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

Published on April 01, 2022  - Updated on December 05, 2023

What is the Customer Effort Score ?

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 Customer Effort Score (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!

Satisfaction survey

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.

Now that we have seen how this indicator works and how it is measured, let's get to the heart of the matter: how to improve your Customer Effort Score?

Improve customer effort score

6 - How to optimize the Customer Effort Score?

Indeed, the final objective is to facilitate the experience of your users. There are many strategies to achieve this, let's discover some of them.

  • Simplify the process: Reduce the number of steps needed to complete a given task, simplify the language used and offer clear and easy-to-understand options to reduce confusion.
  • Make website navigation more intuitive: Use clear drop-down menus, effective search and easily identifiable icons to help customers quickly find what they are looking for. In fact, according to a Forrester study, 90% of consumers want to find immediate answers to their questions. For this, they prefer knowledge bases to other means of contact. So make sure your FAQs are up to date and well optimized.
  • Offer multiple payment options: Offer different payment options to allow customers to choose the method that suits them best. This can include credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers and digital wallets.
  • Simplify the product return process: Offer clear and concise instructions for the product return process, including information on how to return the product, the return policy, and timelines. This step is especially important because a simple return policy goes a long way in building trust. Moreover, it is a real selling point! If the return of a product is simple, your customers will tend to feel more confident about their purchases and will more easily make the switch.
  • Reduce processing times: Ensure that response times to customer requests are fast, whether it's to answer an email, process an order or solve a problem. This will reduce the effort customers have to put in to get their issues answered or resolved.
  • Offer multiple support channels: Provide multiple options for contacting customer service, such as live chat, email, phone and social media, so customers can choose the method that works best for them.
  • Listen to customer feedback: Solicit customer feedback on their experience, whether through surveys, online reviews or other channels. With automated semantic analysis tools, you can then use this feedback to identify irritants and priority areas for improvement.

As you can see, there are many ways to optimize your CES. The main objective is to simplify your customer journey.

In recent years, an evolution of the indicator has begun to emerge, the CES 2.0.

7 - CES 2.0

CES 2.0 is an evolution of the traditional Customer Effort Score (CES) that takes into account the entire customer journey, rather than just focusing on a particular stage. It was developed to meet the needs of companies looking to improve their overall customer experience by taking into account all interactions between customers and different touch points.

This indicator is based on the idea that customers will evaluate their experience not on a single interaction, but on their entire journey with the company. They can therefore use CES 2.0 to evaluate the overall ease of the customer experience and identify the friction points that affect the entire journey.

Like the traditional Customer Effort Score, it can be measured using a survey that asks customers to rate the ease of use of the channels they used to interact with the company, such as the website, mobile app, call center, live chat, social networks, etc. Typically, customers can rate on a scale of 1-5 or 1-7 for each channel.

I hope this article has helped you better understand the Customer Effort Score and its optimization. To go further, discover our article about NPS or our other blog articles about customer experience!

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