What to Do if You Have a Poor CSAT Score

Detailed list of steps to take to improve your poor Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and optimize customer experience (CX).


Jay Baer

August 26, 2019

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“How was your day today?”—that question is about as ordinary as they come.  

It’s a basic and seemingly benign thing to say, right? But by asking that question, we get a quick sense of how someone’s day went, and we have an idea of where to take the conversation next.

If someone’s day was “OK,” maybe we try to understand if it was really OK or if it was actually not OK. If someone’s day was “good” but an eye roll follows, perhaps we don’t believe the response. If someone says they had the BEST. DAY. EVER., we ask what happened to make it so.

The mechanism at work when asking the question “How was your day today?” is similar to the mechanism at work in a Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). Of all the satisfaction surveys out there, it’s easy to argue the CSAT is the most straightforward.

A CSAT is a single question presented to a customer at a single moment, or moments, throughout a customer experience to gauge satisfaction. Customers respond by answering that question on a scale of 1–5. 

When a customer tells you that her satisfaction level is low, you try to do the same thing you would if your wife told you she had a bad day: you’d try to find out why and see if there was something you could do to fix it.

The expectation is not even

Over the last decade, our customers have grown to expect more from the companies they do business with. This trend is true across industries, but the pace of change varies. While people expect more from their bank, barista, and bariatric surgeon, what they expect is not congruent.  

Industry matters. This is because, as a consumer, you’ve experienced buying a car, or ordering a latte, or making an appointment with your doctor a number of times. There’s a standard in each of these interactions, and that standard has likely caused you as a customer to pause and wonder if something can be done differently or better to improve the interaction.

Not to mention, the relationship customers have with each of these businesses is different. Speed in and out of your doctor’s office might not be the most important factor in that experience. You might prioritize communication style and assurance that you understand the details of your visit. When you buy a car, the experience may be improved by having a less aggressive salesperson. The experience differs, the stakes differ, the expectations differ.

That’s why it’s important to understand how you measure up within your industry. The groundwork of expectation has been laid by many businesses before you and will continue to be built by many businesses after you. What do customer expectations look like in your industry? Take a look:

CSAT industry standard index 2
CSAT industry standards index chart 1

Click here to download the PDF version. 

Now you know how your CSAT can stand relative to your peers, but I want you to remember one very important thing: Comparing yourself to your peers or simply holding yourself to an industry-standard isn’t the best measure of performance.

In 2018, car brands Lexus and Volvo tied as the number one luxury brand in the American Customer Satisfaction Index Automobile Report with a score of 85. Those two contenders led the category. They became the brands to defeat or at least be like. At the same time, a CSAT score of 85 means there’s room for improvement even for the companies at the top of the heap. Customers remain unsatisfied. Is that the end goal? To get a score that’s good enough? Or is the end goal to continue to improve? 

I would argue the goal is to continue to improve. Your customers are being trained by the greatest companies in the world. Their expectations are not necessarily being set by what you do or what your industry does. They’re being set by what Amazon, Zappos, or Ritz Carlton does.  What happens in your category is only part of the equation. You’ve got to be great period, not just in your industry.


Responding to your CSAT Score  

One of the things that makes a CSAT score so valuable is its simplicity. Because a question is asked immediately after a customer has an interaction with your business, it’s easy to pinpoint how well that interaction is performing.  

CSAT’s simplicity also makes it easy to implement across many touchpoints of the customer journey.

For example, content and education-based businesses are using CSATs to understand the value of an ebook or a blog post by administering a survey after a user has consumed information. On a scale of 1–5, how helpful was this article? Or, on a scale of 1–5, did this article help you learn more about our business’s products and services?

In this case, CSAT survey responses give immediate and direct feedback about the effectiveness of information, and the business knows whether or not it needs to make changes and exactly where to make them.

Where the CSAT survey falls short is in its simplicity. With the CSAT, customers are responding on a scale. They aren’t providing specific feedback. While a business understands what needs to be improved, it may not always understand why it needs to be improved based on a CSAT alone.

If your CSAT score isn’t where you want it to be then it’s time to get to work.

Reasons you might have a poor CSAT score

While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the leading causes for customer dissatisfaction organized by internal factors (things you’re doing that aren’t visible to the customer) followed by external factors (things that are visible to your customer).

Let’s start with internal factors.

CSAT how to respond to poor CSAT score infographic 1

Click here to download PDF version of the list. 

Here are the external factors to consider.

Jay-B.-CSAT-blog-post (2

Click here to download PDF version of the list. 

Use these questions to do your own analysis—to turn your CSAT score inside out, upside down—and to really look them from your customer’s perspective. Improvements in customer experience will yield improvements in your CSAT score by heightening satisfaction.

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About the guest author

Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert

Jay Baer is the founder of Convince & Convert, a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and emcee, host of the award-winning Social Pros podcast, and the author of six books including his newest: Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth. Connect with him: convinceandconvert.com | @convince

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