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Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Theory

3 min read
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is a commonly used key performance indicator that tracks how satisfied customers are with your organisation's products and/or services. It’s a psychological state that is measured by the customer’s expectations. By knowing what those expectations are, you can dramatically increase your customer’s loyalty to your brand.

What Is Satisfaction?

Satisfaction is an overall psychological state that reflects the evaluation of a relationship between the customer or consumer and a company, environment, product or service. Satisfaction involves one of the following three psychological elements: cognitive (thinking/evaluation), affective (emotional/feeling), and behavioural.

Expectations and Customer Satisfaction

Expectations are beliefs (likelihood or probability) that a product and/or service (containing certain attributes, features or characteristics) will produce certain outcomes (benefits or values) given certain anticipated levels of performance based on previous affective, cognitive, and behavioural experiences. Expectations are often related to satisfaction and can be measured as follows:

  1. Importance: Value of the product/service fulfilling the expectation.
  2. Overall Affect-Satisfaction Expectations: Like/dislike of the product/service.
  3. Fulfilment of Expectation: The expected level of performance versus the desired expectations. This is “predictive fulfilment” and is a respondent-specific index of the performance level necessary to satisfy.
  4. Expected Value from Use: Satisfaction is often determined by the frequency of use. If a product/service is not used as often as expected, the result may not be as satisfying as anticipated. For example, a motorcycle that sits in the garage, an unused year subscription to the local fitness centre, or a little-used season pass to a ski resort would produce more dissatisfaction with the decision to purchase, than with the actual product/service.

Measuring Expectations

In building a customer satisfaction survey, it is also helpful to consider reasons why pre-purchase expectations or post-purchase satisfaction may not be fulfilled or even measurable.

  1. Expectations may not reflect unanticipated service attributes.
  2. Expectations may have been quite vague, creating wide latitudes of acceptability in performance and expected satisfaction.
  3. Expectation and product performance evaluations may be sensory and not cognitive, as in taste, style or image.
  4. The product use may attract so little attention it produces no conscious affect or cognition (evaluation) and results in meaningless satisfaction or dissatisfaction measures.
  5. There may have been unanticipated benefits or consequences of purchasing or using the product (such as a use or feature not anticipated with purchase).
  6. The original expectations may have been unrealistically high or low.
  7. The product purchaser, influencer, and user may have been different individuals, each having different expectations.

From Theory to Practice: Start Measuring Satisfaction

You can’t build a loyal customer following if you don’t know what your customers think or feel about your products/services. It’s important to effectively measure customer satisfaction so you can meet your customer’s expectations. The single greatest predictor of satisfaction is the perceived quality of your products/services. This is measured by the customer’s perception of the brand’s overall quality, perceived reliability, and the extent your customer’s need are fulfilled. Other satisfaction factors include your customer’s brand loyalty, the satisfaction of a specific product attribute, and the customer’s likelihood to repurchase. With the Qualtrics customer experience software, you can measure these components and more, and gather the insights you need to make decisions about your customer experience strategy.

Start measuring customer satisfaction today