Why CSAT Scores Aren’t the Best Metric for Measuring Customer Experience


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The best companies in the world are obsessive about their customer experience. They understand that every single brand touchpoint is an opportunity to gain or lose a customer for life. This includes everything from the online store to the live chat to how a customer is treated when they call for support.

But customer experience and customer opinion are two very different things. Customer experience is the sum total of all interactions a customer has with your company. Customer opinion is how a customer feels about one specific experience.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is a critical metric for understanding how satisfied customers are with their experience, but it doesn’t always help the CX team figure out what went wrong. When businesses get too caught up in the numbers, they can lose sight of their definition of “quality” and where their team might be falling short.

Monitoring customer support through quality assurance (QA) is the best way to evaluate your overall customer experience and identify areas for improvement. Even if your CSAT scores are satisfactory, QA can help you identify issues with your end product and areas where your agents might need more training.

Here are three times when your CSAT score doesn’t tell the whole story:

1. Your metrics lack context.

When a company receives a less-than-stellar CSAT score, the CX team will usually look to other customer data points to understand where things went awry.

While improving metrics like average handle time (AHT) and first call resolution (FCR) will certainly boost customer satisfaction, they don’t always provide a complete picture. Sometimes, a company’s AHT and FCR are very good, but the team needs context to learn how they can improve the quality of customer interactions.

Recently, MaestroQA, a customer service quality assurance platform, worked with project management platform monday.com to improve their overall customer experience.

Monday.com was already measuring several customer experience metrics before MaestroQA got involved, such as response time, customer satisfaction, and actions taken by the customer after talking to an agent. But the team realized they needed richer insights. The metrics they tracked weren’t giving them any actionable information on how they could improve their customer experience. MaestroQA helped them scale up grading so they could increase the volume of quality audits by 48 percent.

Grading more tickets provided more beneficial context and helped identify ways for a 30% reduction in AHT. These example tickets helped them spot instances where they missed the mark on customer questions and how the team could respond better.

2. You’re being blamed for things that aren’t your fault.

You want to talk about a bad CSAT score? Try being the least-liked major public electric utility in the entire Midwest. That’s where Chicago-based ComEd was in 2012. Out of the 40 different factors that went into the customer satisfaction score, the company was in the lowest 25 percent in all but one of them.

Customers thought ComEd’s charges were unfairly steep and regarded the utility with a corresponding level of contempt. What they didn’t understand was that, as a deliverer (but not supplier) of energy, ComEd wasn’t responsible for most of the charges on their electric bills. To clear up these costly customer misperceptions, the company went looking for help.

An analysis by Qualtrics revealed that the customer billing statement was the biggest stumbling block. The sources of the various fees were unclear, and as a result, consumers were blaming ComEd for all of them. A redesign effort guided by Quatrics’ heat map question type yielded a new billing statement that made it much easier for customers to understand who was charging them for what.

Thanks to the new, clearer electric bill, ComEd’s customer satisfaction began a sharp rebound. The moral of the story? When your CSAT score shows a dissatisfied customer base, dig in and determine whether you’re really the source of their dissatisfaction. If not, learn how to take yourself out of the line of customer fire.

3. Your scores reflect the stresses of the moment.

The CSAT is, by its nature, a snapshot in time. Companies use the measure because it’s easy to implement, it doesn’t overburden the customer, and it can be introduced at any customer touchpoint. That last one is both a strength and a weakness.

While you definitely want to know whether your online checkout process was simple to navigate or your product got delivered safely, the CSAT measures only that one interaction. A response from an unhappy customer gives you the opportunity to pinpoint a flawed touchpoint and fix it. Or it might just indicate a person who is having a bad day. Customers tend to only reply to surveys if they have had a positive or negative experience, so the data itself usually does not account for more “normal’ interactions.

These are anxious times, and the last thing you want is for your CX efforts to increase your customers’ stress levels. Keep this in mind as you administer your CSAT surveys. Make sure their language strikes the right note given what your customers are currently going through. Consider, too, when you’re asking for feedback. As your customers try to accomplish their goals, are you inadvertently putting hurdles in their way? No wonder they’re annoyed.

To determine whether a poor CSAT score truly reflects a poor experience, tools like FullStory allow you to replay sessions from dissatisfied users to spot where and how a customer interaction goes off the rails. Identifying the source of their frustration is the first step toward fixing it. If you can’t readily locate the cause, you can reach out to ask for more details. Either way, you demonstrate your commitment to putting things right.

Creating a stellar customer experience isn’t just about achieving high CSAT scores. It’s not that metrics don’t matter — it’s just that they’re part of a bigger picture. You want to make every brand interaction a high-quality one, and the best way to serve your customers well is to get to know the individuals behind the ticket numbers.

Image credit:Pexels; Picjumbo.com


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