What is Customer Effort Score?

/ 7 min read
Eliza Frakes

Many businesses turn to customer feedback surveys to gauge how their business is performing. But it can be difficult to know what to ask—and look for—when trying to gather opinions and improve your customer experience.  

That's where the Customer Effort Score comes in. It allows you to assign a score to customer feedback, meaning you turn feedback into metrics and get deeper insight into the performance of your business.

In this article, we'll look at how Customer Effort Score can help you improve your business, and build better relationships with your audience.  

What is Customer Effort Score?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that measures how difficult or easy it is for users to engage with a given product or service. Most CES surveys look something like this:

The process can be anything from checking out at an online store to connecting with a customer service representative. The 1 in the point scale is marked as “very difficult” and the 7 as “very easy.”

When enough customers respond, you can calculate your customer effort score by finding the total number of responses, and dividing that number by the number of responses given. It’ll end up being a single number between 1 and 7.

Sum of Responses  ÷ Number of Responses = CES score

The CES score tells you how much effort is required to complete the given process. The data you get from this type of survey question can help you see, quantifiably, where the trouble spots lay within the customer journey.

It can also help you determine how likely the customer is to keep using your product, and how (and where) your team can improve.

Why does Customer Effort Score matter?

Interpreting your CES score is simple: a low customer effort score means that the given process was difficult for most people to complete, and a high customer effort score means it was fairly easy to complete.

But is it a big deal if a process is difficult to complete? In short, yes. According to the Harvard Business Review, having a process be easy to complete is even more important than having excellent customer service.

In other words: you want to make processes as easy (meaning low effort) as possible. High effort processes can refer to a range of situations customers may find themselves in:

  • Not given enough information about a product.
  • Having to navigate pop-ups to reach the checkout at your online store.
  • Waiting on the phone for 45 minutes to reach a service representative.
  • Having to enter contact details multiple times during a checkout flow.

While these processes won’t make anyone literally exert much energy, they're considered high effort because they’re difficult, frustrating, and inefficient.

The benefits of Customer Effort Score for your business

To keep customers happy you want to create as many effortless experiences as you can. Luckily, the right surveys and a high CES score can help you do just that. Here are just a handful of added perks:

1. Limiting negative word of mouth

The way people talk about your business matters. A lot, as it turns out. According to Neilson, 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know directly, with many of those people trusting word-of-mouth advice over other kinds of recommendations, like review sites or advertisements.

If the check out process at your store is high-effort, or customer interactions with your service team are lacklustre, those are likely the first things out of someone's mouth when you ask them about the business.

When you use your CES score to find and fix high-effort processes, you can limit this kind of negative chat around your business. That way, the first thing out of a customer's mouth can be about how great the product is, or how much they loved the website’s design.

2. Increase customer loyalty

Asking CES questions helps you see where your customers would like for you to make changes to your site. By implementing those changes, and making the tricky processes easier, you can improve customer loyalty.

This is great news for your business since loyal customers are more likely to repurchase items, make new future purchases, or continue to pay for services.

3. Create self-service opportunities

If you run a small business with a blog or written component, your CES score can help you figure out what to write about. You can use the quantitative data pulled from your CES score to pinpoint areas that are difficult for customers to navigate, and focus on writing helpful content around those areas.

Offering tutorials, how-to videos, or other articles that can help your customers troubleshoot is a double win: it saves you time and money by limiting service interactions, and it makes it easier for your customers to solve some issues on their own.

4. Lowers service costs

Part of running a business is maintaining an excellent customer service experience. But, it can be easy for your customer support team to get bombarded with hundreds of tickets, and end up flustered and overworked.

Luckily, you can use your CES score to identify and streamline problem areas, so that your customers don’t need to contact customer service as often. This can lead to ticket deflation, and free up your customer support team to do other things.

If you’re deflecting tickets from coming through into the inbox, you’re doing the double duty of lowering your CES score (the fewer tickets a customer has to write to support the better) and lowering the cost of your services.

5. Influence changes to your product or service

The data you collect from your customer effort score questions can help you gauge customer success and find potential changes to your product.

If you notice that most processes in your business are receiving a good customer effort score, but that your contact page continues to get negative marks, you know that the contact page likely needs some TLC.

In addition to helping you smooth out processes, your CES score can help you and your product team make improvements to the product itself. Whether you’re selling software or handmade sweaters, your CES score can give you valuable, product-based data.

To gather this data, you’ll want to pose the CES question to be specific to the product. If the product has a lot of features, try to narrow it down to the one aspect of the product where you're looking for feedback. These questions would still be scaled, with 1 being very difficult, and 7 being very easy.

Here are a few examples of what these CES questions might look like:

CES is one of the best ways to prioritize support-heavy issues. It gives your product and engineering teams a direct, quantitative number that can inform any changes made to your product.

6. Reduce churn

To 80% of American consumers, speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

Businesses that aren’t speedy or convenient might experience higher rates of churn or the rate at which customers stop doing business with a given company.

To avoid losing your customers to these high-effort, annoying processes, you can use your CES score to quickly identify the difficult process, and fix it right away.

How to ask Customer Effort Score questions

When designing your CES question, keep these rules of thumb in mind:

Keep them short

Don’t confuse your customers with unnecessary clauses or flowery language. Instead, try to word your question as clearly as possible.

Make them easy

Multiple choice or scaled questions require significantly less work to fill out than open feedback ones do. Luckily, CES questions tend to be fairly easy to complete, since they’re already scaled.

Have a clear intention

If you want to know how difficult your checkout process is, don’t ask about how much they liked the website's colour scheme. You can save that for another survey. Instead, have a clear goal for your question, and articulate it as clearly as possible.

Reward your respondents

The feedback you receive from your CES questions is valuable. Shouldn’t the people who give you that feedback get something in return? You can incentivize people to answer your surveys by offering coupons or special promotions, and thank those who do answer the questions in the same way.

Don’t overdo it

Like all of us, your customers are busy people, with loads of things on their plates. They don’t have time to answer countless feedback requests. Respect their time by only asking what’s absolutely essential.

Consider when to send your survey

The online checkout process is not a great time or place to ask for feedback. Find an unobtrusive place to ask instead, ideally soon after (but not during) the process, you’re looking for feedback.

Over to you

At a glance, CES may seem like just another metric benefitting customer experience and support teams. But all with one little scaled question, your CES score can give you so much more than that.

Calculating and understanding your customer effort score allows you to find and fix high-effort processes, make improvements to your product, and keep your customers happy. Making improvements based on your CES score can boost key company metrics like churn, revenue and employee experience.

So why not give it a go with Paperform today? You can use our customer effort score template, or design your own gorgeous version of this multi-functional, superstar of a question. Best of all, you can try it out for free for 14 days, no credit card required.


About the author
Eliza Frakes
Content Writer
Eliza Frakes is a content writer at Paperform. When she’s not writing for the blog, she’s probably writing a play (or acting in one), swimming in the ocean, or taking her very cute dog on a hike.

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