What is a customer effort score (CES)?
When you're running a business, you want every customer's interaction to be simple and hassle-free. One way to measure how well your organization is doing is to conduct a type of customer satisfaction survey known as a customer effort score (CES) survey. A CES survey is a customer experience metric that measures the effort customers have to make when completing a transaction or solving a support issue.
A good customer effort score means customers feel that getting the information or response they need isn't difficult or complicated—it means you're doing something right.
A bad score, on the other hand, can result in disloyal customers, frustrated with how much effort they have to expend. Maybe your customer had to contact several departments for answers, or perhaps they had to turn to social media in order to finally get an answer after not receiving a response from a number of emails they've sent. Whatever the reason, a bad customer effort score reflects badly on your organization.
Customer effort score data is collected by conducting one-off surveys after customer interactions with your company. By using a rating scale, calculating an average score, and analyzing the data, you can understand how easy or difficult your customers find it to interact with your business.
Benefits of knowing your customer effort score
Customers are always seeking quick and convenient solutions. A CES measures how easy it is to interact with your company, allowing you to improve service, increase customer loyalty, and provide specific information about the success of your efforts to your employees or corporate executive board.
Optimize self-service channels
Many businesses have streamlined their customer service process and now offer options for finding information or getting customer service help without interacting with an actual employee.
Whether it's a chatbot or a list of frequently asked questions, many customers find what they need without talking to service reps. But by using these tools, you have to make sure that the quality of your customer service interactions stays high.
Using a customer survey after both self-service and personal interactions can help you ensure that both methods are as effective and effortless as possible.
Reduce customer service costs
Making customer interactions easy and decreasing customer effort can save you money. By reducing the number of interactions necessary to answer a question or solve a problem, your costs go down.
Improve user experience
No one wants to spend all day solving a problem or being transferred to multiple departments to get the information they need. Knowing your CES and taking steps to improve it will result in more positive customer experiences and minimized friction at any customer service touchpoint.
In fact, one of the great features of CES surveys is that they're specific and actionable, allowing users to quickly identify areas for improving customer service.
Predict future behavior
Customer effort scores for different types of interactions can help you anticipate customers' future actions.
The easier it is for your customers to get information, buy your product, and get help with follow-up questions, the more likely they are to come back and buy again. A Harvard Business Review study says that future purchase behavior is correlated with a good customer effort score (CES).
It can be costly to your business if your customers come away from their interactions with frustration. Unhappy people often speak negatively about a brand and you may get bad reviews online.
Everyone with a business knows how important online ratings and reviews are. The more low-effort experiences you provide for your customers, the more likely they'll be to spread positive word of mouth to other future customers. CES scores are useful to identify potential issues before they become bigger problems.
A low-effort experience can also help increase customer loyalty. Customer retention relies heavily on your customers knowing that the buying experience will be easy and that any customer service experience they have will be simple and smooth. Similarly, studies show that those who rate their interactions as high effort are more likely to become disloyal customers.
Disadvantages of a customer effort score (CES)
There are many benefits to knowing and improving your customer experience metric and it's certainly the smart thing to do.
However, the CES is only one aspect of the information that can help with company growth. Understanding your CES in the context of your whole business is important.
Feedback is limited to the most recent interaction
Customer satisfaction scores don't reveal much about the relationship that customers have with the brand as a whole. They're helpful in improving customer satisfaction levels, but since they're sent out after individual customer interactions, the results are specific to that most recent event. A score that shows customers expended high effort can help you understand what didn't work recently, but it offers little information about the overall customer experience.
Feedback can lack useful details
While CES surveys typically include a simple scale, some also offer optional open-ended questions to gather more details. If respondents don't choose to include more information, it's hard to know what exactly did or didn't go well in their most recent interaction or why they felt the experience was particularly high effort or low effort.
Creating your CES survey
Most of the time, a single CES survey question stands on its own, asking a user how much effort they used in finding the information or result they needed. The survey should be accessible directly from your website or sent out immediately. Customer feedback can be measured using a numerical scale, but there are creative and graphic options as well.
Different types of CES surveys
CES surveys usually focus on one bit of information—asking customers to rate their most recent experience on a scale. The most common range is 1 to 5, although some surveys use a range of 1 to 7 to get a more detailed customer effort score calculation.
A simple numbered scale is the most common way to conduct a survey, making customer effort score calculation easy. In general, a higher number indicates a relatively easy task (with less effort) and lower numbers indicate a tougher task (with high effort).
A Likert scale is used for research questions and formats the responses as levels of agreement with a statement. For example, "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree."
Another popular option for conducting customer satisfaction surveys is to use a visual scale, often with emoticons. Whether it's a three-item scale with just a happy face, neutral face, and sad face or one a seven-item scale with ranges from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree," visual cues can make it even more simple for customers to rate the effort they put into specific interactions with one click.
CES survey examples
A standard format for a customer effort score question could be something like the following statements:
- "I found it easy to complete my purchase today."
- "I was able to find the information I needed easily."
- "My tech support issue was resolved easily."
You may consider creating a template for your own survey and asking a different question depending on the nature of the interaction.
When to send your CES survey?
Because CES surveys are meant to measure the customer's perception of the effort required in individual interactions, it's best to send a survey immediately. This can be done via email or text, on a website, or as a telephone survey right after a conversation the customer has with a member of your service team.
After a purchase
If you want to understand how easy it is to complete a transaction, you can send customer effort score surveys after purchases. When you're about to make a sale, you want your customers to have all the information and options they need without getting overwhelmed or clicking through numerous pages during the purchasing process. Providing the most effortless experience possible is good for business.
After an interaction with customer service
Ideally, every purchase should go smoothly and result in an informed and happy customer. But the reality of any business is that some customers will need support.
Customers who encounter a frustrating or unhelpful support contact may choose a different business in the future. So make sure that questions are answered and problems are solved with as little customer effort as possible. Sending CES surveys any time customers interact with your team can help make sure you have systems and internal processes in place to get a problem solved easily.
After a sign-up or subscription
Another great time to measure customer effort score is after adding new potential customers to your database or generating new business in the form of a subscription. These activities are often self-service options, without the need for a high-effort service interaction. Checking your customer service metric when users shouldn't need to interact with service personnel at all is a good place to start.
Calculating your customer effort score
CES calculation is straightforward. Simply divide the total customer effort score by the total number of responses to your survey. This results in an average effort that your customer makes to interact with your business.
If you use text responses or emoticons, assign each response a number (1-5 or 1-7, for example) in order to calculate the score the same way.
Understanding your customer effort score
In general, the better your customer effort score, the more your customers can find what they need with low effort on their part. However, you can use the CES for more than just a simple numerical rating alone. Grouping positive ratings (5-7 on a 7-point scale) and negative ratings (1-3 on a 7-point scale) can allow you to compare overall low customer effort interactions with higher ones.
Customer effort score vs. other metrics
While CES is a popular metric, there are others as well. Understanding the differences can help you decide which one is right for you.
Net promoter score (NPS)
Another way to measure customer satisfaction is a net promoter score, which is generally used to assess customers' overall brand loyalty rather than any individual customer touchpoint.
Mailchimp can help you learn more about the net promoter system.
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
A customer satisfaction score is a more comprehensive measurement of how happy customers are with their experience. It also doesn't focus specifically on customer effort like the customer effort score.
CES best practices
Send a CES survey immediately
By sending a survey immediately after the customer interaction, it's possible to see the issue in detail. Whether you have a high CES or the need for improvement, sending a survey quickly will result in survey results that are the most accurate.
Keep the survey short and specific
For CES surveys, brief is better. Usually a survey aimed at reducing customer effort consists of a single question. Keeping it simple will give you the best results. And because a CES isn't designed to measure overall opinion about your business, you can focus on the most recent interaction when designing your CES survey template.
Understand the CES limitations
While an easy customer experience can help boost customer loyalty, it isn't the only factor. Understanding your CES in the context of everything that contributes to customer loyalty will help give you the best results.
Benchmark your CES
A CES is a great chance to see how your customer service team is doing over time. Figuring out your customer effort score benchmark lets your support team see how reactions change and allows them to analyze which interactions return the most positive responses and which result in high-effort experiences.
Whether you find that customers have generally responded positively to your CES survey or that your customer experience metrics are lower than you'd like, the good news is that you now have the data you need. You can use the results to improve customer loyalty and make sure all customer interactions are as low effort as possible. In fact, Mailchimp has email and other marketing solutions to help!