Why is Customer Effort Score (CES) a big deal?

User Experience

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In one sentence: A high Customer Effort Score (CES) has a very high correlation with the likelihood to repurchase.

Low EFFORT experiences can correlate to a 94% likelihood to repurchase

No executive worth their salt should bat an eye to the fact that customer satisfaction is one of the most crucial factors for any business. According to a study by Oracle, 93% executives say that improving the customer experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities.

Evidently, quantifying customer loyalty is one of the most important ways of reducing churn. An article by HBR concludes that loyalty is much more relevant to satisfaction rather than delighting customers.

Over the time customer satisfaction has been measured by using powerful metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). While every metric indicates an important aspect of customer satisfaction, Customer Effort Score (CES) is gaining prominence recently.

Why is this one metric becoming so vital? Is it really that big of a deal?

What was missing in NPS and CSAT?

Many methods have been devised to measure customer loyalty before. Companies who are already measuring NPS and CSAT often question the need of another metric. The mystery lies in the nature of relationship between these metrics and what they tell you about the customer.

Gartner says : Effort is the strongest driver to customer loyalty.

Genuinely, what does CES offer that NPS and CSAT can’t?

1. NPS vs CES

NPS has been an important boardroom metric since it was introduced in 2004 by Fred Reichheld (Bain & Company made a whole practice out of it). It answers a simple question:

“How likely are your customers to recommend your product to their network?” (on a scale of 10). Customers can be classified as Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8), Detractors (6 or Lower).

NPS = % of Promoters – % of Detractors (can be negative too)

While NPS is a great measure of customer loyalty and probability of future growth, it adds a cognitive load of predicting future. The customer has to assume an action based on what she feels about the product now. Hence, the outcome where customers are recommending the company becomes an uncertain prediction.

One of the advantages of Customer Effort Score (CES) is that it is INSTANT. News about a bad customer experience spreads 5x faster than a good-service experience.

It is definitely great as a company to be the first ones hearing about it. Moreover, you’re hearing it directly from your customers and you know exactly which issue they’re talking about. Also, NPS has a correlation with CES as customers who repeatedly report lesser effort while submitting scores are more likely to be a Promoter for the company.

While measuring CES, the focus is on that one issue that your customer has. The customer is simply asked a question about the amount of effort she had to put to resolve her issue. All she has to do is mark this on a five-point scale: “Very Easy” (1) to “Very Difficult” (5)

Verdict 1:

  • NPS is necessary as to measure long-term happiness of the customer while making a prediction on customer’s future behaviour.
  • CES provides useful insights at a micro-level addressing the obstacles faced by the customer during service experience.
  • NPS and CES complement each other as customers who make little efforts to fix a problem, also tend to give a high NPS.

2. CSAT vs CES


The difference between CSAT and CES lies majorly in use cases. CSAT is measured to identify the customer satisfaction level while having a specific interaction (with the product or service). It is also a performance indicator for your Customer Support and Customer Success teams whenever a customer faces any issue with your product/service.

CES digs deeper to measure the effort put by the customer only when an issue is resolved. As companies are persistently trying to upgrade their customer service, keeping constant track of “Effort Factor” can act as a vital differentiator.

While some companies have kept both of them separate, some of them have tried combining these 2 metrics. Few of them have embedded the CES question in the CSAT survey they attach with the support mails they send to customers. Some companies prefer to keep their CSAT survey in the signature of the mails while asking for CES in the body of the mail. It majorly depends on how the internal tools of companies have been designed and how are companies tracking their customer service goals

Verdict 2:

  • Both CSAT and CES measure the short-term happiness of the customer but CES is more actionable.
  • CES provides a deeper insight than CSAT into the effort put by customers to resolve their issue
  • CES can be embedded in the CSAT survey or asked as a separate measure altogether depending upon company goals.

CES 2.0: New way to measure CES!

There have been criticism on the traditional way to measure Customer Effort Score (CES). While asking the question “Amount of Effort put by customers”, use of the word “Effort” has not been very intuitive for the customers to understand. Combining it with the inverted scale of Very Easy (1) to Very Difficult (5) adds another layer of confusion.

To avoid this, the question has been changed to a statement: “Company made it easy for me to solve my issue”. While the scale is represented in the usual order of Negative (1) to Positive (5). This method is also being rapidly adopted by companies to measure their CES.

CES is increasingly becoming popular as the metric that can give actionable service improvement areas to companies. It helps companies to act on the issues faced by their customers to avoid churn in the long-term.

How are you measuring your CES? Do let us know in comments.

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