Illustration by Agnieszka Wawro

Imagine visiting Target and finding out you have to go through a labyrinth or solve sudoku before you can check out. Are you going to return to that store or opt for Walgreens across the street that makes it quick and easy to make a purchase?

Unless you’re addicted to puzzles, you’d probably be more of a loyal customer of Walgreens in this scenario, especially for day-to-day shopping. And a competitor is never more than a few clicks away in the online world.
How do you know which one of those two stores your business is in the eyes of existing and potential clients? You measure your Customer Effort Score (CES)! 

This article will help you figure out how to gather and analyze CES data with a simple survey.

What is the customer effort score (CES)?

The Customer Effort Score is a customer experience metric that measures how much effort your customers put into interactions with your company. It can be done with a single question, but an additional 2-3 can give you a lot more insight. 

According to a study by Gartner, which developed CES in 2010, a good Customer Effort Score (CES) gives you a 94% chance that a customer will repurchase from you or prolong a subscription. That’s a powerful metric for anyone who wants to retain their customers for as long as possible. 

A CES survey asks customers whether an interaction like

  • buying a product, service, or subscription
  • experimenting with a new feature
  • contacting a support team
  • reading a help center article

was a high- or low-effort experience.

For instance, an interaction would be considered high-effort or “extremely difficult” if a customer

  • needed to be transferred between multiple departments,
  • had to switch between different channels like email to social media, or
  • didn’t even get their issue resolved.

On the other hand, if they got their solution quickly and without much effort on their part, such an interaction would likely be considered “extremely easy.”

According to research by Gartner, HBR, and many more, the CES score is the strongest indicator of future purchase behavior.

A graph showing Predictive Power for Increased Spending by HBR. The CES metric is the best predictor among the three most popular customer satisfaction surveys.
The Customer Effort Score is a better predictor of future customer behavior than NPS and CSAT scores. Source: Harvard Business Review

Why is a high customer effort score important?

A CES survey has more benefits than just letting you know whether a client was particularly happy or unhappy with an interaction. The customer effort score is a valuable metric in predicting growth, profit, as well as customer retention and churn.

1. CES surveys improve customer loyalty and retention 

Even if a customer has experienced difficulty with your business, something as small as being asked about it may help them feel more taken care of. 

Couple that with a customer noticing a problem they found was fixed, and you have a great foundation of a good customer-business relationship.

What's more, HBR reports that 88% of customers who claim to have had a relatively easy experience plan on increasing their spending at a given company.

2. A good CES score can reduce customer service costs 

Use CES survey data to find sore points and struggles your clients are facing. A low level of effort required to make a purchase or resolve an issue means less strain on your customer service team

They will receive fewer inquiries to fix problems or provide information. This allows you to have a smaller team who can be compensated more on the same budget.

3. A high CES can help minimize customer churn 

This is particularly important for SaaS businesses, which, on average, have a 5-7% churn rate

You want to use the CES metric and data it provides to minimize that percentage. A smooth customer experience means loyal clients and lower customer churn.

And loyal clients are going to be more of a profit than potential new ones, who may abandon their subscription soon after purchasing. For SaaS companies, loyalty is the grounds for a successful business.

4. Customers who give high CES scores are likely to repurchase

The Gartner study showed 94% of customers with effortless experiences intend to make another purchase at a given business.

The same study showed only 4% of customers who had to struggle had any intention of further business with a company.

It’s easy to deduce that the easier their customer experience, the more likely a business will continue to profit off of a given customer. 

5. Businesses with a low CES score may lose out due to unfavorable reviews

Unhappy customers are likely to cost the company more than indifferent ones. They may spread negative reviews, cease future purchases, and discourage potential new customers.

With Survicate, you can send, track, and analyze CES surveys to win lasting customer relationships. Our survey templates make it “extremely easy” to get your survey up and running. Valuable data could be just a few clicks away!

Make sure to measure the customer effort score at the right time

You won’t get valuable data if you don’t conduct a CES survey at the right time. Ideally, it should be immediately after specific transactional interactions with the company or during specific customer journey touchpoints.

This is because a CES survey is a transactional survey, meaning, it’s tied to a specific touchpoint. 

Other types of surveys, for example, NPS, can be both relational and transactional. A relational survey gives you more of a bird’s eye view of your connection with the customer overall.

If you send a transactional CES survey immediately after an interaction, the experience is fresh in your customer’s mind, so you’ll get a more accurate score than if you were to wait a while.

Yet, there is one case in which it makes sense to wait. If your service involves a recurring subscription (SaaS), you may want to send out an email, let’s say, about a week in, after the customer has had a chance to use essential or new features.

For example, Semrush is experimenting with a “rephraser” tool within their SEO Writing Assistant at the moment of writing this article. Only after I attempted to use it a couple of times did I get a pop-up to rate how the tool works.

The Semrush Writing Assistant asks users to rate the tool after they have had a chance to test a new feature.
Screenshot from the Semrush SEO Writing Assistant.

The best moments to run a transactional customer effort score survey include after the following events.

A chat with customer support or resolved email support ticket

Your CES score is a powerful tool in terms of measuring the quality of your customer support. A chat immediately followed up by a quick CES survey may let you know whether your team is successful in helping customers overcome obstacles.

When it comes to support tickets, you may want to wait about 20 minutes after it is resolved to reach out with a CES survey. Customers don't always immediately know whether their issue was worked out.

Use of a new feature

It is particularly useful for product teams to know about the experience customers have with new features. A quick pop-up CES survey can let them know about the usability of new functionalities. 

Especially if a feature is still at the beta testing stage, a CES survey can help find struggles that can be fixed before a feature becomes fully available.

A finalized purchase

After purchasing a product or service subscription, customers can let you know how easy the process was. The easier the check-out process is, the more purchases you are likely to make.

Use a CES survey to find any sore points that may lead customers to abandon carts or neglect finalizing the payment.

A subscription sign-up post a free trial period

If a customer decides to purchase a subscription after a free trial period, they are likely to be satisfied with your service so far. It means they want to continue using your product and exploring new capabilities.

Customers that are at least somewhat satisfied will be glad to let you know if anything made the process suboptimal. This is a good opportunity for open-ended questions, as customers will already have something to say about your product.

A service-related experience, like reading a knowledge base article

If a customer finds that reading a help center article or FAQ section did not resolve their issue, you may want to optimize the content on those pages. Remember, the better those pages are, the less strain on your customer service team.

Do not run CES surveys randomly or at “regular intervals.” There are other types of surveys for that purpose, such as relational NPS.

NPS vs CSAT vs CES

There are three principal types of surveys that rate customer satisfaction and loyalty:

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures long-term customer loyalty. This is the survey you should run at regular intervals. Learn more in our Net Promoter Score Guide. We have a ready-to-send NPS template you can use to gather such data.

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) can be a relationship or transactional study metric. You should run this survey after a customer has been with you for a while. It measures general customer satisfaction with both your product and service. We also have a ready-to-send CSAT survey template, of course.

The Customer Effort Score (CES) measures satisfaction with a particular interaction. It judges a single touchpoint, and it is a purely transactional metric. Run CES immediately after an interaction.

According to Andrew Schumacher, the senior principal Advisor at Gartner:

“Customer effort is 40% more accurate at predicting customer loyalty as opposed to customer satisfaction [CSAT]”.

These surveys serve different goals and should be conducted at different times. If you confuse the three, you may end up with

  • inaccurate data
  • irritated customers
  • a waste of resources

If you use CES, NPS, and CSAT correctly, these metrics supplement each other. But they are not interchangeable. You can use Survicate to find survey templates for all three types.

We can also help you discover why clients leave with the customer churn survey. Survicate has dozens of survey templates available for free, for any kind of business needs you can imagine.

How to build a CES survey?

Time is key - with Survicate, your survey could be up and running within minutes. The quickest way to start is to click “Use this template” be low:

Sign up for free, or, if you already have an account with us, the link will take you straight to the survey editor. The most popular survey questions will be set and ready.

Simply clicking "use this survey" takes you straight to the dashboard with a running survey seconds away.
Survicate dashboard

Many customers fill out surveys on mobile. Fortunately, Survicate surveys are 100% responsive. This means both you and your customers can use it to communicate on all types of devices.

Create and modify survey questions and appearance of the survey

You can modify, add, or remove questions, or even start from scratch if you have particular ideas.

Click through the preview on the right to see what your customers will see. 

Easily modify the content of your questions and answers, change around fonts, colors, and backgrounds. 

Build surveys with Survicate by adding or removing questions, choosing a mode of answering, and modifying the appearance with fonts, colors, and backgrounds.
Survicate dashboard

When scripting your questions, be friendly and conversational. There's a reason customers prefer the word “easy” over “effort”. Our templates take that into account, so leave them as they are if you are not sure about your wording.

You can even remove our branding and add your own.

You can add or tweak navigation, the progress bar, branding, logos, and email answers confirmation.
Survicate dashboard - Survey experience

You can choose whether you want the answers on a Likert scale, numbered scale, or whether you prefer a smiley scale 🙂. 

Set up survey logic to create various paths for respondents. You can add the option of skipping specific questions based on the previous responses, bringing new branches, and even segmenting users.

Lastly, at Survicate, we always thank the customer for sharing their experience.

All Survicate surveys have a thank-you message.
Survicate's automatic thank-you message

Configure your survey

Set up how you want to identify your respondents, whether you want them to be able to fill out the survey multiple times and set your end date.

You can choose different notification methods to be up-to-date on each survey response.

Make sure you get notified about responses

Connect the survey with one of our integrations. Many, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, can notify you about responses with a method of your choice.

Survicate has many integrations with other tools to make the process seamless
Some of Survicate's integrations

At Survicate we have many other integrations, like with HubSpot or Intercom that help you distribute surveys. The same goes for ESPs like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign.

You’ll get a link and a preview of what your survey might look like in an email: 

This image shows what a potential survey may look like in an email.

Or whatever distribution channel you choose. 

Send or set up your survey to be triggered by events

Survicate offers email or sharable link surveys, website or app surveys, mobile app surveys, as well as chat surveys. Click through the Survicate dashboard to find what kind will fit your needs most.

You can configure our surveys in a way that will allow them to be triggered by events. Since CES surveys should happen immediately after key interactions, you don't want to have to send them out manually each time.

You can do this in 3 ways:

Check out our Help Center to learn how to:

Analyze responses from your survey

As soon as you receive your first responses, you’ll be able to analyze them within the Survicate dashboard:

A report showing a score of 87 from a CES survey.

And look, there is already some actionable data you could use to improve your CX:

The image shows text answers customers provided in response to "How could we make your experience with our company better?"

What to ask in a customer effort score survey?

CES 2022: let’s have a look at the most up-to-date and actionable survey questions you can ask in a Customer Effort Score survey.

Best customer effort score questions include:

  • Based on your most recent experience, how easy or difficult was it to interact with our company?
  • Were you able to accomplish your goal?
  • What prevented you from achieving your goal?
  • How could we make your experience with our company better?
  • Was this article helpful?

We recommend choosing one or two closed-ended questions with an open-ended question follow-up

An example of a closed-ended question from a Survicate CES survey.
An example of an open-ended question from a Survicate CES survey.

If you use the Survicate CES survey template, the last question follow-up would appear for customers who did not have the best experience. This would be 5 or below on a 7-point scale and 3 or below on a 5-point scale. 

Why? Because the longer the survey, the more likely it is it will be left uncompleted. Adding a progress bar may help.

A progress bar that shows 33% of a survey has been completed.
Adding a progress bar to a Survicate survey can be done with one click.

But especially if a customer is already frustrated, you don’t want to bother them longer than you have to.

Survicate will still provide meaningful insights, even if customers don’t get to the end of the survey. That in itself may be valuable data - that your survey is too long or complicated.

What is a good customer effort score?

There is no cross-industry CES benchmark. This is because not all companies apply the official 7-point scale, and different average effort is required for customers to receive different services.

The rule of thumb is to aim for an average of 5 or 6 (on a 7-point scale). A perfect score of 7 likely means customers didn’t put in the effort to rate the business honestly. This could be because the survey appeared at an inappropriate time, e.g., a month after contact with customer service.

If the score is lower than 5, you probably should find and fix some struggles your customers face.

All in all, aim for growth in the score, not a particular number.

How to calculate the customer effort score?

The customer effort score is usually rated on a 5- or 7-point scale. 

A five-point rating scale question, from "Very unsatisfied" to "Very satisfied".
5-point CES survey question
A five-point ratig scale question, from 1-7.
7-point CES survey question

With a customer effort score survey software like Survicate, you can give customers the option to agree or disagree (Likert scale), provide numbers to rate their satisfaction (numbered scale), or provide emoticons (smiley scale) to show how happy they are with the product or service.

To get your CES score, divide the total sum of your scores by the total number of responses. Bear in mind what kind of scale you are using.

total sum of your scores by the total number of responses.
The CES score is the total sum of scores divided by the total number of responses.

On a 5-point scale,

  • If you get 45 responses and a total score of 180, your CES would be 4. That’s pretty good!

On a 7-point scale,

  • If you get 45 responses and a total score of 180, your CES would still be 4. But that would mean there is room for improvement.

If you prefer the customer effort score definition as a number between 0-100, 4/5 would be a CES score of 80, while 4/7 would be about 57.

If you use great customer effort score software like Survicate, you don’t have to calculate anything. That will be done for you. We will even prepare visual formats ready to use at your next presentation with the stakeholders!

a total of 25 responses showing whether a query was resolved with the customer support team.

How to improve your customer effort score?

The goal is to reduce customer effort at all possible touchpoints. Use a customer effort tool like Survicate to run surveys at appropriate times. This will help you pinpoint moments where customers begin to feel frustrated.

The next step is to fix the struggles. Don’t just gather data and don't stop at analyzing - troubleshoot! In other words, remember to close the feedback loop

Each struggle you find is an opportunity for optimization. As a business or product owner, this is where you should invest your efforts.

Here are some examples of why CES score may below:

  • a complicated user interface
  • slow loading time of the website 
  • illogical customer journeys
  • lack of appropriate filters or categories (especially for products)
  • broken/empty/thin content pages
  • unresponsive or unhelpful customer service
  • limited payment options
  • no trial periods
  • a troublesome employee
  • a glitch on the website

Once you identify where the struggles are, reach out to the appropriate team to make adjustments.

Make sure you offer customer service in preferred channels - make it easy and low-effort to contact you. A CES survey will also tell you the most common way a customer interacts with your business.

Many customers prefer contact with representatives as a last resort. Provide Help Centers and FAQ sections. The end of such text is an excellent place for a quick CES survey.

3-point emoji scale to answer "Did this answer your question?"

At Survicate, we end each Help Center article with this simple smiley survey.

This lets us know whether the text helped customers resolve their issues, or whether they had to contact customer support anyway. If so, this would be an opportunity to improve help-based content. We use their feedback to update these regularly.

What’s more, a well-made CES survey will also help you pinpoint the sore points that should be explained in such pieces of content.

A CES survey can also help you find peak hours for your business. You can then have more staff online or by the phone to accommodate for the extra support needed. Quick response times from customer service significantly increase CES, NPS, and CSAT scores.

Customer effort score (CES) pros and cons

Let’s break down what’s best and worst about Customer Effort Score surveys.

First things first, a CES score is the strongest predictor of future purchase behavior. It is also a strong predictor of potential referral. The open-ended questions provide actionable data and sore points in customer journeys. And, a CES survey is easy to implement.

On the flip side, a CES score provides no information about overall customer satisfaction and must be sent out immediately after an interaction.

What’s the bottom line? 

Measuring your customer effort score will help you retain customers, minimize customer service costs, and find opportunities for optimization in your business. Using survey tools like Survicate can help you make the process “extremely easy” :).

But don’t stop there. Use a CES survey to get customer feedback at critical touchpoints, but supplement it with NPS and CSAT surveys to get a complete picture and fine-tune your customers’ experience.

Table of contents
You can now send survey responses to
Productboard, Mixpanel and Amplitude Integrations are