What is a Customer Effort Score (CES)? The Complete Guide

What is a Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Did you know that companies that put customer satisfaction and experience at the core of their business strategies often find it easier to beat the competition?

It’s true! In other words, they’re more likely to become ‘fan favorites’ because of their dedication to solving customers’ problems.

Generally, companies like these have processes that are easy to follow, so customers don’t find themselves making a lot of effort to get what they want.

The idea here is to optimize the buyer’s journey in a way to reduce the customers’ effort, which further improves the customer experience.

But, how do companies really measure customer satisfaction and experience and what customer effort score tool do they use?

How can they measure how much effort customers make to achieve their goals? That’s precisely where the customer effort score comes to the rescue.

In this extensive guide, we will share everything you ever wanted to know about customer effort score and use it efficiently to improve your business-customer relationships.

Table of contents
What is a Customer Effort Score?
The need for Customer Effort Score
Why is measuring customer effort score important?
Advantages and disadvantages of customer effort score
What are the applications of customer effort scores?
Where to use the Customer Effort Score?
What is a good customer effort score?
Different ways to calculate Customer Effort Score
How to improve your customer effort score?

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What is a Customer Effort Score?

A Customer Effort Score (CES) is essentially a performance metric that helps measure the levels of effort customers need to put to get the work done, especially when interacting with a brand’s products, services, or support agents.

CES allows companies to clearly track and quantify the effort required for customers to make an online purchase, file a complaint, get the complaint resolved, and more.

Tracking such activities and their effects helps companies reduce customer effort and boost customer loyalty.

The need for Customer Effort Score

The primary reason CES was developed was to help companies decrease the number of disloyal customers, i.e., customers that leave the website without making an online purchase or ones that leave negative reviews.

Brought into the limelight in 2010 through an HBR article, the concept of the Customer Effort Score has caught up immensely as more and more companies tend to calculate and evaluate the customers’ effort experience.

This is critical as 96 percent of customers coming across a high-effort service interaction turn disloyal! Such customers speak negatively about your brand, spread negative reviews, and might even damage your online reputation.

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Why is measuring customer effort score important?

Customers interact with companies with an agenda — they want their issues to be resolved and have outstanding customer satisfaction and experience while doing it.

Brands should lean in and leverage this opportunity by gauging the level of effort customers have to put to get their job done.

Such quantitative measurement gives you a crystal clear customer perspective and helps realize the cumbersomeness of different business processes, especially the buyer journey.

Let’s discuss this in detail and figure out why using a great customer effort score platform is important.

Helps predict customer loyalty

Companies can track different customer feedback metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES).

While the former two were quite popular in the 2000s, especially when Fred Reichheld introduced the Net Promoter Score at Bain & Company in 2003, a numer of companies have incresingly began switching over to CES surveys.

Helps predict customer purchase behavior

Companies that have a firm grip over the changing customer purchase behavior often find it easier to pivot and introduce business-related changes quickly.

With CES, they are in a better position to predict future purchase behavior based on customer effort score data and analytics. An HBR study claims that 94 percent of the customers experiencing low effort intend to make repeat purchases.

Opens referral opportunities

One of the most appealing reasons why we recommend measuring customer loyalty is that it helps with referrals. It’s simple to understand. If customers enjoy the buying experience, they will indicate a low effort on the Customer Effort Score surveys.

This means they got what they wanted without having to spend much time and effort! Such customers spread positive word of mouth by leaving excellent reviews about your company.

Potential customers reading such reviews will not think twice before connecting and giving you business!

Advantages and disadvantages of customer effort score


Why should you choose customer effort score as your go-to customer satisfaction metric? We find customer effort scores quite helpful in predicting future customer behavior and changes in the customers’ satisfaction levels.

You don’t just collect the score, but use the score as highly actionable feedback that can be applied as corrective actions.

Since you will be monitoring customer effort across the buyer journey, it gives you the opportunity to find out the weaknesses at each customer touchpoint.


Indeed, the customer effort score is a useful customer service metric. But, it has several disadvantages you must put into consideration. CES is quantitative, but it doesn’t provide a clear picture of the business-customer relationship.

This means you cannot completely rely on CES to improve customer satisfaction. CES, often collected through Customer Effort Score surveys, does not immediately disclose the issues customers are dealing with in their journey.

You will have to often come up with follow-up questions to get into the details. Moreover, you can hardly measure any impact on factors like cost, competition, or product quality through CES.

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What are the applications of customer effort scores?

Customer effort scores help evaluate the feedback received through a CES survey. In other words, you get to quantify the feedback and use the information to improve customer experience.

There are several use cases of the customer effort score metric. Let’s discuss a few, shall we?

Post-purchase customer interaction

Most companies use the CES survey to generate the score when the customer is done purchasing the product or subscribing to a service. This is useful in understanding how well the customers’ purchasing experience.

Such a post-transaction CES survey is ideal for retail, eCommerce, healthcare, or online booking sites. You can trigger a CES survey after customers are done booking an appointment, purchasing a product, subscribing to a free trial, and more.

Post-customer support service interaction

What if the customer faces a problem? Customers are most likely to connect with customer support to resolve issues. Therefore, you should make sure customer support shares a CES survey whenever a ticket closes.

The CES survey will help understand how easy it was for the customer to get the issue resolved. If possible, add follow-up questions to the CES survey to get more details.

Measuring overall CX

What if you want to gauge the overall customer loyalty for your brand? The Customer Effort Score metric helps achieve that as both customer success teams and product teams can collect valuable feedback to improve customers’ effort experience.

Such a customer satisfaction survey can help identify potential problems and bottlenecks and ensure negligible hassles in the buyer journey.

This is particularly important if you have corporate executive board that wants clear updates on impacts affecting overall customer experiences.

Where to use the Customer Effort Score?

Now that you know when you can trigger the CES survey to collect the scores, you should ensure that the surveys are triggered the right way! The very first way to collect a Customer Effort Score is by triggering a CES survey with emails and SMSes.

This helps customers leave feedback on the fly. Next, you can integrate the Customer Effort Score survey with your helpdesk software. In this, you can create a customized CES survey and use the feedback to identify the areas of issue.

Furthermore, this allows efficient ticket assignment and resolution. Another way of using the customer effort score is by connecting your CRM with other tools and integrations.

In other words, you can pull responses from the customer satisfaction survey shared on different platforms.

Lastly, if you own a brick-and-mortar store, you should be developing feedback kiosks to capture real-time or instant feedback! In this, you can either make the customer leave feedback at the helpdesk or hand over a tablet to collect the response.

The collected data can then be imported into your CRM tools.

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What is a good customer effort score?

Let’s keep it simple, there’s essentially two customer effort scores, positive and negative.

Positive customer effort.

A positive or good CES score indicates that customers didn’t have to put much effort (low effort) into using your products or services. It suggests that your customer support agents solved issues efficiently.

Negative customer effort.

A negative customer effort score, however, shows that customers have to put more effort (high effort) to get their issues resolved. It means that customers are irritated by the inefficient buyer journey, products, or services.

This often results in disloyal customers that leave negative feedback.

Now coming to the CES benchmarks, it’s crucial that you keep updating your CES scores to make sure your company’s products and services are competent. In fact there was a report by CEB customer effort studies, which found a good CES score is above 2.0.

Note: The customer effort score case study by CEB was conducted before they were acquired by acquired by Gartner. So the results may have changed since.

What should you aim at?

You should aim at reducing customer effort over time. If that happens, you can rest assured that your company is moving in the right direction. High effort means that customers have to work more to get their information.

If your CES is high or stagnant, you better reconsider different business operations that are directly impacting your potential customers.

Different ways to calculate Customer Effort Score

The 1-5 Scale

This 5-point scale was used before 2013. In this, companies could map the customer experience on a scale of 1-to-5 by presenting the customers with five options —

  1. Very low effort
  2. Low effort
  3. Neutral
  4. High effort
  5. Very high effort

As you can see, the lower the CES score, the better the result. We can call this an inverted scale of ranging customer effort. Since it is inverted, the scale has caused some trouble as most people perceive high scores as positive experiences.

Customers used to intuitively hit “5” and unintentionally ruin companies’ CES.

The Likert Scale

Then came the Likert Scale. In this, companies used to share the CES survey with a common statement related to CX. With the statement came options like “Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Disagree.”

Some companies even used color codes to represent the options. For example, the green color represented strongly agree and the red color represented the opposite.

The 1-7 Scale (CES 2.0)

Then came CES 2.0 which successfully resolved the issues by introducing a 7-level answer scale. The 1-7 scale came with a common statement or customer effort score question:

  • “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: The company made it easy for me to handle my issue?”

Customers will share their negative or positive responses on a standard scale that ranges from 1-to-7.

The Emoticon Scale

Here’s a simple CES scale you may use. In this, the Customer Effort Score survey will have a question related to customer experience followed by happy and sad emojis.

Customers that hit the happy emoji are assumed to have a positive customer experience, and those that hit the sad emoji are assumed to have a bad customer experience. Simple and effective!

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How to improve your customer effort score?

Now that you know everything about customer effort scores, how do you intend to put the knowledge into action at your company?

A boost in customer effort score can lead to business growth and process improvements as it results in an effortless customer experience.

Let’s discuss ways you can ensure low customer effort and improve the customer effort score at your company.

1. Make it easier for customers to call for help

Indeed, most companies want to create a tech-savvy customer experience where everything a potential customer needs should be at its disposal. More importantly, modern-day customers expect companies to deliver such a seamless experience.

In other words, customers don’t want to leave one channel of communication and move to another just to get their issues resolved or achieve their goals.

This means that companies will have to stay with the customers throughout their buyer journey and make themselves easily accessible across all possible touchpoints.

This can only be done if you start monitoring the customer journey at different touchpoints and making several multi-channel feedback options available to the customers.

These channels can be email surveys, QR codes, kiosks, SMS surveys, and more.

2. Improve self-services to lower effort

One of the most exciting customer experience-related innovations has been the advent of self-services, especially when dealing with an online customer journey. Such a tactic usually requires a large full-fledged knowledge base.

However, the “set-it-and-forget-it” mindset doesn’t work here. You will have to keep updating and enhancing the knowledge base to help customers deal with the increasing number of new issues.

Most importantly, you should optimize the placement of such a knowledge base on your website. We suggest you put information like FAQs and the NPS knowledge at the bottom of the web pages to lower the customer effort.

3. Keep negative feedback in check

Don’t jeopardize your online reputation just because you don’t feel like dealing with negative feedback. Negative reviews can impede business growth and, therefore, should be dealt with by showing the utmost care.

Keep a check on negative reviews from customers. Once you encounter them, do your best to resolve the issue and mitigate the impact of the negative feedback.

This will help close the negative feedback loop and increase customer lifetime value. Most importantly, use the negative feedback to improve customer experience and lower customer effort.

4. Improve customer service performance

How often do you evaluate customer service performance? Are you able to deliver a seamless customer support experience to modern-day customers that are exceptionally tech-savvy?

Such customers expect things to happen in a jiffy, which makes high effort detrimental to business growth.

Therefore, double down on continuous customer service improvement by investing in more customer support training. Create a system that helps you measure customer support performance.

5. Respond to customers quickly

Lastly, work towards reducing the average time it takes for you to respond to waiting customers. It helps improve the overall customer experience and lower the customer effort in a buyer journey.

What customer effort score benchmark scores should you be targeting? Well, we suggest you strive for an average response time of around 6 hours and an average resolution time of 24 hours.

This should be across all possible customer communication channels like chatbox, complaint site, email, and social media.

Wrapping up!

There you have it. We have shared the ins and outs of customer effort scores and helped you understand their significance in improving customer satisfaction.

We highly recommend you keep a close tab on how easily your potential customers interact with your products, services, and even employees at your companies!

With the customer effort score, you will be in a better position to quickly identify the issues indicating a bad customer experience and take appropriate actions.

Finally, the trick to improving customer satisfaction is to simply listen, analyze, and act when collecting customer feedback.

Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know in the comments. Also, don’t forget to check out other informative posts on the blog!

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