Which Bad CSAT Situations Should Agents Be Held Accountable For?

Sarah Chambers Sarah Chambers · 6 min read

Agents should be held responsible for situations where it’s in their remit to keep the customer happy.

“It’s not my fault!” When should agents be held accountable for bad CSAT scores?

Creating positive customer service experiences should be the ultimate goal of any company, but there are still going to be times when customers are less than satisfied. Who’s fault is it when these situations occur?

We should consider our response carefully since happy customers are likely to tell three of their friends, while unhappy customers inform 15 people. Even worse, many unhappy customers will just churn without ever telling you why – 91% of customers, in fact. It’s up to your support agents to keep them sweet before they close the door on your company. Agents should be held responsible for situations where it’s in their remit to keep the customer happy.

But what if there is nothing the agents can do? While 68% of customers say that service reps are the key to a positive service experience, there are a lot of other factors that can let your customers down. Do you include these responses in your agent’s individual customer satisfaction (CSAT) calculations? Or should you unassign the ticket and only include the score in the team’s calculations?

In this article, we look at the situations when you should include negative responses, and when you should consider removing them from the equations.

When to hold agents responsible for negative CSAT scores

There are several situations where your agents should be held accountable for a bad CSAT score. These are situations where the agent could have done better, and they have an opportunity to improve for next time.

1. Taking too long to reply to a customer

Speed is critical to a happy customer, and 66% of customers feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a business can do to retain them. Shockingly, customers now expect a reply to their email within 1 hour. Live chat and social media response times should be even faster.

Agents need to work hard to get the first-response time as low as possible, then once the dialogue with the customer has begun continue to communicate quickly. Leaving conversations on hold for a long time, not setting proper expectations, or not apologizing for delays in response times can all cause a potentially satisfied customer to become unhappy. This is one situation that agents have ownership over. (Unless, of course, your team is understaffed. In that case, it’s time to start hiring!)

2. Giving the wrong information to a customer

Supplying the right information to a customer is definitely the responsibility of the agent, as correctly interpreting a customer’s needs is a big part of the job. Sometimes it’s the customer’s fault for not being clear enough, and sometimes the agent just isn’t paying enough attention. Either way, it’s up to the agent to make sure that the customer has everything they need.

Even if customers don’t explain the situation as well as they might, it’s up to your agents to decode what they want and provide the solution. It’s important to pay attention here since 67% of customer churn can be prevented if the business resolves an issue the first time it occurs.

When an agent has got it wrong, try to correct the situation as quickly as possible by supplying the right information the second time around. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the customer’s fault for being unclear or the agent who wasn’t paying attention. Apologize sincerely and quickly for the mistake.

3. Striking the wrong tone with a customer

Customers want to feel like your agents can solve anything, and cultivating a positive manner is something you should be encouraging in all your support reps. 73% of customers fell in love with a brand because of their friendly customer service reps.

“To earn the respect (and eventually love) of your customers, you first have to respect those customers. That is why Golden Rule behavior is embraced by most of the winning companies.” says Colleen Barrett, Southwest Airlines President Emeritus. What happens if you fail to follow this Golden Rule behavior?

Everyone has bad days, but if one of your agents has struck a negative tone with your customers this could lead to a bad CSAT score. They may have been short with your customer and in a hurry to get them out of the way. No matter what the reason was, these negative responses should be included in the agent’s CSAT calculation.

4. Failing to solve a customer’s problem

Even if your agents have understood the problem, they may still be unable to solve it, but it’s never okay just to “give up” on a customer. The buck shouldn’t stop here. Maybe they should escalate the problem in order to get the customer the help they need, or admit that the product isn’t working out and offer a refund.

27% of customers say lack of effectiveness is their number one frustration with businesses and is likely to lead to customer churn.

All customer problems are important and you should make sure your agents have the bandwidth to cope with the influx of queries. Agents should receive the appropriate training to enable them to solve even more complex and tougher problems.

5. Not apologizing for making a mistake

If an agent does make a mistake, then it’s crucial to apologize quickly and sincerely. Failing to do so can cost you your customer’s good opinion. If your agent hasn’t apologized then this is something they need to address, even if the situation is technically the customer’s “fault”. 68% of customers say a polite customer service agent is the key to great service.

According to Don Alden Adams, President Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” Learning how to apologize effectively is all part of having sincerity and integrity.

Train your agents to apologize well in the event that something has gone wrong with your product or service, or when they have failed to deliver a positive customer service experience.

When to remove negative CSAT from agent’s CSAT scores

When measuring CSAT, you’ll often get bad responses from customers who are disappointed with the product – for example, “you really need to add this integration!” – even though the agent did everything right. This is an issue if agents are individually scored on CSAT and responsible for achieving a certain score. There are a few reasons that it makes sense to remove these scores from the agent’s individual calculations.

Incorrect button pushed

Sometimes, customers click the wrong button – usually indicated by a comment like “great service, thanks!” If your CSAT comment is at odds with the CSAT score then it’s safe to assume your customer made a mistake.

Policy complaints

Policy issues can be at fault. While agents should be able to explain policies in a way that makes the customer feel positive about the interaction, customers may still give a negative response to being told something like “no refunds after 60 days” or “your content doesn’t align with our community standards”. While the company should still consider this a negative response, perhaps you don’t want to hold it against your agent.


Occasionally customers think that if they give a bad satisfaction rating, their feedback will be taken more seriously. This often comes across as “Shelly did everything right, but until you add the option to export data, I’m upset.” It’s not always fair to blame these bad satisfaction ratings on the agent.

Final remarks

Ultimately, basing an agent’s entire performance off of CSAT scores is unfair, because they can only be as helpful as the company allows them to be. If there are product issues or overly strict policies, agents will struggle to keep customers satisfied. Agents can only be held accountable for situations that they have full control over.

It’s most often a combination of factors that lead to a bad CSAT situation. But when negative experiences do occur, it’s important to make it up to your customers quickly and sincerely. Since you’ve gone to so much trouble to capture that negative feedback, customers expect a timely and appropriate response.

Instead of focusing on whose fault the unsatisfactory response was, focus instead on making it right for the customer.

How did you like this blog?


Sarah Chambers Sarah Chambers

Sarah Chambers is a Customer Support Consultant and Content Creator from Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter @sarahleeyoga to keep up with her adventures.

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