Happy businesswomen holding her smartphone, with a checked box on excellent smiley face and rating for a satisfaction survey - customer experience management concept
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Brands' focus on customer satisfaction has shifted into high gear during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Deloitte put it in a 2020 research report on COVID-19 and customer experience, "The two foundations of customer loyalty, trust and confidence, are being put to the test. While we all hope this is a temporary situation, anxiety is high, and people are scared."

One of the ways brand measure success with their customers is Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), a basic measurement of a customer’s satisfaction with a brand’s product and/or services. Marketers and brands can use CSAT to determine a customer’s level of satisfaction at key interaction times, such as the moment of purchase, the onboarding process, a support ticket exchange and a phone or digital conversation with customer service.

“Customer satisfaction is one of those things that must be left up to the customer to define,” said Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics. “Vendors or service providers often have a predetermined definition of what a satisfied customer looks like. The cost of having your own standards can be detrimental to your business because you can't account for the problems you’re blind to. It’s obviously important to have standards, but you should be more concerned with your customers' expectations.”

When Should You Measure Customer Satisfaction?

Marketers should have a basic understanding of CSAT strategies and concepts before exploring deeper ways to measure customer satisfaction and ultimately tailor marketing campaigns around it. Generally, a baseline for a CSAT program would be asking customers their level of satisfaction with a transaction, service product or any interaction with a company and offering answer choices such as:

  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied

Marketers can then take the average for a composite customer satisfaction score.

Deploying CSAT

There is no question companies still turn to CSAT often. According to the CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience 2021 survey, CSAT ranked second (39%) behind bookings, renewals, revenue and/or growth (36%) when CX professionals were asked how their organizations measure digital CX improvement.

The question then becomes: When do I deploy customer satisfaction questions? Of course, there are many interaction points with your customers. Key moments to measure their satisfaction with simple questions include after customer lifecycle moments, prior to renewals or after customer support or education interactions, according to HubSpot’s Alex Birkett. When a meaningful customer lifecycle emerges, strike gold then — and deploy your CSAT questions.

Related Article: What Is Voice of the Customer and What Does it Mean for Customer Experience?

Measuring Professionalism, Knowledge Through CSAT

Brian Slepko, executive vice president of global service delivery for Rimini Street, said a "Client Satisfaction Score" is the most important metric his team uses to benchmark successful completion of support cases. CX teams survey every Rimini Street client at the close of each issue clients raise with the support team to understand their experience with that case.

Customer experience professionals at Rimini Street ask clients to rate them on a score of 1-5, on the following service areas:

  • Level of knowledge
  • Understanding of the issue
  • Professionalism
  • Responsiveness
  • Effective communication
  • Timely resolution
  • Effectiveness of the resolution

Related Article: What You Should Know About Voice of the Customer Survey Questions

CSAT Offers Analysis Over Time

The Client Satisfaction Survey for Rimini Street is the "bedrock of how we measure our effectiveness as a support provider," according to Slepko. These score vectors, he added, remain consistent year over year, giving his teams a cumulative view on service delivery and allowing them to compare and contrast over time.

"If there are changes to our scores, this flags some external factor that needs to be investigated more closely," Slepko said. "It also keeps us focused on maintaining our very high scores." Slepko reported the average score is consistently 4.8–4.9 out of 5.0, where 5.0 is “Excellent” and is based on approximately 33,000 cases closed a year.

Where CSAT Can Be Measured in Real-Time

CSAT is the ultimate test of performance, according to Joseph Ansanelli, CEO and co-founder of Gladly. Are you delivering a customer experience that will keep them coming back? "Positive feedback can be motivating and negative feedback provides an important opportunity to improve," he added.

But when feedback is batched and shared with agents in a weekly meeting with their manager, it's effectiveness is limited, according to Ansanelli. "We're seeing companies integrate feedback into the service experience so advisors can see in real-time the results of their interaction with a customer and use that to inform future conversations," he said. "The feedback is stored not on a ticket but on the customer record."

This also helps agents, he said, who engage with this customer in the future to know where they're starting. "If the last survey yielded a low-star rating, they can start the conversation by acknowledging that things didn't go as well as they could have last time, but they hoped they'd get it right this time," Ansanelli said. "We're also seeing companies move toward a holistic approach to CSAT."

Related Article: Which KPIs Are Right to Measure Your Customer Experience?

Movement for Wholesome Experience Measurement

Ansanelli noted a move for customer experience professionals to survey the entire customer service experience, rather than a single interaction with a brand. "This is an important shift as so many service conversations involve multiple interactions across multiple channels and even potentially multiple agents," he said. "Surveying a customer after one of these can lead to false results, especially if the issue they called about hasn't yet been resolved. Triggering the survey once the entire conversation has been closed is a much more effective way to gauge true customer sentiment."

Infusing AI Into Customer Satisfaction Programs

Slepko and Rimini Street have leveraged Artificial Intelligence (AI) they built to provide better support to internal teams on the front lines with clients, so that they in turn can provide even better support. "With our AI components, each with a specific function as it relates to customer service, we are now able to solve support issues more quickly, which in turn drives customer satisfaction," Slepko added.

The use of AI has changed their approach to problem solving for clients. Because now, instead of looking back on past support issues as a way to improve  customer satisfaction, CX teams can use this information to proactively solve problems, according to Slepko. "We still reach out to every client with a lower than average score to understand what happened and course correct as needed," he said, "but our ideal state is to correct any systematic problems before they actually happen in the first place."

Related Article: 7 Voice of the Customer Metrics You Shouldn't Ignore

Calculating the Responses for Customer Satisfaction Scores

Warren Paull, managing consultant at Commercial Outcomes, said his team uses three measures to track customer satisfaction. 

  • Customer Turnover Rate - This measures customer loyalty through the rate at which acquired customers are leaving or not renewing. Customer turnover is calculated by dividing the lost customers over period by the total number of customers at the end of period.
  • Net Promoter Score - The NPS is a measure of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. It is based on a single question, How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X or product Y or service Z] to a friend or colleague? This question is then scored against a 11-point scale (0=Not at all likely, 10=Extremely likely). Responses between 0-7 are classified as detractors and responses between 9 and 10 as promoters. Net Promoter Score = percentage of promoters minus the percent of detractors.
  • SERVQUAL - This is a measure of the service quality a company provides to its customers. Based on a multi-item survey that takes into account both service expectations and service perceptions it provides an insight into the gap between the service level customers expect and their actual view of the service. 

Difference Between CSAT, NPS, CES

Naturally, CSAT is not the lone method of measuring customer satisfaction. Many brands also use strategies around things like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES).

Each of these deployments have similar approaches. A big difference between CSAT and NPS, is that CSAT measures a user’s satisfaction with a product or service, and NPS measures customer loyalty.

The CES metric defines the effort that a customer has to exert in order to do business with you, reasoning that the less effort that is exerted, the better the experience for the customer. Typically it is phrased like this:

“To what extent do you agree with the following: [Company name] made it easy for me to purchase [what I wanted].”

Customer Satisfaction Index

Want to know where some brands stand with customer satisfaction? The United States takes a deep look into this across many brands and industries with a thorough examination of customer satisfaction via the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The organization measures the satisfaction of U.S. household consumers with the quality of products and services of brands.