Customer satisfaction refers to the degree to which purchasers of goods and services are happy with not only the goods and services themselves, but the experience of ordering them, the delivery process, and every other part of the process. A customer satisfaction index (CSI) shows the percentage variation from a standard, usually 100, representing complete satisfaction. There is more than one organization that carries out a CSI, so it is important to note where CSI ratings come from in order to determine their value. Some ratings suppliers are industry-based, some are country-based, and some are international.
A national customer satisfaction index is a balance to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the GDP informs about quantity — the total market value of the services and goods produced in a country in a specific time-frame — the corresponding customer satisfaction index provides a measure of quality for the same services and goods for that time period. An industry CSI helps make comparisons among peers, which could be credit card companies, members of the marine industry, or IT providers, etc.
Industry members who participate in a customer satisfaction index are able to benchmark their performance both against their own goals, against their competitors, and against their past record. The results may also provide access to detailed customer comments. With some indexes, ongoing tracking, rather than a one-shot snapshot, is available.
Others besides the companies that are profiled benefit as well. Investors can spot trends and rank businesses against their peers, while governments gain access to information that can help in economic decisions. Customers may benefit because their voices are heard and customer service may improve in response to the process.
In both the United States and the United Kingdom, customer satisfaction surveys have determined that quality is generally the top desire of customers. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has determined that in most cases, quality is more important than price. The United Kingdom Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) has found that while quality of a product or service is the top priority, price doesn’t even enter into the top ten priorities overall, which, in addition to quality, include treatment as a valued customer, speed, friendliness, how problems and complaints are handled, how queries are handled, competence of staff, how easy it is to do business with the company, whether or not the customer is kept informed, and how helpful the staff is.