Customer Satisfaction dial

Understanding your customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is just the start… Not the end.

We have the gloriously named Santorio Santorio to thank for the invention of the thermometer in about 1625. Prior to that, there was no consistent or reliable way of measuring temperature. 

Today, using this invention is – as with many measurement devices – a total waste of time and effort. That is, unless you actually do something with the information, like informing a decision. Also, using the device to measure what output occurs when you input something differently.

And so it is with all the metrics relating to customer experience. Measuring this stuff is of limited value unless you have a plan to physically move the dial. Clearly “improving what customers experience” would do that, duh! But there are some neat ways of improving the score too. Ways that aren’t necessarily about spending loads more time and effort giving a better service.

We’ve previously looked at how to move the needle on NPS. Here, we’re tackling another of the big ones: the customer satisfaction score (CSAT). The following are 5 easy ways to improve your CSAT scores that you can start implementing now.

1. Get feedback from more people

customer feedback snapshot

Imagine you’ve just had a terrible customer experience. They’ve been rude, unsympathetic, tin-eared. You are mad as hell. How motivated are you to pen a 1-star review? Or write a complaint email? Or fire-off a poison-soaked social media post? Probably pretty darn motivated.

Now imagine the opposite; you have been blown away by amazing service. Are you equally motivated to write a thank-you card? Post a glowing review? Maybe… 

Negative experiences motivate people to be proactive about sharing that with the company that failed them. What you tend to find, even when customers are invited to ‘react’ to feedback triggers, is that low response rates are dominated by extreme feedback. Some great, most terrible. That could mean that your CX is mostly terrible; that CSAT is mostly poor.

It’s more likely to mean that you aren’t getting a representative picture of all experiences.

Think of all those customers whose experience was OK, fine, ‘meh’. Are you collecting these? You need to, because they could represent 20, 50, 80 percent of your customers. 

The effect described above is called ‘non-response bias’ and it crops up whenever feedback systems only manage a low response rate. In these cases, the bad experiences typically make your CSAT levels look worse than if everyone rated you. If you want a higher customer satisfaction score, just ask more people. 

2. Ask different questionscustomer questions

Surveys are a drag. If you’ve already switched from ‘death-by-SurveyMonkey’ to a nimbler, more digestible 1-click survey then you’re already winning. But don’t get complacent. Even single questions can feel automated and impersonal. Seriously, what sort of human asks: “please indicate your level of satisfaction?” Try using more natural language like, “how did we do today?” Or just ask different questions to discover new feedback on specific things.

We’re big fans of Seth Godin, the business and marketing expert. He was among the first to really get his head around how feedback surveys are perceived by customers. 

Here’s what his says about survey questions:

“Make the questions entertaining and not so serious, at least some of them. Boring surveys deserve the boring results they generate. Don’t be afraid to shake up the format.”

So, want to up your customer satisfaction score? Ask different questions to target different things. Be alive to the boredom factor. Ask an interesting, human question (even an edgy one!) rather than the “how satisfied are you?” one…

3. Track a basket of measuresBasket of customers

When it comes to metrics for understanding and acting upon your customers’ experience, there are plenty to choose from. Why restrict yourself to one? There’s plenty of sense in keeping a ‘basket’ of CSAT measures in place. But you’ll need quick and easy feedback mechanisms to fuel real-time intel.

Beyond CSAT itself (“how satisfied are you?”) is NPS, Net Promoter Score (“how likely are you to recommend us?”), and CES, Customer Effort Score (“how easy was getting your task done?”). In fact, there are quite a few beyond that.

Clearly, each of these demands a slightly different questioning approach. You might get very different scores tracking for these different things, so switch it up.

There is a safety warning here, however. Bear in mind that these different metrics have an optimum timing point for being used. NPS is really trying to gauge loyalty and renewal. Asking the likelihood of a customer recommending you makes less sense to a customer you’ve barely onboarded for the first time. But a customer who’s coming up for their 12 months; absolutely.

By contrast, CES is probably best used earliest in the customer experience. New customers will have expectations about how easy it might be dealing with you. And CES tests how you stacked up. CSAT logically comes a little after that; once customers have actually been given the product or service.

If getting higher customer experience scores is the aim, try putting a few different things in your CSAT basket of measures.

4. Jump on feedback right awaycustomer satisfaction score survey

However or whatever you are measuring CSAT-wise, how should you respond to the feedback you receive? Let’s look again at bad feedback and good feedback as extreme examples.

Let’s say a customer responded to your request for a satisfaction reading with a 10/10 rating and gold stars galore. Some might just log that and move on. But that would be to miss out on a fantastic opportunity. Why not reply by asking why the feedback was so positive? And to thank the customer for sharing it. You might even provoke them into being a public reference.

There’s even more justification for acting fast when it’s negative feedback. Contact them to apologize and find out what went wrong. You’ll learn a great deal; you might even recover their confidence in you as a supplier/service provider.

In both positive and negative instances, responding fast should have a net benefit to customer satisfaction. Customers demand respect. They want to be listened to. So show them that you are.

The last word on this is a more general point about getting the kind of trending feedback you can actually act upon. McKinsey’s research found that 93% of CX leaders use a survey-based tool for measuring CX performance but just 6% are confident it enables both strategic and tactical decision making. Start with the answer in mind and build a question to elicit the information you need. Look at patterns in the responses you are getting to tweak your questioning approach. 

Ultimately you are trying to find stuff out so you can make an informed change. Don’t lose sight of that goal and you’re on the way to improving your CSAT metrics.

5. Map the customer journeycustomer journey map

Mapping the customer journey is so, so important. There are lots of touchpoints along the way, each one a chance to excel or fail in the eyes of the customer. Each one also an opportunity to collect in-the-moment feedback to boost your intelligence accuracy.

A good idea is to ‘mystery shop’ your customer journey. Literally, sign up as a customer to go through the same processes that they do. This is incredibly valuable in showing up points of friction you can improve upon to make the experience effortless. By the same token, you can spot opportunities to add ‘magic touches’ that add value, reflect your brand promise and make you really stand out.

Your customer journey map can also inform all the possibilities for injecting feedback requests where it makes sense. For example, there might be a specific aspect of the journey that you don’t know how customers feel about. Or there could be an interaction that serves as an appropriate context for asking for feedback that you’re currently not taking advantage of.

One thing’s for sure – journey mapping can lead directly to improvements that boost customer satisfaction score (CSAT). How? It’s all here in our customer journey mapping guide…

Want to do more than just take the temperature of customer satisfaction and make the mercury rise to a whole new level? Begin your mission to improving CSAT scores with a free Customer Thermometer account. fully functioning account, No CC/payment details needed, No time limit.