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Customer effort score

Providing an effortless customer experience (CX) is critical for increasing satisfaction, loyalty and referrals. However, organisations cannot systematically improve CX without measuring ease and friction at each touchpoint along the customer journey

Enter the customer effort score (CES). This metric tracks the level of effort a customer has exerted to achieve a particular goal, from checking out online to locating information on your website to resolving support cases.

Unlike customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys, a customer effort score is a CX metric that directly quantifies the steps, time and overall friction customers encounter when experiencing various touchpoints and processes. Essentially, this score highlights precisely which interactions feel unduly taxing through the lens of customer effort.

SurveyMonkey research shows it's likely that 91% of consumers will recommend a company after a positive, low-effort experience. With that in mind, improving your CES can drive higher customer satisfaction and improved customer loyalty, as well as word-of-mouth marketing.

With frequent distribution of CES surveys, you can monitor the customer journey using the insights as a catalyst for making overall enhancements to the customer experience. This allows you to continually optimise processes that are most prone to friction before customer effort escalates and erodes loyalty.

A customer effort score is the most precise way of measuring the success or ease of an isolated interaction with a customer. Here’s an example of what a CES survey question might look like:

“[Your company] makes it easy for me to handle my issue.”

  1. Strongly agree
  2. Agree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Disagree 
  5. Strongly disagree

After customers have responded to this question, you’ll have a solid idea of how much effort customers feel it takes them for you to resolve their issues. A customer effort score can range from 0 to 100, representing the total number of customers who responded positively to the question.

To calculate your CES, you can use the following formula:

Equation for how to calculate the customer effort score (CES).

The CES calculation will give you a core number that reflects how easy or difficult you make it for your customers to do business with you. This figure carries significant business value and can influence your business’ reputation over time. 

Your customer effort score gives you a metric that places a quantifiable value on how much effort customers feel they exert when interacting with your business. By improving your CES, your business can access various benefits. Here are a few: 

Customer experience (CX) shapes overall satisfaction with your business, which directly feeds customer loyalty. By using the insights from customer effort scores to remove obstacles, you can build a more frictionless customer journey that delights. 

Running a robust customer feedback programme centred around a CES provides the insights required to guide business improvements that make an impact. When you include a CES in a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme, you’re creating a built-in feedback loop that can accelerate support solutions and optimise processes.

Satisfied customers naturally repurchase, renew contracts and refer others to your business. The opposite also holds true: disappointed customers readily abandon brands that repeatedly test their patience. Customer retention, therefore, depends on the cumulative trust formed through friction-free journeys. 

According to recent research, 59% of consumers who trust a brand are more likely to buy a new product that the business introduces and 67% are more likely to stay loyal and recommend it to others. 

By addressing pain points and making processes more customer-friendly, businesses can create an environment that encourages customers to stay and continue their relationship with them.

When channelled proactively, CES insights help organisations build customer trust and retention by eliminating unnecessary burdens at the outset to avoid the need for costly post-churn corrections.

Customers who love your brand often become your biggest supporters. They are more likely to buy from your business repeatedly and could also recommend your business to family and friends.

According to data from Nielsen’s 2021 Global Trust in Advertising Study, 88% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know more than any other marketing channel. By remedying customer pain points swiftly, you’ll create brand loyalty that can translate into word-of-mouth recommendations. 

Your business should use your CES to find opportunities for improvement to provide the best possible customer service and overall experience. Here are some considerations to make when using the CES metric.

To effectively create CES surveys, your business should identify customer pain points in their journey. Your main goal will be streamlining the customer’s process of interacting with your business. To do this, you need to understand where these connection points occur.

From there, you can set clear objectives for your survey, such as determining the CES during or after different customer touchpoints, evaluating the causes of a low CES and mitigating them in the future.

Your business can format the customer effort question as a simple multiple choice question. We also recommend asking a follow-up, open-ended question that asks a customer why they gave that rating. 

For example:


From there, send:

CES follow-up

When you decide it’s time to send the survey, you have several options to choose from. A customer support rep can share a link to the survey or you can send it to several customers at the same time via email, or embed it on your website.

It’s a good idea to keep the survey short and sweet. Asking too many questions could result in a customer clicking away from your survey before responding. Our two expertly written CES questions work wonders and can be found in our Customer Effort Score survey template.

You may be wondering when the optimal time is to assess customer scores during the customer management process. The best practice is to measure them frequently across the customer journey rather than just once.

The best way to pinpoint any obstacles in the customer experience is to ask customer effort questions at various points of engagement. Try to ask customer effort questions immediately after these events to collect timely, actionable feedback.

  • After interacting with customer support 
  • Immediately after users have completed a purchase
  • During the onboarding process
  • At various points while browsing the site (e.g. reading a help centre article)
  • After basket abandonment

These will help you to gain a comprehensive understanding of how your company supports your customers throughout various parts of their journey. 

One of the most important aspects of utilising a CES is to improve customer-facing processes. Start by looking at low numbers, reading carefully through their explanations. If you notice recurring friction areas, you have a clear objective to improve and implement change. 

Over time, this strategy will help remedy negative experiences with your business, boosting your CES. 

Customer feedback unlocks the ability to identify areas where your customer service team may be underperforming.

For example, a common complaint for many businesses is that customer support took too long to solve a customer’s problem. To remedy this, you could introduce more customer service training modules for your team to improve their skills and find solutions more rapidly.

Another solution may be to introduce response time limits to your customer service team. This could also be a sign to hire one or two more customer support agents to reduce response time.

Distribute customer effort score surveys regularly throughout the customer journey to create a steady stream of actionable CES data for optimising touchpoints. This approach allows you to incrementally enhance processes over time.

As your organisation makes ongoing improvements guided by CES insights, you’ll begin to see this metric improve. In parallel with this increase in CES, you will notice the previously mentioned benefits, such as higher customer satisfaction and reduced customer churn. 

While CES provides key insights into the ease of customer interactions, two other vital metrics should be on your radar: Net Promoter® Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) score. Each measurement lens offers distinct yet complementary value. 

As discussed previously, CES is best used to measure customer effort. It explores how easy you make the act of solving problems, purchasing products and interacting with your business. A CES primarily focuses on minimising customer effort and maximising customer satisfaction.

A Net Promoter Score survey evaluates the overall loyalty of customers towards a brand. Businesses can gather this metric by enquiring about the likelihood of customers recommending their brand, products or services to others. Beyond this, a NPS helps distinguish between customers who are loyal brand advocates and those who may switch to competitors.

CSAT measures customer satisfaction by seeking customers’ overall ratings of your business, an interaction, or a product or service. This score helps you evaluate and improve individual touchpoints across the customer journey. Targeting one touchpoint per assessment and monitoring advancements within that area will ensure that you’re maximising the value of CSAT. Learn more by reading our ultimate guide to the customer satisfaction score

Simply measuring the customer effort score provides limited value without commitment to act. For transformational change, you need to close the loop between assessing journey pain points and address those areas using better-designed processes.

The key is applying a CES operationally, creating a steady cadence to gather and analyse customer feedback. Only then can you implement changes and optimise the customer experience when it's needed the most.

Learn more about how SurveyMonkey can help to improve your customer experience today.

Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

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