What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that measures the ease with which customers can use your product or service, resolve a support issue, or find the information they need. Customers rate their effort on a 1-7 rating scale with a CES survey.

Customer effort score survey example

How does Customer Effort Score work?

To truly understand “what is CES?”, it’s a good idea to read about how these scores work and learn the ways in which they improve customer loyalty and retention. This Customer Effort Score guide walks through the fundamentals and best practices of building a CES program.

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CES and customer loyalty

The positive experiences people have with your brand help build customer loyalty. But satisfying customer needs isn’t the only thing that impacts loyalty — the ease of the experience matters as well. By measuring and reducing customer effort through a CES program, you can increase customer lifetime value and positive word of mouth.

The origin of CES

Customer Effort Score was developed in 2010 by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB Global, now Gartner) when their research showed that “effort” is a key driver of customer loyalty. In fact, research in The Effortless Experience found that “96% of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience.”

What is “high-effort”?

A high-effort service interaction is one that requires the customer to jump through hoops to reach a resolution. Some examples would be if your customer needs to be transferred to multiple departments to get an answer, if they need to reach out to you repeatedly, or if they need to switch from email to phone and finally to social media before getting a solution.

Why measure Customer Effort Score?

Customers simply want their problems solved, quickly and conveniently. CES measures customer effort so you can reduce friction for an effortless experience and provide your customers with an easier solution.

Limit negative word of mouth

The cost of a frustrating customer support experience is high. Not only do you lose a repeat customer, but you may also end up with negative reviews all over the web. Customer Effort Score surveys identify issues early for proactive reputation management.

Reduce customer service costs

CES surfaces the hiccups that could lead to a support ticket, reducing the load on the customer support team. The surveys also reveal where better training and process improvements can speed up resolution, minimizing costly repeat interactions.

Optimize self-service channels

Customers would rather solve problems themselves than take the extra step of reaching out to you. Help customers help themselves by using CES to evaluate self-service features during purchase, onboarding, and troubleshooting.

Improve user experience

If completing an online purchase requires a lot of effort, customers are perfectly positioned to start a new web search and buy from a competitor instead. Use CES surveys to ensure customers don’t fall through the cracks in your user experience.

Create your CES survey

The standard CES survey template has been carefully calibrated for maximum effectiveness. Here’s a breakdown of how each part of the CES questionnaire works, and some survey design best practices to keep in mind.


Benchmarking your CES

To understand whether you’re decreasing customer effort, you first need to measure it. The CES survey question, “[Company] made it easy for me to handle my issue,” with a disagree-agree Likert scale from 1-7, provides a Customer Effort Score benchmark that you can track over time.

Customer effort score survey

CES survey examples

Commonly used to gain real-time feedback on customer service solutions, CES can also evaluate any interaction where friction may lead to a negative experience. Popular times to use CES also include after a customer purchases a product or service and throughout the onboarding experience.

customer effort score survey examples
Best practices

CES question best practices

Though “effort” is in the name of the score, it isn’t actually the best way to phrase the question. “Effort” doesn’t translate well for international surveys and can be misinterpreted. Instead, a universally understood word like “easy” is ideal. Delighted has CES question templates in 30+ languages for global businesses.

customer effort score survey language drop-down

Open-ended feedback

Allow the customer to explain where the struggle was, as opposed to giving them a list of options to choose from. The open comment form is the most powerful part of the CES survey template, since it surfaces areas you may not have considered, and tells you where to focus.

ces survey open-ended question

Optional follow-up questions

Brief is best when it comes to CES surveys. However, optional additional questions around common factors that impact the service experience, such as how knowledgeable the representative was, can be illuminating. Add up to 10 follow-up questions with Delighted, so you can still keep your survey short while getting deeper insights.

ces survey additional question

Other recommended customer experience metrics

Pair Customer Effort Score with NPS® or CSAT surveys for a more holistic perspective on your customer’s experience.

Sending your CES survey

When and how you send the survey is extremely important. Sending the CES survey closer to recent interactions will ensure the feedback is accurate and actionable.

CES survey timing

Trigger CES surveys upon immediate completion of a transaction or after customers interact with your service team. Recency is key to increasing response rates for these one-off surveys. Customer feedback tools automate the process using REST APIs.

Distributing CES surveys

CES surveys should be delivered wherever the interaction takes place, whether that’s in your web app, an email survey, or over chat. For brick-and-mortar transactions, setting up a kiosk is an easy way to get feedback on the level of effort in store.

customer effort score calculation

Calculate your CES

Customer Effort Score ranges from 0-100. Your CES is the total number of customers who agree that their interaction was easy divided by the total number of responses. For example, if 65 customers out of 100 rated you 5, 6, or 7 on the 7-point scale, your CES would be 65.

Track CES over time

Monitoring your CES over time will let you know how effective your feature or internal process changes are. Dips in the score will help you get in front of unexpected issues before they get out of control and lead to disloyal customers.

customer effort scores at points on a journey line

Analyze your CES feedback

When analyzing CES feedback for actionable insights, the most important thing to remember is to keep the feedback in the context of the transaction.

Segment feedback by source

For customer service, contextualize the feedback by the service representative, feature in question, interaction channel (self-service, chat, in-person, email, etc.), location, and any other variable that impacted the customer experience. Filter your ratings and open-ended feedback by these segments, and then pivot against your internal processes to pinpoint improvement areas.

Consider a CX platform

Manually parsing through thousands of pieces of feedback is a daunting task. A customer experience management software scales with your CX program as the total number of survey responses increases. Set filters with meaningful keywords, or use more advanced feedback analysis tools that automatically surface keyword trends in the open-ended feedback to help with insight discovery.

Act on CES feedback

Since your customers have taken the trouble of giving you feedback, it’s now time to close the loop and resolve any lingering issues the customer might have.

Respond to your customers

Closing the loop entails thanking the customers who provided feedback to let them know they have been heard, and also proactively resolving any issues surfaced in the open-ended feedback. You can set up your survey flow to respond to the customer with an apology for a poor experience, or let customers know someone will be following up with them if they give you a low rating.

Set up automatic alerts

Route feedback directly to the team responsible so they can see what customers think in real time. Integrate feedback into your help desk, customer relationship management (CRM) platform, or internal chat tool, like Slack. You can also set up alerts that send feedback directly to your support team based on the rating, comment, or other customer data point (product purchased, plan size, etc.).

Examples of Transactional CES feedback

CES feedback provides insights into the customer experience that traditional completion metrics might not show. Two of the examples below likely would have registered as successful transactions, but the open-ended feedback tells a different story. Constant CES monitoring enables continuous customer experience improvement across all major touchpoints.

Onboarding CES

It was easy for me to set up the platform.

Scored 5

“Great self-service during the ramp-up period, able to quickly get answers to questions as they arose.”

Customer service CES

It was easy for me to fix my support issue.

Scored 3

“Got the feature working with Sam’s help. The article from the chatbot was a waste of time.”

Payment process CES

It was easy for me to make an online purchase.

Scored 1

“Got the feature working with Sam’s help. The article from the chatbot was a waste of time.”

You don’t have to take our word for it

Delighted helps some of the world’s most coveted brands gather actionable customer feedback and make customer satisfaction a competitive advantage.

“Everyone at Bonobos needs a direct line to customers for feedback. I know that due to Delighted, we avoided disaster.”
“Every time we open up Delighted we find a new way to improve, which at the end of the day is why we are doing this.”
“You need users’ thoughtful, raw feedback to correct and improve experiences for all customers in the future.”