Today CSAT is a widely accepted metric used to determine if support teams and companies are keeping their customers happy. And brands have come to rely on these scores to manage their customer service operations. On its face, the reason for this seems obvious—customer satisfaction correlates with the outcomes brands care about the most: retention and revenue. Happy customers are loyal customers, who buy more and sing your company’s praises.
But this logic can be dangerously flawed when it comes to relying on CSAT to make strategic and tactical customer service decisions to improve poor customer experience.
While CSAT is a great aggregate measure of customer experience, its one-dimensional nature doesn’t provide brands with enough context or action items to address potential CX issues. Statistics 101 has taught us that correlation does not imply causation—it can only suggest where to look. Yes, customer satisfaction ratings are directionally helpful, but they’re not actionable on their own.
93% of CX leaders reported using a survey-based metric (such as CSAT) as their primary means of measuring CX performance, but only 15% said they were fully satisfied with how their company was measuring CX—and only 6% were confident that their measurement system enabled both strategic and tactical decision making.
Source: McKinsey 2021
The reality is that customer satisfaction scores are a combination of support, service, product, and/or other market feedback. And like any voluntary-response survey they’re subject to problems like sampling and response bias. Looking at these numbers alone, it’s impossible for brands to pinpoint the root cause of a CX problem, and more importantly, how to fix it.
Take this all too common, real-world example:
A customer leaves a low CSAT score immediately after a lengthy call with a customer service agent. The reviewing manager looks at that low score, assumes the agent needs additional coaching, and sends them training resources to work on their soft skills.
The truth of the matter is, without additional context that low CSAT score could have been the result of several things: an ineffective company appeasement policy, an outstanding product issue, or even prior service frustrations. In this case, CSAT didn’t reflect how (well) your agent handled the situation but reflected the customer’s larger company dissatisfaction that the agent would never be able to solve by themselves.
It’s important to remember that customers don’t know your product roadmap or internal processes. And realistically, not all CX issues can be solved immediately, or at all. Some negative feedback could be the result of something agents have no control over, or it could be a simple training fix. But being able to decipher the difference, and act accordingly (and timely), is imperative for brands to deliver an incredible customer experience.
To uncover the root causes of poor CX, brands need to take a deeper dive into three main areas:
1) People: Areas where an individual agent(s) could use additional training or coaching
2) Processes: Team-wide issues or other business functions impacting customers
3) Products & Services: Product gaps/glitches that are negatively impacting customers and causing significant support requests or complaints
At MaestroQA, we call these three P’s the CX Experience Blindspot: everything happening in your CX that doesn’t get captured by the traditional support metrics teams use to measure success (like CSAT). But todays’ CX leaders all have one thing in common—they’re aware of the Experience Blindspot and have taken steps to mitigate it. They’re moving beyond surface-level insights and assumptions to uncover and fix the root cause of poor customer experience.
1) Use CSAT to measure aggregate performance—not individual agent performance
CSAT alone isn’t a good indicator of agent performance. It was originally designed to provide an overall measure of how someone feels about their customer experience but is now often used as a measure of individual performance.
But unhappy customers don’t always receive poor service. And customer satisfaction ratings can’t tell managers if more training is or isn’t necessary. So, you don’t have to ditch CSAT, but understand it’s not telling you the whole story.
2) Modernize your CX reporting stack
To optimize customer experience, brands need specific insights on what's happening with their agents, customers, CX processes, and business. One-sided metrics like CSAT aren’t cutting it anymore, they need to see what’s behind those numbers.
So CX leaders are moving beyond one-sided metrics, to embrace more holistic measures of CX success like customer lifetime value (CLTV), net-promoter scores (NPS), and QA scorecards. Combining these new measurements of success with investments in new root cause analysis tech, brands can finally identify specific actions they can take to develop better support for their customers and drive CX initiatives internally.
3) Use a data-drive approach when building agent skill sets
In the eyes of your customer, not all agent skill sets are equal. For instance, there are process-driven skills that help solve a customer’s problem (like accuracy), and then there’s skills that really only serve to help the company (like process).
The same is true for soft skills. Some of the actions that many CX managers prioritize and push for (building rapport and personalizing messages), really don’t impact customer satisfaction as much as basic soft skills like showing empathy for the customer’s situation and addressing them properly.
At the end of the day, to be successful long term, CX professionals need to mirror their customers and exhibit behaviors that will help alleviate their pain points. Doing this will require digging into their customer interaction data to determine which skill sets their customers value most and prioritizing those when it comes to agent training. Updating your QA scorecard to then reinforce those behaviors can help your agents understand what they need to do to improve. In the case of MeUndies, they used non-graded feedback in their rubric to help agents focus without impacting their overall grade. Customers noticed the difference and their customer satisfaction surveys reflected the change. Through collaborating with the QA team, agents started performing better and were able to meaningfully increase CSAT.
Relying on customer satisfaction scores alone to drive a successful CX strategy can leave brands chasing after the wrong solution(s). When it comes to delivering a seamless customer experience, there’s so much more to consider than a single metric like CSAT. The brands that will succeed will be the ones who adopt a holistic approach to measuring customer satisfaction, rely on customer interaction data to empower internal teams and agents, and seek out new, innovative solutions for root cause analysis.
To learn more about how to uncover the kinds of meaningful CX insights needed to drive customer loyalty, check out our Industry Report, eCommerce Essentials for CX: How to Create Customer Experiences that Set Your Brand Apart.