Article

How to improve customer satisfaction

Segment your scores, use your own products, and six additional tactics you can use to make your customers love you more.

By Brian Reuter

Published March 19, 2017
Last updated September 21, 2021

Whether your customers are experiencing high levels of satisfaction or Mick Jagger levels of satisfaction, there’s almost always room for improvement.

Improving customer satisfaction starts with measuring customer satisfaction. Without the right data, you’ll never know what’s working and what needs to change to make your customers happier.

A customer satisfaction score, or CSAT, is the best metric for gauging whether customers are content with your service. Support teams automatically send CSAT surveys to customers after a predefined event occurs, such as an agent solving a ticket. But how do you optimize your CSAT survey process? And, more importantly, how do you make those CSAT scores go up?

We asked our own experts for advice on the best ways to measure, leverage, and increase customer satisfaction.

1. Start with a plan

For those who are just starting to explore how to improve customer satisfaction, first things first: don’t collect CSAT survey responses until you understand how your team will leverage the information.

“If you have a great CSAT, that’s awesome, but what are you going to do with it? Are you going to act on that information to drive additional business?” says David Sarnowski, a customer success consultant at Zendesk. “Similarly, if you get negative feedback, what’s the plan? It really needs to be a reflective one. If the plan for an agent with a bad CSAT is ‘get rid of that agent,’ you’re not thinking deep enough.”

To handle negative feedback, you might look at how you can improve training and coaching for agents. Or investigate further to see if the poor CSATs are being driven by frustration with your product or the processes you have in place. Whatever the cause, you should be willing and ready to address the core issue.

2. Craft easy-to-complete surveys

Keep these surveys short and to the point. Zendesk’s customer satisfaction survey simply asks, “Good or bad?”

Zendesk simple survey

The survey can be made even simpler by switching to smiley and frowny face response options.

Continually tinker with your CSAT survey settings to see what copy and design encourage responses.

“CSAT is not something you can set and forget,” Sarnowski says. “You need to be continually watching and testing.”

3. Segment scores to break down the results

Your overall average CSAT rating might give you a bird’s-eye view of how your broader support efforts stack up, but it doesn’t explain which individual factors are shaping the result. To figure out the “why” behind your CSAT results, segment the scores based on the ticket’s unique qualities. Find out what you’re doing right (or wrong) by comparing the CSAT scores for different:

  • Support channels
  • Types of issues
  • Specific regions
  • Customer demographics
  • Support tiers, teams, and individual agents
  • Time periods, including holidays, busy seasons, days of the week, and hours of the day

In Zendesk, add tags to tickets based on the factors above, and our platform will automatically segment your survey results.

The more ways you measure customer satisfaction, the more insight you have into what’s driving satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

4. Adjust the frequency and timing of your surveys

Most companies send a CSAT survey after every customer service interaction. In some cases, though, that can be a little much.

“Does your customer interact with your support team once every month, or do they interact 20 times in a month?” Sarnowski says. “If a CSAT survey is kicking out after every single interaction, you can end up with people getting ‘CSAT blindness,’ where they stop paying attention and responding to surveys.”

If your customers are regularly contacting your support agents, you may need to tone down the frequency of your surveys. Or you can stop sending CSATs for extremely common ticket types, such as password resets.

Along with frequency, you may need to adjust the timing of your surveys.

“Some people will send surveys closer to the interaction and keep that window of time fairly short,” Sarnowski says. “Other people send the CSAT out a couple of days after the fact.”

Which method you choose depends on how frequently customers are submitting tickets. If a customer submits multiple tickets in a week, they may not remember the interaction they’re rating if the survey arrives days later.

As you experiment with the frequency and timing of your surveys, continue monitoring your CSAT response rates. If they are high, your CSAT survey schedule is likely ideal for your customers.

Always close the loop

When you get a negative CSAT response, “close the loop” with the original customer. Apologize for the negative interaction, thank them for their feedback, and let them know how you’ve fixed the problem.

So, for example, if several customers say they’re unsatisfied with a complicated sign-in process, let them know what you’ve done to simplify it.

“That kind of effort not only gives you the chance to win back some of their business, but it reinforces the value of completing CSAT surveys,” Sarnowski says.

A lot of people will stop responding to surveys if it seems like they’re feedback isn’t appreciated. So even if customers give you positive CSATs, respond with a “thank you.” Whether you’re receiving good or bad feedback, you always want to “close the loop” with the customer.

5. Use your own product

If you’re receiving low CSAT responses and wondering why customers are unsatisfied, try seeing things from their point of view. Daniel Schultz, a Zendesk customer success associate, says he often encourages companies to “eat their own dog food” by going through their own support process.

“Could you, as the CEO or the support leader, actually go through your own customer support experience?” Schultz says. “You built it on the back end, but that doesn’t count as actually seeing it as a customer.”

Daniel used this strategy to help a grocery-store chain that was dealing with negative customer feedback. Once he walked them through their own help center, they realized that their request forms required customers to enter their names three times.

“Sit through every single channel,” he advises. “If you have phone support, help center, and live chat, go through every channel from the start all the way to the very end.”

6. Offer channels that match your customers’ needs

According to the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, less than 30% of companies currently offer self-service, live chat, social messaging, in-app messaging, answer bots, or peer-to-peer communities. This stat represents a huge missed opportunity since these channels tend to have high CSAT scores—particularly chat.

However, experts also caution against pursuing new channels just for the sake of pursuing new channels.

“If your customer base is not the type of audience that is going to be using WhatsApp, then don’t push WhatsApp on to them just because you think it’s interesting,” says Conchita Mauro, a senior success consultant for Zendesk. “I see that happening, as well. Companies say, ‘This is the hot new thing, so we’ve got to have it,’ but their customers are older people who prefer to go to the bank in person.”

Besides considering channel preferences, you also want to use channels that best suit customers’ tickets.

“Even though customers are free to decide which channel they use to contact support, you should have a channel strategy to invite them to use the channels that are going to be better for their request,” says Giovanna Chethuan, one of Zendesk’s customer success consultants.

For example, if a customer calls in with a request that will take hours to resolve, they’re poised to have an unpleasant phone interaction. Instead, the agent should explain that they will send them a response in a few hours and then transfer the ticket to email.

With an omnichannel support solution, it’s easy for agents to carry conversations across multiple channels. Conversations across channels happen in a single place—your CRM—so support reps can quickly respond and share information with team members.

7. Automate away routine tickets

The faster you can take care of routine tickets, the more time your agents will have to focus on high-touch support interactions.

The cornerstone of self-service is a smart knowledge base that contains frequently asked questions, product details, policies, and more. With a robust, well-organized base, customers are more likely to independently resolve issues—potentially leading to a big drop in support tickets.

“The best ticket is the ticket that you don’t create,” Chethuan says.

To encourage self-service, Daniel recommends that agents use macros—prepared responses—for common, simple requests. With just a few clicks, agents can use macros to save both time and effort.

“The customer doesn’t have to wait as long because the agent just fires off that one macro, and the support agent can be more efficient by pushing just a few buttons instead of pushing all the buttons,” Daniel says.

8. Recognize the link between agent and customer satisfaction

Support agents are the front lines of customer service. Their mood and enthusiasm determine whether customer interactions are smooth and positive or bumpy rollercoasters.

“Customer satisfaction is a lagging indicator of employee satisfaction,” Sarnowski says. “If you don’t treat your agents very well, if you don’t train them well, if you don’t equip them to be confident, and if you don’t support them to be comfortable, their ability to deliver a positive, uplifting, and meaningful experience is going to be very limited.”

Giovanna sums it up with the saying “Happy agents equal happy customers.”

Foster a fun, supportive environment for your agents. Show them the empathy and engagement that you want them to extend to customers. And empower your team with essential support tools, so they’re equipped to provide a memorable and positive customer experience.

Improving customer satisfaction is about more than CSAT scores

Making customers happy is the name of the game, and CSAT surveys are a great tool for accomplishing that goal. But don’t let customer satisfaction become your only focus.

“Avoid the temptation of looking at your CSAT score as gospel, and try to understand that it is only one element of your entire customer experience” Mauro says.

There are lots of other important support metrics to track, including number of replies, number of reopens, and total resolution time. It’s also important to regularly read tickets and listen in on calls so that you always have your finger on the pulse of your support operation.

To learn more about mastering CX, download the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report today.