6 Effective Methods for Measuring Customer Loyalty

What if you could measure the loyalty of the people around you? That’s impossible for friends, family, and partners – and probably for the best. The loyalty of your customers, however, can be measured.

The difficulty comes from loyalty being an intention. And one that people aren’t always honest about. The benefits of loyalty are great, however.

A loyal customer is...

  • Likely to refer you to her friends and contacts.
  • Likely to continue buying from you as long as the need is there.
  • Not actively looking for other suppliers.
  • Not open to sales pitches from competitors.
  • Open to other products and services that you offer.
  • Easy going towards emerging issues and gives you time and trust to fix them.
  • Likely to give feedback about how you could improve.

Measurement is the first step in customer loyalty management. By measuring customer loyalty we can compare, aim, and improve. Here are the 5 most effective methods.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

This metric indicates the likeliness of your customer referring you to her friends. She answers this simple question with a value between 1 – 10.

This is a powerful metric. Firstly because it’s simple, but also because of the fact that when you recommend a product, you put your own credibility on the line. And you only do that for companies you support 100%.

NPS divides your customers into three categories:

Detractors. Customers answering with a score of 6 or lower are segmented as “Detractors”. They won’t recommend you to anyone, will probably not buy from you again, and might even hurt you through negative word-of-mouth.

Passives. Those with a 7 or 8 are segmented as “Passives”. They are quite satisfied, but not ecstatic enough to recommend you. They won’t hurt you, they aren’t looking for alternatives, and they’ll likely stick around as long as they don’t run into a supplier with a better value proposition.

Promoters. Those with a 9 or 10 fall into the “Promoters” segment. They are your groupies, your equivalent of the people camping in front of the Apple store. They’re likely to recommend you and buy from you again.

Your total Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting your “Detractors” percentage from your “Promoters” percentage.

image of the net promoter score, the most popular metric for measuring customer loyalty

Most NPS tools work by importing a list of your customer contact data and sending the questionnaire per email. Trustfuel NPS (free), and Promoter.io (paid) are two popular tools. I personally like in-app tools like Wootric (freemium). Instead of targeting your customer’s inbox, it politely asks for feedback while she’s on your website or app.

screenshot of Wooltric's tool, which allows the measuring of customer satisfaction with minimal disruption of the users
Through in-app questionnaires you can ask for feedback with minimal disruption

Your Promoter - Detractor ratio doesn’t depend on your service and product quality, only. Some customers simply fit your company better than others. Tying your NPS scores to customer information, like demographics and industry, can also help you identify your ideal customer type.

To put your results in persepctive, you can have a look at the Net Promoter Network. They offer a report on NPS benchmark scores per industry .

Repurchase Ratio

This measures the ratio of repeat purchasers over one-time purchasers. A purchase is at the core of a commercial relationship, which makes this metric a valid representation of customer loyalty.

This metric can be easily distorted, however. If it takes a big effort to switch between providers, for example, you could have a large portion of repurchasers who would nevertheless switch if this effort would be mitigated.

At Userlike, for example, we had been renewing our contract with a helpdesk software for a long time. We didn’t think of switching, because all our customer data was locked in the tool. When Help Scout showed up, however, with the option to easily transfer all this data to their tool, we didn’t hesitate.

screenshot Help Scout website
Help Scout lowers the barrier for switching between suppliers

The way to calculate this repurchase ratio differs per business model. If you have a subscription based model, you simply divide the number of customers that extend after their first contract period by the ones that cancel after their first contact period.

It’s a bit trickier for transaction based business models, because the intervals between purchases aren't fixed. To know your number of repeat buyers, you need to first calculate the average time between the first and second buys of repeat customers, as well as its standard variation. By adding two times the standard variation to the average time, you will have captured 95% of your repeat customers. Divide this by the number of non-repeat buyers, and you have your estimated repurchase ratio. Here is a tool to calculate your standard deviation .

The 8 Core Principles of Good Customer Service

Performance in any field is guided by a few core principles. Here are the ones governing the quality of customer service.

First principle thinking

Another way would be to measure the repurchase intention, which we cover in method 4.

Upselling Ratio

This tracks the ratio of customers who’ve bought more than one type of product divided by the customers who’ve bought only one. This sounds similar to the Repurchase Ratio, but it’s different because it concerns another product .

Buying new products is a clear indication of customer loyalty. The trust you gained through your customer’s previous experiences has reflected on your other product offerings.

picture of desk with various Apple products
Apple afficionados trust whatever tool the tech giant brings out

The more different the added product is from the first product, the more significant an indication for customer loyalty it is. Buying a kilo of pears at the grocery shop you know to have great apples, for example, isn’t too big of a leap. Buying a smartphone because you’re happy with your laptop, however, does constitute a big leap.

You calculate the upselling ration by dividing your number of customers with multiple products by the number of customers with a single product.

Another way would be to measure the upselling intention, which we cover next.

Customer Loyalty Index (CLI)

This is a standardized tool to track customer loyalty over time, and it incorporates the values of NPS, repurchasing, and upselling.

It calculates all three values with an NPS-like questionnaire on a 6-point scale. 1 stands for “Definitely Yes”, 6 stands for “Definitely No”.

  1. How likely are you to recommend us to your friends or contacts?
  2. How likely are you to buy from us again in the future?
  3. How likely are you to try out other of our products/services?

Your total CLI is the average score of the 3 responses.

Answer scores:
1 = 100
2 = 80
3 = 60
4 = 40
5 = 20
6 = 0

The downside of this approach is that you ask directly for the customer’s intention, which is less reliable than measuring actual behavior. The advantage is that this score incorporates all of the loyalty values. Also, by consistently sending this questionnaire over time, it allows you to systematically track changes.

Here’s an example of a CLI Questionnaire that you can easily copy using Google Forms.

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How much would you miss us?

This is an alternative to the NPS score. You ask your customers how much they’d miss you if your company would cease to exist tomorrow.

Like the NPS, customers choose a value between 1 (would not miss at all) and 10 (I couldn’t do without you). This measures the strength of your customer connections and the perceived value of your offering.

If you’re one of the many competitors that do more or less the same, for example, your customers will likely not lose sleep about you disappearing.

I also wouldn’t care much if the pizza joint from around the corner would close its doors. But if Facebook would declare bankruptcy tomorrow, I’d feel terrible for all the lost social connections.

Customer Engagement Numbers

According to Curtis N. Bingham , customer engagement is the most effective predictor of customer loyalty. He argues that compared to NPS and CLI, customer engagement metrics are easier to measure, to influence, and that they’re more strongly correlated with revenue and profits.

picture of laptop with Google Analytics screen
Customer engagement is a strong predictor of loyalty

Bingham explains that customer loyalty results out of positive interactions and experiences with your brand. These nurture emotional attachments that shield your customers from competitor influence.

Through this, says Bingham, customer engagement:

  1. Stimulates repurchasing
  2. Lowers price sensitivity
  3. Promotes referrals

Customer engagement is indeed an interesting area, especially for online businesses – for whom its metrics are relatively easy to track. For offline products and services, though, the tracking is much harder.

When users explore new features and start to use them, the service is growing on them, and they are happy to use it more.

Guy Nirpaz

Guy Nirpaz suggests a few metrics to measure customer engagement for online apps:

  • Activity Time. This is the average time your customers spend with your service; per day, week, month, or year – whichever is most relevant for your offering.
  • Visit Frequency. This tracks how often a user returns to your service. Keep an eye on patterns in returning user visits. If you have a brain training app, probably your users should return a few times per week. While for website analytics tools, for example, a few times per month should be fine.
  • Core User Actions. Track whether user gets to experience the main features. For us: adjust the Chat Widget coloring, set up operator picture, set up chat macros, etc.

By keeping track of these metrics over time, you see whether the fit with your user base is improving.

Champion of Customer Loyalty

When you search for “customer loyalty”, you soon run into case studies about Apple Inc. Indeed, this company nailed it.

close up of Apple
Apple, a champion of customer loyalty

When Apple launches a fancy new device, its most fervent fans set up camp in front of the Apple store a few days in advance. If Samsung would bring out a phone that beats the iPhone in both functionality and price, people would still buy buy from Apple.

Anyone can sell products by dropping their prices, but it does not breed loyalty.

Simon Sinek

That’s not rationality; that’s loyalty. Apple is number one in its category in Brand Keys’ 19th Annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® , and its part of what turned it into one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Customer loyalty is one of the main predictors of success. No company can stay ahead of the herd all of the time. The loyalty of your customers determines your breathing space for catching up.

Also check out our posts on the measuring of customer satisfaction , the measuring of service quality , the most important customer service metrics , and customer service KPIs .