CSAT means customer satisfaction. It’s measured by organizations as a KPI to show how satisfied customers are with them as a brand, as well as their individual products and services. 

CSAT is incredibly popular as a business metric. Possibly more so than NPS because CSAT is so readily understandable at face value. NPS has to be explained to the uninitiated. Everyone instantly ‘gets’ CSAT. It’s shorthand for whether customers are satisfied or not. 

However, nobody seems to know how the term ‘satisfaction’ has been arrived at as the customer attribute everyone wants to measure. With so much focus among brands to stimulate emotional connections and responses from customers, ‘satisfaction’ stands out as a very unemotional state of being.

Instead, satisfaction speaks to the concept of expectations being met. If the customer believes they got what they expected, they will be satisfied.

In this post we will cover:

What is customer satisfaction (CSAT)

Why is CSAT so important

How to measure CSAT?

CSAT metrics

How to calculate your CSAT score

What’s a good CSAT score?

CSAT surveys

CSAT questions

How to act on CSAT feedback

CSAT analysis and reporting

How to improve your CSAT score

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What is Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT (which is pronounced “see-sat”, by the way) is commonly used to denote ‘customer satisfaction score’ as well as just plain ‘customer satisfaction’. CSAT scores are the quantifiable measure of where customer satisfaction sits at any given point in time.

Many companies will measure CSAT across all of their customer groups to determine a live status. But like other metrics (such as NPS) it can be used to measure customer segments and individual customers. 

By continually measuring CSAT, organizations can chart trends over time and use CSAT to evaluate the impact of change. For example, response to increased pricing, new products, improvements to the digital customer experience.

The fundamental dividing line in CSAT is the difference between satisfied and unsatisfied. 

But there are nuances to this, if you can refine the process of measuring CSAT. For example, going beyond the binary satisfied/unsatisfied marker to determine just how satisfied or unsatisfied customers are.

Why CSAT Scores are so important

Every organization wants to increase their CSAT scores because every organization wants more satisfied customers. More satisfied customers means:

  • Higher revenue retention
  • Increased likelihood of upselling and cross-selling success
  • Less customer churn
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Higher ROI on new customer acquisition and onboarding costs
  • Reduced marketing costs
  • Increased positive word of mouth
  • Enhanced brand reputation

Looking specifically at the CSAT score itself – rather than purely the underlying satisfaction level it shows – organizations get a lot out of measuring this metric. Tracking CSAT scores is of limited benefit if you aren’t prepared to act on the data. Benefits of doing so include:

  • Accurately directing investments to the right areas
    • Find out what you’re doing well and what you need to improve on! Organizations need to be able to evaluate the success of investments intended to optimize the customer experience. Tracking for movements in CSAT score can help determine this, particularly when the CSAT question is specific to the area at hand.
  • Managing the law of unintended consequences
    • Every organization’s operations have the potential to unwittingly impact on overall customer satisfaction. Sometimes the only way to detect issues like this is via real-time CSAT insights.
  • Publicising customer excellence
    • CSAT scores, like NPS scores, are frequently published by organizations that wish to trumpet their customer-centric credentials. It’s a brave move to be so transparent, but this tactic can ultimately enhance customer confidence in and of itself. Especially when scores are high, growing or both!
  • Intervening with specific customers
    • Customers recording low CSAT scores, or dipping below their norm, could be about to churn. Using CSAT as a warning system gives organizations the opportunity to step in and remedy what’s wrong.

How to measure your CSAT score

You measure CSAT by surveying your customers. In other words, by using a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey designed to elicit a clear and unambiguous response.

The CSAT survey will typically ask a single question, along the lines of: “How satisfied were you with XXXX?” We explore the different kinds of CSAT survey questions, with lots of examples, later in this guide.

CSAT surveys are seldom open-ended. Rather, to garner quantitative data, a series of response choices are offered to the customer to select from. Classically, this would encapsulate a scale of satisfaction from ‘very satisfied’ at one end to ‘very dissatisfied’ at the other. Yes/no responses can also be offered.

Best practice is to measure CSAT regularly, so that the picture your CSAT scores paint is always up to date and you can chart differences over time. This means asking customers repeatedly. It is therefore very important to ensure customers are not jaded by the survey process, but engaged and forthcoming. Failing to get enough CSAT feedback can lead to:

  • Biased or skewed results that aren’t representative of your customers as a whole
  • Misaligned customer expectations that you can’t identify and therefore meet
  • Losing customers you didn’t know were dissatisfied
  • Being unable to determine with certainty what is making customers satisfied or dissatisfied
  • An unreliable CSAT score that isn’t safe to publish internally or externally

Top tips for measuring CSAT scores

CSAT surveys and the process of finding out CSAT scores is part of the larger discipline of customer feedback. If you’re serious about customer feedback, CSAT will be a significant part of your customer feedback process.

The rules of customer feedback in general apply very pertinently to CSAT feedback collection. These are that your customer feedback process should be optimized to:

  • Maximize customer feedback volume 
  • Engage the maximum number of customers
  • Remove barriers to customers giving their feedback quickly and easily
  • Encourage customer faith and confidence that their feedback is being used appropriately
  • Capture real-time, in-the-moment feedback in ways that are logical and non-disruptive to the customer’s experience and journey
  • Empower employees and other stakeholders to understand the value of customer feedback

When measuring CSAT, it’s also important to shorten the time it takes between surveying the customer and using that feedback for analysis and action. Surveying customers to get a CSAT score and then sitting on the data for hours or days without doing anything is wasteful. You could be missing opportunities. 

Who should measure their CSAT score?

Every business or organization should measure their CSAT score. It doesn’t matter how many customers they have, how big or small they are, or what sector. If you’ve got customers you should know how satisfied they are.

CSAT usually means ‘external’, paying customers. Another application for CSAT is ‘internal’ customers. For example, an internal IT help desk for an organization’s IT users. As long as your definition of ‘customers’ makes sense in the context of learning when expectations are being exceeded, missed or met – you should use CSAT.

Some organizations even use CSAT principles for measuring employee satisfaction, calling it ‘ESAT’. It makes perfect sense. And while it isn’t the principal focus for this guide, much of what we’re talking about here can be applied to the ongoing task of listening and responding to employee satisfaction at all levels.

When to measure CSAT score

A great thing about CSAT is how flexible, lightweight and ubiquitous you can make measuring it. Just asking a simple question, collecting the results and drawing conclusions generates value from CSAT feedback. You can do it anytime or all the time. However, just because you can use CSAT surveys this much, doesn’t make it the best approach to follow.

The biggest obstacle to persistently obtaining CSAT feedback is customers’ willingness to participate. Asking for feedback is asking a favor, and that’s precisely the transaction going on when trying to collect CSAT data. So be somewhat selective as to when you do it. Even more importantly, make it super easy for customers to expend virtually no effort giving you what you need. 

What that in mind, consider these ideas for when to measure CSAT:

  • Ask at key milestones in the customer journey
    • To operate at scale, every organization must perfect their customer processes and workflows. This begins before the customer is acquired, in marketing and presales. Then there’s the critical onboarding period, which may be inclusive of data collection, order processing and more. There may be important service delivery milestones, shipping fulfilment, etc. Some customer journeys are cyclical rather than linear. As customers pass through these stages, measuring CSAT can help you improve and refine them. Customers are the experts on the friction or repetition they find annoying and frustrating. They will tell you if you ask
  • Ask after you’ve improved something
    • If you’re attentive to customer satisfaction, you’re always on the lookout for improvements you can make on the back of what CSAT scores are telling you. Using CSAT a second time to validate whether your improvements have resulted in increased CSAT score is vital for evaluating ROI. At least, if CSAT goes down then you probably need to go back to the drawing board
  •  Ask after you’ve answered their cry for help
    • Customers – people in general – would prefer to never have a problem or question with a supplier or service provider. So dealing with requests for help and support can be highly sensitive make-or-break moments for CSAT. Doing this right can motivate and drive the performance of support agents. You can even use CSAT to gauge the accuracy and usefulness of knowledge base materials.
  • Ask well before contract renewal/negotiation
    • Imagine a scenario where you never asked customers how satisfied they were, except 1 week before their contract renewal. It’s a bad look, huh? So make sure you’re using CSAT to gather sales intelligence about how customer decision makers feel, well before it counts. As a general rule, CSAT can be a warning system for if customers are about to churn, but you need to be asking periodically to catch these opportunities in time.

How to calculate your CSAT score

At the heart of CSAT is the calculation of CSAT score. CSAT scores can be attached to any customer or customer group, and be specific to any aspect of their customer experience. This makes it vitally important to ensure clarity and integrity of CSAT data, especially when using for comparative purposes. We cover this in more detail in our CSAT reporting section of this guide.

The final step before looking at CSAT score calculation itself is to understand what raw data you need. 

Your starting point should be to have all the customer feedback data you have collected in response to a particular CSAT survey. For example, a CSAT survey for all customers in March. The data you have will be as follows:

  • The total number of customers who completed the survey
  • The total numbers of customers returning each of the response options
    • If you have, for example, 5 response options there will be 5 groups of response data

Next you need to decide what qualifies a ‘satisfied customer’ as it applies to your response options. This is best determined before you commit to a CSAT survey. In any case, it is widely accepted practice that the top 2 responses on a 5-point satisfaction scale qualify as ‘satisfied’.

  1. Very dissatisfied (does not qualify)
  2. Somewhat dissatisfied (does not qualify)
  3. Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied (does not qualify)
  4. Somewhat satisfied (qualifies)
  5. Very satisfied (qualifies)

CSAT score calculation

The CSAT score calculation is very simple. It is to determine the number of satisfied customers surveyed as a proportion of all customers surveyed.

Dividing the smaller number by the larger number should result in a product smaller than 1 (unless ALL of your customers are satisfied). 

For example, if you found 77 satisfied customers out of a total of 122 CSAT survey responses:

77/122 = 0.63

This decimal expresses the proportion. Multiply by 100 to calculate the percentage.

0.63 x 100 = 63%

The result of the calculation is to show that the percentage of customers that are satisfied is 63%. CSAT scores are typically expressed as whole numbers, not percentages. Hence the final CSAT score is simply 63.

All CSAT scores sit on a range between 0 and 100. A CSAT score of 0 would signify that none of your customers are satisfied. A CSAT score of 100 would signify that all customers are satisfied.

What’s a good CSAT score?

As pure numbers, CSAT scores tend to be higher than NPS scores. This is helped by the fact that CSAT scores operate on a range of 0–100 whereas NPS runs between -100 and +100. 

Also, your CSAT scores are supposed to be relatively high or else something is drastically wrong. Something like 75–80 would be considered encouraging; nearer 90 would be very good. Let’s face it, the bar is set pretty low. You need to have satisfied your customers, or at least most of them. That means meeting their expectations – nothing more. Compared to NPS where the bar is being someone who would proactively go and recommend that organization – it’s no surprise the numbers come out differently.

A CSAT score of 50 shows that half of your customers are satisfied andF half aren’t. That’s a troubling state of affairs, and potentially unsustainable. By contrast, a CSAT score of 100 is probably unattainable in most circumstances. There are always some customers who cannot be satisfied, have expectations that are too high, or that you messed up with. 

CSAT benchmark scores by industry

It’s unfair to compare CSAT scores between organizations in different industries. That’s because of factors like competition, customer expectations and unique sector-specific sensitivities. The American Customer Satisfaction Index has published data since 1995 which shows the average CSAT scores by industry. Here’s a sample of 2021 findings:

  • Airlines = 76 (up 1.3% on previous year)
  • Banks = 78 (down 2.5%)
  • Consumer Shipping = 76 (down 1.3%)
  • Health Insurance = 73 (up 1.4%)
  • ISPs = 65 (flat)
  • Online Retail = 78 (down 3.7%)
  • Supermarkets = 76 (down 2.6%)
  • Wireless Phone Service = 74 (flat)  

CSAT Metrics

Beyond the CSAT score which we showed how to calculate above, there are a bunch of related metrics that speak to the wider issue of customer satisfaction.

Strictly speaking, referring to them as ‘other CSAT metrics’ is a tad confusing because CSAT is a metric in itself. Call them other CSAT metrics if you must, but ‘other customer KPIs’ is perhaps a more helpful distinction.

Here are 4 more to look at tracking, learning from and using as the catalyst for taking action on customer satisfaction.

NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Ask customers to judge, on a scale of 0–10, how likely it is they would recommend you to someone else. Depending on how they respond, group them into ‘detractors’ (0–6), ‘passives’ (7–8) and ‘promoters’ (9–10). Some simple math produces an NPS score, which essentially reflects the strength of loyalty among the customers you asked.

CES (Customer Effort Score)

Ask customers how easy it was to undertake a specific action or just do business with you. The calculation works in much the same way as CSAT score calculation. It shows how effortless (or otherwise) the customer experience is around a certain organization. 

CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) 

This metric takes some financial insights rather than surveying customers. You calculate it by looking at the costs spent on marketing, advertising and promotion in a given period and dividing that by the number of customers acquired in the same period. The result is the price you pay to acquire a customer. 

Customer Lifetime Value (LTV, or CLTV)

This metric takes in a number of variables like average spend per customer, purchase frequency and customer lifespan. The result is the revenue you’re getting from the average customer over the lifetime of being a customer with you.

These and 6 more are detailed in this comprehensive post outlining customer satisfaction metrics.

CSAT surveys

How to build a CSAT survey

There are numerous ways to collect customer feedback and CSAT in particular. You could, for example, contact customers by phone, or prompt them via your customer apps and web portals. 

However, for scale, automation and accuracy the best bet has got to be email-based CSAT surveys.

6 advantages of email CSAT surveys

  • Everyone uses email
  • It’s a real-time medium (almost)
    • Send an email and it arrives instantly, within reason. Yes there’s latency, but it’s typically seconds. Use the best email servers and you can ask right-here questions to get right-now answers.
  • You know your customers’ email addresses
    • If you know anything about your customers, it should be their email address. You can reach them whenever you like, in the context of their relationship with you. 
  • You already send them emails
  • It’s a blank canvas for your brand experience
    • Email is a great vehicle for making CSAT surveys an extension of your brand experience for customers. Think ‘real estate’ for your logo, messaging, look and feel. 
  • It’s a highly stable platform for analytic and code
    • Organizations have been using email to track survey clicks and opens for years, and can redirect traffic to any link anywhere. All this makes CSAT feedback easy to correlate with individual customers. CSAT survey functionality can be embedded inside emails too, meaning fewer hoops for customers to jump through and quicker responses.

Choosing email for CSAT surveys is a proven approach. However it doesn’t guarantee a high and therefore representative response rate. For that you must ensure you take steps to maximize engagement with CSAT surveys. 

Golden rules for maximizing CSAT survey responses

Here are some important pointers for ensuring widespread customer participation in CSAT surveys: 

  • Create CSAT surveys that are simple to understand
      • Keep it short and sweet. Avoid jargon. Don’t make it complicated.
  • Ensure that CSAT surveys take virtually no time to complete
      • Ask a single question and make it count. Consider perhaps a follow-up question for those who engage. You can always iterate or explore new areas in subsequent surveys.
  • Prime your CSAT surveys to be effortless
      • Aim for a non-disruptive CSAT survey. Literally, as easy or easier to complete than to unsubscribe from or delete.
  • Make CSAT surveys ‘in-the-moment’
      • Target CSAT surveys for maximum contextual impact. Ideally straight after the thing you’ll like feedback on – not days later. 
  • Stand out with CSAT surveys that are truly engaging
      • Be a little different, but be your brand. Explore response icons and emojis. You could even design your own. Make it part of the wider brand experience.
  • Inspire confidence with CSAT surveys that explain their purpose to customers
    • Show customers how committed you are to their satisfaction by explaining (briefly) that’s what your CSAT surveys are for. Say thanks for every response, and an extra special thanks for any qualitative feedback (even if it’s telling you that you suck).

Why long-form CSAT surveys are such a bad idea

Organizations would love to know everything about their customers. It would make for better products, more successful marketing, more closely aligned expectations and happier employees. There’s a strong argument it would make customers more satisfied too.

But filling out surveys is a bore. Customers get very little out of it. It takes too long. Most of the time, nothing happens as a consequence.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with long-form customer surveys. The “click the link, it will only take 10 minutes and we really appreciate it” survey. These surveys return low response rates that aren’t representative of what customers in general think. They are, to a greater or lesser extent, a waste of time.

This entertaining post looks at the problem in more detail, charting the rise of the ‘Frankensurvey” and survey fatigue, and asking whether satisfaction surveys are guilty of spreading dissatisfaction. Its findings conclude that:

  • Surveys should take virtually no time to complete and be totally in context to what the customer is doing or just done
  • 1-question surveys are devastatingly effective for gaining customer feedback such as CSAT scores

Top tips on CSAT survey distribution

If you’re going to the trouble of designing a great CSAT survey with appropriate CSAT survey questions, maximize its success by following these survey distribution tips.

Ultimately you want your survey to stand out so that it will be seen, opened, read and responded to. 

Don’t over distribute CSAT surveys to the same customer

In your eagerness to garner CSAT feedback, don’t make the mistake of sending too many surveys out. Customers receive a lot of email, and too many from you could be too much to bear. This is why it pays to embed CSAT surveys into emails you’re already sending anyway, and that the customer is expecting to receive.

Tune up your email signature game

Continuing this theme of non-disruptive email sending, what better vehicle to deliver a CSAT survey than in your email auto signature? Signature management platforms like Exclaimer are the perfect tool for enabling this very easily, and directly integrate with the likes of Customer Thermometer. Changing questions and collecting data can be done dynamically, using on-brand icons and designs, and you can segment your mailbox signatures to carry different surveys however you like. This isn’t just embedding CSAT surveys into emails you were sending anyway, it’s sending them in potentially every email you ever sent out! 

Optimize response rates with great email subject lines

Some of the stats around email subject lines are incredible. Particularly valuable are personalization, being clear and concise, avoiding ‘spam’ words and using emojis. You should also always test your subject lines to see what works best with your customer audience. It can make a huge difference to getting your CSAT surveys opened and engaged with.

Consider the optimum times of day and week

Apparently Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best for sending out emails. In terms of times, the start and end of the working day are worth avoiding. Another way of thinking about this is to test your way to success, even if that means doing the precise opposite of what best practice dictates. It stands to reason that avoiding herd mentality means you avoid the herd. Perhaps it’s worth testing to see what happens if you put your survey out when you aren’t supposed to…

The other safety warning on this final tip is whether your CSAT survey should be dictated by a set timing anyway. Certainly a set-piece ‘monthly’ CSAT survey might be appropriate as something to telegraph in this way. But for the most part, our advice is embedding CSAT surveys in emails that accompany customer interactions – and they could happen all times of the week, day and night! 

CSAT questions

So what are some of the best customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey questions to ask? As with any question formulation, you need to begin with the end in mind. What exactly are you trying to uncover? Is it a general level of satisfaction about your brand, or related to a specific experience, product or aspect of the customer journey?

Or think of it this way: is this a customer touchpoint survey or a survey about the customer relationship? 

These are crucial considerations because timing and context are everything. The CSAT feedback process should return a reliable and powerful KPI, but it can also elicit valuable business insights.

Here are some golden rules for when designing CSAT survey questions:

  • Be clear and specific
  • Explore one simple idea at a time
  • Remove any potential for misinterpretation and ambiguity
  • Avoid bias and ‘leading’ questions
  • Minimise the necessity for notable prior knowledge or experience 
  • Minimise required thinking
  • Use words rather than numbers in survey response options
  • Avoid overly personal or uncomfortable questions 
  • Ensure questions and response options are as short as possible

11 CSAT survey question examples

We’ve collated 11 examples of CSAT survey questions and split them into types of question.

Yes or no questions

Simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions make CSAT surveys very quick to analyze. But the chief benefit of this question type is how easy it is for the respondent to answer. However, the downsides are not knowing why the customer said Yes or No, and not being able to record any nuances between these two extremes.

2 examples of yes or no questions
  • Were you satisfied with your experience today?
  • Did our product/service meet your expectations?

Scale questions

Scale questions are perhaps the most common form of CSAT survey question. The analysis is almost as fast as with yes/no responses. It’s also the principal means of determining a CSAT score. The benefit of asking scale questions is richer and more nuanced insights against a spectrum rather than opposing extremes. Done correctly, they should achieve the same high response rate as a yes/no CSAT survey question.

Using scale questions means you can aggregate CSAT scores to see how satisfied a wide range of customers are. This can be used for practically any aspect of the customer journey.

4 examples of scale questions
  • How satisfied were you with your experience today? (3, 4 or 5-point responses from most satisfied to most dissatisfied)
  • How would you rate your experience with Helen today? (3, 4 or 5-point responses from most satisfied to most dissatisfied)
  • How satisfied were you with your experience today on a scale of 1 to 5?
  • I am very satisfied with my experience today (response options ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree)

Multiple choice questions

Multiple choice questions are helpful to segmenting customer groups so you can understand what kind of customer is most satisfied and which ones you need to work on. They will also tell you more about individual customers.

3 examples of multiple choice questions
  • Which best describes your job role?
  • What was your reason for your visit to the store/website/service centre today? 
  • Which of our products/services have you purchased from us in the past?

Open-ended questions

Like multiple choice questions, open-ended questions don’t help you calculate CSAT scores. However, they unearth the most valuable customer feedback and tell you an incredible amount about satisfaction levels and drivers. The drawback with open-ended questions is response rate – most customers prefer not to invest the time (even if less than 1 minute) to participate. They also tend to be those customers who either have something very negative or very positive to say, which is itself a form of self-selecting bias.

All that being said, open-ended questions should be part of your CSAT toolkit. Consider using in combination with other question types e.g. starting with a scale question, and then posing an open-end question to uncover reasons why. 

2 examples of open-ended questions
  • What could we have improved on/done better?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve XYZ?

There are more CSAT survey question examples to explore here.

How to act on CSAT feedback

We should begin this section by reiterating the maxim that measuring CSAT is pointless if you aren’t going to act on CSAT data. This is where the wheels meet the road. All your efforts to maximize engagement with a CSAT feedback collection and scoring process depend on what you do next.

Firstly, you’re missing a trick if you fail to acknowledge and show gratitude for the participation of customers in your CSAT surveys. They didn’t have to give feedback. One might even argue that ignoring the goodwill of your customers in providing CSAT data is counterproductive. Do not preside over customer satisfaction surveys that spread customer dissatisfaction!  

Secondly, customers are entitled to understand what you plan to use their feedback for next. This can be included along with the acknowledgement. It’s a good news story to tell, in that you’re reassuring them that feedback will be used to directly influence improvements in your organization. A case of finding out about customer satisfaction in order to improve customer satisfaction. You might also wish to include a brief disclaimer about data protection, with links to relevant policies.

Thirdly, there is little to be gained by confronting specific kinds of CSAT feedback without a plan for dealing with it in advance. You risk failing to respond appropriately to customers, spreading panic internally, and missing valuable opportunities to learn and improve.

This plan should include:

  • How to respond to different kinds of feedback
  • How to prepare CSAT data for analysis purposes
  • How to report CSAT data

How to respond to different kinds of CSAT feedback

Let’s break this down into a timeline view of receiving and then acting upon CSAT feedback. In this instance, we’re talking about an individual piece of CSAT survey feedback from a single customer.

  1. CSAT feedback is received.
  2. An automated acknowledgement is sent. Ideally this should be immediate.
  3. Decision: does the CSAT feedback warrant making immediate contact with the customer? For example, a customer giving “very dissatisfied” feedback. If so:
    1. Does the feedback need to be escalated or alerted to specific individual’s internally?
    2. What is an acceptable time period for issuing a response? Something like 1–2 hours would seem appropriate.
    3. What form should the response take (e.g. is an email OK, or would a phone call be better)? 
    4. What should the response say (as a starting point)?
  4. Decision: what, if anything, does the CSAT feedback tell us about other action/s that may need to be taken? For example, in response to an employee’s behavior. If so:
    1. Who does the feedback need to be escalated or alerted to?
    2. What is an acceptable time period for taking action? 
    3. What action should be taken?

The response planner below maps out the process in greater detail. 

Responding to negative CSAT feedback

As alluded to in our timeline above, negative customers warrant a rapid response. This could be a golden opportunity to prevent a customer from churning. And it could have only a narrow time window to do it in.

The best advice is to follow this simple 3-step approach:

  1. Apologize, even if you aren’t sure it was your fault or not
  2. Start finding out from the customer what went wrong
  3. Tell them your intention to fix it to their satisfaction

Successfully rescuing a customer in this way can have a deeper impact than just safeguarding their revenue for a period. Rather than putting off the inevitable churn that may come later, addressing a failure can reset, restore and rejuvenate the customer relationship. The phenomenon is known as the service recovery paradox, and shows that loyalty and satisfaction can improve to a higher level than if the failure never occurred. Read more about it here.  

Responding to positive CSAT feedback

Why should you only respond to negative CSAT feedback? Isn’t there a case for responding to positive CSAT feedback too?

Yes there is. Positive CSAT feedback is a hot lead on so many levels. For example:

  • Getting in touch to find out what went so well. It might be instructive toward improvements you could make to benefit all customers.
  • Inviting them to participate in marketing activities like a case study. Or at the very least, encourage them to leave a review and share their feedback on social media.

In most cases, CSAT survey feedback helps build an overall picture that then invites action decisions periodically rather than in response to an individual customer. This is dealt with in the next section of this guide.

CSAT analysis 

Overall CSAT score is commonly tracked over time as a principal business KPI. This can be a general CSAT score for the organization/brand, and/or specific products and services. CSAT score/s can then be plotted onto a chart showing historical time intervals.

The simplest and most high-level data split would be breakdown of CSAT responses by response option. This would show the modal score – in other words the most common response option. For example, irrespective of the CSAT score you calculate, this split would show that ‘most customers were somewhat satisfied’.

As stated above, amassing a large set of CSAT data over time will show trends that warrant potential action. Remember, CSAT measures satisfaction which itself is a measure of how well expectations have been met. According to the precise questions used, CSAT scores can therefore indicate where improvements and changes may be necessary.

Some of the sorts of actions that might arise from collecting long-term CSAT data include:

  • Using CSAT data from different stores/offices/locations to see which has the highest CSAT scores and then drilling down to learn why and take action accordingly
  • Comparing CSAT data as it applies to customers helped by individual customer support agents, to target rewards to top performers, inform training programs and direct extra coaching where necessary.
  • Applying CSAT data to identify and remove points of friction in the customer journey
  • Making changes to product and service features, designs and availability in response to CSAT data 
  • Adjusting brand, advertising and marketing activities to better align with customer tastes as borne out in CSAT resultsUsing CSAT to revise service definitions, SLAs and pricing to meet changing customer expectations

Another option is to correlate CSAT scores with other customer data. For example:

  • Comparing CSAT scores and NPS scores from the same customers
    • This could indicate the ‘tipping point’ in CSAT rating where positive sentiment also equates to a propensity to recommend
  • Showing CSAT scores according to purchasing habits
    • This could show you more about what the most satisfied customers have in common in terms of items purchased, frequency of visit, time of day, revenue/volume, etc.
  • Showing CSAT scores according to age, gender, location, etc.
    • As above but with demographic insights that could influence future marketing and communications targeting

If your CSAT survey supports asking follow-up questions to determine drivers for satisfaction rating, these will be incredibly valuable at the analysis stage. For example, showing the top reasons why customers are dissatisfied or satisfied.

CSAT reporting

CSAT reporting is a key element in any CSAT program. As we’ve established, this reporting data is of immense value internally, but can also be used externally to communicate a transparent view of your commitment to customer-centricity.

CSAT reporting should be as real-time and up to date as possible, to support decision making. It is also advisable to integrate CSAT with other customer datasets and KPIs to maximize insights. Using rich data visualisation, i.e. in the form of a dashboard, will also make CSAT insights as digestible and interactive as possible. 

We also recommend as part of the reporting process:

  • Using widgets to surface key CSAT data (e.g. trending CSAT score) onto management dashboards and assigned web pages in real time.
  • Configuring email alerts to notify key individuals of data thresholds and triggers (e.g. CSAT score falls to a certain level, more than a certain number of negative CSAT scores in a row are received). This is in addition to setting up alerts relating to individual CSAT responses that are very positive or very negative

A basic CSAT report template could include the following:

  • Current overall CSAT score
  • Number of CSAT responses in period
  • Number of “satisfied” CSAT responses
  • Last 5 positive comments associated with CSAT surveys
  • Last 5 negative comments associated with CSAT surveys
  • Industry sector CSAT benchmark
  • Latest known CSAT score of primary competitor/s

More granular CSAT reports could then be produced:

  • By customer-facing agent
  • By customer-facing team
  • By product/service
  • By interval
  • By location/branch/site

By correlating data with other systems, further reports could include:

  • CSAT score by demographic
  • CSAT score by LTV
  • CSAT score by length of customer tenure
  • CSAT trend vs. other KPI (e.g.) NPS trend

How to improve your CSAT score

Working out your CSAT score for the first time is an exercise in discovering the truth. It can be pleasantly surprising or a terrible shock. It could be just as you expected. But unless it’s 99 or 100, you or at least someone else in your organization are going to want it to be higher!

The most logical way to do that is to make your customers more satisfied. If things were that straightforward, you’d have done that already. Here are 5 ways to engineer your way to a higher CSAT score.

  • Get more feedback from more customers

If your CSAT score is low, it might not be because too many dissatisfied customers are telling you about their lousy experience. It might be because too many happy or “so-so” customers just aren’t engaging with your CSAT surveys. 

Rest assured that very unhappy customers don’t need much motivation to get on your case about it. Probably more than the equivalently positive ones. Look at your data and see how many “just OK” or “middle of the road” responses you’re getting. You might need to try harder to make your CSAT survey so devastatingly fast and simple to complete that they get engaged and pull your average CSAT score up! 

  • Tweak your CSAT question/s

People won’t answer questions if they don’t feel they apply to them. This is crucial to maximizing response rate which – as we’ve established – is likely to pull up your overall CSAT score.

Think about your use of language. Are you being too stuffy and impersonal? Are you confusing your customers? Nobody on planet earth speaks to another person with a question like “please indicate your level of satisfaction” so cut that kind of stuff out of your CSAT survey. Be more natural as in, “how did we do today?” Or just ask different questions to discover new feedback on specific things.

  • Track some other customer metrics besides CSAT

CSAT is a great tool for finding out what to improve. You need as much customer intel as you can get if you’re going to make customers more satisfied and increase CSAT score.

So track a few more customer metrics besides just CSAT. If you aren’t already, look at NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CES (Customer Effort Score) which are both very complementary to CSAT. NPS will draw you closer to understanding customer loyalty. CES is about learning how to be easier to do business with.  

Just be careful not to flood your customers with surveys left, right and center. Each has their own optimum timing so as to avoid conflict.

  • NPS vs. CSAT

NPS and CSAT are the most widely used CX metrics. But which is better? The answer lies in understanding what NPS and CSAT are each for. Also, how they complement one another rather than conflict.

NPS, or Net Promoter Score, is the KPI for measuring customer loyalty. CSAT measures customer satisfaction. Is there a causal link? Well, it’s completely plausible that a highly satisfied customer would therefore be motivated to show greater loyalty. Likewise, a customer scoring an organization highly on the NPS is likely to be very satisfied with their experience. But neither is not enough to establish causality. 

For example, a customer that suffered a terrible experience today could still decide that an organization is – in the round – worthy of recommendation. And a customer who felt minded to give a low NPS score may have done so despite being highly satisfied with some aspect of that organization’s product or transaction.   

There’s something else going on here. NPS is a measure of what customers are likely to do next, whereas CSAT is a measure of how they are feeling right now. By asking a question targeted at the future, NPS is a more reliable indicator of intent. By the same token, CSAT does a better job of quantifying the performance of an organization in meeting customer expectations.

  • Act on all customer feedback faster

This one is easy in theory but harder in practice. Elsewhere in this guide we’ve focused on the importance of following up and closing the loop on CSAT responses where fast action makes a difference. This takes resources, but the ROI is clear. You stand to save more customers from churning and can make a lasting impression of customers who need some TLC – meeting them where their expectations should be.

All of this should feed back into your CSAT score, albeit with some time lag. CSAT score improvements are unlikely to happen overnight and this could be a slow-burner. But it makes such good business sense, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start doing it sooner.

  • Map the customer journey to prioritize improvements

When was the last time you walked a mile in a customer’s shoes? Experiencing your own organization through a customer’s eyes is called mystery shopping and this is the general idea behind mapping out the journey your customers go on.

Mapping the customer journey will reveal all the touchpoints where customer interactions happen. Each of these is a chance to reduce inefficiency and friction and spread a little joy. Each is also a golden opportunity to learn more about CSAT and the customer experience as a whole. Pinpoint these as potential quick-wins that could make a dramatic difference to your CSAT score.

Start Sending CSAT Surveys Today

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