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What is customer effort score (CES)?

Customer effort score, also known as CES, is a customer experience metric that measures the effort a customer has to exert in order to fulfill a certain request or resolve an issue with a company. As a result, CES is commonly used in service organizations to predict customer loyalty. The lower the effort required by customers after a service experience, the higher the odds of that customer returning. This score is measured by issuing surveys to customers to learn more about their experience during a specific interaction in their journey and improve upon that process.

Why is the customer effort score important?

A large majority of companies focus their efforts on improving the customer experience. However, a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board found that delighting customers doesn’t actually build loyalty; reducing the effort required to solve a problem does. Though customers make purchases based on price and quality, customers are loyal to brands because of the service they receive. 

Honing in on customer effort is a great way to build customer loyalty and bring in new customers – increasing revenue and overall growth of an organization. By tracking the CES of your company, it is easy to see the level of effort a customer has to put in at a specific touchpoint. This gives a starting point for revamping processes and optimizing for the customer.

When to use customer effort score

Since the CES surveys are used to measure the effort it took a customer to interact with your business, therefore, it’s critical to get the customer to complete the survey while the interaction is still fresh in their minds.

How to measure customer effort score

As previously mentioned, customer effort score data is collected by receiving surveys from customers that have interacted with the company recently. CES is a short-term, transactional metric and the best way to measure the effort a customer is required to put forth. 

CES surveys generally use a single question to ask customers how easy or difficult it was to perform a specific action. These questions are normally some sort of scale to rate the effort they exerted to complete a specific task. Some examples of possible questions are as follows:

  • On a scale of 1-7, how easy was it to get your issue resolved? 
  • On a scale of 1-5, do you agree with the statement: The organization made it easy for me to resolve my issue?
  • How easy was it for you to subscribe to an organization's offerings?
When should you send a CES survey?

A few ways to send out the CES survey are either directly from the website page they are on or sending it via email right after the customer has completed the interaction. Try out both tactics and see where you get the most responses. However you decide to send the survey, there are a few times when it is best to send a CES survey:

Following a customer service interaction

Send a survey immediately after the customer interacts with your customer service team. Knowing how easy it was for a customer to get their issue resolved is an indicator of whether something needs to change with the representatives, or within that department as a whole.

Following a purchase

A great time to send a CES survey is right after a customer purchases something from your company. This could be a product, service, or some sort of commitment like a subscription. This survey will give you an idea of how easy or difficult it was to go through the purchasing process. You might get some great ideas of how to streamline things in future iterations.

Overall, the most accurate responses will be right after the customer interacts with the organization, so aim for those times.

What is a good customer effort score?

Since there is no definitive industry standard for CES, there is no set way to compare customer effort scores with other industries. This means there is no set score to aim for. Typically, CES surveys are measured on a scale of 1-5 or 1-7. Some companies make things even easier for customers by using smiley faces to rate the experience.

It is safe to assume that the higher the CES, the better, so the goal of your company should always be to improve it.

A way to gauge if your company has a low CES is to look at the skew of the data. If the ratings are fairly low overall, there is something that needs to be adjusted or fixed. The same goes for if the skew is overall high, this means the organization is doing well in making the interaction with the customer effortless.

How to improve your customer effort score?

Customers want a quick and simple experience when interacting with a company (and if the process is difficult, they’ll take their business elsewhere). If you want to improve the CES, focus on ways to make the interaction faster and easier for the customer and with as little effort as possible. Some ways to do this include: 

  • Self-service tools
  • Simple, informative web layouts (Travelocity reduced effort by improving the help section of its website — receiving 5% fewer calls as a result)
  • Reducing wait time with representatives
  • Providing multiple ways for customers to contact the organization for help.

There are companies whose main goal is to help other organizations to improve their customer processes. For example, say a customer receives a notification that a package has been delivered, but the customer didn’t actually receive the package. Instead of waiting in a long queue to speak with a representative, they get added to a call-back queue. When they speak with customer service, the agent is able to overnight a new delivery. This process was simple and resolved the problem with minimal effort on the customer’s part, likely resulting in a high CES.

Bonus tip: If that company has a branded caller ID solution in place, then the customer knows exactly who is calling and why. The customer picks up the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail and gets their issue resolved faster. If the call instead comes from an unknown number, they will likely not answer and have to get put in the queue again. And as discovered by the Corporate Executive Board, “by far the biggest cause of excessive customer effort is the need to call back”.

Using CES with NPS and CSAT

CES is seen as the strongest predictor of future purchase behavior. If it takes too much effort to complete a purchase or get an issue resolved, your business won’t continue to grow. However, CES is limited to evaluating a single customer interaction. This doesn’t give a full picture of the entire customer experience. As a result, CES is traditionally used alongside net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) to truly understand customer loyalty. When viewed together, these three metrics give a more complete view of the experience customers have in their combined touchpoints with your company.

Final thoughts

The one thing all companies have in common is the goal to create loyal customers. The faster and easier a customer’s problem is solved, the more loyal that customer will be to the brand. It is vital that resources like CES surveys are utilized to see where there is room for improvement. Make the customer experience feel seamless and reap the benefits. Download the Call Center Metrics eBook to learn more about how companies can utilize CES and other metrics to improve their performance.

Author Hiya Team

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