expectation gapThere is much debate on the internet about whether NPS (Net Promoter Score) or CES (Customer Effort Score) is the better measure to evaluate CX (Customer Experience). CSAT is also used to measure nothing more than general satisfaction We’ll look at those later, but would urge you to think about the Expectation-Satisfaction Gap Score as it can hold the key to what customers really think.

The Expectation-Satisfaction Gap Score defined

The Expectation-Satisfaction Gap Score (ESG) is the difference between the satisfaction level and anticipated level of satisfaction. In other words, did the service exceed expectations or not – and, by how much. This means that a satisfaction score of 7 out of 10 and an expectation score of 9 out of 10 would produce an ESG Score of -2. In other words, the customer experienced a worse service than they would have expected. Let’s look at some different scenarios and see how it might compare with NPS or CES calculations.

Scenario 1

I go into a store to buy something essential and uninteresting. The transaction is fine. Indeed, it’s not a store I like much, but it stocks what I want. The lady in the shop is fairly helpful.

I might score satisfaction as 8 and expectation at 5. In other words, the Expectation-Satisfaction Gap Score is +3. I wouldn’t score more than 8 as I don’t particularly like the store, but I wouldn’t score less than 8 as everything went well on this occasion. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the experience much, so I scored it as 5 plus there was some effort involved as the store was not in the main shopping centre. NPS would probably score this as neutral and not count it in the NPS calculation; CES might record this a fair amount of effort (a negative). In fact, this transaction has mostly been a success.

Scenario 2

I buy a luxury product, but I found the sales staff unfriendly, but this store sells by far the best quality products.

I might give a satisfaction score of 9, but I might have expected 10. I might have scored lower than 9, but I do like this store and, the effect of the unfriendly sales staff has been largely forgotten by the time I answer the questionnaire, but it’s enough to pull me the score down to 9. My ESG Score is, therefore, -1. NPS might still have been recorded as a promoter, assuming I had been as forgiving about the unfriendly staff member and NES would have been positive because I like this store’s products so much; it’s never too much effort.

Scenario 3

I buy some things from a store that I am quite ambivalent about, but the service is appalling. I queue for 15 minutes to pay and there is a mistake when I try to pay which leads to an argument with the manager. I leave the store furious vowing never to return.

I might give a satisfaction of 0 and an expectation score of 6 (I might have been feeling optimistic). This gives an ESG score of -6. This is bad. NPS would record me as a detractor, but NPS doesn’t differentiate between people that score 0 or 6. In either case, I am a detractor, but, in this case, I am a furious detractor that will tell everyone about the unfortunate event. NES performs fine here, of course.

bad customer experience

Summarising the three scenarios

The three scenarios above are not implausible – they are not outriders that expose the flaws in NPS and CES. They are real life situations when the limitations of NPS and CES are exposed. The Expectation-Satisfaction Gap gives a clearer indication of whether the transaction was good/bad/satisfactory and whether an individual customer’s future behaviour is likely to change.

Tracking Customer Experience

There is an argument that CSAT, NPS and CES are better measures than the ESG Scores for long term tracking. The reality is that they make tracking easier, but if customer expectations are rising then the ESG Score must keep being positive or, at least, as high as possible. So, seeing CSAT or NPS constantly rising may look like good news, but it’s not good enough news if there is a competitor across the road that is doing even better.

Comparing Expectation-Satisfaction Gap with Competition

It is important to take the ESG one step further. There is a need to compare the service with competitors. This means suppliers in the same price range with the same quality of product. If a company is selling a unique product and is the only supplier in most towns, for example, it only needs to have so-so scores until the day a competitor comes to town which can take all or some of its business. Therefore, measuring ESG Scores alongside Competition Scores is important.

Vulnerability Index

By analysing satisfaction, expectation, effort and competition together, it is possible to build a Vulnerability Index. This is an important measure. It is more important than NPS which can work in isolation of competition and expectation. It is more important than CES which does not take into account enough depth. And, it is more important than CSAT which again doesn’t worry about the competition.

Getting actionable data from your CX programmes

It is our belief that CX programmes do not need to be expensive – there are some vastly over-priced offerings. They do not to take account of prevailing conditions so that Expectation-Satisfaction Gap Scores and the Vulnerability Index can tell you whether you are doing well enough to succeed and highlight potential weaknesses. Good quality reporting in our view is clear reporting that gives a clear message to management as well as the staff on the ground. For more information or to discuss a CX programme with us, contact lauren.stone@mrdcsoftware.com.