What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that measures how easy it is for a customer to do business with you through a CES survey. Customers rate you on a scale of 1-5 based on how much effort it takes to complete a transaction, resolve a support issue, and otherwise interact with your company/product online or in person.

How does CES work?

The insights from Customer Effort Score surveys help you increase customer loyalty. This guide walks through the fundamentals and best practices of building a CES program.

Why

CES and customer loyalty

Customer loyalty results from positive experiences with your brand. 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”

An interaction is high-effort if it 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 CES?

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

Limit negative word of mouth

The cost of a frustrating customer service experience is high. Not only do you lose a repeat customer, you may also end up with negative reviews all over the web. CES 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 service 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 proves difficult, 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

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 scale from 1-5, provides a Customer Effort Score benchmark that you can track over time.

CES survey examples

Commonly used to gain feedback on customer service resolutions, CES can also evaluate any interaction where friction may lead to a negative experience. The purchase and onboarding experience are also popular times to use CES.

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 37 languages for global businesses.

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.

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.

Other recommended customer experience metrics

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

Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)

NPS is a customer experience metric that has been correlated to future company growth. It is most commonly used to measure the overall customer experience, as opposed to specific customer touchpoints. Learn more in our NPS guide.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is an extremely versatile customer experience survey that can be used to gather feedback on everything from the sales to the product experience. Learn more about how and when to use CSAT surveys in our Customer Satisfaction guide.

Distribute

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 service resolution. 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 via email, with an SMS text, or over chat. For brick-and-mortar transactions, setting up a kiosk is an easy way to get feedback.

Calculate

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 (rating of 4 or 5) divided by the total number of responses. For example, if 65 customers out of 100 gave you a rating of 4 or 5, your CES would be 65.

Total number of agree responses (ratings of 4 or 5)
Total number of responses
×
100

Added new support agents

48
45
50
47
53

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.

Analyze

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. Customer feedback platforms scale with your customer experience program as survey responses increase. 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 feedback 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 email 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

“The payment screen kept timing out. Hopefully you don’t charge me multiple times.”

Many of the most adored companies rely on Delighted to ensure a top-quality customer experience.

Interested in seeing what insights you can uncover with a CES program?