A high CSAT score is often seen as the holy grail of customer satisfaction. But can these scores offer a true indication of the customer journey? Simon Hunt, Director Customer Experience at Firstsource, looks at the limitations of CSAT scores and offers an alternative vision to measure true customer experience.

A recent McKinsey report suggested that “the road to failed customer experience is paved with good intentions”. For senior business leaders, the benefits of building a customer-centric strategy are clear: more satisfied customers, increased loyalty and higher profits.

Despite brands’ best intentions, latest figures show more still needs to be done. There have been marginal improvements in recent months, but customer satisfaction remains stubbornly lower than it was three years ago. This contradiction shows there still remains a disconnect between brands and the customer’s needs, particularly when considering the seasonality of the customer lifecycle.

Calculating the customer experience

A key component of a customer-centric approach relies on analysing past interactions to inform how you engage with customers in the future. But measuring satisfaction levels isn’t straightforward, and building meaningful data for an inherently abstract concept can prove a critical stumbling block.

CSAT scores are a seemingly effective solution to benchmark these figures. In its simplest form, CSAT uses a follow-up survey to gauge how well the customer’s needs were met. The results are expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100%, with 100% representing the holy grail of customer satisfaction.

Its straightforward methodology means it is now one of the most widely used measurement frameworks in board rooms around the world – but are these scores really as useful an indication of customer experience as they are made out to be?

The limitations of CSAT

While Executives are increasingly recognising the value of great customer experience, companies will fall behind if they continue to limit the measurement of their customer experience to this metric alone.

One of the limitations with CSAT scores is that there is no prescriptive method follow-up surveys need to adhere to. Often, scores are determined by a single question. But this is not enough to take into account the complexities and nuances of a customer’s journey, and means it cannot separate out the specific factors that contribute to customer satisfaction.

To provide an accurate overview of customer service, surveys must also take into account more nuanced factors around the individual’s journey – such as how closely their expectations are metand how valued they feel.

The seasonality of a customer lifecycle

Providing a customer-centric strategy is a year-round engagement. While businesses wind down for the summer months, contact centre professionals continue to be as busy as ever. For the travel sector in particular, the summer months are unsurprisingly some of their busiest times – so much so that travel companies are increasingly working with third-party providers as a “seasonal partner” to help manage these peaks in customer enquiries.

Just as the number of enquiries will peak and trough throughout the year, so too will the nature of a customer’s enquiries. Here lies another limitation of CSAT scores: they give only a very flat, one-dimensional vision of the customer’s journey, when in reality it is far from linear. A customer’s journey will fluctuate throughout the year, and a customer’s query in April can be entirely different come August.

Because CSAT scores are often too rigid to appreciate the customer’s lifecycle and its seasonality, scores become skewed and inaccurate. And for companies affected by seasonal demands, a key question to consider is how good their service was when a customer really needed them. If letting down a customer during a key event, the excuse that it’s a busy time may not wash.

 Towards a holistic approach

An overzealous reliance on CSAT is often simply because there is no adequate substitute framework.

But its constraints show the need for a wider and more holistic approach to customer satisfaction. Including new technology such as speech and text analytics provides more readily measurable and accurate insights. In today’s hyper-connected world, social media listening is another key way to understand the customer experience. And process improvements must take in feedback from all parts of the business, from the contact centre agents through to the Chief Customer Office.

Companies must also ask themselves how well their analytics are at identifying the “call for help”queries. Although how well a company deals with these enquiries doesn’t define a company’s CSAT, they can define a customer’s sentiment towards the brand.

Only by aggregating a wider array of insights can companies build a more complete picture of their customers, anticipate their needs and delivery year-round customer satisfaction. This new measurement framework would prove that the ultimate customer experience isn’t about box ticking or point scoring, but comes when a company truly understands its customers needs.

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