The most important driver of CSAT in customer support

How to crack the customer satisfaction (CSAT) riddle. What is it that makes customers either satisfied or dissatisfied?

The most important driver of CSAT in customer support

How to crack the customer satisfaction (CSAT) riddle. What is it that makes customers either satisfied or dissatisfied?

Meet the author

Richard Hibbert

Principal Consultant

We have been working recently with a couple of contact centres in B2B Software as a Service (SAAS) companies. Although the organisations are very different, what they have in common is a sprawling portfolio of complex products – designed for specialist audiences.

In both cases, part of the work we were doing was trying to crack the customer satisfaction (CSAT) riddle. What is it that makes their customers either satisfied or dissatisfied  – as measured by post-case transactional surveys?

We looked at their data to see what would correlate most strongly so that we know what to improve. We were excited to see whether this would be waiting times (since no one wants to be stuck in a queue)… average handling time (not stuck on hold)… or even the time of day (perhaps people are grumpier on their lunch break).

The strongest relationship we found? Agent tenure! In other words, the length of time the agent had been working at the contact centre had the biggest bearing on customer satisfaction.

At both companies the result looked something like this. 

This was one of those things that felt obvious after we had found it – clearly agents that are more experienced and understand the products will be better able to support customers. But the strength of the relationship was surprising.

As a test, I asked around a couple of other clients – in this case, B2C with much simpler products, to see if they had the same experience. Their reply was that after the fairly short period it took for agents to be onboarded and become competent (about four to six weeks) there wasn’t much further improvement – with lots of variation in CSAT scores for both long and short-tenure agents.

Clearly, it would be interesting to extend our research to a wider set of contact centres, but even this small sample underlines how much agent retention (and by extension, agent engagement) will impact your ability to keep customers happy when you have a complex product. 

So, how would you go about engaging your agents and encouraging them to stay with you? In particular, how would you do this at organisations with extremely complex product sets – as is common with B2B SAAS?

My colleague Ben Peart has posted on this subject (see his blog here).   

Based on my experience working with customer support leaders (and a number of years wearing a headset handling customer calls), my take is that although effective tech and solid onboarding are clearly important, the biggest factors are mostly emotional. You need a workplace culture that is fun, supportive and creates a feeling of belonging. You also need a sense of purpose or mission that motivates people. Both of these take time to embed.    

For culture – this starts with the norms of behaviours of the leadership and how policies are enforced.

Although schedule adherence is vital for a contact centre to function well, if someone needs to take some time to deal with a family emergency, how is this handled? Are they made to feel guilty? Although utilisation needs to be managed, are there team huddles to make sure people can share issues and collaborate on solutions? If they exist, are they mostly for top-down edicts and messages?  

Depending on what your company actually sells, creating a sense of purpose or mission could also be difficult. Particularly when these products are very niche or opaque, as is common in B2B SAAS companies.

The trick is to try to link your team’s work to the wider world and show the value that you create for your customers. Sharing stories from happy customers can help, as can demoing innovations or changes in your products and services. Different organisations will need to try different approaches – but will always require repetition and sincerity from leadership.     

High staff turnover speaks volumes about a company. It points to an unhappy environment and disengaged agents. The data we have found underlines how this will inevitably feed through to unhappy customers as well – so it’s worth investing the time to get it right.

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