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Customer Effort Score (CES): What It Is and How to Calculate It

Just when you thought you’d come across every possible metric you could apply to customer satisfaction, you encountered the term “customer effort score.” Is it important enough to warrant your attention? What is a customer effort score, what does it measure and how does one calculate it? You’ll find the answers here. 

What is a Customer Effort Score?

Customer effort scores measure the level of ease or difficulty that customers experience when interacting with your business to resolve a problem, get information, or make a request. This metric gained a lot of attention following an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.” 

In essence, the HBR article argues that “delighting” customers is pretty hard to do while alienating them through poor service is far easier. While “delight” is rarely felt, and isn’t really necessary when satisfaction will do, making it difficult for customers to deal with your business is sure to leave them feeling dissatisfied. Unlike feelings of delight, this kind of disaffection is extremely common and it leaves customers eager to see whether your competitors can do better than you did. 

How to Calculate a Customer Effort Score

You might think that your online information resources and customer support staff ensure that customers don’t need to make a big effort to get the kind of service they want, but what do your customers think? The best way to find out is to ask them, and that’s why you’ll often see customer satisfaction surveys asking you to rate the ease with which your issue was handled on a scale of one to five or one to seven. The average score allocated by customers represents your CES score. 

However, there are other approaches to calculating customer effort scores. For example, some companies will ask how much effort the customer had to go to before they achieved the desired result, and in that case, low scores are better. Besides this, CES can be rated from 1-5, 1-7, or using a scale of three emojis: happy face, neutral face, and sad face. 

What is a Good Customer Effort Score?

If you’re using a one to seven scale and are asking customers how easy an interaction was for them, a CES of 5.5 is considered relatively good – but it still shows that there’s room for improvement. And, as you’ve probably guessed, the lower the score, the more frustrated customers you have. If you’re measuring things the other way around, asking customers to rate their effort level, a score of 2.2 out of seven is considered fairly satisfactory.

You certainly can’t please all people all of the time, but making it easy for them to get bread-and-butter needs attended to should be the least that your company does. So, before aiming for “delight” it makes sense to aim for satisfaction. 

When to Ask for Customer Effort Scores

Customer effort score calculations can help you to see how well your business systems serve your clients. Once customers have made a purchase, they’ve navigated all the basic steps they must take to do so, and they’ll be well-placed to tell you what their user experience was like. How hard did your customers have to work to earn you revenue? Less is better! 

Customer service and support activities matter too. Customers who reach out for help are looking for information or the resolution of a problem. If getting the right reaction from your business was difficult, you need to look for ways to make it easier. Hearing it directly from your customers eliminates the guesswork and helps you to spot areas where changes should be implemented. 

Your CES On It’s Own Isn’t Necessarily Meaningful

It’s possible for a customer to have a difficult interaction with your company yet still be a loyal customer. Anomalies do occur. Since you don’t want to spring into action every time there’s a blip on your radar, you should dig a little deeper. That means using your Net Promoter Score (NPS) along with your CES. 

NPS measures whether your customers would be likely to recommend your business to friends and family. If they would, despite having given you a poor CES, it’s possible that your business didn’t do so badly after all. 

Finally, just knowing that a customer felt they had to exert a lot of effort to achieve a desired result doesn’t give you the full picture. Why was it so difficult? What was the problem? Following up with a request for further details can shed light on the reasons for a low CES. 

Tips for Building CES Surveys

Your CES survey should be triggered automatically after customers interact with your business. Keep your surveys short and simple – while your customers won’t mind giving quick answers to two or three questions, a long questionnaire is sure to put them off. Phrase your questions in a neutral way that’s designed to get you honest answers, and keep them short and simple too. 

The survey itself is likely to be accessed on a mobile phone, so keep it easy to read by eliminating clutter – that includes your logo! You want a focus on your questions and you want answers to those questions. Anything else is unnecessary and makes you less likely to get responses. 

Finally, know what you’re going to do with the data. Information is useless unless it’s processed and shared with the right people. They might work in different departments, and all of them should collaborate on ways to reduce customer effort. Finally, your company may want to work with particularly dissatisfied customers to handle unresolved issues or to make amends for poor service – so don’t leave your customer service team out of the loop. 

Ways to Improve Your Customer Effort Score

Remember that automated interactions also count towards your CES. If your customers are giving you poor CES scores after completing routine transactions, you need to find ways to streamline them. Look for bottlenecks and hitches and work on ways to address them. 

Since most people only interact with customer service and support team members once they’ve exhausted other options, check out your information resources. They should be clear, accessible, and helpful. 

Be sure that customers can reach out for help at any time – and not necessarily after they’ve asked your chatbot twenty questions or browsed ten articles in your information resources and help menus. Having difficulty finding a real person to talk to is one of the biggest frustrations that people experience when doing business online. 

Are your customers getting quick answers when they have questions? Waiting for as long as a few hours is already too much. If they haven’t made a purchase yet, you might even lose the prospect of a sale. First prize? 24/7 round-the-clock support on demand. Sounds like a tall order? It doesn’t have to be! 

Finally, remember that quality matters. Are your customer service agents well-informed, articulate, and good at dealing with people? Do they have access to technologies that make it easy for them to understand where customers are on their journey? In short, do they have the skills, capacity and equipment they need to provide the kind of service you can be proud of as a business owner?

The Biggest Obstacle to Improving CES

For many businesses, the challenge of offering on-demand, in-person service and support around the clock presents a knotty problem. How many personnel should be on duty? What if there’s a spike in traffic? What if there’s a dip? And where are they going to find operatives that will represent their businesses with charm, grace, and patience, even when it’s two o’clock in the morning? 

Introducing a scalable solution that’s ready-made for your business: RSVP. We’re a unique customer service and support company based in London, and we can even help you with back-office services that streamline processes like fulfilment, returns, refunds and admin. We make things easy for you – and your customers. Boost your CES with us. Contact us today! We’re here to help!


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