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What is CSAT? Pros, cons, when to use, and how to calculate

Nina Godlewski
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One of the go-to customer satisfaction surveys is the namesake, the customer satisfaction score also known as CSAT. While there are many different kinds of surveys out there this might be the most popular.

Your CSAT score can give you some significant insight into your customers, their experiences with your business, and where you might be able to improve. After all, 81 percent of customers are more likely to do repeat business with a company if they have a positive experience with that company. We’re going to cover the ins and outs of CSAT so you know how to calculate it, when to use it, and the pros and cons.

Money symbol with hand and an 81%
The percent of customers likely to do repeat business with a company after having a positive experience with the company.

What is CSAT?

Customer satisfaction score surveys, often called CSAT surveys, are simple and easy because typically, they consist of only one question. That question is usually phrased as some variation of “How satisfied were you with your recent interaction/purchase/experience?” 

You’ll probably recognize CSAT from past experiences you’ve had. They consist of a simple question asking customers how satisfied they are with a particular experience, purchase, or touchpoint with a brand. The example below shows a survey for determining customer satisfaction scores with a five option scale from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied.”

Levi's CSAT survey example
Source: Levi's

Customers are given a scale to rate their satisfaction. That scale can vary but is usually between one and three, one and five, or one and 10. The CSAT surveys with a numeric scale usually indicate one as the worst and the higher end of the scale as the best, or most satisfied. 

Some CSAT surveys like the one above from Levi’s might also have a scale of “very dissatisfied” representing the worst and “very satisfied” as the best. 

How to calculate CSAT

The global average across all industries for CSAT is 86 percent. You may be wondering how a scale of one to five or one to 10 can come out to 86 percent. We’ll walk you through the calculation.  

Step-by-step guide to calculate CSAT:

  1. Find the number of positive responses from customers, those are anyone who rated their experience from “satisfied” to “very satisfied”
  2. Divide the number of positive responses by the number of total responses
  3. Multiply that result by 100
  4. The resulting number is your CSAT percentage

To make this easier to understand, we can do the calculation with some actual numbers. First, you need to segment the scores. Assuming we’re using a scale of 0 to 10 the scores, then the scores 6 to 10 would be those customers considered “satisfied.” For this example, let’s assume you have 76 satisfied scores out of 100 scores total. The math would look as follows: 76/100 = .76 x 100 = 76 percent.

76/100 = .76 x 100 = 76% math equation
How to calculate CSAT.

CSAT pros and cons

You’ll probably want to use CSAT at one point or another for your business. But knowing all of the pros and cons before choosing when and how to use it can be helpful. 

CSAT pros:

  • Customizable single question
  • Simple structure
  • Can use stars or emoji faces
  • Can be sent via email, text, in web app or chat

CSAT cons:

  • Interpretation of “satisfaction” can vary from person to person
  • Only offers insight on the latest touchpoint or interaction
  • Unsatisfied customers might not take the time to answer

One of the most significant pros of CSAT is that you can customize the question to match whatever touchpoint you’re curious about. Meaning you can ask specifically about an interaction or purchase or anything else you might be curious about. 

Text message example of a CSAT
CSAT surveys are highly customizable

Additionally, the simple structure of CSAT means your customers can easily and quickly answer, especially with the help of emojis. You can also cater your surveys to the medium by which you plan to send them. 

One of the biggest cons of using a CSAT survey is that the definition of “satisfied” or “dissatisfied” can vary greatly from customer to customer. You also might be missing out on those customers who are dissatisfied, they may not take the time to respond to your survey. 

When to use CSAT and examples  

Now that we know what CSAT is, the pros and cons, and how to calculate it, we can move on to some examples and when to use it if it is the right survey for your business. 

On-going customer experience

Let’s first look at an example from Old Navy. 

Old Navy CSAT survey example
Source: Old Navy

This visual CSAT survey appeared on the package tracking page for an order from Old Navy. It offers customers the opportunity to rate their current experience right on the order tracking page

This is one example of when to use CSAT. Old Navy used this survey after a customer had successfully placed an order, but before they had received that order. Giving a CSAT survey in the middle of an experience can help companies learn where there are problems with their customer experience. 

Immediately following an experience

Another example of when to use CSAT surveys is immediately following a completed interaction with the customer as a pop-up on the confirmation page. A great example of this is the survey that appears directly following a ride-sharing ride with Lyft. 

Lyft CSAT survey example
Source: Lyft

The survey appears right in the app when the ride is completed. It’s easy for customers to fill out with just a few clicks. In addition to the 5-star rating scale, there are options for customers to choose why they gave that rating. Those options are simple buttons that are easy for the customer to click with no need to think up a reason for the rating. While it’s not asking the customer to rate Lyft as a company, it’s giving riders the opportunity to review their driver.

Following an on-boarding 

If your business offers a service rather than a one-time good, you might want to send a CSAT survey following the onboarding for that service. This will give you a look into how prepared your clients are to use your product. This might be especially helpful if you offer a free trial. You want to make sure your customers understand the service so they can get the full benefits and experience of it and then convert to a paying customer following their free trial. 

Text message example of using CSAT following an on-boarding
You can use CSAT surveys with business texting as well to make it even easier for customers to respond.

Using CSAT surveys to gauge this could help you convert more customers into paying customers. It would also show you where there might be flaws in your onboarding process that should be addressed. 

CSAT: The bottom line

Customer surveys can offer you significant insight into the experiences your customers have and the success of your business. The CSAT survey gives you a look at very specific customer interactions at certain times in their experience. It’s a quick easy survey that offers an even quicker look into your customers.

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