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What is Customer effort score and how do you leverage it?

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With most industries saturated with competition, and customers finding it easier than ever to switch between organizations – Customer Experience (CX) has become a key differentiator for businesses looking to acquire new customers as well as retain your existing customer base. Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric which has proven to be very effective in gauging multiple attributes of an organizations’ customer experience.

CX deals with how people feel about your brand – what they think about its’ image, their interactions at various touch points, and Customer Effort Scores are good at quantifying these “feelings”, and can help businesses derive insights which help improve their services and reduce customer effort expended.

What is Customer Effort Score?

CES is a popular Customer Experience metric which relies on respondent input. Ideally these respondents have already interacted with your brand in some capacity. These surveys can be integrated at any touchpoint along a customers’ journey with your organization.

CES survey scales

Customer Effort Score Surveys are extremely versatile, and can be easily integrated with multiple question types. There are several types of phrasing which you can use to get your point across to respondents more effectively. 

There are also multiple survey types or metrics which can help you collect data for measuring Customer effort scores.

1-10 Scale

This survey type involves getting respondents to choose an answer from a scale ranging from 1-10. Generally a rating between 7-10 is considered a positive result, and a result between 1-3 is considered negative. However, depending on how your CES question is framed, these scores can be reversed. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is advisable to color code the answer choices (Red, Yellow, Green).

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Likert Scale

This is a widely used scale of measurement which can be effectively integrated into Customer Effort Score surveys. Likert scale involves asking the respondent question or presenting them with a statement, and having them choose an answer from a response box. The response box will be structured to include the following options – Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.

As with the 1-10 scale, it is best to color code the answer selection to make it easier for respondents to choose their answer. 

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1-5 Scale

This is similar to the likert scale and is a common technique for measuring CES and Customer Experience. In this scale, the answer choices range from: Very Easy, Easy, Neither Easy nor Difficult, Difficult, Very Difficult.

This scale is direct, to the point and can fit in multiple scenarios for measuring Customer Effort Score, and is a valuable indicator of overall customer experience.

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Smiley Face Scale

Smiley face emoticons are perhaps the most user friendly metric available for measuring CES. 

Not every survey question needs a detailed response, and sometimes you need to only gauge sentiment about certain aspects of your products and how customers feel about interactions at these touch points along the customer journey.

You present the respondents with a happy smiley face, a neutral smiley face and an unhappy smiley face. The unhappy face signifies that a lot of effort was required to accomplish the task which respondents are being queried about.

Creating Customer Effort Score survey questions which get accurate insights

The key to creating CES surveys which effectively help understand your customer experience is to be as unbiased as possible while querying respondents. You need to be neutral, detached and emotionless and not lead insert any leading questions. 

You can even try mentioning the word “effort” in your surveys, and try phrasing with ease of use in mind. Phrasing of your customer effort score surveys is highly dependent on the context at hand. Are you asking your respondents about a single aspect of their interaction, or the entirety of the interaction they’ve had.

CES Survey: Questioning the respondent

This survey question format is best suited for questionnaires which use the unhappy/happy smiley face emoticons, or for surveys which use the 1-10 scale.

You must phrase your question like “ How easy or difficult was it for you to achieve said task/solve said problem?”

CES Survey: Presenting a statement

When you use CES surveys with the 1-7 LIkert Scale question, it is best to phrase your query as a statement. 

The statement can be any variation of: “Company A made it easy to buy items”. This must be followed up with a question: “Choose your level of agreement with the statement”. 

For the most accurate results, it is best to color code the answer choices.

Understanding results from Customer Effort Score surveys

Measuring CES results is dependent on the type of question you used in the survey. You can use resources like Voxco’s CES calculator for quick results, or manually calculate results.

CES score calculation

1-7 Agree or Disagree Scale: In this scenario, it is best to divide the number of people who rated between 5 to 7 (assuming this is the positive case for your research), by the total number of respondents to your survey. Then you must multiply the result by 100.  You can follow the same process with the 1-5 scale.

1-10 Customer effort score survey question: For this scale, you need only take the sum of your CES scores and divide it by the total number of responses. 

Other metrics: If you are using other metrics for gauging your customer effort score, you can calculate your CES by deducting the % of respondents with a positive answer from the % of respondents with a negative answer. Neutral responses can be ignored, but can be considered as positive or negative based on your requirements.

What is a good Customer Effort Score?

As there is no industry wide standard for what is considered a good CES score, it can be tough to benchmark yourself against competition. Therefore, how good your Customer effort Score is depends on the metric you’ve used, the question used in your survey, and your requirements from the survey itself. 

CES is a good indicator of customer experience, and its usage and score depend on which touchpoint you decide to query your respondents about.

Why is Customer Effort Score useful?

We’ve mentioned before that CES scores are a good indicator of your customer experience efforts, and can help streamline your customer journey. CES surveys results are also good indicators of future purchase behavior. 

Customer effort scores can also help in determining which of your customers are advocates for your brand, and which ones will be part of negative word of mouth marketing. It stands to reason that those who feel they had to exert a lot of effort to complete simple tasks in your customer journey are likely to voice their negative opinion about your business to their family or friends. The same holds true for positive interactions as well.

CES is a good indicator of customer experience, and its usage and score depend on which touchpoint you decide to query your respondents about.

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What should you be wary about with CES surveys

Although CES scores can give insights into many aspects of your customer experience, they don’t really tell what the exact relationship a respondent has with your organization. You also don’t understand how their ratings were influenced by factors such as pricing, product offerings, competitors etc.

It is also not possible to segment customers via customer effort score surveys.

Using Customer Effort Score surveys effectively

CES surveys are an excellent source for insights, but their versatility allows them to be paired with other CX metrics like NPS® surveys and CSAT surveys. Pairing CES with other metrics will enable organizations to get a more holistic view of their customer experience, and gauge purchase intent more effectively.

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