What is a customer effort score?

A customer effort score (CES) is a customer experience metric that looks at the amount of effort a customer has to make in order to have their request processed. This could include getting a question answered, having an issue resolved, fulfilling a product purchase, or signing a contract.

CES is an important metric, as customer satisfaction often hinges on how easy a brand is to work with. It has been prioritized by the peer-to-peer review site G2, which has an “Easiest to Work With” award for every product category.

Why is a customer effort score important?

More and more, customers want seamless experiences when interacting with a brand. A high customer effort score can help businesses identify areas that need improvement, so they can optimize how their customers engage with them.

It’s important to note that a customer effort score won’t provide a full picture. Instead, it should be observed and analyzed alongside other customer satisfaction metrics (e.g. a net promoter score) to truly understand how customers feel about a brand.

How is a customer effort score measured?

Customer effort scores can be measured with the use of quick surveys asking customers how difficult or easy it was to have their needs met. The question can be phrased, “On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to interact with [company name]?”

In terms of format, brands tend to use Likert scales, with five to seven points that span the range. Brands have also used the visual emoticon rating instead, with face emojis depicting different feelings about the experience.

People might respond “very difficult” if they had to spend a lot of time on your knowledge base in an unsuccessful attempt to find an answer. Alternatively, you might get a “very easy” rating if you’ve added smart filters that simplify content sorting, and follow up via chat.

When it comes to a numerical value, you can measure your customer effort score by taking the sum of customer effort ratings (assuming you’ve attached a number to each response type) and divide it by the total number of survey responses.

When should you evaluate customer effort?

Customer effort surveys should be deployed strategically and sparingly, so you’re not negatively impacting the customer experience. They are best used in these three scenarios:

  1. Right after an interaction that led to a purchase or subscription. This is a key moment in the customer journey, and it’s important to get it right. To minimize disruption, you can set up the question to appear under the purchase confirmation message.
  2. Immediately after an interaction with the customer service team. Whether it’s by email or chat, text exchanges with your customers are a great channel for requesting feedback on their experiences. Their answers should indicate how good your customer service team and self-service tools are at solving users’ problems.
  3. To supplement the product team’s UI or UX testing. If your product team is releasing new UI or UX features, a customer effort survey can be a good way to understand if the feature is better, worse, or the same as what it’s replacing.

As mentioned, a customer effort score is just one metric that analyzes customer satisfaction, but it shouldn’t be counted on to provide the full picture of the customer experience. Instead, teams should use it as one element in a broader customer satisfaction performance strategy.