What is a CSAT Survey

Written by Moritz Dausinger, CEO of Refiner

Looking to learn more about CSAT surveys?

Let’s face it: No company can last long without satisfied customers. Unless people enjoy what you sell and enjoy dealing with your company, your business stands little to no chance to flourish and grow. 

Well, it’ll, most likely, collapse, eventually. 

But I’m sure you know this, right? 

So what’s the problem? Well, although most founders understand the importance of customer satisfaction so many companies, whole industries, even, are plagued by poor customer service and low satisfaction levels among their customers. 

What’s more, many of those companies do not even know how bad they’re doing… 

Measuring customer satisfaction is your way to get ahead. By uncovering how satisfied customers are with your products or services, you can identify and eliminate potential problems, and in doing so, move your business forward. 

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to do that. You’ll discover what CSAT is, how it is measured, and what your CSAT score means. We’ll also look at how to send customer satisfaction surveys, what questions to ask, and even compare CSAT to another critical customer satisfaction survey, NPS

Let’s get right to it, then. 

What is a CSAT Survey?

A customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) is a feedback survey designed to help companies understand how satisfied customers are with their products or services. 

CSAT is typically simple, both for companies to set up and for customers to respond to. A CSAT survey can contain just one question inquiring about the person’s experience with the product or service, for example: 

CSAT survey example.

The question requires a person to select the right options from a string of emoticons like in the example above to provide the necessary feedback. 

That’s all. 

Now, you can (and I strongly suggest that you do) ask a follow-up question to get more feedback from the person. However, the core of the CSAT survey is just that single question and a simple rating scale.  

(A quick note – Later in this guide, we’ll be discussing how to construct a good CSAT survey question in full detail.)

NOTE: You need dedicated CSAT survey software to run such a survey. The tool will not only allow you to set up the survey and deliver it to your customers via various channels (i.e., email, website, and many others.) It will also collect and analyze the data, delivering your CSAT score, and insights to power business and growth decisions in your business. 

CSAT survey software dashboard showing survey feedback from customers.
Example of replies to a CSAT survey, together with follow-up feedback.

When to Use CSAT?

CSAT isn’t the only method for measuring customer satisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS) provides insights into satisfaction levels as well. So does the customer effort score.

However, each of those survey types focuses on different aspects of the overall customer experience. This also means that you can run all three survey types to get the full picture of the customer’s experience, satisfaction, and loyalty.

In the case of CSAT, though, the survey can help you uncover satisfaction levels across different areas of the business:

  • Product experience and product satisfaction
  • Sales interactions
  • Customer support
  • Onboarding or training
  • General customer experience, and more. 

How is the CSAT Score Measured?

I mentioned the term – CSAT score – a couple of times already, and I believe it warrants at least some explanation. 

So, in a nutshell, the CSAT score is the numerical representation of customers’ satisfaction with you. 

The score is based on survey replies, again, based on a simple, 1-5 scale where one equals Very Unsatisfied, and 5, Very Satisfied. 

Your CSAT score is delivered with percentages. A score of 100% suggests total customer satisfaction while 0% means a complete dissatisfaction.

CSAT score example.

How to Calculate the CSAT Score?

If you use a CSAT software like Refiner, the tool will calculate the CSAT score for you. However, in case if you need to crunch the numbers manually, the formula to use is:

(The number of satisfied customers (i.e., people who have responded by selecting the option 4 or 5)/ Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers

A formula for calculating CSAT score.

But Why are Customer Satisfaction Surveys So Important?

Before I answer this, let me take a step back, and pose a different question – Why is achieving customer satisfaction so important, actually? 

The obvious answer is to ensure greater sales, of course. But there is more to customer satisfaction than this. 

You see, customer satisfaction levels can help predict a company’s chances of getting more repeat purchases and referrals. 

Satisfaction can also differentiate your company on the market. For example, consider industries like airlines or utility companies, famous for poor customer support and low satisfaction. A company with higher satisfaction levels than the rest is bound to attract and take over customers from the competition, right? The situation would be no different in other industries as well.

Satisfaction retains customers, something that’s practically the lifeblood for recurring revenue businesses like SaaS. What’s more, it can boost the customer lifetime value as well. 

Needless to say, customer satisfaction surveys are your only way to uncover the truth about how happy customers are with whatever they’ve purchased from you. Knowing your CSAT score (or NPS score, for that matter) will help you make relevant decisions and achieve all the benefits I outlined above:

  • Improve the customer experience
  • Understand your customers’ needs and use those insights to improve the product
  • Boost customer retention and reduce churn
  • Identify happy customers whom you could turn into advocates, improving word-of-mouth and increasing referrals.

In other words, without understanding customer satisfaction, there’s little chance that you could do all of the above and win. 

I mean it. 

Consider just the simple ways by which various teams in your company could put CSAT scores to improve their performance:

  • Marketing could use CSAT insights to improve customer communications and the language of the marketing copy (including advertising.)
  • Sales could use CSAT feedback to learn more about customer needs and improve sales processes. 
  • CSAT could help operations understand where the company is falling short and improve those processes.
  • And product teams could drive future decisions based on how happy customers are with the product and updates so far. 

But how do you run the CSAT survey to collect those insights?

Looking for a CSAT survey solution for SaaS? Reach more customers with fully customizable in-app surveys and make accurate measurements of your customer satisfaction score. Discover Refiner

When to Send CSAT Surveys

Let’s start by discussing the timing of your survey. And there is a reason why I prefer to focus on this issue first. 

You see, the biggest challenge with running any type of customer satisfaction surveys is ensuring that a person sees your questionnaire at the exact time when they are ready to offer feedback. 

If you send it when the person doesn’t think of the product or your brand, they might dismiss it (or put no thought in their reply.) In such a case, even if you collect their feedback, the response, most likely, does not represent the person’s true attitudes towards the product.

Every customer satisfaction survey works best at different times. In the case of the CSAT survey, the best time is to send it when an experience is fresh in the person’s mind. For example:

  • If you want to identify their attitude towards your product, send the survey a couple of days after the purchase or signup. 
  • Similarly, if you investigate the satisfaction with your support, send the survey right after the customer service interaction, and so on. 

The key here is to match the timing to customer interactions and trigger the survey when the said interaction is still fresh in the person’s memory. 

CSAT Questions to Ask

Like many other customer satisfaction surveys – NPS or CES – CSAT is based on a rating question and an optional follow-up question. 

We’ve talked about the rating question before and discussed its structure and the rating scale it uses to determine a person’s satisfaction with a product or service.

An image showing the CSAT rating scale.

The Rating Question

Usually, the rating question asks the person to rate how satisfied they are with a product (or a service, of course.) In its most common form, the question looks like this:

“How satisfied are you with [PRODUCT NAME].”

Using a scale of 1-5, the person can rate their satisfaction between very unsatisfied and very satisfied. 

However, by shifting the focus of the question, you can use the question to inquire about the person’s satisfaction with other aspects of your business. For example:

  • “How would you rate the support you received?”
  • “How satisfied are you with the information you’ve received before purchase?”
  • “How satisfied are you with our onboarding process?”

The Follow-up Question

The follow-up question is your chance to dig deeper into the customer’s experience and learn more about their attitudes towards your products. 

Because of that, the CSAT follow-up question can take many different forms:

  • A multiple-choice question is asking customers to select an answer from a list. 
  • An open-ended question is allowing them to explain the reasoning behind their score in detail. 
  • A binary question that customers could reply with either a yes/no.
An example of a CSAT follow-up question.
An example of a multiple-choice question in a CSAT survey

What to ask in a CSAT follow-up question?

The purpose of the follow-up question is to go deeper into the factors that affected the person’s CSAT score. For that reason, a good place to start is by learning more about your audience and their preferences. 

Here are just a couple of examples of CSAT follow-Up questions:

  • “How could we improve our product?” – Open-ended question
  • “What functionality you value the most in our product?” – Multiple-answer question
  • “How could we improve your experience with [PRODUCT NAME]?” – Open-ended question
  • “Would you buy another product from us” – Binary question
  • “How often do you use the product?” (i.e., daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) – Multiple-choice question
  • Ask customers about various demographic factors – their age, income levels, gender, education, employment status, etc. – to learn more about the most satisfied customers and build a better ideal customer persona. 

How is CSAT Different from NPS and CES Surveys?

I have to agree – At first glance, all customer satisfaction surveys look practically the same. 

They all focus on the satisfaction element of the customer experience.

They share a similar format too. They use a rating question to collect a score, and a follow-up one to dig deeper into the person’s reasoning for the score, or their situation. 

Those surveys output the result in a similar way – as a score.

And yet, all three are significantly different from each other. It’s just that the difference is not in how they work but what type of insights they help you collect. 

Let’s put them side by side to understand how each is different from the others.

CSAT measures customer satisfaction with a product or a serviceNPS (a trademark of Bain Company Inc and Fred Reichheld) measures customer loyalty and their likelihood of recommending a product to their friends or familyCES (Customer Effort Score) helps companies establish how easy the experience of dealing with them was for a customer.
Most common CSAT question:“How satisfied are you with [PRODUCT]?”Most common NPS question:“How likely are you to recommend [PRODUCT] to a friend or colleague?”Most common CES question:“Overall, how easy was it to solve your problem with us today?”

As you can see, each customer satisfaction survey type targets different aspect of the customer experience:

  • CSAT measures whether someone is satisfied with whatever they’ve purchased with you. 
  • NPS tries to uncover how many of your customers are happy enough to want to recommend what you sell to their friends or family. 
  • Finally, CES digs deeper into their experience, and helps to evaluate how easy it is to deal with your company – from initial interaction, the sales process to getting customer inquiries resolved. 

Closing Thoughts

Let’s face it; no business can survive long without satisfied customers. Unless people enjoy what you sell, and also enjoy dealing with your company, your business stands little chance to flourish and grow. 

In this guide, you’ve discovered one of the three ways to measure customer satisfaction – the CSAT survey. Use it to uncover how satisfied customers are with what you sell, and dig deeper into their feedback, close the loop, and put the data in front of the people who can effect change. 

Good luck.

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