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What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

CES – A comprehensive guide to understanding Customer Effort Score

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that is used to measure how easy it is for customers to interact with your business. If customers find it hard to interact with your business, it ruins the customer experience. Simplicity and ease-of-use are the basics of customer experience and make them stick with your business.

Research shows that improving customer experience improves customer retention, satisfaction, and increases cross and up-selling. According to Gartner, 96% of customers that faced difficulty in solving a problem were more disloyal to companies.

Customer Effort Score

Making it easy for your customers to interact with your company should be your business’s top priority as it leads to business growth. It’s the basic rule of CX. How to do it? You need to ask customers if they find it easy to do what they want to do, and this is what CES does exceptionally well.

What is Customer Effort Score?

CES is a customer survey that asks your customers to rate how easy it was for them to interact with your business. The exact wording of the survey can be changed. You can use a 5-point, 3-point, or a 10-point Likert scale to record responses. Here is an example of a CES:

CES example Customer Effort Score

CES was introduced by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in 2010 to measure customer experience. The original question read something like this:

How much effort did you personally have to put forth to
handle your request?

It was a 5-point Likert scale (1 being very low effort and 5 being very high effort). A low score was desirable as it meant that customers don’t have to put a lot of effort to handle their request. The statement was later changed by CEB when it introduced CES 2.0. The new question is:

[Name of the organization] made it easy for me to handle
my issue.

They changed it to a 7-point scale:

7-point CES Customer Effort Score

It isn’t necessary to stick with this statement or a 7-point Likert scale. You can change it as per need. Companies today use different statements to make CES survey easy-to-read and understand. Overall, CES is a much stronger predictor of customer loyalty as opposed to CSAT and NPS. Studies show that CES is 1.8x better than CSAT and 2x better than NPS when in terms of measuring customer loyalty.

When to Use CES

You need to ensure that your customers receive CES at the right time. You can’t send it randomly and expect to measure customer loyalty accurately. You can send the CES survey to customers at following interactions:

1. Purchase

The best time to send a CES survey to your customers is right after the purchase or an interaction that could lead them to a purchase in the future. For instance, if a customer subscribes for the free trial of your SaaS, that’s the perfect time to send CES to figure out how likely is the customer to convert to a paid subscription.

Sending CES to customers right after they have purchased a product will help you identify customer experience issues in the purchase process that might impact future sales. It is essential to incorporate CES throughout the purchase process and your sales funnel to capture customer experience at all levels.

2. Customer Service

Sending the CES survey to customers after an interaction with customer support is highly recommended. It helps you see if customers can easily contact customer support and have their issues resolved appropriately. CES won’t measure satisfaction with customer services rather it will track how easy it was for the customers to contact customer support.

For instance, if a customer reads a solution to a problem on the resource page, CES will identify if the resource article helped solve the customer problems.

3. Onboarding

Customer onboarding is a serious concern for SaaS companies and mobile apps. It is tough to retain app users. Customer effort score can help you improve the customer onboarding process by identifying issues that make it challenging for new customers to understand how your product helps them or works.

A great approach is to send CES to customers right after they have been onboarded. Then send it when customers start using your tool and achieve initial success with the app. This makes it easier to find app features that aren’t user-friendly (or helpful) that turn users away.

4. Key Interactions

The CES should be used after or during all major customer interactions. This helps you improve customer experience and make your business customer-centric. The idea is to remove barriers and make it easy for customers to interact with your company and products across all touchpoints at all levels. This could range from marketing to sales to finance to website to print to the outlet and beyond.

How to Calculate CES

There are multiple ways to calculate and interpret customer effort score. If you are using a Likert scale such as agree/disagree, you have to take the average score. Here is how to calculate it:

1. Sum all the scores from all the respondents.

2. Divide the total by the number of respondents.

Let’s assume you are using a 5-point Likert scale:

                1 = Strongly Disagree

                2 = Disagree

                3 = Neutral

                4 = Agree

                5 = Strongly Agree

The total number of respondents is 100. The sum of their scores is 400. Dividing 400 by 100 gives 4 (400/100=4). This is your CES which, according to your Likert scale, means Agree. This is how you have to calculate the average CES for your company.

According to CES 2.0, you have to use a 7-point Likert scale and should calculate the percentage of customers who agree that your company made it easy for them to resolve their issue. This is the Likert scale you should use:

                1 = Strongly Disagree

                2 = Disagree

                3 = Somewhat Disagree

                4 = Neither Agree nor Disagree

                5 = Somewhat Agree

                6 = Agree

                7 = Strongly Agree

You need to calculate the percentage of customers who responded with 5, 6, or 7. If you have 200 respondents and 90 selected 5, 6, and 7 (meaning they agreed that your company made it easy for them to solve their problem), you need to calculate their percentage with the following formula:

(Total number of respondents who selected 5, 6, or 7)/(Total respondents) x 100
 = 90/200 x 100
 = 45% 

Now compare your CES score with benchmark report by its developers:

CES benchmark - Customer Effort Score

A score of more than 90% is ideal and if your score is less than 70%, you need to improve customer experience by collecting specific feedback from the customers.

You can calculate and interpret CES in any way you like. For instance, you can compare the percentage of customers that agree and disagree to see what type of customers you mostly have. It is up to you how you make sense of the numbers and how you use it for decision-making.

Final Words

Customer Effort Score is a much better customer satisfaction survey than NPS and CSAT. The results are more reliable and help you simplify customer experience for a number of touchpoints for your business.

Simply measuring CES won’t help you a lot. What actions you take to make it easy for customers to solve their issues is important. Use additional surveys and customer interviews to collect data on what makes your customers unhappy with business interactions.

If you know what you have to do, converting unhappy customers into loyal customers becomes easy (and fun).

Sabih Javed

Sabih Javed is a certified inbound marketer and an experienced digital marketing writer. His publications appeared on leading marketing blogs like JeffBullas, Yahoo News, TheNextWeb, Business2Community, and more. Connect with him @sabihjavedd