You don’t need more than a glance at the current eComm & retail landscape to realize that what worked in 2019 simply doesn’t cut it anymore. 

At the same time, organizations are starting to catch up on the idea that they need to integrate the voice of the customer into all their business processes.

Yet, even after all these epiphanies, organizations are still constantly challenged to acquire better customers and retain them longer.

Your efforts to reduce customer churn should include more than providing stellar customer service or anticipating customers’ needs. 

As crucial as they might be, there’s another way to delight your customers. The dark horse of customer service: solving customer problems quickly and efficiently.

Discover everything there is to know about the Customer Effort Score (CES). This Customer satisfaction metric empowers you to optimize your customer service center, quickly spot red flags, and make your customers’ lives easier. 

What Is the Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score, CES in its abbreviation, represents the effort a customer needs to make to interact with your organization. Interaction refers to solving an issue, which can be anything from returning a product to answering a question.

The CES metric highlights the ease with which a customer can work with you. 

Getting an issue solved effectively and timely while reducing the level of effort from the customers’ side are some of the main demands of the modern customer. 

Therefore, the Customer Effort Score is strongly linked with customer loyalty and, by extension, to the Customer Lifetime Value

Why is Customer Effort Score Important?

Before we discuss the importance of the score, let’s first look at the concept of customer effort. 

If all you do is acquire customers that never come back, you’ll barely break even. And with the CAC rising and digital giants like Facebook & Apple still fighting over privacy laws, acquisition becomes more and more of a challenge for organizations. 

This is why you need to turn your efforts to the other side of the coin: retention and customer value optimization

However, retention strategies can only function if you roll up your sleeves and collect as much customer feedback as possible. Here’s where CX metrics come in handy, helping you measure and control every possible interaction between your customers and the organization. 

While other customer experience metrics like the NPS or the Satisfaction Surveys, CES surveys measure the health of your customer care department. 

This happens because the CES is highly targeted at measuring how efficient you are in providing help to customers when they seek it

Some companies will get overexcited and seduced by complicated retention strategies, struggling to deliver stellar experiences and anticipate customer needs. 

This is okay, but let’s remember the basis: resolving issues quickly and effectively.

Customer Effort Score surveys are like the dark horse of Customer Care. 

According to Harvard Business Review’s famous article, delighting customers doesn’t necessarily build loyalty. 

What makes customers stick more than anything is reducing their effort to get their problems solved.

The same Harvard Business Review article highlights the issues that cause the most frustration to your customers:

  • Having to explain a problem multiple times to multiple people.
  • Having to switch devices / use various devices to solve a problem.
  • Being transferred to another department (feeling like they wasted their time).
  • Being forced to contact the company more than once about the same issue.

Frustration causes unhappiness, and customer unhappiness causes customer churn.

By any means, we don’t downgrade the importance of providing excellent customer experiences. 

However, remember that quick problem-solving plays its part in retention. An effortless experience is critical in increasing customer satisfaction & building customer loyalty.

Evidently, you need to measure customer effort before you get started on eliminating any issue that frustrates customers. Customer effort score calculation is the first step in achieving this. 

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Customer Effort Score Calculation

To effectively measure CES, you must send out score surveys after each interaction between the customer and the company representative. 

As far as customer effort score questions go, CES surveys are incredibly straightforward. Usually, you would ask customers to rate from a 1-7 agree-disagree rate this phrase (or a variation of it):

[Your Organization Name]
 made it easy for me to solve my issue. 

In this situation, customers choose from seven answer choices – from “strongly disagree” (score 1) to “strongly agree” (score 7). As you can see, the higher the score, the better.

This part gives you quantitative data, offering a glimpse into the effectiveness of your customer care department. However, the work continues because data is meaningless unless you provide meaning. 

For low-scoring answers, add a second question to your customer survey, this time leaving the answer open-ended: 

What could we have done better?

This question is critical for low-scoring customers. It lets you quickly identify why and where the customer felt frustrated, unheard, or ignored. 

If customers rated high scores, you’re great at solving customer problems. However, even if you score high, you can still extract further information from your customer with a follow-up, open-ended question:

Is there anything else you would like to share?

To calculate your Customer Effort Score, you need to use the same formula as you’d use for your NPS score. 

You have to subtract the % of people who responded positively (rated 8-7) from the % of customers who gave a negative (1-4) response. Neutral responses (rated 5-7) are usually ignored.

CES Formula =
 % of Positive Responses – % of Negative Responses

What Is a Good Customer Effort Score?

As with many areas in marketing and customer experience, a good CES score differs from Industry to Industry. To make matters even more complicated, at this moment, there are no industry benchmarks you can use to compare your score. 

Instead of searching for Customer Effort Score benchmarking, you can look at your CES like you would look at the NPS: negative and positive scores. 

  • Positive CES

A positive score (above 0) signals you offer a low-effort experience – your customer support teams are fixing customers’ issues quickly & efficiently.

Use the positive score as a marketing asset, turning user experience into a differentiator to attract high-quality customers. 

  • Negative CES

Conversely, you can have negative customer effort scores (below 0), meaning unsatisfied customers outnumber happy shoppers.

A negative score signals you need to put more effort into customer care and the possibility that customers will churn out of your business.

To increase customer satisfaction through the CES, you first need to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Are your customers frustrated with long call waiting, the red tape of solving a business, or the ineffectiveness of your employees?

After you identify the issue, you need to fix it by hiring more employees to reduce the waiting time, training them, or using more effective CX tools. 

Another way to assess your CES is by looking at its evolution: 

How does the CES change over time? 

If it’s improving and more customers give you high scores, you’re on an upward trajectory. 

However, if it’s stagnant or lowers over time, you should take another look at your customer service procedures. 

When and How to Use Customer Effort Score

Your end goal with the Customer Effort Score aims to deliver frictionless experiences, resulting in low effort scores.

The beauty of the CES is that you can measure customer satisfaction with a specific interaction or milestone inside the customer journey. 

Here are some key points where CES feedback can actively influence the quality of your business & the customer journey.

➡️ After the transaction goes through.

The first one is also the most common. It’s wrong to assume that your customer relationship starts after the first purchase. 

Instead, it’s better to keep an eye on the experiences you create and prove from the first interaction that you’re trustworthy; after all, customer loyalty begins with the onboarding process.

Sending a CES survey after the first transaction (purchase) helps you understand and measure customers’ experiences with the buying process. Was the experience smooth, or did the customer experience hiccups? Were there any problems with the transaction? Can you do anything for a quicker process? 

These questions are answered by a post-purchase CES, and the answers will help you improve the buying process. 

➡️ After you solve a customer complaint*. 

(*or any other type of customer service interaction). 

As you already know, your problem-solving abilities play a crucial role in customer loyalty. So you can take advantage of the CES surveys to analyze the effectiveness of your customer care (or service) departments. 

After you close a ticket, you can ask customers for feedback about the ease of getting their inquiries answered.

Ideally, you should include open-ended questions in these surveys, so customers can verbalize their needs using their own words and language.

Even if the answers aren’t satisfactory, you can still look at the event as an opportunity to understand how smooth your employees are making your customers’ experiences.  

➡️ At customers’ milestones.

Besides linking the surveys to specific moments in time, you can also use the CES survey to investigate the overall effectiveness of your customer service department. 

Send a survey after a specific number of orders or a particular period and provide the customer with the space to voice his concerns and feedback. 

The CES is an excellent instrument to measure customer loyalty overall since it helps you identify & remove specific friction points in the customer experience itself.

  • How to send a CES survey?

Use email and SMS communication to trigger CES surveys and allow customers to share their feedback while on the go. 

If you want to measure the effort score for offline locations, set up feedback desks on the premises.

Create Your CES Survey

As for the survey itself, there are some tricks you can use to make sure customers actually take the time to respond. 

  • Make it effortless.

Remember that customers lack the patience to fill out lengthy forms or elaborate too much on their answers. 

Our advice is that you keep your questions short and easy to understand. 

At the same time, only include a few questions: three should be enough. 

Use conversational language when formulating the questions and include multiple answers – so customers only need to click a response to send the reply. 

  • Keep them scarce.

Sending too many surveys can cause frustration and accomplish the opposite of what you were trying to achieve. At the same time, too many answers can render the data meaningless. 

Ensure you only send out CES surveys on specific occasions and at particular moments. 

  • Make it personal. 

Customers love to feel like they matter. They also love to feel seen and part of something more. Include personalization in your survey to make the customer feel more than just a number inside a database.

Customer Effort Score vs. NPS

With so many similarities between the CES and the Net Promoter Score (NPS), it’s only natural for a debate to spark: Are Net Promoter Scores better than Customer Effort Scores?

In this context, “better” means more useful or profitable in the long run. 

Truth be told, while similar, the metrics deliver different insights for your company.

NPS surveys reflect customers’ sentiment:

  • Are they over the moon with the experience and can’t wait to share it?
  • Or will they bad-mouth you because you provided terrible experiences?

CES feedback, on the other hand, gives you clarity on the customer experience and helps predict future loyalty. 

Both metrics are strongly linked to customers’ feedback. 

Still, one determines your relationship with the customer (NPS), while the other is the experience you provide to the customer (CES).

Yes, the difference is nuanced, but it doesn’t mean NPS and CES should exclude each other. For instance, the CES is limited to customer service and doesn’t give insights into the overall business. At the same time, NPS shows how happy customers are with the product’s quality but doesn’t offer an idea about your problem-solving abilities.

If you’re serious about customer-centricity, you should collect feedback through both metrics, then design the customer journey map accordingly.

The action will add value to customers’ experiences and care programs, creating long-term benefits and quick wins. 

Wrap-up

Instead of your ordinary conclusion, we’d like to end with a much-needed disclaimer. On its own, quantitative research can become a waste of time and resources.

Quantitative Data provided by the CES is much less relevant than the customer insights you can pull directly from your shoppers.

Your customers have the answers you are looking for to optimize their customer journey and increase loyalty & CLV.

And there is only one way to acquire those insights: asking them all the questions that could bring the right answers for your business.

You need qualitative data to see why it is happening.

So go out of your way and talk to your customers.

Otherwise, you fall into a data rabbit hole, and you miss the whole point: providing better products & experiences that make your customers stick.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Customer Effort Score

How do you evaluate customer effort score?

To evaluate the Customer Effort Score, you first need to send out surveys asking customers to score how easy it was to get their problem solved, on a scale of 1-7. To calculate the overall score, subtract the % of people who responded positively (rated 8-7) from the % of customers who gave a negative (1-4) response. Neutral responses (rated 5-7) are usually ignored.

How do you calculate customer score?

To calculate the overall score, subtract the % of people who responded positively (rated 8-7) from the % of customers who gave a negative (1-4) response. Neutral responses (rated 5-7) are usually ignored.

Should customer effort score be high or low?

Your CES surveys ask ask customers to rate on a 1-7 agree-disagree rate the idea that your company helped them solve their problem: from “strongly disagree” (score 1) to “strongly agree” (score 7). As you can see, the higher the score, the better.