What is the Customer Effort Score (CES) and why is it often overlooked?

By VHT Marketing

Customer experience (CX) is a top priority for companies, and for good reason. Close to three-quarters of all customers point to their experience with a brand as a major purchasing influence. Companies that manage CX well are three times as likely to exceed their business goals.

To deliver the best possible customer experience, you need to track and analyze customer experience metrics. There are many out there, from the well-known Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) to the more obscure Customer Effort Score (CES).

Through our “What’s That Stat?” series, you’ll learn about the most important CX metrics and how to use them. This article will focus on the Customer Effort Score (CES), an important predictor of customer loyalty.

What Does CES Measure?

CES measures how easy or difficult it is for customers to engage with your business. It usually refers to interactions with customer service, assessing how much work customers have to do to resolve a problem.

What Does It Not Measure?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) does not measure a customer’s:

  • Relationship with your brand
  • Overall satisfaction
  • Likelihood to stay or leave

CES also doesn’t tell you why a customer had a difficult experience, so you may need to follow up with additional research. For example, if you get a few very low scores, the culprit may be a technical issue, which is easier to solve than an unhelpful representative.

How Is It Most Useful?

Because it doesn’t give you an overall picture of customer perception, CES is best used as a supplement to a satisfaction-focused measurement like CSAT or Net Promoter Score (NPS). You can learn more about these metrics in other “What’s That Stat?” articles.

How to Create an Effective CES Survey

When it comes to customer experience metrics, simpler is usually better. An effective CES survey often includes a single question, usually some form of “How easy was it to solve your problem today?”

Question Formats

There are two basic ways of presenting CES survey questions to customers. You could:

  • Ask a direct question: “How easy was it…?”
  • Have people agree or disagree with a statement: “The representative made it easy for me to resolve my issue.”

The question should be multiple choice, and the answers should be clearly labeled. Common answer formats include:

  • A numerical scale. Always tell customers explicitly what a low or high score means. For example, if you’re using a 1-10 scale, make sure customers know whether a 10 means “very easy” or “high effort.”
  • Emoji faces. These make it quick for customers to respond, and they’re easy to interpret. (A happy face means a good experience, which almost always means low effort.)
  • The Likert scale. Typically used to measure agreement or disagreement with a statement, this scale usually has five or seven points. Responses commonly range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

Who to Ask

CES surveys are most useful after a potentially complex interaction. For your company, that might be:

  • A customer service call or email exchange
  • A free trial signup
  • Onboarding or a service upgrade

You want the experience to be fresh in a customer’s mind, so send the survey as soon as possible after the exchange.

How to Interpret Results

Numerical answer choices are easiest to interpret. One of the most straightforward methods is to use a simple average: add all of the scores you get and divide by the number of responses. For example, if you ask 100 customers to rate you on a scale of 1 to 10 and the total score you receive is 800, your CES is 8 (800 divided by 100).

You can do the same with a verbal or emoji score. You’ll just need to assign a numerical value to each rating before you do your calculations.

Another method for calculating CES is to compare negative responses to positive. Positive responses are any that fall above the middle of the scale. You can do this one of two ways:

  • Calculate the percentage of positive and negative responses, then subtract the latter from the former
  • Find out how many people gave you a positive rating, then divide that number by your total number of responses

How to Improve CES

Effort has a direct and strong connection with customer loyalty. According to top research firm Gartner, 96% of customers will leave a high-effort interaction with less loyalty to the company in question, compared to just 9% who had a low-effort experience.

One of the easiest ways to decrease customer effort and improve CES is to get them off hold faster. That’s where Mindful’s Digital Callback can have a big impact.

After receiving information about wait times, the customer has the option to accept an ASAP callback — as soon as an agent is available — or a scheduled callback at a specific time. They keep their place in “line,” but they don’t have to put their life on hold.

Mindful sends automated text reminders when a callback is on its way. Customers don’t have to stress about missing a call. They don’t even have to set up their own reminders. It’s a great way to reduce effort and, in turn, improve CES.