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.

History of Customer Effort Score 

The customer effort score has become an important metric because it is the clearest indicator of the likelihood of customer loyalty. According to research performed by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in 2010, services that take little effort on the part of a customer are more likely to draw customers back than services that aim to “delight” the customer through exceptional customer service efforts, as was believed previously.

In other words, the customer effort score is a major metric to focus on improving if you want your customers to continue using your services.

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.

Different Types of CES Surveys

To figure out your company’s current CES, you’ll need your customers to take a CES survey. There are several different types to choose from, including:

Numbered Scales Survey

A numbered scale CES survey measures the level of effort a customer has to put in while interacting with a company. It does this by rating their interaction on a numbered scale, usually from 1-5 or 1-7. The survey asks a simple question such as “How easy was it to solve your problem today?” and respondents rank their answer on the scale closer to one side (labeled as “very difficult”) or the other (labeled as “very easy”), depending on which side of the scale more closely indicates the ease of their customer service interaction. 

Likert Scale Survey

A Likert Scale CES survey also measures the level of effort a customer has to put in while interacting with a company, but uses a Likert scale. The Likert scale is a commonly used psychometric scale that asks respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with a statement. 

If used for a CES survey, the Likert scale may ask customers to rate their level of agreement with a statement such as “It was easy to solve my problem today” on a scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” 

Emotion Ratings Survey

An emotion ratings CES survey measures the level of positive or negative emotions customers experience while interacting with a brand. This type of survey asks questions like “How happy did you feel while interacting with our company?” or “How frustrated did you feel while using our product?” Customers rate their answer on a scale ranging from “Not at all” to “Very Much.” 

Emotion ratings CES surveys may also use emoticons, where respondents can select from emoticons—ranging from sad or angry faces, through neutral faces, to happy faces—to indicate how they felt about the ease of their customer experience. 

How to Build a CES Survey

No matter what type of CES survey you choose, you’ll want to follow a few tips to ensure that the survey is effective at capturing your CES. You’ll likely want to:

  • Optimize for Mobile: Allow customers to take your survey on their phone or another mobile device. This increased convenience will allow more people to take your survey wherever they may happen to be.
  • Use Automation: Use or create an automated system that will record your customer’s answers and compile data from all respondents into a convenient report for you.
  • Keep Them Simple: Avoid letting your CES survey get too long, or fewer people will be inclined to finish it. You’ll also want to avoid asking more complex questions with multiple parts.

Remember to apply the basic principles behind CES to your survey—the less effort it takes on the part of the customer to complete, the better.

Questions to Ask in CES Survey

The most important part of your survey are the questions it contains. As previously mentioned, you’ll want to keep your questions simple and clear to get the most effective data. Most of your questions will have answers based on scales and may sound something like:

“On a scale of 1-5, how quickly were you able to solve your problem?”

How you’ll choose the format and phrase your questions will depend on the type of survey you choose to use — for instance, a Likert scale CES survey will phrase questions as statements that the respondent will then choose to agree or disagree with, such as:

“How much do you agree with the following statement: It was easy to find the information I needed on [name of company’s] website.”

While an emotion scale survey may contain questions like:

“How knowledgeable do you feel [name of service rep] was?”

You may also want to add a few good clear yes-or-no questions that can be rated on any scale, like:

“Were we able to meet your needs today?”

No matter what types of questions you are asking, you should avoid using the word “effort.” While the purpose of your CES survey is to measure customer effort, you’ll want to steer away from phrasing it so explicitly, as that can lead customers into giving the answers that you want rather than answers that accurately reflect their experience.

The Best Times to Send a CES Survey

If you want to gather the most accurate information in your CES surveys, you’ll need to send them to your customers at the right time. This also increases the chance that your customers will actually take the survey.

Since a CES survey is designed to measure the effort involved in a single customer interaction, the best times to administer such surveys are usually immediately following the interaction. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • After a purchase or sign-up
  • After a return or refund
  • After a support ticket has been resolved
  • After a repair or maintenance service
  • After a delivery

Soon after the customer service touchpoint, you’ll want to send the customer in question the CES survey via email, text message, or chat, or redirect them to the survey on your website after their customer service interaction is complete.

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

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.

Improve Customer Effort Scores with InMoment

InMoment’s customer experience expertise helps businesses collect customer feedback and connect with customers in meaningful ways. Start improving your customer experiences today with InMoment. Learn more today!

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