percent on a 0-100 scale. The closer you get to 100%, the better. That said, if you’re craving a basic breakdown of scores, here’s some general guidance:

  • 0-40% poor CSAT
  • 40-60% okay CSAT
  • 60-80% good CSAT
  • 80-100% excellent CSAT
 CSAT score meaning

NPS formula

To calculate NPS, subtract the percent of detractors from the percent of promoters.

NPS formula

NPS is measured on a -100 to +100 scale:

  • -100-0 = Bad NPS
  • 0-50 = Good NPS
  • 50-70 = Excellent NPS
  • 70-100 = World-class NPS
NPS score meaning

CES formula

The CES formula is calculated by adding up all the scores and dividing by the number of respondents.

CES formula

CES ranges depending on the scale you use. Generally, low scores indicate heavy customer lift and high scores reflect minimal effort.

Using a 7-point scale:

  • 0-3 bad CES
  • 4-5 okay CES
  • 6-7 good CES
CES score meaning

The true test of a good customer satisfaction survey lies in comparable measurements. Whether you measure these scores against an industry benchmark or your own historical data, the insights should fuel your customer experience (and overarching business) goals.

Don’t just keep this tab open on your computer for the next six months… Download the Customer Satisfaction Survey Cheat Sheet for easy reference to these formulas and benchmarks whenever you need it.

Bridge the gap with customer satisfaction surveys

For small business owners, customer satisfaction surveys may not be the first place you’d think to look for business insights. Especially at early-stage and growing companies, your initial findings come from revenue:

  • Customers give you money = good
  • Customers don’t give you money = bad

After you outgrow that black and white mentality though, you’re going to want more color. Customer satisfaction surveys provide the why and how to many burning questions as you grow your business.

Understand the different types of surveys and their purposes to pinpoint exactly which one fits your needs. Then, take steps to implement it.

customer satisfaction survey process includes prepping your hypothesis, writing questions and answers, and measuring KPIs
Customer satisfaction survey process

Support teams often have trouble being heard relative to other departments. We speak a different language. Customer satisfaction surveys bridge that language barrier.

With customer support software and marketing platforms providing automatic survey templates, forms, and analytics, there’s no excuse to not track CSAT. But you could probably be doing more to leverage the findings.

The value of the survey lies not only in gathering insights, but also in providing a tangible way for you to speak with non-support team members. Once you speak the same language, you can thread customer insights into your entire organization.

One small step for you, one giant leap for your business’s customer experience.

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