Customer Satisfaction Scores 101

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores are the backbone of CSAT measurement. Let’s dig into what they are, how to calculate them, and how to use them to great effect.

Before we start, a word of warning. Measuring CSAT in isolation will not help you improve customer satisfaction. If you want to do that, you need to establish why you’re doing it, set a clear goal and then make sure that your CSAT score is part of a much wider measurement strategy.

Head over to how to measure customer satisfaction effectively for the full story.

1

What is a CSAT score?

Simply put, a customer satisfaction score is a metric used to measure how satisfied your customers are. Typically it is measured on a scale of 1-3, 1-5 or 1-7 (although there’s no industry standard).

CSAT scores are captured directly from customers using customer surveys or questionnaires. These are often sent out to customers via email, though they can also be integrated into webforms, in-app or product rating systems, automated phone surveys or collected by live agent capture.

These surveys and questionnaires have a simple goal: to ask customers to score their satisfaction with a product, brand, feature, or service. There’s no set of rules on how the survey questions should be worded. The key point is that they are clear and direct, and crucially have a space to gather context.

Survey example

2

The CSAT score formula

The calculation is as follows: Take the total number of satisfied customers (e.g. those who gave you a score of 4 or above on 1-5 scale), divide by the total number of participants, then multiply the result by 100 to get the percentage.

Total number of satisfied responses
(ratings of 4 or 5)

Total number of responses

x 100

3

What makes a good CSAT score?

Generally, a CSAT score of 70% or higher represents a good score (80% would be considered ‘Gold Standard’). But it’s vital that you put your score in context of the sector you’re in.

If your competitors are all consistently reaching the 80% plus Gold Standard, your 71.5% isn’t doing you any favors.

There are many ways to benchmark yourself against your peers. One quick way is to check the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

4

What is a good scale to use?

As mentioned above, there’s no industry standard here. So we’ve covered the merits and best uses of some different scales on our Measuring CSAT page. 

5

When to measure CSAT

A CSAT score needs to be part of a wider strategy because it doesn’t provide a definitive read on the overall satisfaction of your entire customer base. But what it can do is provide a highly-useful snapshot of how satisfied your customers are at key points of their customer journey.

With that in mind, here are the best times to measure CSAT:

Time-based milestones
Interaction milestones
Product milestones

Many businesses measure CSAT quarterly. This allows them to map CSAT scores against their figures for the previous quarter and set realistic targets for the next one.

A smarter approach is to consider the customer’s timeline using your product or service. For example, if you have a product with a trial period, is there a better time to ask for feedback rather than waiting until the end of the quarter?

These scores can then be synced to your quarterly reporting, rather than the other way around.

Consider your standard contract period, too. The final fifth of a contract is often when your customers get restless—that could mean looking for a new provider or contemplating an upgrade. This makes it a great time to seek CSAT feedback.

If a customer connects with any of your service channels (for example, to troubleshoot an issue) you need to know how well you were able to cater for their needs. Customer experience is the difference between category winners and losers, so it pays to stay on top of this.

It’s especially important if the contact was related to a complaint or issue. Get specific about how many calls the issue is likely to take to resolve. If a customer gets a request for CSAT feedback following each of the four calls they were part of (whilst waiting for a resolution), they’re likely to get frustrated.

Once you’ve addressed this, the ideal time to ask for feedback is either immediately with a very simple questionnaire, or 3-5 days afterwards with something more detailed.

After the launch of a feature, product, service or brand element is also a good time to reach out and gauge how/if it has impacted customer satisfaction. It’s particularly useful when used to assess a new feature launch on a loyal customer base as you can see how positively or negatively disruptive it has been. Their feedback can also be used to drive feature improvements.

Once again, an ideal cadence 3-5 days after launch or a month later if it’s a major product change.

How to avoid over-measurement

It’s vital you consider how your entire feedback framework hangs together and how your product or service relates to it.

If your customers are getting hammered with requests for feedback related to all your different metrics, you’re going to decrease their satisfaction. Make it targeted and considered. For example, ride-hailing apps like Uber get customer feedback immediately after every ride. This helps them rank their drivers. But they don’t ask users for their satisfaction of using the actual ride-railing app every time they use it.

Be respectful of your users’ time. If your survey takes more than 5 minutes, you’ll see a big drop off in completion rate. You also need to think about why you’re asking a specific question and what you’ll do with the data you get back. If you’re not going to use it, don’t waste your customers’ time asking for it.

Pro tip: Avoid customer burnout by mixing up the questions you’re asking them. You don’t have to ask all customers the same question at the same time. Reframing and curating can work wonders for completion rate.

The pros and cons of CSAT scores

Pros

  • Simple to deploy: You can easily distribute CSAT surveys via most channels e.g. Email, SMS.
  • Familiarity: Your customers know what they are, how to complete them, and why they are useful.
  • Good completion rate: If kept simple CSAT surveys can get a better completion rate compared to some more in-depth feedback surveys.
  • Customizable: You can make them as specific as you want to your product or make them more general to increase their reach. See our section on emoji scales here.

Cons

  • Skewed results: It’s often the case that only highly satisfied or dissatisfied customers complete CSAT questionnaires. Those merely satisfied are often not polarized enough to act. This can give you a volatile picture of your customer satisfaction.
  • Only provides a snapshot: CSAT scores are best used to analyze customer satisfaction on key points of the customer journey. They can’t give an overall measure of how satisfied your entire customer base is.
  • Subjectivity: The word “satisfaction” is open to interpretation (does it mean happy, content, simply OK?).

6

How to use a CSAT score

Overall, the key to effectively using CSAT scores is ensuring they’re part of a wider strategy.  Establish what you’re trying to find out with your CSAT score, then combine it with other metrics as part of an overarching strategy that prioritizes customer experience improvement.

With this in place, there are a number of ways you use a CSAT score:

  • Touchpoint analyzer: Seeking a CSAT score at a crucial point on the customer journey will help you pinpoint areas for improvement. e.g. after the adoption phase, or when they are approaching renewal.
  • New service/feature assessor: Reaching out for a CSAT score after you’ve launched a new product/service/feature is a great way to interrogate its overall success. It’s particularly useful when used to assess a new feature launch on a loyal customer base as you can see how positively or negatively disruptive it has been. Their feedback can also be used to drive feature improvements.
  • Engagement meter: Not everyone will reply to your feedback requests (in fact the average is 30% to 40%). But if you’re getting well below the average number of replies, it can be a great indicator that your customers are indifferent to your brand.

And once more for the people at the back—don’t use a CSAT score in isolation. It will give you an unrepresentative view of your customers’ over satisfaction. There is a whole toolbox of other valuable metrics you should know about—which you can dive into, here

Or read on below where we look at how CSAT stacks up against another big hitting metric: NPS scores.

7

CSAT score vs. NPS

CSAT is the most used customer satisfaction metric. As we have laid out above, it’s great for measuring customer satisfaction at specific points of the customer journey.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) on the other hand, gives you a better temperature check of your overall customer base. It measures how likely a customer is to recommend a product/service/or business to another potential customer. This gets around the issue over the lack of clarity over the word ‘satisfaction’. With NPS it is clear, would you actively promote a business or not?

As we describe in our Spotlight on NPS section, the process involves segmenting your customers into three camps: Promoters, Passives and Detractors.

  • Promoters = customers who gave a score of 9-10.

These are your biggest ambassadors. They’re engaged and enthusiastic.

  • Passives = customers who gave a score of 7-8.

These customers are content with what they receive from your business, but aren’t likely to rave about it to friends and colleagues.

  • Detractors = customers who gave a score of 0-6.

These customers will actively tell friends and colleagues not to use/buy your products or services based on their negative experience.

The process of this segmentation gives you a clear picture of which customers might be about to churn and also makes it a superior upsell or cross-sell opportunity indicator.

Overall the NPS is a better relationship builder. Asking your customers if they would recommend a product to colleagues or friends,  and getting their context-rich feedback and acting on it, let’s them know you’re listening. It can even be used to personalize your future engagements with them.

Using CSAT in tandem with NPS means you can balance snapshots of customer satisfaction as well as an overall temperature check of your customer base. But this is just the beginning. Check out the other metrics you should know about here.

CSAT scores in action

StockX

Industry: Luxury goods, collectibles, and promotions

Program: Targeted EU expansion

Goal: Achieve high CSAT scores while accelerating the learning curve for new, seasonal, and part-time hires across geographies and in work-from-home environments

Strategy: Ubiquity developed enhanced quality sessions during onboarding. These sessions helped agents problem-solve while ensuring they fully absorbed the quality metrics by which StockX would measure their performance.

Results: The sessions were so effective at improving quality and increasing productivity for new hires that StockX now uses them across their global operation. The result is a more personalized experience for StockX customers that can be delivered in a scalable way while driving high customer satisfaction.

CSAT target hit: 90% average CSAT, even during peak periods