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How to Modernise Your Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Tracking Programme

By Paul Hudson

Concept of Customer Satisfaction CSAT Tracking Scores Improving

Data and insight are two very different things. I’ve written about businesses being awash with data in previous blogs, in contrast to insight wherein the true value lies. As a result of this universal realisation, many organisations are now looking to replace their old customer satisfaction tracking surveys with alternative processes. But it’s tricky. When an existing process is so deeply ingrained within an organisation where do you start?

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Tracking: Then and Now

Customer satisfaction scores determine when your customer experience is succeeding - and when it needs improvement. Tracker studies originated so that management could score customer satisfaction, most often in terms of product or service or both. They filled a gap in knowledge. At the time, there was no other data in the organisation about how customers felt. Customer satisfaction trackers ticked that box. They were often expensive programmes to fund because a lot of data had to collected, processed and reported. To be successful, the programmes had to be accurate, frequent and wide-ranging.

In recent years, businesses have begun to challenge the amount of money that is spent on these trackers. There is a general consensus that they are missing something, that other solutions might offer a superior return on investment. This thinking has gathered pace as budgets are squeezed, technological development forges ahead and customer experience focus increases.

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Customer satisfaction tracking is not dead. but its methodology does need updating

I would suggest that there is definitely a smarter way of working as we stand here today, that there is a more effective modern solution, a number of solutions in fact depending on your goals and budget. All of which are achievable with minimum disruption. So, if you feel your customer satisfaction tracker is no longer paying its way, here is a 5-step process for transition.

Step 1. Evaluate Current CSAT Tracking Objectives

Start by outlining the objectives of your current CSAT tracker and do put pen to paper. If you didn’t initiate it you can still do this. Simply write your thoughts as to why it was created and seek the opinion of others in the organisation too.

Once you’ve got a handle on the original set of tracker objectives, step back and see which still apply to the organisation’s current priorities and programme needs. Have they changed? Are there new objectives that now exist, which the current programme does not fulfil? Are any of the old tracker objectives no longer valid? Perhaps new information sources render them obsolete?

Look at the rationale for tracker frequency. Why was it set to monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly? Does that still need to be the case? Why is the sample that size and structure? And so forth.

Step 2. Evaluate Current CSAT Tracking Reports

The next step is to question what your tracking results are used for. Who is using them in the organisation today? Go and speak to them; find out why they use them, what for and to what end. I’d encourage you to really challenge users here, people often say they are using CSAT measurements but can’t actually identify any specific actions that have been taken as a result of doing so. A programme needs to be actionable if it is to deliver value.

Having identified current outcome applications you are now in a position to examine ROI from this; the reporting end. Is all of the report used for example? Or just specific parts? Are some parts more or less important than others? This goes straight to purpose; is every tracker question serving a direct and actionable organisational purpose? And are all stakeholder information needs being met? Or are there insight ‘black holes’?

Step 3. Identify CSAT Tracking Alternatives

With a clear understanding of your existing CSAT data position, the next step is to identify alternative CSAT tracking solutions - were to you to go forward and zap the tracker in its current form. Possible solutions fall into three brackets, depending on the commercial motivations for the change.

Motivation: Speed and Relevancy

One of the oft-cited reasons for replacing old customer satisfaction trackers is that the current monthly report is not frequent enough to keep pace with today’s business requirements, which demand real-time information. In this case, event-triggered measures might be better. Though shorter in scope, event-triggered methods (mini surveys or feedback cards in this instance) are embedded at the point of interaction, companywide. Key questions tend to be: Did we resolve your enquiry? Will you recommend us based on this interaction? Etc. Results are reported in automatically in real-time dashboards.

Motivation: Cost Reduction

If your primary motive for change is cost saving, but all other CSAT tracking objectives still make sense, challenge one or all of the following.

  • Sample Size
  • Collection Frequency
  • Survey Length
  • Reporting Style

In short, you need to cut out some of the process that is driving the cost. Refer back to Steps 1 and 2 - Does the business really need the results monthly? Changing to quarterly will save a lot. Does the survey really need to be that long and complicated? Simplifying it will significantly reduce the amount of data processing required and improve your chances of automation. Is all of the output used? Eliminating obsolete reporting can also mean sizable data processing savings.

Motivation: Actionable Insight

The third most common reason businesses are looking to change their customer satisfaction tracking approach is that data collected is not actionable. Whilst trackers were created for the primary purpose of data collection and measurement, and this is still necessary, operated in isolation trackers can see businesses fall into the ‘metric trap’, i.e. measurement without developmental action.

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The CSAT 'Metric Trap' = Measurement without Action

In this case, I suggest simplifying the tracking element using the cost saving motivation method above in order to redeploy funds in complementary customer satisfaction (and experience) insight initiatives. Using an insight platform like FlexMR, which integrates qual methods alongside the survey tool, can really help here. For example, you can send your revised tracker surveys out to your chosen sample (via your CRM database, an external panel, recent customers of X or Y), then invite respondents to come and tell you more, expanding on their experiences using forum discussions or vox pops.

You can use dynamic analysis will identify problem areas, areas your stakeholders need to understand further. Then recruit the respondents who cited these areas as a problem, e.g. the 20% who were dissatisfied with the checkout experience, to collaborate on a solution within dedicated focus groups. You could even invite respondents conduct mystery shopping tasks or embark on online diary studies (with video, photo and/or text submissions) to dig deeper into the experience journey behind the tracking scores.

To future proof your business and benefit from economies of scale cost wise consider building an advisory board of customers in this way.

Step 4. Make a Decision

Now you have examined both your current CSAT tracking programme as well as the potential alternatives scrutinise your current budget in relation to the following motivation dependent questions.

  • Can I achieve the same or higher quality tracking data faster?
  • Can I achieve the necessary tracking data and save money?
  • Can I achieve tracking data plus actionable insight for the same money?

The answers to these questions will assist in your decision to revise your programme or otherwise.

Step 5. Make a Business Case for Change

Every piece of information you need to make a business case for change (if you do decide to do so) should be available to you at this point. Frame the problem as you see it, evidence with the answers from the steps above, structure your solution and present your updated budget.

In Conclusion

Whatever CSAT tracking method your business currently uses and whatever CSAT tracking programme you believe is required for the future, I do urge you to maintain one. Tracking solutions have evolved, meaning that traditional trackers are not always the value for money they once were, but they need modernising, not throwing away completely. In order for customer satisfaction and the underlying customer experience to be developed, it must to be measured. Measurement is management. The two go hand in hand.

Slide Deck - CSAT Tracking

Paul Hudson

Paul Hudson- CEO & Founder

Personal Bio: Paul is an expert in online research with 17+ years of experience. He has grown FlexMR from an ambitious new agency into the world leading research platform it is today.
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