Do you know how easy customers find it to interact with your business? How quickly they can locate what they need, or complete a transaction? The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a survey metric that encapsulates the effort customers have to put into engaging with your company. The easier it is to do so, the better their overall customer experience will be. In this article, we give you a quick overview of the metric and how to start using it at your business.

What is the Customer Effort Score (CES)?

The Customer Effort Score was first developed as a metric in 2010 by the Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner). The metric was developed after research showed a correlation between the ‘effort’ customers had to put into interacting with a company and their loyalty to the same company.

…what matters most to customers is the amount of effort they put into interactions.

Stop trying to delight your customer, Harvard Business Review

In the same year, HBR published their findings from a large-scale study, which further made a case for understanding and improving customer effort levels. They explained that ‘what matters most to customers is the amount of effort they put in to interactions’, as opposed to ‘delighting’ them with unnecessary add-ons.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the interactions customers have with your business as effortless as possible. For instance, when a customer is facing a problem, it’s easier for them to have a quick call with a service centre representative than having to read through a lengthy manual. They would have to put in less effort and time to speak to someone than read up. This means you want your CES score to reflect low effort rather than high effort. 

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Why should businesses use CES?

Low effort requirements make customer experiences easier and more satisfactory. This is especially true if they are receiving a service that is not just a one time occurrence. In these cases, they will have to be in contact for a longer time and thus a low effort is essential to maintaining ongoing satisfaction. With this in mind, the CES offers an efficient and effective way of tracking effort levels at your business.

The CES, however, does not only affect ad-hoc customer satisfaction, but more so customer loyalty. Customer loyalty, as discussed in The Effortless Experience, is linked to how little or how much effort customers need to put in. In comparison to customer satisfaction, customer loyalty is a commitment to keep coming back for the service or product. You can read more about the importance of customer loyalty here.

How does CES differ from CSAT and NPS?

The Customer Effort Score gives you insights into how easy you are to do business with. It’s purpose is to highlight areas where the effort is too high, so that you can make positive adjustments for your customers.

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), on the other hand, is designed to measure customer satisfaction, and is sent immediately after an interaction. You can read our ultimate guide to the Customer Satisfaction Score here.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is different to the CSAT, however, in that the surveys are less frequent and do not need to follow a specific interaction.

Read our ultimate guide to the Net Promoter Score

Ultimately, CSAT, CES and NPS have different roles to play in customer feedback. In that sense, they can be used as complimentary metrics in part of a larger customer experience feedback strategy.

What a good CES can do for your company

The main purpose of tracking your CES is to improve the customer experience and loyalty. There are, however, many other benefits that come with tracking the metric:

1. Generating a good reputation

Positive customer experiences equal positive reviews and recommendations. Negative experiences (i.e. high effort), in turn, can result in bad word of mouth, bad reviews, and reducing referral likelihood. By conducting CES surveys and using it to improve your business, you are building up a better reputation.

2. Improved customer service

CES feedback helps you to understand which services you can improve if they are high effort for your customers. As a result of taking action on these insights, you can make positive changes at service touch points.

3. Reducing employee effort

By means of reducing customer effort, you automatically reduce employee effort as well. This makes the transaction or communication easier on both ends if the CES feedback is implemented.

Which factors impact your CES?

As the CES evaluates the effort customers have to put into interacting with your company, the factors that impact your CES usually have to do with customer service experience. If a customer faces a problem, they want to have a solution quickly and easily. The processes in question could be navigating a help website / FAQs, chatting or speaking to staff over the phone, or completing a transaction, for instance.

Factors that increase effort and thus negatively impact your CES include:

  • reaching out multiple teams before finding a solution.
  • reaching out via different channels / switch channels during the process (i.e. email / contact form / phone / social media)
  • speaking to several people / being transferred several times across departments.
  • the communication channels crash / don’t work properly / are confusing and overall not user-friendly.

How to improve the CES at your company

To improve your services, you need to implement the feedback you have gained through CES surveys into the processes at your company. This is why you should always take time to sit down and analyse the feedback your receive. The good thing about CES is that it gives you a clear understanding of the processes you can optimise to decrease customer effort and increase customer loyalty in turn. For that matter, it makes sense to collect feedback immediately after the interactions. In addition, it makes sense to track your CES over time to understand which changes work and which don’t. As with all feedback measures it makes sense to integrate them into your larger feedback strategy, for instance by combining your CES with your CSAT survey tool. You can incorporate different feedback strategies into your overall VoC software and customer survey software.