Customer Satisfaction Score

What’s the Downside of Tying Agent CSAT Scores to Their Performance?

Jan 9, 2024

10 mins read

Manisha Khandelwal


In this digital age of customer shopping behavior, customer experience is not JUST a desirable outcome – it’s CRITICAL to your business’s success. 

I believe that today’s consumers are more attentive to the quality of the service they receive rather than the product itself. 

More than 90% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases from companies that provide excellent customer service. Furthermore, 86% of customers are willing to pay more to receive a better customer experience. 

Now, to understand and improve customer satisfaction, what metric do businesses measure? CSAT score. These scores provide a quantitative measure of how well a company is meeting customer expectations and, consequently, how successful their customer service interactions are.

However, tying agent performance to CSAT may backfire, leading to inflated scores and compromised customer feedback. Trust me, CSAT is vital, but relying solely on it and linking agent CSAT scores to their performance isn’t the brightest solution. With the right strategies, metrics, and a robust CSAT tool, CSAT can pave the way to success!

With this blog, we will discuss the drawbacks of tying agent CSAT scores to their performance with the help of some of the industry’s top CX experts.

The Traditional Approach: Linking CSAT to Agent Performance

One of the major downsides of tying CSAT to an agent’s performance is that it doesn’t represent the holistic interaction between the agent and the customer. 

Now, imagine one of your customer support agents received a call from a frustrated customer on how your product failed to meet the customer’s expectations. The customer expected certain features but didn’t receive them. Here, the customer expresses his frustration with the agent. But what can the agent do here? The agent doesn’t have any role in product features so unfortunately, the agent won’t be able to help the customer. But, the customer gives the agent a 1-star rating. Do you think the rating is fair?

Now, let’s imagine another scenario where an agent received a call from another customer who wanted to know about the return policy of one of your products as she was not able to return a certain product. The agent she talks to is not very skilled and knowledgeable, so the issue resolution took longer than it should have. The customer was frustrated but still gave a 4-star rating because the agent begged her to. Now, do you think the rating is well-deserved?

Both these situations show a clear picture of how tying agent CSAT scores to their performance creates a culture of decreased morale, low job satisfaction, manipulation of the score, and compromised customer feedback.

Let’s discuss these drawbacks in detail.

Drawbacks of Linking CSAT Scores to Agent Performance

1. It Increases Pressure on Agents

Agents may feel compelled to prioritize scoring high scores over providing genuine assistance, leading to stress and potential burnout and can affect employee well-being, job satisfaction, etc.

2. It Encourages Gaming the Score

Under pressure to maintain or improve scores, agents may manipulate customer feedback, pushing customers to provide higher ratings even if their experiences don’t warrant it. 

3. It Encourages Skewed Behaviour

Agents might exhibit skewed behavior, focusing on actions that contribute to higher CSAT scores rather than addressing the root causes of customer issues. This could result in short-term gains but neglect the long-term goal of building meaningful customer relationships.

4. It Negatively Impacts Team Collaboration and Morale

When individual performance is solely tied to CSAT scores, it can create a competitive rather than collaborative atmosphere within the team. 

So, here are the drawbacks and challenges of tying agent CSAT scores to their performance. The same is also discussed in our recent CX question of the day conversation.  Let’s hear expert’s views and insights into this top topic.

The Twitter Discussion

In the recent CXQOFTD discussion – Jeremy Watkin, director at Director of Custserv and 

NumberBarn, sparked a thought-provoking discussion on the downside of tying agent CSAT scores to their performance. Let’s delve into Jeremy’s insights and the perspectives of other industry experts on this hot topic.

Jeremy Watkins Talks About the Challenge of Attributing CSAT Solely to Agents

Jeremy’s tweet raises a crucial concern – the challenge of attributing CSAT solely to the agent’s performance. According to him, “Customer dissatisfaction is often rooted in product, policy, or process issues rather than the agent’s actions.” Tying CSAT scores directly to agents may leave them feeling unfairly held accountable for factors beyond their control. 

He suggests an alternative approach: “establishing quality processes and setting up standards to ensure that agents follow the right procedures.” By focusing on actions within the agent’s control, organizations can better align performance metrics with the actual contributions of their customer service representatives.

Ben Motteram Unveils the True Drivers of Dissatisfaction

Ben Motteram echoed Watkin’s sentiments and emphasized the need to avoid the easy way out. He suggests, “digging deeper into the true drivers of dissatisfaction rather than solely relying on CSAT scores to evaluate agent performance.”

Nate Brown Takes A Holistic Approach to Agent Assessment

Nate Brown, the founder of CX Accelerator, supports Ben’s viewpoint and adds that it would be even better with a holistic approach, considering factors like “attendance/schedule adherence and behaviors,” which are in the agent’s control.

Jason Curtis Talks About Bonus Docking

Jason Curtis, The Call Center Coach, echoes Jeremy’s concerns and argues against “docking bonuses for factors beyond the agent’s control.” He emphasizes that “limiting performance metrics to actions within the agent’s purview is essential to avoid making managers feel powerless.”

Dr. Debra Bentson Talks About Unreliability of CSAT Metric

Dr. Debra Bentson, SCP, CWPP, CPIOP, BBA, MBA, DBA, highlights the unreliability of CSAT when agents provide correct information but receive negative ratings due to external constraints. She suggests focusing on metrics like “attendance and schedule adherence” that are within the agent’s control.

Jacob Shields Bridges the Gap Between Agent and Company Satisfaction

Jacob Shields, Director of Customer Experience & Technology of DojoNetworks1, provides a real-world example, stating that “customers might be happy with the agent but dissatisfied with the company’s policies.” This reinforces the idea that “CSAT may not accurately reflect an agent’s performance.”

Thomas Laird Dismantles the Link Between CX and Agent Performa

Thomas Laird, CEO of Expivia & Expivia Digital, strongly opposes tying CX to agent performance, advocating for a more holistic approach that considers “customer and agent sentiment” rather than relying on “simplistic surveys.”

Matt Beran Talks About Empowering Agents through Operating Models and Scorecards

Matt Beran, Product Specialist at InvGate, simplifies the issue, pointing out that “agents often lack the authority to satisfy customers.” He agrees with Jeremy, advocating for a focus on the operating model and using “scorecards to evaluate overall performance.”

This spirited conversation highlighted the complexities and drawbacks of tying agent CSAT scores to their performance, but what is the solution here? Let’s find out!

Solution – Alternatives to CSAT-Tied Performance Metrics

If you are looking for solutions and alternatives to CSAT for agent performance evaluation then here are the top four changes you can make today.

1. Implement Regular Feedback Sessions

  • Ongoing Communication: Establishing a culture of continuous communication between managers and agents encourages a supportive environment where agents feel heard and valued, leading to better collaboration and growth.
  • Constructive Feedback: Providing regular and constructive feedback is crucial for employee development. Highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement ensures that agents have a clear understanding of their performance.
  • Encouraging Open Dialogue: Open dialogue promotes transparency and trust which enables you to identify and resolve issues before they escalate. This approach creates a supportive atmosphere, reinforcing the idea that everyone’s input is valuable.

2. Emphasize Employee Development Over Strict Performance Metrics

  • Long-Term Growth: Shifting the focus from short-term performance metrics to long-term professional growth demonstrates a commitment to the holistic development of employees.
  • Training Opportunities: By offering opportunities for skill development, you create a culture of innovation and adaptability where employees are better equipped to adapt to evolving challenges. In fact, 94% of employees believe they would stay longer with a firm if it invested in their learning and development.

3. Use VoC Insights to Motivate and Engage Your Team

  • Recognition of Effort: Acknowledging and rewarding effort, innovation, and commitment beyond just meeting numerical targets. Consider creating an “Innovation Award” or “Customer Excellence Recognition” program to highlight outstanding contributions.
  • Communicate Success Stories: Share success stories derived from VoC insights within the team. Emphasize the connection between positive customer feedback and the team’s efforts, fostering a sense of pride and motivation.


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4. Measure Agent Performance the Right Way

  • Customized Key Performance Indicators: Tailoring performance indicators to align with the unique goals and objectives of the organization such as resolution time, First Contact Response, CLV, and Customer retention rate.
  • Customer Insights: Utilizing customer insights to understand the overall experience, beyond a numerical rating.
  • Peer Review: Implementing peer review processes to gain insights from colleagues who understand the challenges and nuances of the role.
  • Benchmarking Against Industry Standards: Comparing performance metrics against industry benchmarks rather than relying solely on internal targets.

By adopting these alternatives, you can create a more holistic and employee-centric approach to your agent performance management, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and development while avoiding the potential pitfalls associated with tying agent CSAT scores directly to their performance.


The discussion sparked by Jeremy Watkin’s tweet sheds light on the complexities of tying agent CSAT scores to performance. While customer satisfaction is a crucial metric, it’s evident from the diverse perspectives that a more nuanced and holistic approach is needed. Businesses should consider factors within the agent’s control and avoid penalizing them for external issues. By embracing a comprehensive evaluation model, companies can create a fair and motivating environment for their customer service representatives.

Now, to gauge customer satisfaction the right way and identify areas of improvement, you need advanced customer experience management tools, like SurveySensum, to analyze and extract actionable insights from customer feedback. The tool also comes with CX experts who provide end-to-end support to ensure that your CX program is a success.

Manisha Khandelwal

Senior Content Marketer at SurveySensum

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