How to Use the CSAT Metric in Your CX Program

How to measure your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and use the insight to optimize your customer experience (CX) program.


Jeannie Walters

August 26, 2019

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Let’s talk about customer satisfaction. 

What does it really mean? Is it worth it to track? It’s time to get serious about getting satisfaction. Just like Jagger.

In customer experience (CX) terms, we often dismiss Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measurement as too simple.

Great customer experiences are created by designing and understanding the end-to-end journey of your customer, from before they are aware of your brand all the way through to when they leave you or become your greatest advocate. 

Measuring just a piece of this journey can seem short-sighted or not as powerful as other CX metrics, like Net Promoter Score (NPS).

But I see a place for Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), based on organizational goals, resources, and structure. CX shouldn’t ever be measured by one metric alone. Customers and their experiences are complex and nuanced, so there’s no perfect metric.

The most customer-centric leaders consider what measurements will work best for them, along with other success indicators like business outcomes, lower service costs and more. So consider CSAT as one of many tools available to help you improve your customer’s experience. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a straightforward measurement to use, most widely used in measuring a specific interaction or experience. Satisfaction can also be applied to products or overall relationships between a brand and a customer. We know that “avoidable” customer defection costs US businesses $136 billion a year. Keeping customers satisfied is more than just a nice to have. It’s how we stay in business.

Can CSAT improve customer experience? 

Let’s find out.

How is satisfaction defined?

First, let’s talk about what this word means. Satisfaction is the result when someone feels we’ve met their expectations. Customer experience is a formula of both logic and emotion because the customer is the one who gets to decide if we set expectations the right way and, in turn, if we lived up to them or not. 

Satisfaction is a simple gauge if a brand was able to live up to the expectations. 

Consider your expectations eating at a fast-food chain location versus a fancy restaurant requiring reservations months in advance. Your expectations are vastly different, based on your own perceptions and the brand promise of either fast, cheap food or full dining experience from a five-star chef. Your expectations are what create your feeling of satisfaction. Would you be satisfied with the elegant restaurant if they brought you a paper bag of food in wrappers? Of course not. But the fast-food chain could do the same thing and meet your expectations without issue, leading to a satisfied customer. 

To truly understand customer satisfaction, you must know what expectations you are setting. Your brand promise is shared both explicitly and implicitly. What messages are you sending about the experience your customers can expect with your brand?

What expectations do your customers have? 

It’s easy to tell ourselves stories about what we believe our customers expect, but the best way to find out is to listen to what they are sharing.

Customer complaints often include words like “I expected” or “I was disappointed when…” Those are valuable pieces of information to let you know what their expectations were.

 Pay attention to those clues to really zero in on what expectations customers have. Your front-line employees probably hear those words, too. Invite them into the feedback loop by sharing the complaints and comments they hear from customers.

For more on collecting and taking action on customer feedback, check out our free Voice of the Customer (VoC) guide.

How to measure your Customer Satisfaction Score 

Since satisfaction is so important to measure against customer expectations, it’s key to recognize the economic value here. When experience fails to meet expectations, the loss of revenue can be up to twice as great as the positive results of over delivery. 

Measuring CSAT can be used to determine how a customer feels about the experience overall, parts of the customer journey, or even specific products or services. The question is typically presented to the customer using a 1–5 scale, one being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied

While you can use CSAT as an average, that isn’t as useful as calculating the percentage of those customers who consider themselves satisfied. This is done with a formula to see the percentage of customers who selected very satisfied or somewhat satisfied against the whole of your customers surveyed. 

To calculate your company’s CSAT Score, take the number of satisfied customers (those who selected the top two choices in your scale, which is 4 and 5) and divide that number by the total number of survey responses. Then multiply by 100 to see the percentage of satisfied customers.

Such as: (Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5) / Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers 

See the example below.

how to measure and use the customer satisfaction score csat for cx

Why only consider the percentage of those customers who call themselves satisfied? 

A big reason is that tracking the two highest values from CSAT is the more accurate predictor of customer retention than overall averages. 

The percentage of positive, satisfied customers also shows you very simply the percentage of customers who don’t consider themselves satisfied. If we know 80% of our customers surveyed selected very satisfied or somewhat satisfied, we also know 20% of those who responded did not consider themselves satisfied. That alone is a powerful way to use CSAT. Flip the script on your results and use that as a motivator.


Ways to use CSAT 

Since CSAT is a direct and useful measurement, it’s easy to want to use it everywhere.  CSAT can help you see things at both a micro and macro level. You can ask customers to provide feedback on their satisfaction along their journey.

  • Use CSAT at key points in the sales process. After inbound sales calls, for example, prospects can share how satisfied they were with the conversation.

  • Online surveys can provide insights if your digital experience is meeting customer and prospect needs.

  • Gathering CSAT feedback after a major milestone in onboarding or deployment can help customers feel like they have an avenue for feedback.

  • Introducing new products with follow-up CSAT surveys provides immediate feedback that can prevent longer-term issues.

  • CSAT can also be used for ESAT, Employee Satisfaction. How are employees feeling about a new process or system? 

While that temptation may seem like an easy way to gather feedback, I’d recommend taking a step back and determining where and how it might be most useful for your organization.

Goals for CSAT measurement

There are several ways to use CSAT consistently to help improve your customer’s experience. Do you know what you’re trying to do? It’s not the measuring that makes things happen, it’s what you do with those insights.

Goal 1: Measure a purchase, transaction, support call or another specific experience point.

CSAT can provide a lot of insights around how well your brand met expectations at these key parts of the customer journey. This type of specific interaction is often measured and included in Customer Experience Management. The CSAT score can be used to both address issues with an individual customer and in the overall Voice of the Customer (VoC) program at your organization.

Goal 2: Coach employees.

Measuring CSAT after a store visit, support call, or live chat may show specific feedback to address or patterns with employees. Using this to coach employees and share how to improve their feedback will help improve the experience overall for future customers. 

This can be a powerful way to overcome a common complaint–representatives lacking the knowledge or ability to solve customer issues. (In a recent study, more than a third surveyed stated this was the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience!)

Goal 3: Check in with periodic satisfaction feedback. 

Providing a periodic satisfaction survey to customers, in general, can provide them with the opportunity to share immediate concerns and gather feedback not necessarily related to a specific step in the journey. 

This can be challenging to determine what to do with if the results are not as positive as you’d like them. But if you are just starting to explore customer feedback in general, this is a simple way to get started and then benchmark against in the future.

Customer journey mapping and CSAT scores: a satisfying match

Understanding your customer’s journey through journey mapping will help you identify those pain points to measure, improve and measure again. For example, a journey map may identify customers feel their invoices are too long and hard to understand. That’s a great pain point to measure with a CSAT survey. Start with asking for satisfaction around the clarity of the bill. Use that feedback, along with what they share in the open text field, to create an action plan for improving the clarity of the invoice.

Once those changes are rolled out, measure CSAT around the touchpoint of the invoice again. 

This approach can be used for any touchpoint you identify as a pain point for your customers.

By providing CSAT scores at key moments on the customer journey map, you’ll also be painting a more vivid picture of how your customers feel about your brand. 71% of those who use customer journey maps reported one of the biggest benefits was increased customer satisfaction. It’s truly a win-win.

The Customer Satisfaction Score is a tool in your CX toolkit

Simply put, CSAT is one way to discover how you are meeting your customer’s needs. Using CSAT to determine how customers are feeling at several touchpoints along the journey will help you create a more meaningful experience for them. 

Customers also want to have several ways to provide feedback on their terms. Satisfaction surveys with a place to explain why they are or aren’t satisfied help customers feel heard, especially if they receive acknowledgment and thanks!

Conclusion on CSAT 

To get the most out of a CSAT strategy, remember: 

  • Understand your customer expectations.

  • Review and benchmark CSAT at several points along the journey.

  • Provide open-text fields to get more detail and depth.

  • Share results with your teams and use for coaching and improvement.

Are you satisfied with customer satisfaction? It’s all about what you expect!

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About the guest author 

Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext 

Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and is CEO of Experience Investigators. She is a customer experience speaker, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in assisting all types of companies, including Fortune 500. Specialties include in-depth customer experience evaluations, customer journey mapping, user experience analysis, and leading workshops and training programs. Her mission is: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.™ Connect with her: | @jeanniecw

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