The compact guide on Customer Effort Score (CES)

Definition, Objectives, How to measure it, the origins and its Pros and Cons.

What is the Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is the metric that measures the degree of effort that a customer puts in while making a purchase, resolving an issue, or otherwise interacting with a company/product. Customer service teams use surveys to assess the customer effort on the scale ranging from ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’.

Imagine a customer calls up her insurance company to upgrade or add a new service, but she feels she spent too much time getting her job done. This experience, apart from not adding any value, might lead her to think about switching to another competitor next time, hence impacting the churn rate of the company. We are in the era in which customers expect all the issues to be solved in one click, without any hassles or delay. They are looking for an easy way out and appreciate the idea of a clutter-free life with no obstacles.

On the positive side, did you know that 94% of customers who report a low level of effort would repurchase products from the business and 88% would spend more according to the Harvard Business Review. The HBR article entitled “Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers” sums up very well to create loyal customers, how important it is to focus on easing their problems.
As per the research from Gartner, addressing customer issues in a low-effort manner can be a step towards value enhancement and reaping customer loyalty.

The science behind CES

Recent researches make an important discovery: if one tries to delight the customer and fulfill their expectations without considering the ease factor then they might end up disappointed. In fact, in 2010, CEB researchers found that reducing the amount of effort a customer has to do to get their problem solved relates to a higher indicator of loyalty. A deeper insight can be found in the book, The Effortless Experience that states: “96% of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience. In a nutshell, companies have to be mindful of the effort that customers put in to resolve their problems. Although this ease factor, your company's CES, definitely impacts the brand loyalty, it cannot ensure that the customer will use their business in future. The CES truly reflects the rate of ease of interaction, but it doesn’t predict the customer retention. However, it was observed that CES helped reduce additional costs related to the customer service. These tangible facts proved the importance of ease over delight, and this is how CES came onto the picture.

When to measure Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Measuring the KPIs at the right time plays an important role on the accuracy of your results, and it makes us wonder when the Customer Effort Score should be measured. Well, the answer is at all points of interaction between the customer and the product or service.

  • After individual interactions with customer support (e.g. phone calls, chat boxes, social media, etc.) - CES surveys should be sent out following the customer support interaction in order to resolve their issue will invariably provide a clear picture of the quality of the interaction.
  • After purchase of a product/service - The best time to get the real time feedback is handing out the surveys just after the purchase of a product or service. Having the timely feedback will help to perceive the accurate picture of customer loyalty.
  • Other situations to capture the customer-effort score are sign-ups, website visits, online checkouts or customer meetings/consultations.

What is the objective of CES?

In essence, the objective of measuring CES score is to remove all the obstacles and make the customers feel like a trouble-free experience. It is the best way to capture the positive and negative reviews and remove the friction to create a positive customer experience. It does not only measure the discrete levels of user experience, the Customer Effort Score metric also enables to gauge the overall customer loyalty for the brand.

Customer Effort Score Question

So what steps need to be taken to make sure that customers have more positive interactions and fewer negative ones?
First we collect the data by surveying the customers after the point of purchase or interaction. This allows us to obtain the CES score which helps in ascertaining customer loyalty.
CES is measured by asking a single open-ended question: How easy was it to solve your problem?

Customer Effort Score Scale

The responses are collected on a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of disagreement and 7 the lowest.
A Scale from 1 to 5 can also be used.

Customer Effort Score Formula

CES is calculated by measuring the percentage of collected customers who give a score of 5 or above. This gives an idea of how much easier the company made it to resolve their issue. This provides a pool of opportunity to build loyalty in case customers can opt out for a disagreement scale.

What is a good CES Score? A benchmark

Customer Effort Score is calculated summing up the % of answers that goes from 5 to 7 on a scale where 1 is very difficult and 7 means very easy. Ideally a higher score is a better score. According to research done by CEB Global, the overall benchmarks of CES 2.0 is below. As a benchmark, if your CES percentage is under 70% you may want to focus on removing obstacles in that specific touchpoint. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Customer Effort Score

To get a clearer picture consider the following pros and cons, and focus on the method that is more apt to your case. 

  • It is one of the practical ways to gauge customer loyalty is to monitor future customer behaviour. Though it doesn't help us to draw the exact conclusion of customer satisfaction, it is a great predictor of loyalty.
  • It is extremely actionable (functional) and specific as it involves direct interaction with the client. So it helps to highlight the areas which have room for improvement in order to streamline the customer experience.
  • A reduced customer effort, it will not only help in retaining the existing client but also leverage other clients without additional cost. Hence, a positive customer´s word of mouth helps in building brand image and increase the probability of attracting other clients. The key is to reduce the effort and happy customers with pleasant experience are bound to increase referral likelihood.

To sum up, it is one of the best tools to
-Foresee customer behaviour and repurchase behaviour,
-Act on operational improvements.
-Increase referral likelihood (positive word of mouth).

The cons of the customer Effort Score aren't a stumbling block. However, it is worth noting that:
  • CES doesn't provide complete information about the customer relationship as it only focuses on a specific touchpoint. As a result, customer effort score does not allow a broad view.
  • It misses to deal with the impact of factors like cost, competitors or product quality. Also, it doesn't consider the reason customers are facing difficulty and doesn't go in details.

On a final note: Customer Effort Score is one of the contributing factors that affects loyalty, hence repurchase and retention. So it is crucial to close the feedback loop and eliminate if there is any source of friction by taking the regular feedback.

Choosing the right partner to help you implement CES surveys is as important as to know the theory behind the score. Why should you consider Ratenow as a partner in its implementation?

  1. Ratenow has years of experience in the operativization of Voice of the customer programs for small and large businesses.
  2. Our platform, Ratenow Analytics is built to give you actionable information for your business decisions.
  3. We can provide you with country and industry specific benchmarks.
  4. We provide only customized solutions


Related articles:
- Dixon M, Freeman K, Toman N Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers Harvard Business Review 2010

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