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What is Customer Effort Score and how to improve CES?

Updated: January 24, 2024
What is Customer Effort Score and how to improve CES?
What is Customer Effort Score and how to improve CES?

The ‘Customer Effort Score’ or CES has emerged as a vital metric in 2024 for businesses seeking to gauge the simplicity and ease of their customer experiences. CES offers rich insights that directly influence retention and loyalty strategies by evaluating customers’ efforts while interacting with brands. This piece delves into the nuances of CES, its comparison with other prominent CX metrics, and the actionable pathways to optimize it.

Recall your last effortless online purchase: a website predicting just what you wanted, a smooth checkout process, followed by a timely delivery. Now, attach a value to that ease. PWC reports that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, making ease not just an element but essential in business interactions.

But how do we capture this ‘ease’ in the vast sea of customer metrics? Here’s where the Customer Effort Score plays its pivotal role. As Jeff Bezos of Amazon once highlighted, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” 

The CES is our tool to ensure that this party remains effortless and enjoyable, paving the way for repeat invitations and lasting customer relationships.

What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a straightforward metric businesses use to assess the ease with which customers interact with them. In simpler terms, it measures how much effort a customer must exert to achieve a desired outcome, such as purchasing a product, resolving an issue, or seeking information. The primary intent behind tracking CES is to identify areas where the customer journey can be streamlined, leading to more satisfied customers.

There are various methods to gauge CES. Some companies use a numerical scale, typically 1-5 or 1-7. In these scales, a higher score typically indicates smoother and more effortless interactions. Other businesses may employ more visual approaches, such as emoticons or smiley faces, to represent customer effort levels.

The fundamental principle remains consistent across these approaches: a higher CES implies that customers find it easy to engage with the business, leading to enhanced satisfaction and loyalty. In contrast, a lower score can highlight potential pain points, indicating areas businesses need to improve.

When to use CES vs other CX metrics?

Navigating the customer experience maze requires more than intuition; it demands metrics that act as reliable compasses. Among the available metrics, three stand tall: Customer Effort Score (CES), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). Each has its own story to tell and its own lesson to impart. Let’s understand them.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Imagine walking into a store, and every product you need is right there, within arm’s reach. That’s the essence of a high CES. This metric vividly shows how effortlessly customers can dance through your processes. Harvard Business Review emphasizes that CES isn’t just about now; it’s a crystal ball into future buying behaviors. So, while CES whispers tales of today’s experiences, pairing it with NPS can shout out predictions for tomorrow’s loyalty.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Ever had a meal so good you couldn’t help but recommend the restaurant to friends? NPS captures that enthusiasm. It’s not just about satisfaction; it’s about advocacy. In the B2B world, NPS isn’t merely a metric; it’s a benchmark, showcasing the ripple effect of customer sentiments. Whether you’re seeking the big-picture narrative or the nitty-gritty details, NPS lays it out, chapter by chapter.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Think of CSAT as those instant polls you take after a thrilling theme park ride. It gauges the immediate rush, the adrenaline, the “wow” of a particular moment. After a feature launch or a support call, CSAT taps into the heartbeat of that experience. But remember, while CSAT can give you the pulse of the moment, it might not reveal the long-term health of the relationship. That’s where its sidekick, NPS, steps in, offering the broader prognosis.

So, as businesses weave their unique CX tales, choosing the right narrator becomes crucial. CES, NPS, or CSAT — each brings a distinct voice and a unique perspective. By tuning in to these voices wisely, companies can pen a customer experience saga that resonates, endures, and thrives.

Customer Effort Score calculation

Having explored the importance of various customer metrics, let’s zoom in on the Customer Effort Score (CES) survey and how it translates into tangible scores. Conducting a CES survey is akin to tapping into a mine of feedback, showcasing the ease with which customers interact with your brand. But how exactly do these responses morph into the CES? Let’s break it down.

The 1-10 scale

When utilizing this scale, customers are prompted to rate their experience between 1 and 10.

If the survey question revolves around ease of interaction, scores between 7-10 indicate minimal effort or high ease, while scores between 1-3 suggest greater effort or less ease.

For instance, a score of 8 might indicate a customer breezing through a product return process, while a 2 could suggest they found it unnecessarily cumbersome.

The 1-5 scale

This is a straightforward scale, allowing customers to describe their experience as:

  • Very difficult
  • Difficult
  • Neutral
  • Easy
  • Very easy

Suppose you recently launched a chatbot. A score of 4 might hint that users found the bot helpful and intuitive, while a score of 1 could suggest the opposite.

The Likert scale: The 1-7 metric

This method captures more profound sentiments of agreement or disagreement:

  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat agree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree

If you’ve introduced a new support ticket system, a “Strongly agree” could imply that customers believe their issues are addressed promptly. On the other hand, a “Strongly disagree” might prompt you to reevaluate the system.

Emotion faces scale

At times, the simplest feedback mechanisms resonate the most. Customers can quickly choose a face that matches their feelings: Happy, neutral, or unhappy.

Implementing a new website layout? A pool of “happy faces” would mean your customers appreciated the refreshed look and user-friendly navigation.

The math behind CES: CES calculation

Finally, to calculate the Customer Effort Score from the survey:

CES = (Sum of Customer Effort Scores) / (Total Responses)

For instance, if six customers rate their experience on a 1-5 scale with scores of 4, 3, 2, 4, 3, and 1, the CES unfolds as:

(4+3+2+4+3+1) / 6 = 2.83. 

A score of 2.83 on a 1-5 scale suggests there is room for improvement in the customer experience.

Customer Effort Score: The pros and cons

The bright side: Pros of CES

  • Ambassadors in the making: CES can hint at how likely your customers are to become brand ambassadors. If interacting with your brand feels like a walk in the park, they’re more likely to shout your praises from the rooftops.
  • Actionable intel: Zeroing in on customer effort highlights potential pitfalls in their journey with your brand. It’s not just feedback; it’s a roadmap to enhancement.
  • The future’s crystal ball: CES doesn’t just reflect the present—it could be a window into the future. A consistently high CES could herald a tribe of loyal customers, while a declining trend might be the wake-up call to re-strategize.

Areas of refinement: Cons of CES

  • Lacks nuance in segmentation: One size rarely fits all. You might get a score with CES, but the story behind it remains a mystery. It’s challenging to discern the specific customer demographics or their unique relationship with your brand through the score alone.
  • A narrower lens: While CES zeros in on the effort factor, it may inadvertently sideline other crucial variables. Factors like competitor strategies, product offerings, and pricing could influence the score, but CES stays silent on these.
  • The here and now: CES, by design, is transactional, concentrating on the immediate. While it captures the ‘what’, the ‘why’ behind the customer’s experience often eludes it. You’ll know if they stumbled, but the tripping hazard remains unidentified.

Overall, while the Customer Effort Score offers invaluable insights into the simplicity of customer interactions, viewing it as a piece of the puzzle is crucial. Complementing CES with other metrics can paint a more holistic picture of the customer experience scenario.

Comparison: Customer Effort Score (CES) vs. Net Promoter Score (NPS) vs. Customer SATisfaction (CSAT)

The following table charts a comparison between the three metrics.

CriteriaCustomer Effort Score (CES)Net Promoter Score (NPS)Customer SATisfaction (CSAT)
DefinitionQuantifies the ease of customer interactions with a brand.Evaluates customer loyalty by probing their likelihood to recommend the brand.Directly assesses the satisfaction level of customers with a particular interaction.
Survey TypeA transactional lens focusing on specific interactions.A broader relationship-centric approach, capturing the overall sentiment towards the brand.Adaptable; can gauge satisfaction from specific interactions or holistically.
When to UseTo unearth the smoothness in customer touchpoints and pinpoint areas needing a tweak.To track the overarching brand sentiment and how business decisions impact loyalty.For immediate feedback post interactions, assessing the impression left behind.
Sample Question“Considering your recent purchase, how easy was our process?”“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to someone you know?”“How satisfied were you with our service today?”
Calculation MethodCES = (Sum of effort ratings) ÷ (Number of responses)NPS = (% of Promoters) – (% of Detractors) (promoters are those who rate 9-10, while detractors rate 0-6)CSAT = (Number of positive responses) ÷ (Total responses) × 100%
LimitationsWhile highlighting ease, it might not reveal the underlying causes for any friction experienced.Raw NPS can leave “why” questions unanswered; it’s an overarching score requiring deeper dives for actionable insights.Offers a snapshot of the present but might not be the best predictor of long-term loyalty.

When deciding which metric to use, it’s like selecting the right tool for the job. Think of it as a home renovation. You wouldn’t use a hammer where a screwdriver is needed. Similarly, understanding when and where to use CES, NPS, and CSAT ensures you get the most accurate and actionable feedback from your customers.

Benefits of tracking Customer Effort Score (CES)

Imagine being able to precisely fine-tune the cogs and gears of your business operations based on clear feedback, turning each interaction into a seamless experience for your customers. That’s the promise of the Customer Effort Score. But let’s explore further what tracking CES can truly unlock for your business:

  • Better predictions about customer loyalty
  • Business process specified metrics
  • Predictions about user purchase behavior
  • Anticipates customer referrals
  • Reduces customer churn

1. Better predictions about customer loyalty

Loyalty isn’t limited to giving customers what they want. Instead, it’s also about ensuring they don’t have to jump through hoops to get it. CES sheds light on how effortlessly customers can interact with your brand. With this insight, you can enhance those interactions, boosting their likelihood to stick around and make future purchases.

2. Business process specified metrics

CES isn’t a broad-brush stroke; it’s a precise scalpel. CES offers actionable insights tailored to distinct business operations by focusing on specific customer journey phases. Rather than a nebulous “Are you happy?” approach, CES asks, “Was this easy?” And by identifying which interactions require the least effort, you can streamline processes to keep customers engaged and satisfied.

3. Predictions about user purchase behavior

By tuning into the effort levels your customers experience, you gain a deeper understanding of their purchasing journey. CES offers a window into their expectations and how well your business meets them. A smoother experience today could mean a repeat purchase tomorrow, and with CES, you’re always in the know.

4. Anticipates customer referrals

When customers find it easy to interact with a brand, they also bring friends. A favorable CES indicates a higher propensity for customers to refer your business, making it a potent tool for boosting organic growth and cutting back on customer acquisition costs.

5. Reduces customer churn

Every business knows the sting of losing a customer. By tracking CES, you’re preempting. By identifying areas of friction and addressing them head-on, you reduce the chances of customers straying. And should an interaction fall short, the immediacy of CES allows for rapid interventions, turning potentially lost customers into retained, satisfied ones.

How to improve Customer Effort Scores (CES)?

Enhancing your Customer Effort Score (CES) is straightforward when you prioritize reducing friction and simplifying processes. Here’s how to get started with six effective strategies:

  • Improve accessibility
  • Improve self-serving processes
  • Improve average response time
  • Improve mobile friendliness
  • Automate triggers
  • Innovate new ways to reduce efforts from customers

1. Improve accessibility

Offering varied contact options can substantially boost accessibility. Ensure that customers can reach out through multiple digital support channels, from call centers and emails to chats and social media platforms. Incorporating AI chatbots, such as those powered by, can further streamline and enhance real-time interactions.

2. Improve self-serving processes

Many customers prefer solving issues independently rather than waiting for assistance. Facilitate this by enhancing self-service options. It could mean a more precise FAQ section, interactive help guides, or user-friendly troubleshooting tools.

3. Improve average response time

Quick responses translate to satisfied customers. If your support team is overwhelmed, consider options like AI chatbots, as they can significantly reduce the average response time.

4. Improve mobile friendliness

With a significant portion of users accessing services on mobile, it’s crucial to ensure your website and support channels are mobile-optimized. Regularly test and refine the mobile experience on iOS and Android platforms for best results.

5. Automate triggers

Utilize automation to enhance your customer service processes. By setting up triggers, you can ensure timely actions such as immediate customer onboarding or real-time lead routing, reducing delays and enhancing efficiency.

6. Innovate new ways to reduce efforts from customers

Stay ahead by consistently looking for innovative solutions that make the customer journey smoother. Regular feedback and reviews can provide insights into areas needing improvement, allowing you to adapt and serve better.

The final thoughts

Understanding and measuring customer effort is a cornerstone of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. By effectively gauging the ease with which customers can access and use your services, businesses can pinpoint areas of improvement and chart a course toward a more streamlined customer journey. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying attuned to the effort levels of your customers will be a critical determinant of long-term success.

To truly leverage the power of CES, businesses should take a holistic approach, ensuring they complement it with other metrics like NPS and CSAT. As you embark on this journey of simplifying and enhancing customer experiences, let CES be your north star, guiding you towards lasting, fruitful customer relationships.

Customer Effort Score – FAQs

Why is customer effort score important?

Customer effort score is pivotal because it directly correlates with customer loyalty and future engagement. Businesses can refine their strategies and enhance overall satisfaction by evaluating the ease of interactions at critical touchpoints.

What is the CX customer effort score?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) in CX is a feedback mechanism that evaluates the ease of interaction rather than just satisfaction levels. Businesses can drive customer loyalty and increase positive word-of-mouth by focusing on how simple an interaction is.

What is a good CES score?

The ideal CES score depends on the rating scale you adopt. For a 0–5 scale, anything above 3, leaning towards 4, is commendable. On a 0-7 scale, a score greater than 5 is seen as favorable.

What is a good CSAT score?

CSAT scores can fluctuate based on the specific industry. However, a CSAT score surpassing 75% is generally perceived as positive and indicative of high customer satisfaction.

What is the customer effort score in B2B?

In the B2B domain, CES scores can be subjective, depending on the unique nature of businesses and their services. Generally, a CES score above 90% showcases excellence, whereas anything below 70% highlights potential areas of improvement.

What is the customer effort score KPI?

The Customer Effort Score KPI is a strategic metric that gauges the ease with which customers can interact with your product or service. It provides insights into the customers’ perspective on how user-friendly and accessible your offerings are, ranging from very challenging to extremely straightforward.

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