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)!
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.”
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 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 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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
NET PROMOTER, NPS, AND THE NPS-RELATED EMOTICONS ARE REGISTERED U.S. TRADEMARKS, AND NET PROMOTER SCORE AND NET PROMOTER SYSTEM ARE SERVICE MARKS, OF BAIN & COMPANY, INC., SATMETRIX SYSTEMS, INC. AND FRED REICHHELD.