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An Introduction to the Customer Effort Score (CES)

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

The Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how much effort a customer has to exert to get an issue resolved, a request fulfilled, a product purchased/returned or a question answered. The metric's thesis is the easier your product or service is to use, the more loyal your customer will be.

A study by the Customer Contact Council (a division of the Corporate Executive Board) successfully correlated CES with improving business outcomes. Specifically, they found reducing the work a customer must do to get their problem solved has a greater impact on customer loyalty than delighting customers with a positive contact experience. It also verified focusing on simplifying the customer's effort will help improve customer satisfaction, reduce service costs, and increase customer retention. 2013's The Effortless Experience Conquering the New Ground for Customer Loyalty by Mathew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick Delisi detail the full scope of the metric's background and potential for those interested in exploring it further.

The measurement is easy to implement and simple to track over time. The Customer Effort Score (CES) assigns ratings from 1 to 5, with 5 representing very high effort. Most organizations typically ask the question, “on a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to interact with [company name]” as part of their survey program(s). A typical CES survey question will look like:

The Customer Effort Score calculation requires you to determine the percentage of positive (5s & 4s) and negative (1s & 2s) responses to your CES survey. You then subtract the number of negative responses from the positive responses. The math looks like this:

CES should not be used as your sole customer loyalty metric nor viewed as a replacement for your Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). NPS focuses on customer loyalty through their willingness to promote your brand. CSAT monitors the customer's perception of the overall outcome of an engagement with you. Customer Effort Score watches how hard it was for your customers to achieve value with their most recent interaction. All are correlated with better predicting customer retention and company performance but achieve it through very different lenses.

Understanding when and where to deploy your customer success metrics will be key to assuring you and your customer's success. The most important item above all is you are proactively seeking your customer's input, asking them appropriate questions, listening effectively to their responses, and acting on them accordingly.

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