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Is eXperience just enhanced Csat Surveys?

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

A question we occasionally receive, always in good faith and curiosity, is, ‘experience and XLAs sound good, but they sound a bit like they are measuring customer satisfaction. Therefore, is the work of XLAs just Csat on steroids?’

It’s a fair question and the simple answer is no – XLAs are very different from CSAT Surveys. Let us explain why:

Csat Surveys are of the Service Economy age; XLAs of the Experience age

Csat Surveys are of the Service Economy age; XLAs of the Experience age

In brief terms, customer satisfaction, or CSAT, surveys are a form of key performance indicator (sometimes even a tick box exercise) to indicate how satisfied a customer may be with a single transaction (how well did we do something such as close your ticket). It is a simple satisfaction indicator of one moment in time and generally does not achieve a high response rate as it is not seen to be useful or valuable to the respondent (in our experience, IT CSAT surveys typically only achieve between 5-15% response rate). These facts combined, make us believe, as customer experience platform provider, NICE, also believe, that CSAT can only offer a short-term view of satisfaction – not a cumulative view of experience.

Satisfaction, in line with experience, is constantly changing, ebbing, and flowing like the tide as the customer has more interactions and transactions with their IT devices and services. With Csat surveys just taking a snapshot of this tide, it can be said, therefore, that Csat is a view of satisfaction in terms of the service economy: a quick picture of the ocean to let someone know how the tides are, before the surfer arrives later and finds conditions are no longer the same if you will excuse the elongated analogy.

Surfer checking the tide

As Pine and Gilmour argue in their book, The Experience Economy, we are now in the namesake, the experience economy, where the overall customer experience plays a key role in our use/enjoyment of, or participation in, a service or product. As Bright Horse believe, experience is made up of many interactions and transactions over time. As satisfaction surveys tend towards gathering a snapshot of satisfaction with services, we can say they are still presiding in the service age, an age prior to the experience economy that is no less prevalent in the wider world but outdated if the intention of carrying out such surveys are designed with improving experience in mind. A short-term, service-associated view can become outdated if we want to move beyond satisfaction and measure/improve experience.

To move into the experience economy, we need to borrow from The Starbucks Experience and provide for the employee’s overall experience. This can help to encourage retention from our customers and employees. An XLA embraces this as its core function is to set out a level of customer/employee experience that the organisation implementing it should try and stick to. It measures the experience against reality by gathering sentiment data. This sentiment data is typically gathered via a survey.

However, what separates these from a CSAT survey is that an XLA survey will ask a range of questions based upon how the customer/experience felt about their interaction/transaction with the service. These surveys will be carried out regularly to ensure a flowing, cumulative view of experience. This is important because of the aforementioned manner in which our experiences and satisfaction ebb and flow continuously. With these surveys, experience is brought to the forefront, data is provided to be analysed and acted upon, and we are brought forward into the experience economy. The better your employees/customers feel about interacting with your services, the more chances you have of retaining them.

Experience considers a cumulative, dynamic and more human-focused view; Csat a snapshot, services view

Dynamic people

We have just explained how, moving into the experience economy, a cumulative view of experience is more beneficial than a snapshot view. But what are the benefits of this cumulative view?

1. Identifying processes that are working and those that are not

By seeing a continual view of experience, you are able to determine which tools are working for the employees/customers and which are not. Understanding which are not can open discussions around their potential longevity in the organisation. In contrast, a single view does not hold enough data for a team to feel confident about a potentially risky decision. The more data we have to back up our level of confidence, the more comfortable we feel making such decisions.

2. XLAs are outcome based; Csat output based

Like SLAs, which, like Csat surveys, originate from the service economy era, Csat is concerned with the outputs of a service. Questions on a Csat survey are typically worded in a ‘How do you rate...’ fashion. What they are concerned with here is the outputs of the services you are rating. For example, a gym survey may ask how you would rate the rowing machine. From this, the gym can get an idea of the rowing machine’s performance rather than people’s experiences of it.

Contrast this with XLAs whose questions are focused on outcomes. An XLA would have the gym question reworded to say, ‘How happy were you with the weight options provided for the rowing machine?’ For an XLA, there would be a few different questions on sentiment of various functions for the rowing machine. In this case the sentiment of the respondent rather than the performance of the machine is prioritised. Rather than concern themselves with the service, XLAs they work to gather actionable data rather than produce a general snapshot of service functionality. This leads us nicely to our last point:

3. XLAs are for measuring sentiment and acting; Csat for rating sentiment and benchmarking

With sentiment provided about how the respondent felt about specific aspects of equipment, we know the areas where we may be able to act. Following the example above, the gym would understand whether customers are happy with e.g. the rowing machine’s weight options or not. They then have sentiment to act upon if customers are expressing poor experience. This contrasts with Csat surveys, where the snapshot of user satisfaction provides a benchmarking tool for showing where the service could be improved. This can be useful, but if not acted upon soon, can quickly become out-dated as customer/user expectations and satisfaction changes, as argued by Forbes, by the day or even the moment.

If you would like help constructing your sentiment surveys or like the sound of XLAs and would like to begin your own journey, contact us at Bright Horse and we can support you, whether you have already started the journey or are still pondering.


Cox, S., 2022. How To Design An Amazing Employee Experience. Forbes. Available at: Accessed: June 2022.

Michelli, J., 2006. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary. McGraw Hill.

NICE. n.d. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) – What It Is, Pros & Cons, and How to Measure It. Available at: Accessed: June 2022.

Pine II, B. and Gilmour, J., 2019. The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money. Revised ed. Harvard Business Review Press.

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