What Is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

The customer effort score is an index from 1 to 7 that measures how easy a company makes it for customers to deal with its products and services. A company that provides effortless service gets a 7 while a company that makes it difficult gets a 1. In other words, the higher the CES, the better.

In the world of customer experience (CX), the Customer Effort Score (CES) survey is a transactional survey, meaning it gauges the distinct experiences customers have with a particular business. CES surveys are triggered upon specific interactions and processes between a customer and a business.

Relationship NPS and Transactional Customer Effort Score (CES)

What Is an Effort Score?

A Customer Effort Score is a single-item metric that businesses use to measure the effort a customer has to exert to resolve issues, have their requests fulfilled, find answers to their questions, or return a purchase. The CES is measured by asking customers to respond to the statement “[Name of the company] made it easy for me to handle my issue,” using a rating system consisting of numbers ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Essentially, the CES survey provides a quantifiable measurement of the ease or difficulty of doing business with a company.

When to Use Customer Effort Score vs Other CX Metrics?

The three main customer experience metrics include Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES). A customer effort score can be used after any interaction a customer has with a company. For example, a customer effort score can be retrieved immediately after an interaction that led to a purchase or subscription, immediately after an interaction with customer service or any service-related experience, and to supplement UI and UX testing for product teams. Customer effort score is easy to deploy and track but does not always show the full picture of the customer’s relationships with the company. This is where Net Promoter score comes into play and measures brand loyalty and measures the whole relationship between customer and company. Lastly, Customer Satisfaction is also a short term measure of a single interaction and allows versatility in the questions asked.

How to Measure Customer Effort Score?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is the average score calculated from the total number of responses. This means taking the sum of the response scores from a CES survey, and then dividing it by the total number of responses: (Sum of response scores) ÷ (Number of responses) = CES score. Generally speaking, most companies tend to have CES scores of 5 – 5.5. A Customer Effort Score (CES) score of 6 or higher is generally considered above average.

Customer Effort Score (CES) Benefits

More Predictive of Customer Loyalty

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that Matt Dixon, a senior leader then at the prestigious Corporate Executive Board (CEB) consulting firm, introduced in 2008.

In 2003, Fred Reichheld introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS) at Bain & Company in order to come up with a metric with more predictive power over customer loyalty than the pervasive CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) score. The Corporate Executive Board introduced the Customer Effort Score (CES) with a similar motive.

Through their research, the CEB found that reducing customer friction is actually a better driver of customer loyalty than creating exceptional experiences at single customer touchpoints. Given our brain’s negative bias, this notion seems pretty intuitive. Yet Dixon observed that companies have been obsessing over creating exceptional individual experiences at a very high cost with no ROI for that extra investment. According to the CEB analysis, Customer Effort Score (CES) predicts customer loyalty 1.8x better than customer satisfaction scores.

The Customer Effort Score (CES) claim to fame—similar to NPS—was significantly boosted after Dixon and his colleagues at CEB published their findings in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article. At the time, they were going against the pervasive and accepted trend of creating amazing experiences and moments of delight for customers.

“Our research shows, loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be” — Stop trying to delight your customers HBR, July 2010

Like other customer experience metrics, the correlation between loyalty and the CX metric is stronger at the extreme. As CEB points out, 96% of customers who are forced to exert a lot of effort in service interactions are more disloyal than those who don’t have to.


Effort & Ease in Customer Experience

Read more about customer effort score and ease questions and best practices for implementing them in surveys—and how to take action on their insights!

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ROI of Effortless Experience

The CEB published a few statistics to explain the ROI of reducing customer effort. Here is a summary of their findings:

Positive Impact:

  • 94% of customers going through an effortless experience are likely to repurchase vs. only 4% of those went through a high level of effort
  • 88% of customer going through an effortless experience are likely to spend more vs. only 4% of those went through a high level of effort

Negative Impact:

  • 96% of customers going through a high level of effort are likely to churn vs. only 9% of those those who went through an effortless experience
  • 81% of customers going through a high level of effort are likely to share their bad experience with friends vs. only 1% of those those who went through an effortless experience

In addition, the CEB findings show that the cost to serve a customer decreases by 37% when going from a high to low level of effort experience¹.

Customer Effort Score (CES) Calculation

Customer Effort Score is calculated by averaging all of the individual responses submitted through a CES survey question. …Read More

Customer Effort Score (CES) Use Cases

In customer support/service, in e-commerce check-out, in onboarding etc. Read More

What Is a Good Customer Effort Score (CES)?

The higher a company’s CES, the happier their customers will be. According to CEB, moving a customer from a 1 to a 5 boosts their loyalty by 22%. Though moving someone from a 5 to a 7 increases their loyalty by only 2%.

¹ the CEB does not provide in the study the Customer Effort Score point differential around this 37% cost decrease.

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