The ultimate guide to customer effort score

Customers’ experience is at the heart of their relationship with your business. Understanding how customers interact with your company is essential to making sure they are satisfied and remain loyal. And that’s where Customer Effort Score (CES) comes in.

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CES is a vital metric that tracks how much effort a customer must exert to complete a process—giving you insight into each step of the customer’s experience.

In this guide, we’ll discuss an overview of what CES is, why it works, and how you can start using it to improve your customer experience.

What is the Customer Effort Score (CES)?

A customer effort score is a loyalty metric that measures the amount of effort a customer expends to interact with your business. The main goal is to track how much a customer must put in to complete an action, process, or transaction.

A customer effort score is measured by asking customers a simple question like, “How easy did [Name of Company] make it for you to solve your [Name of Issue]?” Customers are asked to choose from a number scale of 1–5, or 1–7, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The lower the effort score, the better your chances are of keeping customers satisfied.

As an illustration, let’s take a look at an example of a CES survey.

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How CES compares to NPS® and CSAT

Customer effort survey (CES), Net promoter score (NPS), and Customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) all contribute to the quality of the customer experience. There is, however, a limit to how useful each metric is as a standalone predictor.

As a measure of perceived effort, CES tracks the ease with which customers move along the customer journey and achieve their goals. Studies have shown that CES is a 40% more predictive measure of customer loyalty than NPS, making it an accurate indicator.

The downside is that CES only measures the effort needed to complete specific interactions, so it doesn’t give a whole picture of a customer’s loyalty across the user journey. Also, the CES survey doesn’t offer the “why,” which makes it a vague metric to measure.

For this reason, it must be coupled with a follow-up question to reveal the reason behind the customer’s feedback.

Net Promoter Score

NPS is a measure of customer advocacy and the likelihood of customers recommending you to someone else. NPS relies on a single question: “How likely are you to recommend our company to your family and friends?” which is calculated on a scale of 1–10.

Net Promoter Score

The score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of promoters (people who answered with 9 or 10) from the percentage of detractors (people who answered with 0 or 6).

The drawback of NPS is its generic nature. It relies on a customer’s response, which can be subjective and lack contextual meaning as to why the customer gave such a response. For this reason, you must follow up with an open-ended question to gather more information.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

CSAT is a metric that measures the overall level of a user’s content about individual interactions with a product or their experience with a brand.

Surveys like this pose simple questions like “How would you rate your experience today?” Answers can either be provided in multiple-choice (good/bad, emojis, yes/no) or on a numbered scale. Be sure to define what each rating means on the scale, from satisfied to dissatisfied.

Satisfaction survey

Why you should pay attention to your CES

Measuring CES gives you actionable insights that are specific to different touchpoints of the customer experience. By tracking customer effort, you can gain an understanding of how much effort it takes customers to interact with your business and complete various actions.

Here are other benefits of CES.

1. CES is an indicator of customer loyalty

CES is a better indicator of customer loyalty than NPS or CSAT. Research carried out by Gartner reveals that 96% of customers become disloyal after a high-effort service interaction, as compared to 9% who have a low-effort experience. This means that when customers have a low-effort experience, it builds their loyalty and reduces their risk of churning.

2. Highlights areas of poor customer experience

Areas with low CES scores reveal friction points where customers struggle to accomplish their goals. In general, these are the areas you want to pay attention to and make improvements on in your customer journey. Making your customer interactions near-effortless encourages more customers to stay with you, thereby increasing your revenue in the long run.

3. Informs future product development strategies

Monitoring CES can give you insight into new opportunities for product development, such as improving an underperforming feature or creating a new one to satisfy the customer’s needs.

4. Increase customer retention

Customers often tend to stay with low-effort businesses. The easier your product is to use, the lower the rate of customer churn. Customers who find your product difficult to use, switch to a simpler alternative. You can, however, prevent this from happening if you pay attention to your CES.

The best times to send a CES survey

Finding that one magical moment to send CES surveys is extremely difficult. To find the best time to send a CES survey, you have to first define key touchpoints in the customer journey and trigger your survey as customers complete those milestones.

Here are some key times to consider:

    • At periodic intervals: Send CES surveys at regular intervals like weekly, monthly, or yearly to gather data on customer satisfaction and identify barriers that might have come up over time.
    • Post-interaction after customers complete a key touchpoint: Send CES surveys when customers complete major milestones in your business. For example, after customers complete the onboarding process, follow up with a CES survey to understand the customer’s thoughts on the action they just completed.
    • Immediately after your customer reads a knowledge base article: You won’t know how your self-help articles work until you’ve asked. Simply asking questions like “Did you find this article helpful?” can help you improve your self-help effort and uncover insights into where your content might be lacking in helping the customer. Then, you can ask for feedback with a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” system, or you can make it more granular by combining closed and open-ended questions.
Knowledge Base
    • Post-interaction after a customer interacts with your support team: After closing a support ticket, follow-up with a CES survey for a real-time assessment of your customer service agent. Customers churn when they have a frustrating customer service experience, and from CES surveys, you can find out if your support system is effective.
  • Post-purchase: Send a CES survey after a user completes a payment on your website to understand the ease of purchasing.

Different types of CES survey

When it comes to CES surveys, there are different ways to structure them based on the information you’re looking to gather and the type of customer feedback.

    • Numbered scale: With a numbered scale, you put forward a simple question and ask customers to rate their answer on a 1–5 or 1–7 scale. Typically, lower numbers (1-2) indicate difficulty, while higher numbers (6-7) indicate ease of use. This can get really confusing.
Numbered scale
    • Likert scale: The Likert scale uses a 5-point or 7-point scale to ask customers a non-question statement such as “{Company} made it easy for me to complete my transaction”. Users can pick from the options ranging from strongly agree- strongly disagree.
Likert scale
    • Emoticon scale: Emoticon scale uses emotions from happy to sad faces to indicate customer satisfaction. It’s more visual and fun, which makes it easier for customers to respond.
Emoticon scale
    • Binary scale: This type of survey presents a question, and users are expected to answer with a binary yes/no or thumbs up/down.
Binary scale

Interpreting the results: How to calculate the CES score?

Calculating the customer effort score is very simple and straightforward. Surveys are typically measured on a 1-5 or 1-7 scale, but more creative responses are the thumbs up/down and emoji response. Before you send out a survey, be sure to define what each rating means. For example:


Once you have the survey results, total the number of the two highest values (satisfied and extremely satisfied) to find the percentage of satisfied customers. Do the same on the average scale, as well as the lower scale, to find the percentage of each response.

Calculate the CES with the formula: (Number of customers for two highest values / Number of total survey responses) x 100

What’s a Good CES Score?

There’s no set standard for a good CES score, as it varies depending on the industry, the product you sell, and the type of survey you choose.

However, as a general rule, the higher the CES score, the better. A high CES score indicates that customers find it easy to interact with your business and are likely to remain loyal customers.

How to Improve Your Customer Effort Score

Now that we’re convinced about the importance of CES, let’s take a look at some strategies you can implement to improve it.

Streamline the Customer journey

The best way to improve your CES score is to streamline the customer journey. By breaking the journey down into well-defined steps, users will spend less time and energy accomplishing their tasks. Not only will this cut back on the time to value (TTV), but it will keep them from getting frustrated as they use our product.

Follow-up to get a more comprehensive answer

Just collecting data on a numbered scale doesn’t give you a comprehensive answer. That is why asking a qualitative follow-up question after the user has scored the effort is important.

comprehensive answer

This can help you gather valuable insights into why the customer picked the score and their suggestions for improvement.

Prioritize in-app guidance

Use in-app guidance to help users accomplish their goals more effectively and with less effort. In-app guidance like tooltips and modals is helpful for walking users through your product as they engage with it.

in-app guidance

Getting started with your CES survey

Measuring and tracking your customer effort score (CES) is crucial for staying on top of the ever-evolving customer experience landscape. Keeping a close eye on this data can help you identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

But it’s not just about the CES. Combine it with other customer feedback metrics like NPS and CSAT to get a complete picture of the customer’s experience.

Want to take the next step in building an exceptional product experience? Check out our Customer effort score software to achieve your goals.

Take the first step today!

See how Churn360 can help retain your customers

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