NPS vs. CSAT vs. CES

By now, your head might be spinning. NPS, CSAT, CES – what were the differences again? And when should I use which KPI?



Let’s do a quick recap first:

  1. NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and tells you how likely it is that a customer will recommend your products or services.

  1. CSAT stands for Customer Satisfaction Score and indicates how satisfied a customer is with an interaction such as training, a product or a service.

  1. And CES is the Customer Effort Score, which informs you about the perceived effort required by your customer to interact with your service or product. 

So for which situations are either of the 3 customer KPIs best suited for. This table will serve you as a great cheat-sheet and lines out the advantages and disadvantages of each KPI. 



Starting with our Net Promoter Score, we measure the overall loyalty of a customer to your company.

One advantage that NPS offers – is the correct segmentation. You have the three segments: promoters, passives or detractors. The answers to NPS surveys show exactly which types of customers you need to focus your efforts on to achieve better results. 

NPS is also less event-specific. Since you should usually start an NPS survey regularly and not only after a certain interaction with your service, NPS will give you an overall perception of your company – and not just an event-specific one. This has the additional advantage that the answers are less biased. 

In the case of AirBnB, a customer could have had a bad experience with a recent stay, but generally loves the AirBnB platform. NPS will take out all event-specific incidents and leave the overall loyalty to your brand with you. This will make the results more meaningful and actionable, as you will actually receive their honest feedback.

The Net Promoter Score is a long-term KPI. Instead of turning your ship with every incident, you will find out if you are generally sailing in the right direction.

That all sounds very good, but what are the disadvantages of this KPI? 

First, NPS surveys usually require follow-up – you don’t want to leave a detractor standing angry in the rain. Most of the time you want to find out more about what happened. You will have to make extra efforts to solve the problem and turn a detractor into a promoter.

Secondly, what I have seen in companies with high NPS values is a “tunnel vision effect”. Blinded by good NPS results, these companies have not taken action to further improve their service. As long as you don’t have 100% supporters, there is always something that can be improved.



Heading over to CSAT, the Customer Satisfaction Score. The main advantage is its flexibility and attention to detail. You can start multiple CSAT questions in one survey and also follow up with closed-ended or open-ended questions and really narrow down the source of a customer complaint.

This is the only advantage I have listed here, but that should not stop you from using the Customer Satisfaction Score. It is by far the most commonly used customer service metric and should be part of any survey about good customer service. I just wanted to give you a few things to keep in mind when using CSATs, which I have listed here under the disadvantages:

  1. Respondents are sometimes afraid to give honest feedback. Have you ever been hesitant to give honest feedback because you relied on a vendor and feared your opinion could negatively impact the business relationship? Or sometimes you withhold your feedback because you like the person you have been interacting with and don’t want them to get into trouble. Since a CSAT is usually very close to an event, dishonest answers are a very common side effect. 

  1. Compared to the general loyalty of NPS, CSAT usually focuses on specific events, making CSAT a short-term measure.

  1. And finally, don’t forget that while you may have happy customers, they are not loyal. Two very different characteristics. A happy customer will not cause you problems in the short term, but a loyal customer will make you rich in the long run.




And last but not least, the CES (Customer Effort Score) measures the perceived effort someone has made to interact with your service.

The idea behind this metric is the knowledge that if it is difficult to interact with your service, it will prevent customers from coming back. In addition, a study has shown that 81% of consumers who report a “high effort” when interacting with companies say they speak negatively about the brand. But on the contrary, if business with you is made easy, it will probably result in a customer wanting to do even more business.

CES will provide you with actionable data, especially in combination with follow-up questions, and highlight areas of your user experience that need improvement.

However, a low CES is usually not a deal breaker. For example, I bought some noise-cancelling headphones from Apple a few weeks ago. Because I dropped my old pair in the elevator shaft when I hugged my neighbor.  

Finally – I had an excuse to buy the new model and decided to pick up the new pair in the store. When I arrived at the Apple store after training in sportswear, I tried to pick up my newly purchased headphones. But the Apple lady had to send me home because I didn’t have any identification on me. 

I was furious. If someone handed me a CES survey, I would have left a terrible review. But was my feedback really just as relevant? It was only this one interaction, and it was my fault – because I didn’t bring my ID with me. 

Moreover, CES does not offer you proper customer segmentation. I am definitely in the segment of ‘Promoters’ for Apple. A week later I was back in the Apple Store to buy the new Apple Watch. So it’s always best to combine your CES survey with an NPS question.


Snail Factor

Let’s close this chapter by evaluating each of the 3 KPIs for customer service according to their general snailing factor. 

  1. Because NPS is long term and the most unbiased metric, I give the Net Promoter Score 5 out of 5 snail points. 

  1. Closely followed by CSAT – the Customer Satisfaction Score is the most frequently used KPI for customer service due to its simplicity and flexibility. A CSAT question should not be missing in any good survey: 4 out of 5 snail points.

  1. And finally – CES. The Customer Effort Score measures the effort required to interact with your business and has its time and place, especially in handover processes where the customer is on his own. Low CES values are usually not a barrier to closing a deal. To disguise the CES results, it is advisable to combine your survey with an NPS question. 3 out of 5 snail points.

All right friends, thank you all for reading – and a quick question: How likely would you recommend KPI Max to a friend or colleague? Let me know what I can improve or what information you miss on my website. I am looking forward to your feedback. Thank you very much.