What is Customer Effort Score (CES) and How to Measure It?

Customer Effort Score (CES): A Detailed Guide

September 1, 2022

Customer Experience matters! But the effortless kind.

94% of customers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase compared with 4% of those experiencing high effort.’

Logically, the lesser effort it takes to complete something, the more chances of a user completing it.

Read on to understand why customer effort score(CES) matters and how to measure it to improve your services for a better customer experience.

What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score(CES) is a customer experience metric that measures the efforts exerted by the customer to get their query or issues resolved. It captures the customers’ interaction insights with your services along their journey. 

The customer effort score is the measure of ease of customer interaction. Instead of asking how satisfied the customers are, you ask them to gauge the ease of their service experience to find the friction points and eliminate bottlenecks on the path to the best customer experience.

The CES or customer effort score survey features a rating scale or Likert scale, and the respondents are asked to rate their ease of issue resolution. You can also add follow-up questions to collect more in-depth data.

For example: 

How much do you agree with the following statement – Qualaroo made it easy for me to solve my issue.

Why is the Customer Effort Score(CES) Survey Important?

According to Gartner, reducing customer efforts is key to lowering disloyalty. CES’s importance lies in understanding customers’ efforts, and their feedback regarding pain points can help you deliver a low-effort experience. This translates to better conversions, retention, and brand loyalty.

1.) Provides Optimization Insights About Your Products and Services

CES enlightens you about how frictionless your support services are. You can use the data to optimize the existing service channels, install new service points and reduce unnecessary steps that hinder an excellent customer service experience.

2.) Increases Probability of Customer Retention and Loyalty

According to Gartner, customer effort is 40% more accurate at predicting customer loyalty as opposed to customer satisfaction.

The same is indicated by an HBR study, which shows that CES has a better predictive power of repurchase than NPS and CSAT.

A low-effort service is an incentive in itself for the customer to come back again.

Therefore, using CES as a progress indicator and improving it over time can help you retain more customers.

3.) Reduces Service Costs and Efforts

If customers expend less effort to get their issues resolved, the lesser the burden on your support staff, and hence lower is the resource cost.

A low-effort experience may reduce repeat calls by 40%, thereby saving service resources and time.

Since CES is the direct measure of the customers’ struggles, it can guide you towards the areas of improvement to provide quick resolution.

4.) Promotes Positive Word of Mouth

According to Gartner, ‘the NPS score of companies providing a low effort experience to customers is 65 points higher than the high effort companies.’

What does this mean?

It means the customers who get their issues resolved quickly or can effortlessly use your product, website, etc., are more likely to promote your brand or company to others. It can be positive reviews, word of mouth, product shares, and more.

Thus, a good CES score can improve your brand’s popularity and promote damage control by limiting the bad word of mouth about your products and services.

How Can You Measure Customer Effort Score?

The effort mentioned above is customers’ interaction with your services like customer support or technical department. The number of steps they’ve to take to complete their desired actions count as customer effort. It can be anything:

  • Post-purchase services
  • Getting in touch with the support agent
  • Finding the contact information on the website or app
  • Getting issues resolved with the customer support
  • Interacting via live chat to get their queries answered

As stated above, high-effort interactions that require more time and struggle from customers are more vulnerable to abandonment in today’s competitive environment. It’s, therefore, necessary to deliver a low-effort experience to your website visitors and customers.

But how can you measure the intensity of an interaction?

To measure customer effort, you need to map the customer journey to uncover touchpoints where they struggle and contact your customer success team. You can then deploy surveys to collect CES scores and other valuable feedback data.

CES or Customer Effort Score is one of the most popular metrics to get quantitative and qualitative insights into customers’ efforts and improve their experience.

Origin of Customer Effort Score (CES)

In 2010, CEB, now Gartner, set out to find the correlation between customer service and loyalty.

They researched over 97,000 customers who have interacted with customer service representatives and hundreds of customer service organizations to find answers to three critical questions:

  • To what extent does customer service matter in driving customer loyalty?
  • What can customer service do to drive customer loyalty?
  • How can customer service improve loyalty while also reducing operating costs?

The findings showed that exceptional customer service had only a marginal effect on customer loyalty. However, reducing their efforts is a crucial factor to predict loyalty and reduce service costs. CEB introduced CES to measure the customer efforts expended to find the solution.

The CES 1.0 was initially measured with the question: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” It’s scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort) as shown in the figure:

The problem with this formulation?

The word “effort” can be interpreted differently in different languages, making it the customers’ responsibility to interpret it the right way. 

So, a couple of years later, CEB proposed a new formulation, CES 2.0, with two more response anchors added to the previous scale. 

For example:

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The (company name) made it easy for me to handle the issue?’

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Somewhat Disagree
  4. Neither Agree nor Disagree
  5. Somewhat Agree
  6. Agree
  7. Strongly Agree

How is Customer Effort Score OR CES Score Measured?

When it comes to measuring CES, different scales can be used to collect different data types from customers. Generally, the respondents are asked to agree or disagree with the statement using a Likert scale or rate their effort level on a numbered scale.

Each scale can have its variations depending on the measurement sensitivity you require from the customer.

For example:

A 7-point Likert scale is more sensitive than a 5-point scale as it provides more options for customers to represent the level of effort they expend to get their issues resolved.

Types of CES or Customer Effort Score Surveys

1.) Likert Scale

The Likert scale metric assesses the respondents’ opinions and behaviors using a 5 or 7-point unidimensional response scale. The responses are called response anchors and arranged on a continuum from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ or vice-versa.

The responses measure the intensity of respondents’ agreement or disagreement for the given statement. In addition to measuring statements of agreement, the Likert scale can measure other variations such as frequency, priority, likelihood, quality, and importance.

  • 5-Point Likert Scale:

On a 5-point Likert scale, the respondents can choose from 5 response anchors in the options. The answers are usually numbered 1-5 and can be color-coded from red to green for clarity.

For example:

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our customer service representative? 

  • 7-Point Likert Scale:

You can use the same question with a 7-point Likert scale, which has seven response anchors. The 7-point scale can give deeper insights as the respondents have more options available for them. However, increasing the number of options can make it more difficult for the respondents to choose the answer.

For example:

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our customer service representative? 

2.) Numbered Rating Scale

This metric asks the respondents to rate their experiences on a scale of 1-10 or 1-5. Generally, higher scores indicate low effort (very easy) or positive experience, and lower scores reflect high effort (very hard) or negative experience. However, the sentiment can also be reversed depending on the context of the statement.

This scale can also be color-coded from red to green to associate the color with the negative to the positive experience and provide clarity to the respondents.

  • 1-5 Rating Scale

  • 1-10 Rating Scale

3.) Emoticon Ratings

Relatively simple to understand and takes little to no effort to answer, you can use the emoticons to run small CES surveys on your website or app. It consists of smiley faces ranging from unhappy to delighted emoji on a linear scale with a neutral face in the middle. 

CES vs. NPS & CSAT? Is CES Better?

Although CES, NPS, and CSAT are all customer experience metrics, they measure different aspects of customer experience.

NPS Score

NPS (Net promoter Score) measures the likelihood of customer recommendation of your brand. The respondents are asked to rate the question on a scale of 0-10. The responses are categorized into detractors (0 to 6), passive (7-8), and promoters (9-10).

The NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

For example:

Let’s say the total number of survey respondents is 10. Out of these, 2 (20%) are segmented as detractors, 7 (70%) are promoters, and 1 (10%) is passive.

Then, the NPS score = promoter percentage (70) – detractor percentage (20) = 50

It’s easy to interpret and gives an accurate measure of long-term brand loyalty. However, since the score is calculated by subtraction, you can get the same score from the two different sets of promoter and detractor percentages. For example, an NPS score of 50 can be obtained from (70-20) and (60-10).

NPS is a high-level metric to evaluate the overall customer experience but does not consider the experience at specific touchpoints. That’s where CSAT and CES come in.

Watch: How to Create Net Promoter Score Survey with Qualaroo

CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) Score

CSAT Score measures customers’ satisfaction after their interaction with the specific touchpoint or service. The respondents are asked to rate their satisfaction level on a Likert or Rating scale.

However, it does not take previous interactions into account.

Also, since CSAT is a short-term metric, it may not be an accurate indicator of customer loyalty. The customer can be satisfied with one aspect of the services but may not be happy with other elements.

Watch: How to Measure Customer Satisfaction

How Do NPS and CSAT Compare With CES?

Before choosing between NPS, CES, and CSAT, the first thing to consider is whether you want to measure the overall customer relationship health or get feedback on a recent experience or touchpoint.

Net Promoter Score gives the whole picture of customer loyalty and relationship on a long-term basis. On the other hand, CES and CSAT are transactional metrics that evaluate crucial touchpoints in the customer’s journey.

Interestingly, according to an HBR report, ‘CES outperforms both NPS and CSAT in predicting both customers’ repurchase and spending intent.’ 

HBR report,

Similarly, Gartner’s report shows that the NPS score of companies that emphasize low-effort experience (thus high CES) is generally 65 points higher than the high-effort companies. The facts show that CES is better in predicting loyalty than NPS and CSAT.

Does this mean that you should use only CES? 

Absolutely not.

Each metric has its significance when it comes to improving customer experience. NPS is useful in segmenting the customer to help you identify the promotional and follow-up targets.

On the other hand, CES can help you figure out the bottleneck preventing the customer from having a seamless and effortless experience.

Best Practices for Using CES Surveys

1.) Timing Is Pivotal to Collect the Data

Choosing when to show the survey is critical to increase the response rate and get insightful feedback.

For example:

  • You can display or send the CES survey immediately after they’ve contacted customer support.
  • Ask for CES immediately after resolving customer’s issues over call or chat.
  • Send an email survey to collect CES 6-24 hours after closing the service request. 

2.) Choose Your Touchpoints

The more channels you choose to send out the CES survey, the higher is the response rate and the more data you can collect from the respondents. You can send the CES surveys through emails, SMS, and shareable links.

Another way to get instantaneous feedback is to add the CES survey to your website, app, or product; at the point where you wish to collect the user feedback. In this way, the survey will automatically pop up to the visitor or customers once they meet the preset conditions.

3.) Choose the Right Scale

Choosing the correct scale makes all the difference in the outcome. Different scale types measure the customer’s efforts to different sensitivity.

For example, a 7-point Likert scale provides more response options to customers than a 5-point Likert scale, thus providing a better interpretation of customers’ expended efforts.

Similarly, the rating scale of 1-5 and 1-10 have different sensitivity as the latter gives more options for the customer to choose from.

What’s more, the sequence of scale response anchors will also determine how you read the scale.

If the response anchors range from negative to positive sentiment, a higher score will be desirable.

For example:

How easy or difficult was it to get help with your problem?

1 – Very difficult

2 – Difficult

3 – Neutral

4 – Easy

5 – Very easy

But if the scale anchors are reversed, the lower the score, the better. 

For example:

How easy or difficult was it to get help with your problem?

1 – Very easy

2 – Easy

3 – Neutral

4 – Difficult

5 – Very difficult

That’s why it’s beneficial to choose the right scale and maintain its consistency to track progress precisely.

4.) Ask the Right Questions

Asking the correct questions will help you to get precise answers. As CES survey measure the customers’ efforts, make sure that you frame the questions in a way that represents their struggle or ease in getting the support to resolve the issue.

Also, try to use a neutral tone to avoid directing the respondents in a particular direction. One way to prevent a leading question is to pose it as a statement.

Lastly, avoid using the word ‘effort’ as it can be interpreted differently in different languages. Instead, you can rephrase the question to directly ask the respondents how easy it was to resolve the issue.

For example:

How easy or difficult is it to navigate our website?

1 – Very difficult

2 – Difficult

3 – Neutral

4 – Easy

5 – Very easy

5.) Add Open-Ended and Follow-up Questions to CES Survey

Since the CES response anchors are divided into three sentiment types: unhappy, neutral, and happy, it’s perceptive to add a follow-up question to get deeper insights into the feedback. It will help you understand the issues and concerns so you can fix them in time.

You can also use question branching to redirect the respondents to different questions depending on their answers to personalize the survey.

6.) Track Your CES Score With Time

Tracking your CES score is crucial to measure the progress over time. Seeing improvements in the CES score is tangible proof that the changes you made are working. On the other hand, a decreasing CES score would let you quickly spot customer problems and rectify them.

This way, tracking the CES score will help you improve customer experience and reduce unnecessary efforts.

Customer Effort Score Survey Use Cases: Best Times to Send a CES Survey

There are different points of service interactions you can target along the customer journey to collect the CES score, such as:

1.) After the Customer Uses the Help Section

67% of the Customers prefer a self-service system over contacting the support representative to solve the issues. 

It means self-help resources are a vital touchpoint to measure and optimize customer effort. These include a knowledge base, guides, and Self-Help sections. You can add a simple CES survey Nudge™ to inquire about their experience.

For example:

  • Were you able to find the information you were looking for?
  • If Yes, To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: [Company name] made it easy for me to find a solution to my issue.
  • If No, what were you looking for?
  • Is there anything we can do to improve the section further?

You can use targeting options to show the survey to different customers based on their behavior and actions.

For example:

  • When the customer is about to leave the page or section.
  • When they’ve browsed to a certain length of the page.
  • When they interact with a page element like CTA or share button.

2.) After Interaction With Customer Support Service

According to Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Level report, ‘96% of the customers say that customer service plays an important role in deciding loyalty towards a brand.’

Thus, CES is an important metric to ensure a low-effort experience for the customers interacting with support services.

There can be two instances to collect CES data:

  • First Interaction – how easy was it for you to connect with customer support?
  • After the last exchange – how easy was it to get the problem resolved?

Follow up with the customers to measure your customer services’ effectiveness, make improvements so they can get their issues or queries answered as soon as possible, and reduce repeat calls or emails.

For example:

  • How helpful did you find the customer service agent?

1 – Not at all helpful

2 – Slightly helpful

3 – Somewhat helpful

4 – Moderately helpful

5 – Extremely helpful

  • How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?
  • How did this effort compare to your expectations?
  • To what extent do you agree with the following statement: The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.

3.) After Providing Help Through Live Chat

The difference between live chat and other means of communication is real-time resolution and feedback. Plus, the waiting time is usually lower than that on call.

After providing the resolution, you can show the CES survey in the live chat window and ask for real-time customer feedback.

It will help you measure the effectiveness of your support agent in resolving customer issues in real time.

Even if you’ve automated chatbot support, you can measure how easy it’s to use it.

For example:

  • Was the agent or chatbot able to help you with the issue?
  • How easy is it to use the chat feature to resolve your query?

Interpreting the Results. How to Calculate the CES Score?

There’s no definitive industry standard for calculating the customer effort score. You can use one of the several methods to calculate and track it.

Method 1

The general formula used to calculate the CES score is to find the aggregate of all the responses.

(CES) Customer Effort Score = Sum of all Customer Effort Scores ÷ Total number of respondents.

For example:

  • For the survey given below:

Suppose the individual responses are = 4, 2, 5, 3, 4, 1, 2, 4, 5

And the total number of total responses is = 9

Therefore CES = (4+2+5+3+4+1+2+4+5) / 9 = 3.3

To express the total score as an aggregate percentage, you can multiply it by 100. It provides an easy-to-read round number to use as a result.

Tip: Be cautious if you use a reversed scale, i.e., ranging from positive (low effort) to negative (high effort). The calculations will also get reversed. In this case, a lower score would be better, as shown in the image below:

Method 2

Another alternative is to calculate the percentage of positive votes by dividing the number of people who chose ratings 4 or 5 by the total responses. 

For example, if 58 customers out of 100 gave you a rating of 4-5 (4 or 5 being the positive response anchors), then your CES is 58. If you’re using a 7-point Likert scale, then the desirable responses would be 6-7 response anchors.

As with the above method, if you reverse the scales, you need to take the total number of 1-2 responses and divide it by the total number of respondents to get the CES score.

Now that you have the CES score, you need to track this number to see the fluctuations. It will help you measure the effectiveness of the changes you made to the product or process.

What is a Good CES Score?

One thing you need to keep in mind is the sequence of your options. It will decide whether the score obtained in the last section is a positive or a negative indicator.

For example:

  • If your options range from easy to difficult, such as
a.  Very easy
b.  Somewhat easy
c.  Neither
d.  Very difficult

e.  Extremely difficult

In this case, as the score shifts towards the left extremities, the better it’s for the survey. A CES score between 1-2 would be considered a good score.

However, if the options are ranged from hard to easy, such as

a.  1- Not at all helpful
b.  2- Slightly helpful
c. 3 – Somewhat helpful
d. 4 – Moderately helpful
e. 5 – Extremely helpful

In this case, as the score moves towards the higher end of the spectrum, the better it’s. 

So, use consistent options to get correct results and interpretations.

Also, it should be pointed out again that CES is not an indicator of customer satisfaction. It measures the ease of interaction and customer effort level.

How to Improve Customer Effort Scores

Once you have the CES score in hand, the next step is to figure out ways to improve it. Here are some of the methods you can use to build a higher CES score over time.

1.) Benchmarking Your CES

The first step is to set a benchmark. A higher customer effort score is good, but how does it compare to your industry’s general CES scores for the same interaction?

Setting up a benchmark is pivotal to tracking your progress. There are multiple standards to benchmark your score.

  • Competitive Benchmark: Tracking the CES progress against your competitors’ score to improve the customer experience. It’s one of the best standards as it considers your industry.
  • Global Benchmarking: Comparing your CES scores against global scores. Note that the score will vary depending on the region and demographic. You may need to consider the score for the specific geography where you want to measure the CES progress.
  • Compare against your own scores: When you can track the progress using your previous scores as the benchmark.

2.) Improve First-Time Resolution Rate

First contact resolution (FCR) is an important metric to generate happy customers and lower service costs. FCR is the support services’ ability to provide the customer with the resolution on the first contact via call, email, chat, etc.

A higher first-time resolution rate will improve your CES scores and save your support services resources and time. In fact, low-effort experience may reduce repeat calls by 40% and escalations by 50%.

3.) Install Multi-Channel Communication Options

Another way to provide a low-effort experience to your customers and improve your CES is to make it easy for them to contact you. Some people prefer to call support services, while others prefer emails or live chat. 

62% of customers want to communicate with companies via email for customer service. 48% want to use the phone, 42% live chat, and 36% “Contact Us” forms.

So you should provide multiple communication channels for the customers to get in touch with you via the medium they are most comfortable with. Use multi-channel contact/feedback options such as email, phone support, self-service Kiosk, Livechat, and contact us tab.

4.) Use Self-Service Tools Such as Guides, Tutorials, & Videos

Your customer would rather solve the issues themselves instead of contacting you. Boosting self-service options such as knowledge base software, user guides, video tutorials, etc., make it easier for the customers to get the answers for their issues and problems with your products or services.

Installing self-service tools does not undermine the importance of a multi-channel support environment for the customers. They should be able to quickly connect with you if they don’t find what they are looking for in the self-service channels.

Both points go hand in hand to provide a seamless customer experience and lower the efforts, thereby improving the CES.

5.) Read Between the Lines

Repeating themselves is one of the most frustrating experiences of the customers while contacting the support services. According to Hubspot, 33% are most frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps.

It also causes hindrance in providing a low-effort customer experience. Therefore, it’s imperative to try to understand customers’ queries in the first go. If a customer cannot articulate their issues properly, it becomes essential to use context to understand the problem. Look into the customer’s information, activity history, and other data available to find the possible problem.

If the resolution cannot be provided in the first contact, the agent needs to log the customer’s conversation details for the next agent. You can also proactively inform the customers once the issue is resolved instead of waiting for them to contact you.

6.) Lower the Wait Time

No one wants to wait on the phone to get in touch with the support agent. Longer wait times lead to frustrated customers, and if the query does not get resolved on the call, it ultimately constitutes a bad customer experience. 

It could lead to a loss of a customer.

There are various ways to reduce wait time:

  • If you have a high call flow, employ more people to handle the calls.
  • Make sure that sufficient staff is available during peak hours.
  • Install a callback system, so customers don’t have to wait in the call queue.
  • Install other mediums of communication, such as live chat and email.

Reducing wait time can be a crucial element to provide good customer service and increase your CES score.

7. Reduce the Response Time to Customers

Another critical metric to reduce customer efforts is the average response time. Around 65% of the customers believe that quick response is an important metric to improve their customer experience.

Respond to the customers quickly and focus on providing resolution on the first reply instead of multiple calls or conversation threads. One of the fastest mediums to engage customers is through live chat. It offers real-time support for the customers and reduces the load on calls and emails. 

The faster your response time is to the customer, the lower is the effort they need to put in to get their problems addressed and resolved.

Tips to Kickstart Your CES Survey Program

Now that you know all about CES; how and when to use it, you’re ready to design CES surveys for your website, product, or app.

  • The first step is to find out what interaction you wish to measure. It will help you find the right question to ask the customers.
  • Use automated pop-ups, so the surveys are automatically displayed and sent out to the customers. It will increase data reliability and response rate.
  • Since the CES survey measures customer efforts, the survey should be concise and relevant for low-effort interaction. Add open-ended follow-up questions to get more detailed information from customers.
  • If you’re new to CES surveys, you can also use pre-built templates offered by various survey tools.
  • Take quick actions on the response to improve the scores.

Lower the Efforts, Multiply the Conversions

A CES survey is a great tool to collect customer insights and improve support service to offer a great customer experience. It helps you eliminate unnecessary steps in the customer journey to give them a smooth, effortless experience. 

Start implementing CES surveys on your website today to not only promote customer engagement but also lower service costs, design better web pages, and boost conversion rates.

Want insights that improve experience & conversions?

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Want insights that improve experience & conversions?

Capture customer feedback to improve customer experience & grow conversions.

Want insights that improve experience & conversions?

Capture customer feedback to improve customer experience & grow conversions.