The C-SAT Paradox

What Customer Satisfaction Scores Really Mean in a Self-Service Focused World


As websites become more sophisticated and self-service options are continually improved upon, the idea is that fewer customers will need to call, chat or email in for assistance.  We know that consumers, particularly in younger generations, prefer to do things on their own, to find their own answers and solve their own problems using online resources on their own time.  Companies have focused a great deal on optimizing the customer journey and putting technology and processes in place that make it easy to do business with them.  So, with all these new initiatives launching over the past few years, customer satisfaction scores must be through the roof, right?

Many companies are actually finding the opposite, and there’s a fairly simple reason why.

Historically, simple calls have often resulted in higher customer satisfaction scores. A caller with a quick, easy question, who received a quick, simple answer, would be likely to leave the interaction satisfied.  However, calls that are more complex in nature are the call types that present a challenge for C-SAT scores at the center, team and individual levels. So as less and less simple calls are conducted, due to improvements in site usability and self-service options, the pool of calls to measure C-SAT on includes a heavy concentration of complex call types, resulting in lower scores being reported overall.

While this paradox certainly presents a problem with using C-SAT as a global satisfaction indicator, it’s still an incredibly important metric to measure. What’s changing now is how organizations approach the measurement process, as well as the goal of improving C-SAT scores.

Understanding & Addressing Complex Calls

The first step toward achieving a meaningful understanding of an organization’s C-SAT score in order to improve it is having in place an understanding and categorization of call types. Are callers trying to solve a problem they are having on a site or with a product? Do they need help making a purchase? Do they have questions about a transaction (a bill, a claim or a purchase, for example)?  Measuring the C-SAT score by the type of contact is essential.  If short and simple calls are reduced in volume but maintaining a high C-SAT score as a category, the company is on the right path.  If longer and more complex calls are showing lower C-SAT scores as a category, or increasing in volume, there are some specific strategies a company can take to approach that challenge.

The Three T’s: Tools, Training and Transformation

The first approach toward improving C-SAT on complex calls is to use tools and technology to address gaps in the service experience. For example, a company that has identified product support as a challenge area may opt to deploy a screen sharing or co-browsing solution in order to more quickly show a customer how to use a feature or fix a problem. This type of technology can also help with speed and accuracy issues during calls from consumers who are filling in a mortgage application, auto insurance claim or completing another complicated, multi-step online process.  Enhanced analytics and CRM integrations to provide personalized, complete customer records are other excellent tools to address challenging call types.  

The second approach is to address agent training and empowerment. Make sure calls are being routed to agents who are specially trained to solve complex issues quickly, and independently, on the first call. Access to co-browsing tools, knowledge bases and integrated customer information is key to helping well-trained agents solve problems efficiently.

And the third approach is the ongoing transformation of existing processes. Use customer and agent feedback to continually improve the touchpoints associated with complex service interactions. Streamline the process when possible, and make sure that live, personal assistance is easy to obtain from any step within the customer experience, in channel and in real-time.

The New Meaning of C-SAT

Knowing how changes in C-SAT affect the bottom line and other KPIs is crucial in order to justify investments in tools, training and transformations aimed at improving those scores.  Does a 1-point lift correlate to an average increase in revenue? Increased customer loyalty? Better conversion rates? Utilize integrated analytics to understand how C-SAT ties in to business performance.

Most importantly, companies must commit to continually re-evaluating the meaning and value of C-SAT scores as a KPI based on the types of calls being handled now and how those call categories shift in the future as the customer experience changes. 

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