Every business wants their customers to be happy with them. But this doesn’t always happen. Some customers swear by your brand, some are indifferent, and others want nothing more than to yell at you (and even spread their disapproval across their network).
These differences of opinion are inevitable. The question is: how many of your customers are happy and how many aren’t? And, most of all, why?
That’s where CSAT comes in.
First, what does csat stand for? CSAT is short for customer satisfaction. It’s a measure of how happy your customers are with your product, services, and brand.
CSAT scores are popular metrics in customer success. You can administer the so-called CSAT surveys to gauge your customers’ opinions on a number of topics, including their training and onboarding sessions, their buying process, and their perception of your products or services.
You can also visualize the progress of customers’ CSAT scores across time. For example, imagine 60 percent of your customers give you a positive score right after they purchase, then 80 percent do after implementation, then only 50 percent when they seek out customer support. This is how you know which parts of the customer experience need improvement.
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You’ve probably heard of Net Promoter Score as a proxy for customer satisfaction, too. While CSAT and NPS are based on the same premise, they do have differences. For example, some of the key ones are shown in the comparison table below:
|Is more concerned with customer loyalty (how able your company is to retain customers)||Is more concerned with customer satisfaction (how happy customers are with their experiences with your brand)|
|Administered quarterly or annually||Administered after specific significant events|
|Asks one standard question (“How likely is it for you to recommend our company?”)||Asks different questions each time depending on what you want to know (“How was your training process?” or “How was your buying experience?”)|
|Is calculated as happy customers (promoters) minus unhappy customers (detractors)||Is calculated as the percentage of happy customers (promoters)|
|Scale of 1 to 10 usually||Scale can be anything, including 1 to 7 or 1 to 10|
|Can have a negative value||Can only have positive value|
|Average scores are calculated too (e.g. average score of 6 out of 10)||Average scores are calculated too (e.g. average score of 6 out of 10)|
For example, an NPS score of 50 percent shows the net benefit of promoters, after detractors have been accounted for. A CSAT score of 50 percent means that half of your survey respondents gave you a positive score.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index provides a recurring list of benchmark values for customer satisfaction. Every year, ACSI publishes the average scores by industry. Here are the updated numbers from 2019 (2020 scores are still being collected):
|Automobiles and Light Vehicles||79|
|Specialty Retail Stores||78|
|Department and Discount Stores||76|
ACSI also regularly updates the benchmarks by sector:
As we indicated in the table of differences between CSAT and NPS, CSAT is measured after significant events. Here are some instances where a CSAT survey would make sense:
In the SaaS space, customer training is critical. Customers need these sessions to learn how to use the software. Without adequate training, they’ll be forced to fumble through product features and there’s a real risk they won’t get full value from the product, causing them to churn.
So, it’s important to design effective trainings. And to do that, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. That’s where CSAT comes in.
Our Director of Customer Success, Melissa McMillan, says:
“After trainings, we ask questions like “how do you feel your training went? Did you get what you needed out of it? Do you feel like you're comfortable and ready to go in and use the product?” If not, we can ask them for feedback on how to make it better.”
Training is only part of setting up customers for success. Onboarding has multiple steps, such as implementation, admin and agent training, and technical calls to troubleshoot after setup.
“Maybe they’re trying to put our chatbot at a specific page on the website and it’s not responding the way they expect it to,” mentions McMillan. “And there's going to be a little bit of an optimization period where we're tweaking and getting everything exactly the way the customer wants it.”
So, after these steps are complete, customer feedback is really valuable. If the onboarding process goes wrong, then you have an unhappy customer on your hands. So, make sure to send a CSAT survey after onboarding. McMillan says:
“The week after [onboarding is complete] can be a little hectic, so we give it a week or so. Then we'll send a post-onboarding survey to ask how they felt about the process.”
Here are some CSAT questions to include here (keep in mind that it’s fine to ask only one question per survey, because asking too many questions may cause you to get fewer responses):
Customers go through complex journeys till the point of purchase and beyond. Nevertheless, the point of purchase is still a very important event. It encapsulates the reasons a customer decides to buy.
So, you could send a CSAT survey via email right after a customer has placed an order (or even received their order).
The questions you use will vary depending on your focus. You could simply ask a customer if they’re happy with the purchasing process and provide a blank field for them to leave their feedback. Or, you can ask multiple questions about price, site navigation, delivery time, and ask the customer to rate each of them with one to five stars.
Here’s an example from Amazon:
Like we mentioned earlier, customers go through convoluted journeys before they even arrive at the purchase – and they continue having multiple touchpoints with your brand, especially if you make efforts to engage them.
So, every touchpoint is potentially important. Choose which matters most to you and make sure you get feedback about it from customers. For example, you may have recently launched a new knowledge base and you want to know how helpful it is. You can set up a CSAT questionnaire that pops up when visitors read a particular article. Or, you can send surveys after customers navigate the product section on your site.
Whenever there’s something new happening, that’s an opportunity for you to send event-based CSAT surveys, too. In retail, you may have implemented new ways of engaging customers, such as AR. You can measure CSAT of customers who actually used it.
In SaaS, the concept is similar. McMillan provides some examples of event-based CSAT surveys:
“When we release a new feature or maybe a new piece of software, with several new features, we send a survey a month or so after. I also like to send a survey to ask things like “Hey, have you played around with new features X, Y, and Z? What did you think about them? Are they hard or easy to use and were they actually useful to your business?”
So, think about what you want to know about your customer satisfaction and build a strategy around this. That’s how you’ll determine when to send CSAT surveys and what questions to ask.
You will occasionally have to report on CSAT scores – internally or to the board of directors. It’s good to provide context, to say, for example, that our average CSAT is 80 percent, while our industry average is 75 percent.
But, you shouldn’t stop there. Data is just data, unless you do something about it. The value of measuring CSAT after significant events is that you have direct feedback telling you where the problems are.
For example, if your CSAT score after purchases is high, while your CSAT after training is low, you have an indication that customers initially like your product, but you’re not teaching them how to use it properly.
The obvious action to take here is to reach out to customers. If someone has given you a six out of 10 for a training, you can follow up and ask them for more details.
“We can reach out and say ‘Really sorry to hear that. It doesn't feel like we got you as prepared as you needed to be. I'm happy to do a refresher training, and let's talk about what additional things we can help you with,” says McMillan.
And how does that scale if you have too many customers to reach out to individually? McMillan says automation works. With tools like Delighted, you can send an automated email to customers that give scores of, say, six or lower.
Based on the CSAT scores and the feedback you get, you can take the appropriate corrective actions. For example, if you have a software like ChurnZero, you can set up pop ups with CSAT questions, but also helpful solutions.
“It could say, for example, ‘Hey, have you seen this article or have you seen that you could do this and that? Here's a little guide with a link if you want to check it out,” says McMillan.
The same thing could happen at other touchpoints. For example, if you have a lot of customers giving low CSAT scores after placing an order, you can look to improve the checkout process. This could be through better UI, a pop up with information about the checkout steps, not requiring customers to sign up to place an order, or adding effective live chat to help customers on the spot. It will all depend on the more granular feedback you gather.
Just like every metric, CSAT shouldn’t be seen on its own. Especially because, as McMillan, highlights, CSAT surveys capture a mood instead of a permanent perception.
“We might ask someone ‘how was your training?’ and they give it a five,” she says. “But in the quarterly NPS survey, they give us a nine because they love the product. They just didn't love that training session.”
So, combine the two metrics to get a more accurate picture of what your customers think.
“Satisfaction” is, in itself, a lukewarm word. It’s the bare minimum we expect from a service. This means that a high CSAT score doesn’t necessarily mean you are maximizing customer engagement or experience.
Make sure you act on feedback to go beyond satisfaction. As McMillan says: “Negative feedback is almost like a support ticket.” You need to act on it to make sure customers don’t churn. But, positive feedback is more than a pat on the back – it’s an opportunity.
That’s because it tells you how to make as many of your current and future customers as happy as possible. Based on this kind of feedback, you can implement customer engagement strategies that don’t just satisfy customers, but truly delight them.
Nikoletta is a Content Specialist at Acquire. She's a writer and editor with an avid interest in data, tech, communication, and the customer journey.