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What is a Customer Effort Score and How Can You Use it?
4 min read

What is a Customer Effort Score and How Can You Use it?

Customer Effort Score is a metric used by companies and customer service teams to measure how easily and effectively a client solves their problem and/or overall experience with your services and products.


Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric used by companies and customer service teams to measure how easily and effectively a client solves their problem and/or overall experience with your services and products. This information is usually collected by a simple number scale. Asking about the experience and having customers respond on a simple number scale indicating if they agree or disagree with the question or statement presented.

It's believed customers are more loyal to a brand or company when it is easy to do business with them. That's a convincing argument, I think everyone wants their interaction with a brand to be easy, quick and efficient. The Harvard Business Review has a very interesting and detailed article on the power of the customer effort score. They very simply define the CES:

CES is measured by asking a single question: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” It is scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).

How does customer effort translate to the real world?

As a consumer/buyer we want a website to be clear and intuitive, so that we can quickly browse the product or service that is being offered and easily obtain the information needed to make a decision on that brand. We are used to and even expect an easy check out process once we have decided to purchase that product or service. If we have an issue or need to make a return, we want fast service and easy resolutions.

Everything moves at lightning speed nowadays. Consumers don't want to waste time with a confusing site, a clunky checkout process, or slow customer service. The theory behind the Customer Effort Score is that a consumer will hold their interaction with you just as high, if not higher than the product or service itself. So if you are offering a great product or service, but it's not as easily obtainable as it is with a competitor, then you run the risk of losing customer loyalty.

A customer might jump ship and feel like it's a better value to have an easy and efficient experience with another brand offering a comparable product. In that same article mentioned above, the research clearly showed that a customer who found it hard and believed it took a lot of effort to solve their issue would have a continued negative opinion of that brand.

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We found the predictive power of CES to be strong indeed. Of the customers who reported low effort, 94% expressed an intention to repurchase, and 88% said they would increase their spending. Only 1% said they would speak negatively about the company. Conversely, 81% of the customers who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word of mouth.

How to measure customer effort score

Customer effort score is something you can start measuring right away by simply setting up a survey email that goes out right after an interaction with your company. This means a sale, a customer service interaction, a live chat conversation, or any other valuable interaction. The email should be short, simple, and to the point.

One of the first questions on the survey usually looks something like this: How much effort did it take for you to accomplish what you wanted with our brand, that's what you want to find out.

Many times after the simple question, brands will offer the ability for the customer to elaborate and give further feedback. If a customer chooses to offer more information, this helps you pinpoint the frustration points more clearly. If they do not offer more feedback, you will need to have a clear customer journey to try and determine where, on your site or during your interactions, the customer found it to be difficult.

Even if many customers do not leave detailed feedback, getting an overall CES score will help you gauge where you stand. If the email survey shows the majority of customers have a low CES, then you can set your mind at ease. However, if the email survey shows a high CES, this can give you the insight you need to tackle problematic areas on your website, or in your customer support interactions.

Examples of customer effort score surveys



What to take away from this

In the business world, customer’s opinions on your products and services could either make or break you. As important as it is to offer an amazing product, physical or digital, it’s equally as important to make sure you can deliver the customer service that people are expecting. And that’s why customer effort score is so important.

All-in-all, people shop online mostly for the convenience factor. If you take that away, and make them exert more effort to purchase your product, they will surely go to your competitors.

The key takeaway from this is to imagine yourself as the customer. If you find it difficult to purchase a product from your brand, even if it’s just slightly inconvenient, then you should definitely look into making some changes.