How to Define Customer Satisfaction and Measure it

In this article, we talk about just that: how you can define customer satisfaction and the methods to measure it.


Sara Staffaroni

October 27, 2019

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Defining customer satisfaction is not easy. On the surface, you think you know what it means to have a satisfied customer. However, if you dig a little deeper, it would be difficult to say, emphatically, what makes them satisfied.  

Think about gyms. They may assume that if someone doesn’t cancel their membership that they’re satisfied, but we know that’s not the case. There’s an entire episode of Friends dedicated to that very conundrum⁠—canceling a gym membership is a very big ordeal.

The only way to really have an exact answer is to measure Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). Before you can do that, it’ll probably serve you well to define the customer satisfaction metric. In this article, we talk about just that: how you can define Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and the methods to measure it.

Definition of customer satisfaction

As we mentioned above, it seems like it should be really simple to define what customer satisfaction is. Really, customer satisfaction is a reflection of how a customer feels about your company. It's the comparison between customer expectations and the type of experience they actually receive from your brand.  Is there customer loyalty or not in your customer base?

Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with great customer experience. In fact, satisfaction goes a long way⁠—just a 10% increase in a company’s CSAT score leads to a 12% increase in trust from customers. If your customer satisfaction efforts don't meet customer expectations, then you're bound to see a lot of churns. 

However, this metric could be influenced by a number of things. If they think your price is fair for the service you offer, they may say they’re satisfied. Or, perhaps they like the way they were treated when interacting with an employee of your company, so they’re satisfied. 

That’s where it can get tricky when you try to define customer satisfaction. 

What aspect of your business are you referring to when you’re measuring? It’s very possible someone could be satisfied with the product, but not the service. 

Does that automatically mean they’re not satisfied as a whole? It’s tough to say. 

Defining what customer satisfaction is for your company can help reduce some of that confusion.

Measuring your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

This is where tools like a customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) come into play. They are a way you can measure whether you have satisfied customers or not. It’s very popular because it’s easy to send, and easy to interpret the responses, since it’s only a one question survey.

If you’re not familiar, CSAT is a metric used to measure the degree to which a customer is happy with a product, service, or experience. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is assessed by asking customers: “How would you rate your overall satisfaction” with your company and its products, services, and interactions.

A five-point scale is most commonly used, with options very unsatisfied, unsatisfied, neutral, satisfied, and very satisfied. Translate each response into a number from 1 to 5, and your CSAT score can be easily calculated. 

There are two ways companies can calculate CSAT: an average of 1-5 or by focusing in on the 4-5 responses. 

GetFeedback recommends using this formula: (Number of  4 and 5 responses) / (Number of total responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers. 

While you can use CSAT as an average, that isn’t as useful as calculating the percentage of those customers who consider themselves satisfied. If you stop and think about it, that makes sense—the metric is looking at the percentage of happy customers specifically.

Some organizations use a seven-point scale for more precision, while others prefer a three-point scale for simplicity to help improve response rates. 

The final score is typically represented as a percentage of the maximum. With a five-point scale, for example, a CSAT rating of 80% means that the majority of customers are giving a satisfied rating (4 out of 5).

Along with CSAT surveys, there are also a few other types of customer loyalty surveys you can use to measure customer sentiment. The two most common surveys beside CSAT are NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CES (Customer Effort Score). 

For more on these surveys, see our free customer loyalty metrics guide.

Each survey has its uses and places it performs the best. That said, only a CSAT is explicitly interested in measuring satisfaction. With that in mind, it’s probably the best option to use.  

Distributing customer satisfaction surveys

So, now that you’re aware of the different options you can use to measure customer satisfaction you may be interested in some strategies for distributing your CSAT survey. After all, a survey is only useful if it gets responses. 

  1. Follow-up quickly (but not too quickly): Have you noticed that when you talk to a representative on the phone they want you to take a survey right away? That’s because it’s when the interaction will be freshest in your memory. However, if it’s for a product or service, it would be wise to wait a bit so the customer can get some experience using the product. 

  2. Be specific: f you’ve ever worked in support you’re no stranger to seeing a negative score on a CSAT response and feeling your heart drop when you see it’s related to you. You hesitantly look at the response only to find that their issue was with a feature you’re missing and not the service you provided. In order for data to be useful, you need to be explicit when asking for feedback. Make sure the language of the survey isn’t ambiguous so you know the score is relevant. You need specifics if you’re going to improve your CSAT score.

  3. Implement the feedback: The best currency you have with customers is if you can prove their voice matters. We all get a ton of surveys and it’s pretty common not to answer because we don’t think the company actually cares about our opinion. There are a few ways to show that’s not the case, but the best solution is to make changes based on the feedback you get. Once customers realize their voices are being heard, they’ll be more likely to share.

Just like defining customer satisfaction, measuring it also has its own nuances. Practice and iterating on the process will help you improve and optimize for the future.

So, if it doesn’t go exactly as planned right away, don’t be discouraged. There’s always room for improvement

Where to deploy a customer satisfaction survey in the customer journey 

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) customer loyalty metric is both a relationship metric and a touchpoint metric.

It’s a relationship metric in the sense that the customer satisfaction survey can be used to evaluate the overall customer relationship/customer satisfaction and end-to-end experience.

And as a touchpoint metric, it can be used to capture feedback after individual customer interaction with different points of the customer journey.

For instance, you should use a customer satisfaction survey to measure the experience during the beginning of the customer journey, which includes the discovery and exploration stage. Here your customer is deep into the research phase, trying to learn about your brand and comparing it with others like it. So, for example, you could ask how satisfied they were with the ability to find answers to their questions on your product page. 

The customer satisfaction survey is also great for evaluating the overall experience during the purchasing stage, especially for B2B companies.

As well as for measuring the performance and quality of a product or service and the satisfaction of a complex support need.


Defining customer satisfaction may seem like it’s pretty straightforward. It’s just how satisfied customers are with you, right? Well, yes, kind of.

There are many different aspects of your business strategy, so your customer could be satisfied with one part and not another. Figuring out those different areas will help you build a better all-around customer experience, satisfy existing customers, and establish more loyal customers that will praise your brand via word of mouth.  

Once you know the areas you want to get feedback on, you’ll need to create a way to measure that sentiment. There are a few different types of surveys you could consider. Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) are the most common three.

Though, if you’re measuring satisfaction, we think CSAT is the best option as it gets right to the point and is what the goal of the whole survey is. 

Remember, a customer satisfaction survey is only useful if you can get responses from your existing customers. First, when collecting customer data be sure to send out the CSAT survey quickly after the interaction. Next, be explicit about your customer satisfaction measurement so the respondent knows and the data is useable. Ambiguous data isn’t very helpful. Last, implement the customer feedback you’re given. When customers know their voices matter, they’ll be more willing to share. 

When you learn more about your customers, you learn more about your business. So, take the time to get to know your customers deeper. When you do, you’ll be able to better serve them and create a clearer path to success.

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