Chasing High CSAT or Customer Success?

December 08, 2023

Recently I was talking to someone about how our support team at Postmark works — They were really curious on the metrics that we follow. I could tell they were from an org that put a lot of value on metrics. The answer I had for them was half formed and probably felt to them like “…good vibes”. The reason for this is pretty simple, we don’t heavily track metrics on our team.

That’s not to say metrics aren’t valuable, a great NPS score is a great score is worth celebrating. A great CSAT score is also great. I think they’re wrong as metrics to push towards.

To provide an example: A lot of companies get lost in celebrating service recovery. Let’s imagine there’s a bad CSAT score from a customer that renews in a couple weeks. The machinery of the CS org swarms to make the customer happy. Maybe a manager replies and offers a credit or to hop on call. After whatever happens, the customer is turned from mad to lukewarm okay, and the renewal happens. Everyone shakes hands, claps, executive emails are sent out celebrating the customer won’t churn and naming the swarm team as an example of team collaboration. After the celebration is done, it’s never thought “Why did the bad experience happen in the first place?”. Instead, the process repeats in a few weeks.

Or to put it another way, let’s say we dictate “This month we want a 95%+ CSAT score”. Think about it though, this score is a lag measure, at the end of the month we’ll go back and see if we met our goal. As much as we want a high score, that desire doesn’t produce a high CSAT score. Or you can even game the score — I’ve seen folks directly ask for ratings after conversations they know will produce an at least not bad CSAT rating to pump up the numbers.

Instead, to meet those metrics, I have a different philosophy. It’s better to look at the inputs that create the good metrics you want… In the example of CSAT, determine what practices you believe create a good CSAT score. For instance: A voice and tone guide, detailed training on the hardest types of support requests you receive, setting expectations for what makes someone good (and bad) at their role, and creating a culture where it’s encouraged to ask for help.

I’ll provide an example for the work that we do at Postmark — We’re a developer focused service with an API. Once a month we hold a “Roundtable” on the customer support team. This is a time when someone can bring up a topic they’d love to learn more about, like our API in Node.js, or productivity tips and tricks using TextExpander, and we’ll go into detail on that topic. After that call, our team can answer conversations quicker or is knowledgeable in a library so when a customer writes in they can get a knowledge response without waiting for an escalation to a support engineering team.

So when thinking of the outcome we want, we look at the practices that we believe we think can produce great customer experiences that lead to high CSAT scores.

Postscript: As much as I like to imagine that I’m a cowboy that lives in the wild west of not tracking metrics, I working at a startup that wants to track metrics. If you’re reading this and reports your team metrics to an executive team, I’d love to learn what you track ([email protected]).

And a huge thank you to Nick Cannariato and his Support Driven Leadership talk, Metrics with a Purpose for giving me the mental encouragement to post this.

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