You know you should be measuring customer satisfaction, but there are just so many types of satisfaction surveys, it can be a daunting task to choose which one to send out to your customers.

So, where do you start?

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There are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using each methodology, and there are distinct use cases for each of them, too. This blog post will cover one of the most popular methods: the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

If you work in customer success, there's little reason to doubt you've had experience administering CSAT surveys. This post will go into what a CSAT survey measures -- and exactly when and how you should use them.

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A big strength of Customer Satisfaction Score lies in its simplicity: It's an easy way to close the loop on a customer interaction and determine whether or not it was effective in producing customer happiness.

If for some reason the experience wasn't satisfactory, it's easy to pinpoint that moment and take actions to remedy the experience.

Not only that, but you can track customer satisfaction across the customer lifecycle very simply using Customer Satisfaction Score.

Since it's such a quick survey, you can ask it across multiple experiences during a customer's journey and get a big-picture view of how your customer feels at various touch points during the process.

This makes it easier to find potential bottlenecks and improve the customer experience.


CSAT Score By Industry

Below are industry benchmarks for CSAT score, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index

  1. Apparel: 79
  2. Automobiles and Light Vehicles: 82
  3. Banks: 81
  4. Breweries: 85
  5. Cellular Telephones: 79
  6. Computer Software: 79
  7. Consumer Shipping: 78
  8. Credit Unions: 81
  9. Financial Advisors: 80
  10. Full-Service Restaurants: 81
  11. Hotels: 76
  12. Internet Retail: 80
  13. Internet Travel Services: 78
  14. Life Insurance: 80
  15. Specialty Retail Stores: 78

Now that you know what a CSAT score is, let’s talk about when you should use it. 

When Should You Use Customer Satisfaction Score?

1. After Customer Lifecycle Moments

CSAT helps to tie your customer satisfaction surveys to key moments in a customer's experience. That way, you can tie your customer insights with business questions and measure the effectiveness of key moments, like user onboarding.

This is how Nils Vinje, VP of Customer Success at Rainforest QA, puts it:

"The best time to send a customer satisfaction survey is after a meaningful part of the customer lifecycle is completed. For example, sending a satisfaction survey at the end of the customer's onboarding will help you capture valuable feedback on how to improve the onboarding experience.

At this point, the customer likely has made up their mind on whether or not your solution solves their problem, and if it doesn't, you need to know that -- ASAP."

2. Prior to Renewal

Vinje also suggests another important checkpoint to send a satisfaction survey: six months before renewal.

"The reason I like the six-month mark is that it gives you enough time to act on the feedback before you get into the renewal phase of the customer's subscription. You can always do something about a problem that you know about, but you can't do anything about a problem you don't know about."

To his second point, you can also trigger your CSAT surveys on a time-based schedule.

Because of the simplicity of the Customer Satisfaction Score, it makes it easy to conduct this survey many times and at many touchpoints (not simply at the end of important experiences or at cancellation time for instance)

For this reason, it's important to pop the question often and on a rolling basis -- like Matt Hogan, Head of Customer Success at Intricately, recommends:

"Deploying customer satisfaction surveys on a rolling basis will keep the constant feedback loop going. The technology available makes it easy to manage this. This way, you're getting a sense of people's feelings when you're not releasing products or doing anything different.

Most companies do this after releasing features or on a controlled schedule, which will influence your responses."

3. After Customer Support or Education Interactions

Finally, Customer Satisfaction Score may most appropriately be used directly after customer support or customer education touchpoints.

For example, asking a single satisfaction question after a customer finishes reading a knowledge base article can help you gauge how effective it is.

In summary, you can use CSAT surveys at any point where you hope to measure customer sentiment -- during the sales process, while using the product, or while interacting with your content.

However, because of the nature of the question, the response will skew towards the immediate experience and reaction of a customer, and therefore shouldn't be taken as insight on the broader customer experience or brand perception.

Customer Satisfaction Score Pros & Cons

When it comes to any survey methodology, there are advantages and disadvantages. And Customer Satisfaction Score is no exceptions.

A few advantages of using SAT include:

  • Short, intuitive, and simple
  • Rating scale can vary based on the context, giving you the flexibility to use what works best for your audience from stars, emojis, or numeric rating scales
  • High response rates because there are few questions

Possible disadvantages of using the CSAT include:

  • Potential for cultural bias: An article in Psychological Science showed that people in individualistic countries choose the more extreme sides more frequently than those in collectivistic countries (for instance, an American is more likely to rate a service as "amazing" or "terrible" than someone from Japan, who will stick to "fine" or "not satisfactory."
  • Ambiguity in what a good or a bad score is because of wide-ranging benchmark data across industries and companies
  • Reflects short-term sentiment. E.g. it's based on the last touchpoint a customer had with our company and how they're feeling on a given day (this might not be a downside given your goals).
  • "Satisfaction" is a subjective word, and "satisfied" may mean different things to different people.
  • Customers in the "neutral" and "dissatisfied" categories often don't fill out surveys, making the potential for skewed results high.

Perhaps the biggest downside of the CSAT is the most fundamental: Who wants to optimize for "satisfaction"? Unless this is a leading indicator of a metric of actual importance at your company (lifetime value, retention, activation, etc.), aiming for just "satisfied" feels a bit underwhelming.

Nobody puts it better than Jared Spool, founder of UIE, who once said the following:

"I'm going to give you a list of attitudinal words ... [and ] I want to see if you can pick out the one that's a little different than the rest. I've got "delightful," "amazing," "awesome," "excellent," "remarkable," "incredible," and "satisfactory." Which word is different than the others?

...Yes, satisfactory. Why is that word different? Well, if we were talking about a restaurant, a restaurant we loved, would we say, "Wow, that was incredibly satisfactory"?

No. We'd use something like delicious. Satisfactory is this neutral word. It's like edible. No one raves about a restaurant that is edible. "Oh my God, you should've gone to this place we went to last night. It was extremely edible!"

We've set ourselves a low bar. [And] we can do so much better."

In that regard, measuring something tangible -- like if the customer would recommend you to a friend -- at least gets to something that is worth attaining. After all, a great experience is a recommendable one. But just a satisfactory experience? Maybe not -- so let's aim beyond simply satisfactory. And that's what customer success is all about.

Want more? Learn how to measure Customer Effort Score next.

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 Customer Service Metrics

Originally published Jun 29, 2020 9:02:00 AM, updated June 29 2020


Customer Satisfaction