Customer Effort Score (CES) : definition, calculation et advantages

Published on April 01, 2022  - Updated on April 01, 2022

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a key indicator that aims to put the customer at the center of your strategy.

When it was first mentioned in 2010, it rethought the way we perceive the customer experience. Indeed, if the most commonly used indicators such as Net Promoter Score or customer satisfaction are intended to understand how to delight the consumer, the CES seeks to take the problem in the other direction by reducing the effort required at each stage of the customer journey.

The objective is to simplify and make it more efficient.

If you don't know or don't use CES yet, then you are at the right place!

1 – What is Customer Effort Score?

Increasingly used by marketing and customer experience teams, the Customer Effort Score (CES) is a key indicator (KPI) that measures the difficulties encountered by the customer during the experience. More specifically, it measures the effort required at each stage of the customer journey.

This indicator is relatively recent as it was first mentioned in 2010 in the Harvard Business Review.

Although it is still a young indicator, the CES is now used in many companies to improve and optimize the customer journey by minimizing the effort required by consumers at each stage of the purchasing process.

It is this notion of effort that differentiates it from other commonly used key indicators: customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Indeed, CSAT aims to measure customer satisfaction, while NPS represents the percentage of your customers who are ready to recommend you or not.

So if we already have these indicators, we can naturally ask ourselves why add a third indicator and measure the CES?

2 – Why measure the CES?

First of all, the Customer Effort Score is not intended to replace the NPS or the CSAT, on the contrary, it is complementary to them.

The CES can be considered as the "real" measure of the customer experience because it talks about the customer's effort and not about the staff or the product for example. 

It also allows you to take operational actions more quickly, if your CES is very high at certain stages of the journey, you will know which process to use to correct the situation!

Finally, according to the Harvard Business Review study, it is an indicator that can be used in a predictive way. Indeed, about 94% of consumers who reported a low effort in their interactions with a brand would be ready to buy from it again. Among them, 88% of the consumers declare to be ready to spend more, during a new experience. This is an indicator that allows us to anticipate customer loyalty.

Now that we know what the Customer Effort Score is and why we should measure it, we will see how to do it.


3 – How to measure the CES?

Measuring the CES is very simple, if you are interested in this topic then it is very likely that you are conducting satisfaction surveys. All you need to do is add a question or two to your surveys like this: 

  • How much effort did you have to put in to call our customer service?
  • How much effort do you think it took to place an order on our website?

Generally, these questions have 5 levels of response: 

  1. Very little effort
  2. Little effort
  3. Neutral
  4. A lot of effort
  5. A lot of effort

By calculating the average of the responses obtained on your questionnaires, you will obtain your CES.

To maximize the relevance of the results, it is important to note that the CES questionnaires should be conducted immediately after the interaction with your brand. This will allow you to have the most reliable data possible.

NB: It is also possible to choose a scale of 1 to 7 or 1 to 10, depending on the company.

4 – How to enrich a CES questionnaire?

Knowing your CES at a given moment is a good first step but it is not enough. The interest of an indicator is to be able to be followed over time but especially to understand the reasons for satisfaction or a bad customer experience. 

That's why we recommend adding an open-ended question after the CES question if the customer feels that they have put too much effort into their experience.

Sample questions: 

"What do you think we could have done better in your experience?"

"What could we have done to ensure an optimal experience for you?"

These are the questions that will provide you with the answers to how to improve your CES and your customer experience!

5 - How to analyze the results of a CES questionnaire?

Depending on the volume of feedback you receive, there are different ways to analyze these results.

  • Either you have a low volume (the exact figure depends on the size of your company and especially on the teams dedicated to the analysis) and in this case, you can proceed with a manual analysis.
  • If you have a large volume of feedback, then it is certainly preferable to use an automatic semantic analysis solution that will process all your verbatims in an instant and that will integrate the CES in the analysis results as on our platform 

We have detailed the differences between these two analyses in our blog post: automatic vs. manual analysis.

You now know more about the Customer Effort Score and how to use it. To go further, discover our article about NPS or our other blog articles about customer experience!

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