How Effective Is the Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Metric?

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Achieving and maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction is important for a business to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. Your customers’ perceptions of your company or brand affect your reputation and your revenue. Interactions with service desk agents have a direct impact on a number of issues—lifetime customer value, loyalty, profitability and more—and for that reason measurement of customer satisfaction is essential.

But how do you measure “satisfaction?” One person may be satisfied with the service received while another is dissatisfied. Our judgments of what an agent did do or should have done is an arbitrary, cognitive judgment that varies from one person to another.

The Harvard Business Review published a study called “The New Science of Customer Emotions” by Scott Magids and Alan Zorfas of Motista, and Daniel Leemon where they look even more deeply into satisfaction. It reports that customers who are emotionally engaged with an organization are three times more likely to recommend its product or service. They’re three times more likely to buy again, much less price sensitive and less likely to shop around. Best of all, they are 52 percent more valuable than customers who are merely “satisfied.” Findings like these lend another dimension to the search for the best possible measure of each customer’s mindset.

Because satisfied customers are so crucial to the health and profitability of an organization, researchers have developed several approaches that try to capture the elusive “satisfaction” index as a number that can be accurately measured and, most importantly, that is a valid measure of that state of mind.

This article addresses the oldest, most popular and most traditional metric, known simply as CSAT.

What Is Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)?

CSAT is measured by questioning customers using a survey that usually poses no more than three to five questions. The survey asks each customer to rate his or her satisfaction, quite often using a 5-point scale with questions and terms like: How satisfied are you with the service we provided?

A popular interpretation of the CSAT score uses the sum of respondents that answer “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied.” This metric is often stated as a percentage.

Another approach asks respondents to show their agreement or disagreement with various statements: Overall, I am very satisfied with the help I received from the service desk.

Yet another survey design eliminates the third choice altogether. Receiving surveys with “Neutral” or “Neither Agree or Disagree” doesn’t give you any actionable information. Is the customer really indifferent? Some customers do not want to express their feelings or may be unwilling to take the time to think through each response. The 4-point survey forces the respondent to declare his or her opinion of the service received. Such surveys calculate the CSAT metric based on the percentage of respondents who choose either of the two “agreement” or “satisfied” blocks.

Is CSAT Really a Good Measure of Customer Satisfaction?

CSAT may fail to deliver a true indication of customer satisfaction for a couple of reasons.

First, service desk agents generally know that the customer will be asked to complete a survey upon completion of the call. Some agents close the call by asking something like, “Is there any reason you wouldn’t give me a five-star rating?” Such an appeal clearly intends to affect the CSAT score. While interaction analytics software can flag that kind of agent behavior, those service desks that don’t use such tools can find their CSAT scores artificially inflated—especially when the customer empathizes with the agent for some reason.

Second, some argue that CSAT only measures a customer’s short-term judgment about a specific contact; that CSAT doesn’t tell you anything about the long-term perception your customers hold about your organization. Further, any given customer may report high satisfaction on a given day, but low satisfaction on another. Does that reflect on the agents who interacted? Or, does it reflect on the customer’s state of mind on those different days? Like most measurements that try to measure what happens in the human psyche, using a survey to determine customer satisfaction has inherent limitations.

While getting moment-by-moment feedback on individual interactions is useful, service desk managers need a more comprehensive measure of customer satisfaction that looks beyond individual interactions. For instance, how do customers view my organization? How “emotionally engaged” are our customers? For these and related reasons, researchers and marketers have developed additional metrics to measure customers’ perceptions such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Ease of Service (CES).

Impact of Low CSAT Scores

Despite these limitations, CSAT surveys are popular, easy-to-implement and do provide useful information. It’s quite obvious that when customers are dissatisfied the CSAT metric drops and the organization suffers with bad social media reviews that can poison potential new customers and give your competitors an advantage.

How to Monitor CSAT?

Once you have established a method for collecting customers’ perceptions of your company, product or service, you should have CSAT displayed in real-time as well as track it for trend analysis. Additionally, you should track CSAT along with other measures of customer perceptions—metrics like NPS and CES.

Service support managers need a real-time understanding of support center performance and their associated personnel and activities. Additionally, reports on service support performance need to be generated on a routine basis, standardized across multiple support centers and be made available between multiple levels of management.

Therefore, utilizing a performance analytics tool you can proactively monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of your service support centers and make confident business decisions based on real-time data and trending. By connecting to multiple technologies and centrally monitoring all your support centers and staff with a single prescriptive dashboard, you can make proactive decisions to minimize risk and maximize your budget. The customer experience will continually improve by monitoring your resources and the impact they’re making.

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