Discuss customer satisfaction: Talking with your agents about CSAT

5 min readJun 8, 2017

Of all the metrics used to measure customer experience, customer satisfaction is the most prevalent. Support teams are always looking for ways to “move the needle” and bump their customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores up a few percentage points in the hope that customers will be happier and more loyal.

But how does this pressure to perform filter down to customer support agents? Constant stress from peer audits and CSAT goals can lead to employee burnout and have the opposite effect you’re looking for.

Rather than using CSAT scores as a weapon against support teams, we need to use them as a tool for improvement. The difference comes from how we discuss customer satisfaction surveys and responses with our team. A little more empathy, better coaching and the right focus can completely change your teams attitude about customers.

In this post, we explore how support team leaders can better discuss customer satisfaction scores with their team.

What does Unsatisfied mean to you?

When those inevitable bad satisfaction surveys come in, how do you react? The way you talk about unhappy customers will guide your entire team’s perspective. It might be tempting to downplay bad surveys by discrediting the customer who sent them. But if you dismiss every unhappy customer as needy or crazy, your team’s respect for customers will lessen.

If you dismiss every unhappy customer as needy or crazy, your team’s respect for them will lessen.

On the swing side, if every negative review sends you into a tizzy and starts the finger pointing, your team will live in a constant state of fear. They’ll start worrying that just one bad survey might affect their future employment prospects. That level of anxiety won’t help anyone perform their best.

As support leaders we need to employ a balanced response to unhappy customers. Curious, concerned and wanting to fix the problem — but understanding that a bad rating isn’t the end of the world.

Focussing on what we can do better and not what went wrong keeps our team constantly improving instead of blaming. When talking about unhappy customers ask your team members:

  • What could we have done better?
  • Where are the opportunities for improvements?
  • Are other customers feeling this way?

Individual CSAT Feedback

If you have concerns about a specific individual’s low CSAT score, you’ll probably want to bring it up with them. There are ways to make this difficult conversation more constructive.

First, understand where your concerns are coming from. Is it a specific customer conversation? Or are you seeing an ongoing trend in low CSAT scores? It’s also worth noting if this agent tends to pick up more difficult or complex support conversations. If they are always the go-to person for escalations, they may see a decrease in their score. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be looking to improve — just that the strategy for improvement might be different.

Secondly, understand who your agent is. Every single person on your team is a human, with context. They may be dealing with issues outside of work, or have mental health challenges they are working through. Come to the conversation with empathy for your employees, and not just your customers.

Finally, each agent will have a preferred way of getting feedback. The only way to know the best method for feedback is to talk about it. Building a report with your team will help make CSAT conversations much easier. This doesn’t just go for negative conversations — some team members don’t like receiving positive feedback in public.

Think of this as a coaching opportunity. Rather than explaining what went wrong, allow space for your agent to talk through the problem. Keep the conversation open ended. You might learn more about the agent’s experience than you expect.

Suggestions for conversation starters:

  • “I wanted to talk with you about that conversation. What are your thoughts about how it went?”
  • “I’ve noticed a few of your conversations ended unhappily last week. What are your plans to get back on track this week?”
  • “What do you think we can improve in how we answer these kinds of questions?”
  • “Let’s dive into this tough conversation you handled last week. Why do you think the customer replied that way?”

Celebrating as a Team

We’ve suggested publicly displaying customer satisfaction scores as an unconventional way to improve CSAT scores before. Publishing CSAT results on a dashboard or a Slack feed makes it easy for your team to see how they are doing.

Check out some of the companies who already do so, and rock at it.

But it also can drive the wrong behaviours. If you’re rewarding team members with the highest customer satisfaction scores, you might see “cherry pickers” emerge. Cherry pickers are team members that only take the easiest queries and avoid any difficult customers. They’ll have super high CSAT scores, but won’t be improving their customer service skills. Other people on the team might feel unfairly treated if they are continually forced to pick up tough tickets while others sail through.

A dashboard showing 100% customer satisfaction as the ultimate goal is also unfair. While we all want to do better, being perfect is impossible. Just one bad survey prevents perfection. Nobody on the team should face the burden of a perfect score every time. It’s a recipe for burnout.

Read also: Why a 100% CSAT score won’t help you grow

Instead, celebrate great individual survey comments. Focus on team members who go above and beyond and build customer relationships. Celebrate big gains in CSAT. Celebrate consistency! Celebrate turning an unhappy customer into a happy one.

Use these words when celebrating CSAT wins:

  • “Great job on this conversation Katie! You really dug deep to find the issue.”
  • “Well done on keeping our CSAT score consistently high through the volume spike!”
  • “The bug fix last week jumped out CSAT up by 5%! That’s a lot more happy customers this month.”

What does Customer Satisfaction mean to you?

When you discuss customer satisfaction scores with your team, focus on the why. We don’t track CSAT just for the number. We track it because we want to provide the best customer support out there. And that means knowing if our customers are happy.

Communicating the goal of CSAT to your team isn’t always easy (we all get caught up in numbers!). But if you succeed, your team will know.




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