CSAT KPIs: Measuring What Customers Really Think

CSAT KPIs: Measuring What Customers Really Think

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) metrics are a powerful tool for businesses, but despite the way we talk about it, satisfaction isn’t something you can easily measure. Instead, we typically measure satisfaction by proxy, based on answers to more easily quantifiable questions – and though there are companies that do try to measure satisfaction directly, they’re less likely to be collecting actionable data.

The fact of the matter is, asking customers whether or not they were satisfied, as a yes or no question or on a scale of one to five, doesn’t mean much unless we understand what satisfaction means to different people. For some, satisfaction is the minimum, while others expect a higher standard.

At a time when data collection is more important to customer service than ever before, it’s time for your company to pay closer attention to what you’re measuring with CSAT surveys. These KPIs can add depths to your survey data, butting through the noise and ambiguity to get at the insights that really matter.

Think Concretely

When we talk about survey KPIs, we often focus on the distinction between subjective versus objective information. That makes sense in the context of traditional CSAT scoring, since satisfaction is a fundamentally subjective concept. Sometimes, though, the best questions you can ask don’t quite fall into either category.


For example, one concrete measurement that’s popular for determining customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which polls customers as to whether they would recommend your business to others. The NPS doesn’t necessarily mean they actually intend to go out and spread the word, but at the very least, if someone asked directly, a high NPS indicated that they’d endorse your brand. That’s a lot more useful than asking whether your product or service was generally satisfactory.

Compare To Expectations

Just as NPS asks people about a specific action or scenario, other useful KPIs for measuring CSAT ask customers to make comparisons based on their own personal metrics. One way that businesses commonly do this is by asking customers to rate their experience on a three-point scale: did the product or service fail to meet, match, or exceed their expectations? There are many formulations of this question, but industry insiders typically collect the various permutations under the heading of SERVQUAL (service/quality).

Create Your Own KPIs

Because products and services, as well as business-customer relationships, vary so widely depending on industry, length of relationship, and other factors, the best way to derive meaningful data from your CSAT surveys is often to create your own KPIs. Luckily, new CSAT  platforms can help with this.

Based on responses from your customized CSAT surveys, you can track specific types of feedback, including particular words, and perform sentiment analysis to understand what types of emotions are reflected in customer responses. You can also use those pieces of information to track overall trends, which can be especially valuable if you make major website, product, or service changes.


Link It All Up

Most businesses use a variety of different tools to connect with customers and to track their relationships, and CSAT survey feedback is less meaningful when considered outside of these other data systems. Given all those systems and the wealth of data they contain, it’s important to be able to connect feedback with relevant sales data. That makes it easier to determine whether a customer’s satisfaction is tied to a particular promotion, whether service staff are better reviewed at particular times of day, and other key correlations that feedback alone might disguise.

Acting On Insights

It’s not easy to dramatically overhaul something as personalized as customer service, but by fine tuning what data you collect, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your customers want and how to further boost your CSAT rankings. Even without increased insights, though, you can get a headstart by implementing virtual-agent technology (VAT). Businesses that have implemented more extensive VAT infrastructure for customer service saw improved job satisfaction among actual customer service agents, as well as improved outreach. This is possible because of advances in machine learning and natural language processing technology; computers now converse like real people.

You’ll always encounter dissatisfied customers – that’s a natural result of miscommunication, mail delays, and business in general – but listening carefully will help your business minimize those incidents while continually improving existing processes. What’s more, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to link critical pieces of information to add further depth to customer feedback.


Despite the CSAT survey process’s tendency toward the subjective and its ability to disguise what customers really mean, CSAT experts continue to refine the process. You may not be able to see into your customers’ minds to know what a five star rating really means to them, but you can ask better questions, track linguistic trends, and put a finer point on those scores, and that’s the next best thing.


Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.