What your CSAT score really means, and how to improve it

May 3, 2021

Three out of every four customers will spend more to buy from a company with a good customer experience. That’s why CSAT scores, which measure customer satisfaction, are so often treated as the be-all, end-all metric.

But even though most CX leaders diligently track their CSAT scores, few know how to interpret or improve them.

Customer service quality assurance reviews can help you turn your CSAT score into a concrete understanding of what’s working and what isn’t in your customer experience, so that you can boost long-term customer satisfaction.

What Your CSAT Score Is (And What It Isn’t)

Your CSAT score is the sum of all the survey result points divided by the max possible score (usually 5) and divided by the number of survey respondents. 

formula to calculate csat


You've probably seen or created a CSAT survey, which is how most teams collect customer satisfaction data.

CSAT surveys are usually sent after a customer interacts with customer support or your website. They consist of a single question: how satisfied were you with your experience?

Customers can rate their experience on a scale of 1-5, with 1 reflecting dissatisfaction and 5 reflecting high customer satisfaction.

Here's a sample CSAT survey:

example of a CSAT survey
Image source




To understand what your CSAT score means, you need to understand what influences customer experiences in the first place. Some key ingredients of awesome customer  experiences are: individual agent performance, the overall helpfulness of your customer service, as well as non-service-related aspects such as product experience or marketing.

Your CSAT score represents satisfied customers based on any of the aspects listed above.

While this can be helpful for tracking customer satisfaction and experience with your brand as a whole, it's not the most effective way to track individual parts of the customer experience, nor is it useful as the sole indicator of customer sentiment.

It’s possible your CSAT score is skewed in one or another direction based on your ability to create a good CSAT survey. Like results from most surveys, CSAT scores can also be affected by:

  • When you send the survey: This refers to the exact point in the customer interaction, such as after a customer service call, after a purchase, or after a product demo.
  • How you word the survey: This refers to how vague or specific your survey questions are.
  • Who you send the survey to: This refers to sampling bias, or sending the survey only to a specific group of people.
  • Any biases the customer may have: This includes a tendency to rate according to the last interaction and a tendency to choose extreme or moderate scores, among others

Finally, a customer satisfaction score is not an indicator of customer loyalty. Customers might give you a high CSAT rating based on one factor (like a pleasant conversation with a sales representative) but leave based on another factor (like a steep price or complex product).


The Right Way to Interpret CSAT Scores: Pair Them with Quality Assurance Reviews

Trying to gauge and improve customer satisfaction from a standalone CSAT percentage is unhelpful because the score alone doesn't tell you which aspects of customer experience resulted in a given customer satisfaction rating: agent performance, product experience, or your customer support process.

So, you don't really know which of these aspects you should work on to eventually improve your CSAT score and provide better customer experiences.

The best way to understand why you received a certain CSAT rating and pinpoint areas of improvement is to view CSAT data in tandem with customer service quality assurance reviews.

Quality assurance reviews involve listening to or reading customer service conversations and checking if your agents meet your internal standards of quality support, like using the right tone, grammar, and processes and how efficiently they solve customers’ issues. Here’s a complete list of criteria you might look for when reviewing agent interactions.

An added benefit of quality assurance reviews is that you can clearly see why a customer interaction received a specific CSAT rating: how did the agent handle the issue, why was the customer impressed or annoyed, was their problem resolved, did they have a non-service-related problem?

All in all, customer service quality assurance reviews help you identify potential areas for improvement in your agents, your customer support processes, and your product. Use those insights to bolster your CSAT score.


3 Ways to Improve Your CSAT Score with Customer Service Quality Assurance

Customer service quality assurance reviews give you a front-row seat to actual customer service interactions, which means you can easily get to the root cause of why you received a certain CSAT rating. You can then work on rectifying those aspects, and in turn, improve your CSAT score.

Here are three practical ways you can use quality assurance for improving CSAT:

1. Identify and coach struggling agents

QA helps you find out which agents are struggling to provide quality support and the specific actions that might lead to poor CSAT scores. Coaching agents in these areas can help boost CSAT.

For instance, QA reviews may reveal that your agents transfer calls too quickly, offer solutions without fully understanding customer problems, or lack product knowledge. You can focus coaching sessions with agents on these specific areas, encouraging them to dig into the root cause of the customer's issues, process tickets correctly, or brush up on product knowledge. Such QA-supported coaching helped HR software Greenhouse improve agent performance, as well as CSAT.

2. Review and streamline customer support processes  

QA software like MaestroQA puts you in the agent’s shoes, allowing you to relive the process agents use to deliver support through Screen Capture. This helps you identify if inefficiencies in your customer support processes are holding agents back from delivering quality support and, in turn, hampering CSAT performance. Fixing these issues can boost customer satisfaction over time.

Let’s say you find most tickets with low customer satisfaction have unusually high resolution times — a common cause of unsatisfied customers, according to our 2021 eCommerce Essentials for CX report. Further inspection through QA can reveal the true cause of this: maybe agents are unable to find relevant information in your knowledge base and spend too much time toggling between your website, your learning management system, and asking other agents for help. This leads to slower resolution times for customers.

Ridesharing app Lyft experienced this firsthand, and used QA data to identify missing information and knowledge gaps in their knowledge base. After plugging these gaps, they experienced a significant improvement in first call resolution rates.

3. Identify and fix causes of DSAT

QA helps identify the real causes of customer dissatisfaction (DSAT). This can often be something other than customer service like a problem with your product, marketing, or billing policy. Identifying these issues gives you the data you need to prioritize fixing these issues and positively impact CSAT.

QA reviews often reveal common threads among support requests with poor customer satisfaction: customers calling repeatedly about a bug in your product, cumbersome cancellation policies, or your return policy. With QA data, you can calculate the exact cost of each issue by evaluating the number of support conversations it results in, the number of dissatisfied customers it leads to, and the number of customers who eventually cancel. Based on this data, you can advocate for a suitable fix.

This approach helped ClassPass identify and fix a major cause of dissatisfaction among their customers: having to reach out to pause their accounts. They adopted a more proactive, automated approach to reduce their customer’s effort in pausing their accounts, and achieved a 96% CSAT score, and 83% retention rate.


Takeaway: Ready to Improve Your CSAT Score? Create Your First Quality Assurance Scorecard Today!  

A high or low CSAT score is nothing more than a percentage. You need to dig deeper with quality assurance reviews to actively improve your CSAT score and, by extension, your support experiences.

To get started conducting quality assurance reviews, you’ll need a quality assurance scorecard.

A quality assurance scorecard forms the backbone of quality assurance reviews, helping you check if agents are meeting important criteria to keep customer satisfaction high, such as using the right tone, efficiently solving the customer’s problem, and using the right customer support processes. Here’s a complete guide to help you create your first quality assurance scorecard.

MaestroQA makes it easy to set up your first QA scorecard and conduct QA reviews, so you can improve your CSAT score over time. Sign up for a demo.

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