Customer Effort Scores: What Is So Good About Them
Updated: Jan 25
Learn and understand the importance of customer effort scores as well as when it’s needed, the questions used, how to calculate CES and how it can be improved.
Table of contents:
What is a customer effort score?
Customer effort score (CES) is a customer experience (CX) measure of how much effort a customer needs to apply when interacting with a brand whether it’s buying a product, getting questions answered or resolving an order issue and is seen as a good indicator of brand loyalty.
Why is customer effort score important?
The customer effort score (CES) is important as it helps businesses gage if they are providing an ease-of-use experience to their customers, so the brand can respond by making improvements for the whole customer experience to be as convenient, swift and easy as possible for the customer.
This is basically the purpose of CES to measure how easy does a brand allow its customers to use their products or services and to correspond with, such as how responsive are customer services in dealing with a query or problem. Plus determining the ease of use of a brand is often seen by businesses as a better indicator of brand loyalty compared to other measures like CSAT or NPS, where it’s a good signal of likelihood to repurchase a brand’s products.
If customers are working too hard interacting with your brand, then they are more than likely to go over to your competitors. So, it’s essential you try to remove any of these barriers your customers are experiencing.
3 key benefits of running a CES survey
Below is a summary of the 3 main benefits for using the customer effort score:
1. A good indicator of customer retention
If customers are finding your products or services easy to use for what they need then there is a strong likelihood they will purchase the product again. While the opposite effect is likely to occur if they have to exert more effort for the same result, so it’s an important indicator of customer retention.
2. A better measure of brand loyalty than CSAT or NPS
Customer effort scores are most often seen as a better indicator of brand loyalty compared to other customer experience metrics due to the fact, they are measuring the actual customer interaction with the brand at different points in the customer journey to find out how easy and convenient it was for their customers.
3. A good indication of the possibility of customers referring the brand to others
If customers find the brand easy to use, they are likely to tell others, especially if they encountered a negative experience, which may have a knock-on effect on NPS scores in recommending the brand to friends and family.
Limitations of running a CES survey
Note there are limitations in using a CES survey such as not providing enough detail of the customer’s relationship with the business, lack of segmentation of customer type and only lets you know about a certain aspect that the customer found difficult, so it’s best to use customer effort scores in conjunction with other metrics like NPS and CSAT to get a better overall picture to improve customer experiences of the business.
When to measure the customer effort score?
The best times to use a CES survey is straight after a purchase, start of a subscription, following correspondence with the customer service team to resolve an issue or answer a product query and in supporting UX testing to improve visitor’s experiences of a website.
These are all key touchpoints in the customer journey that are explained in more detail below.
Straight after a purchase of a product
To get a better understanding of the purchase process from a customer’s point of view, it’s best to ask CES survey questions straight after a purchase either via text on mobile or via a survey online following the completion of the order e.g., confirmation page. This will allow you to explore purchase experiences that are fresh in your customers minds and to resolve issues or remove barriers of any pain points such as limited payment methods or hidden costs.
Start of a subscription following set-up and usage of product features
The same principle applies at the start of a subscription where the customer has gone through the initial set-up phase and started using the product features. This will help to ascertain how they are finding it and the ease of use.
Following correspondence with the customer service team to resolve an issue or answer queries
Answering CES survey questions via mobile or online following customers interaction with the customer service team is not only helpful way to measure and improve the level of support customers receive regarding a problem or product queries but also a good way for fixing any unresolved issues early on before they get worse. This is important to measure as frustrated customers following unhelpful phone calls or unresponsive service are likely to take their business elsewhere.
In supporting UX testing to improve visitor’s experiences of a website
CES survey questions are being used by brands to establish areas of the interface where website visitors may have to apply too much effort such as number of clicks needed to get to a key section or making an order. This all helps to support UX testing in making improvements to the website.
Customer effort score questions
There are 4 types of questions below used in a CES survey to help you calculate and evaluate the customer effort score.
Likert scales is a 5-point agreement scale from strongly disagree up to strongly agree in reference to a question statement(s), which is often used in many types of surveys. Plus is easy to understand and measure, particularly as you see if there is a great proportion of top 2 box scores (strongly agree and slightly agree) from customers answering the CES survey or vice versa (strongly/slightly disagree).
CES question example - Likert scale question
How much do you agree with the following statement:
The company made it easier for me to handle the issue
Numbered scales are easy to apply, where you ask customers to rate the level of effort / difficulty in resolving an issue or making a purchase on differing scales from 1 to 5, 1 to 7 or 1 to 10 (more straight forward) depending which one you decide to use and stick to especially when benchmarking these survey results over time.
So, using the 1 to 10 scale as an example, the lower scores like 2 means that a lot of effort was needed to be applied by the customer, while the higher scores like 9 means it was very easy for the customer (less difficult).
CES question example - Numbered scale question
How easy has it been using Brand X so far?
Emoticon ratings are very similar to the type of scale questions mentioned above but are more visually appealing and engaging for customers to answer. Normally smiley faces are used along the scale from an unhappy face to a very happy face to reflect the emotion that customers feel towards how difficult they found a particular situation with the brand. Also, other symbols can be used instead like thumbs up.
CES question example - Emoticon ratings question
Open ended follow-up questions
Follow-up questions are great to expand on the reasons why customers gave that score especially if it’s an open-ended question where the customer can explain in detail the situation, the response of the staff involved and an explanation of why they found the brand difficult. These are just some of many scenarios where customers can give a proper picture of their reasoning rather just relying on a number.
Open ended questions can help bring some context of the scores and highlight areas where the business needs to focus on or improve, which they may not have been aware of before.
CES question examples - Open ended follow-up question
Please let us know on what we need to improve on?
Why did you give a score of X for how easy it was in using brand X?
Customer effort score calculation
The most common customer effort score calculation is where you add up all the individual CES scores given and divide this by the number of responses provided by customers to give you an average CES score of how much effort needs to be applied by customers when interacting with your brand.
Example calculation of CES numbered scale
For example, 100 customers took part in the CES survey and the total is 600 when adding up all the CES scores from a scale of 1 to 10. You would then divide 600 by 100, which would give you a CES score of 6 out of 10, which is not too bad if the 1 to 10 scale goes from 1 for extremely difficult to 10 being very easy.
If you are using emoticon ratings or 5/7-point agreement scale then the CES calculation will be different. You would first need to turn all the top (2/3) positive scores and all the bottom (2/3) negative scores into percentages then you would need to subtract the percentage of negative results from the percentage of positive results to get your CES score.
Example calculation of CES emoticon rating
For example, you have 500 customers who took part in the CES survey and 300 responded positively, which is 60% (300/500 X 100) and 125 responded negatively that’s 25% (125/500 X 500). You would then minus the percentage of negative responses of 25% from the percentage of positive responses of 60% giving you a CES score of 35%.
What is a good customer effort score?
Generally, a good customer effort score (CES) is anything above 5 or 50% depending what question type you use and what way the scale runs (negative to positive or vice versa). However, it is difficult to judge as it differs between sectors in order to compare against your competition.
Therefore, it’s best that CES is measured over time, where you can benchmark against the first CES and eventually subsequent scores to see if your customer effort scores are improving. Plus. you can explore why with follow-up questions and other survey metrics if they have not improved and you can then decide what appropriate action you need to take.
How to improve customer effort score?
The customer effort score can be improved in the following ways:
By exploring customer feedback to come up with solutions
Look beyond than just the CES score by exploring the customer feedback provided in follow-up questions especially open-ended questions, where you can delve into the reasons given and common themes that come out from it in order for strategies to be developed to make it easier for the customer.
Ensure all channels are accessible to customers
You need to ensure that all channels are accessible to customers in order to contact your business, whether that’s a phone line, email, in store or via the website. Plus make sure staff are responsive and available to pick up calls and emails for any customer queries or issues raised as well.
The contact details like the postal address, email and telephone number should be easy to find on the company’s website. Also using an AI chat bot on your website can be more engaging for the customer in getting their queries answered early on or being directed to the appropriate contact if it’s a bigger issue.
Streamline the payment process and allow multiple payment methods
Explore whether the order and payment process can be streamlined such as less clicks involved or if add-ons are needed in subsequent pages. Also offering multiple types of payment methods make it easier for the customer to complete the purchase rather than dropping out at the last moment as only one payment method is available, which they may not use.
Make information easy to find
Product information, user instructions and answers to common customer queries should be easily available for customers to find such as the use of Frequently Asked Question (FAQs) pages, tutorials, documentation, videos and even moderated community discussion forums where customers can share with each other knowledge and solutions to user problems.
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