Article | 12 min read

What is customer satisfaction score? (+ how to measure CSAT)

Customer satisfaction score is one of the most-used metrics for measuring customer loyalty. Here’s how CSAT can help you meet consumer expectations and elevate your business.

By Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Published May 17, 2022
Last updated May 17, 2022

Knowledge is power—especially when you’re looking to improve your customer experience. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, customer engagement is up 14 percent compared to last year. While this means more work for your support agents, it also means there are more opportunities for you to expand and retain your customer base.

Regardless of industry, customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is one of the most popular metrics for gauging how consumers feel about the customer experience (CX). When you collect CSAT scores, you give buyers the opportunity to voice their opinions, making them feel heard. This not only fosters customer loyalty but also allows you to learn where you’re excelling (and where you’re not). If you’re looking to become a customer-centric business, it’s important to understand how CSAT helps make that happen.

What is customer satisfaction score (CSAT)?

Customer satisfaction score is a CX metric and key performance indicator (KPI) that gauges how satisfied a consumer is with a product, a service, a specific interaction, or the overall experience with a brand.

Companies measure CSAT with a survey that asks, “How satisfied are you with [product/service/experience]?” Along with the question, there’s a five-point scale customers use to illustrate their satisfaction. There’s also usually a comment box where respondents can provide support and reasons for their rating.

By capturing feedback at key interaction points in a buyer’s journey, CX metrics like CSAT provide teams with quantitative and qualitative data that can help decision-makers take action to improve customer sentiment and business processes.

Both consumers and companies alike consider customer service a brand differentiator with the power to make or break the customer experience. According to our CX Trends Report, 73 percent of business leaders say there’s a direct link between customer service and financial performance. If companies want to increase profitability and brand loyalty, they need to use customer feedback (like CSAT scores) to their advantage.

CSAT vs. Customer Effort Score (CES) vs. Net Promoter Score® (NPS)

CSAT, CES, and NPS are the most commonly used customer satisfaction metrics because they’re straightforward and simple to implement.

In short:

  • CSAT measures a customer’s satisfaction with your company, service, or product.
  • CES measures how much effort a customer put in to complete a task with your company.
  • NPS measures a customer’s overall perception of your brand (not their impression of a particular interaction or purchase).

Like CSAT, CES is measured using a survey. It asks customers to rate the ease of their interaction on a scale of “very easy” to “very difficult.” Teams can also focus the question on certain tasks, such as communicating with support agents, purchasing or returning products, or leaving reviews.

CSAT, CES, and NPS are the most commonly used customer satisfaction metrics because they’re straightforward.

NPS data is collected through a survey, too. An NPS survey typically asks, “How likely are you to recommend us to someone you know?” Customers rate their likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being “very likely” to recommend.

A few advantages of each metric:

  • CSAT can provide helpful insights into specific aspects of the customer experience. It’s useful for any type of customer interaction.
  • CES makes it easy to spot weaknesses during support interactions or within a product. It can predict future buying behavior, show where to make business improvements, and be a good indicator of customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
  • NPS tends to receive a higher response rate than other metrics. It’s helpful for assessing the quality of your product or service, customer support, and customer experience. Companies also consider NPS a “growth indicator” because it gives leadership teams an idea of how likely it is for a customer to recommend their business to others.

While each KPI has its advantages, they’re best used in conjunction with one another. This will give you a well-rounded view of your customers’ feelings about, and interactions with, your company.

Benefits of measuring customer satisfaction

Though CSAT data is easy to gather, don’t let the simplicity fool you. According to The State of Digital Customer Experience, CSAT is the top metric companies use to measure digital CX improvement. Here’s why.

Gain a better understanding of your audience

Unmet expectations lead to dissatisfaction. By collecting user feedback during key touchpoints, you learn whether you’re meeting—and hopefully exceeding—your audience’s needs. This not only helps you discover exactly what your customers are seeking from your product or service, but it also provides insights into the challenges or bottlenecks they face along their journey.

Improve customer retention and loyalty

When you have a large customer base, it can be difficult to identify individual buyers who are at risk of churning. By studying CSAT scores, you can often pinpoint unhappy customers, giving you time to make adjustments before you lose them. Plus, when consumers see that you’re actively improving your products and processes based on their feedback, it speaks volumes about your company’s commitment to its customers.

CSAT metrics aren’t only useful for preventing dissatisfaction or customer churn; they can also help you create brand advocates. While you should certainly pay attention to—and act on—negative feedback, positive comments can be just as beneficial for growing your business. Pay attention to those who give you top scores and reach out to them. Thank them for their business, and ask them to leave a review or share their experience on social media.

How to calculate customer satisfaction score

The first step is to send a customer satisfaction survey. Once you receive your responses, you can determine your CSAT in one of two ways: a composite customer satisfaction score (which is simply the average of your survey scores) or a more detailed customer satisfaction score (which measures the percentage of customers who consider themselves “satisfied” or better).

To calculate the composite customer satisfaction score, divide the sum of all scores by the sum of the maximum possible scores, then multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage.

We recommend using the more detailed customer satisfaction score calculation, as it’s more useful for determining the number of happy customers. To calculate this percentage, first divide the total number of customers who are “very satisfied” (5) or “satisfied” (4) by the total number of responses. Then, multiply that result by 100 to get your customer satisfaction percentage.

customer satisfaction score

Let’s review an example. Say you survey a group of customers and receive the following responses:

Respondent

Respondent score

Maximum score

Customer A
3
5
Customer B
4
5
Customer C
3
5
Customer D
5
5
Customer E
5
5
Customer F
2
5
Customer G
4
5
Customer H
3
5
Customer I
5
5
Customer J
1
5

Total

35

50

The composite customer satisfaction score for this data set is 70 percent:

35 ÷ 50 = 0.7
0.7 x 100 = 70%

The detailed customer satisfaction score for this data set is 50 percent:

5 ÷ 10 = 0.5
0.5 x 100 = 50%

According to Qualtrics, using only positive responses in your calculation is more beneficial. Why? Because using the two highest values on CSAT surveys is “the most accurate predictor of customer retention.”

When and how to use customer satisfaction score surveys

You can send CSAT surveys to your customers at any point during their journey, but the three most common touchpoints are: after a support interaction, after a purchase, and after onboarding.

  • Measuring CSAT after an agent interaction provides insight into how your users feel about the level of support your team provides.
  • Assessing CSAT after a purchase speaks to customers’ level of happiness with your product(s) or service(s).
  • Gauging CSAT after onboarding can indicate which educational components are most helpful for your customers and which are ineffective.

Surveying your customers after these three common touchpoints provides a well-rounded view of their overall sentiment toward your team, company, and products or services.

You can also measure CSAT at key moments in the customer journey—particularly after “customer lifecycle moments.”

  • Discovery: when a customer first learns about your brand
  • Evaluation: when a customer learns enough about your brand to decide whether or not to make a purchase
  • Purchase: when a customer buys your product or service
  • Experience: when a customer engages with the purchased product or service
  • Retention: when a customer makes a repeat purchase

When gauging satisfaction, you want the experience to be fresh in your customers’ minds, so it’s important to send CSAT surveys in a timely manner. It may be helpful to set up automated surveys that are triggered by an interaction (agent support, purchase, and onboarding). You can send out randomly timed surveys for the lifecycle moments.

What can you measure with CSAT surveys?

To put it simply, you can evaluate buyers’ level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with your company, products, services, and customer support.

Along with overall satisfaction, CSAT surveys can provide insights into consumers’ experiences with your support agents. They can shed light on several areas, including:

  • Knowledge and understanding of products or services
  • Communication and responsiveness
  • Professionalism
  • Timeliness and effectiveness of issue resolution

CSAT surveys can also measure customer sentiment in other areas critical to your company’s success, such as:

  • Perception of quality and reliability
  • Likelihood of purchasing again
  • Product or service benefits
  • Future or hypothetical scenarios

Once you’re ready to design your CSAT survey, make sure you customize it to capture the specific information you’re seeking. If you need a jumping-off point, we have CSAT survey templates and best practices available for your reference.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

What is a good CSAT score?

Although there are loose guidelines around the CSAT score you should shoot for, it’s not an exact science. Every business, product, and service is different, so what’s considered a good score for one industry may not be good for another. That being said, most brands consider CSAT scores between 75 and 85 percent to be adequate.

Resources such as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) can help you find “typical” CSAT scores for your industry. The ACSI provides CSAT score benchmarks for a number of business sectors as well as individual companies.

Regardless of your specific percentage, if your CSAT score increases over time, your team is doing something right. Track your progress by measuring CSAT regularly and making it a part of your overall CX strategy.

CSAT scores by industry

ACSI data shows that the overall U.S. customer satisfaction score is 73.55 percent. Find a complete list of CSAT benchmarks (shown in percentages) by industry below:

Specialty retailers: 77
Gas stations: 68
General merchandise retailers: 75
Drugstores: 76
Online retailers: 77
Supermarkets: 76

Airlines: 76
Hotels: 73
Car rentals: 76
Online travel agencies: 74

Municipal: 73
Investor-owned: 72
Cooperative: 73

Inpatient care: 70
Outpatient care: 74
Emergency room: 66
Ambulatory care: 73
Hospitals: 69

Consumer shipping: 74
U.S. Postal Service: 70

Subscription TV service: 65
Video streaming service: 74
Video on-demand service: 67
Internet service providers: 65
Landline phone service: 71
Wireless phone service: 74
Computer software: 77

Full-service: 80
Fast food: 78

Automobiles: 78
Personal computers: 79
Household appliances and electronics: 78
Cell phones: 79

Nondurable products

  • Soft drinks: 78
  • Personal care and cleaning products: 79
  • Breweries: 79
  • Athletic shoes: 78
  • Apparel: 78
  • Food manufacturing: 80

Banks: 78
Credit unions: 76
Health insurance: 73
Life insurance: 78
Property and casualty insurance: 78
Financial advisors: 78
Online investment: 78

Social media: 70
News and opinion: 74

Federal government: 63.4

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of every existing sector and business type. But it’s a good place to start for benchmarking your CSAT scores against industry averages.

How to improve your CSAT score

If you’re dissatisfied with your CSAT score, don’t worry too much—you can fix it. And if you’re happy with your score, it’s still good to have an improvement plan in mind. There are several tactics you can use to improve your CSAT score, but we’re going to focus on some of the most actionable options.

  • Empower your customer support agents

    The quality of support you provide significantly impacts customer satisfaction. According to this year’s CX Trends Report, 61 percent of shoppers will switch to a company’s competitor after just one negative customer service experience.

    All change begins from within, and for customer-centric brands, that means starting with your support agents. Though you may have done the work to upgrade and streamline your customer service experience, you need to put the same amount of effort into training your team to handle those changes—like increasing agent knowledge, implementing CRM software, and providing robust customer service tools. Otherwise, any improvements you’ve made are purely cosmetic, and the same issues will continue to arise.

  • Be transparent about wait times

    Placing customers on hold is inevitable. Support teams need time to find answers to queries, consult with other team members, or gather more information about a specific product feature. In these situations, it’s best to be honest about wait times.

    While it’s tempting to provide overly optimistic hold time estimations, your customers will only become more frustrated when they have to wait longer than expected. Be transparent about customer wait times, and reassure callers that you’re working as quickly as you can.

    If possible, direct them to an interactive voice response system to minimize their wait. You can also give them the option to leave a call-back number so the agent can contact them when it’s their turn, saving them from waiting on hold.

  • Add customer self-service

    Our CX Trends Report revealed that 70 percent of customers expect a company to have a self-service portal or content available to them. Not only do customers expect self-service resources, but they also seek them out: 89 percent of buyers will spend more with companies that allow them to find answers online without needing to contact anyone.

    Consumers want the option to find answers and solve problems independently. So, provide them with self-service options like FAQ pages, knowledge bases, and chatbots. When done well, self-service increases customer satisfaction and improves both agent efficiency and productivity.

Align your CSAT metrics with your CSAT goals

How you use your customer satisfaction score will largely depend on the products and services your company offers. Your overall CX strategy should dictate the CSAT metrics you choose to measure in your surveys.

But before putting any data into action, you’ll want to create goals for your CSAT metrics. After all, calculating CSAT does nothing to help your CX if you don’t use the information to improve your products, services, support processes, or overall business practices.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

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