Aug 31, 2022


Min Read


Divya Kandwal

What is CES (Customer Effort Score)? The complete guide


customer effort score

What’s the one age-old hack everyone tells you when you try to eat healthier? Don’t keep junk food in the house. There’s a simple reason behind this. If we really want a bag of chips- we’ll have to order it or go to a store and buy it. This requires effort. Unless the desire is too strong, most of us will simply not bother. The same logic applies to your business. If a customer has to put in a lot of effort to complete a transaction, chances are they’ll leave mid-way. The good news is- you can find out if that’s the case with your business by measuring your CES or ‘customer effort score’

What does CES stand for?

Customer Effort Score - Meaning and Definition

CES or customer effort score is a metric that tells you how much effort your customers have to put to transact with you. These transactions can be service interactions, looking up information, making a purchase, signing up for free trial, after-sale service, or more. 

Customer effort score is a transactional metric, meaning that is used AFTER a transaction has taken place. 

The question is usually phrased as 

How easy was it to solve your problem with <name of your company>?

It is measured on a scale of 1 to 7 with one being ‘not easy at all’ and 7 being ‘extremely easy’.

(Customer Effort Score scale)

CES (customer effort score) calculation 

Customer effort score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who rated 1, 2 or 3 from the percentage of people who rated 6 or 7. 

(CES formula)

We, at Numr CXM design a CES with these components

  1. The CES question
  2. A list of drill downs
  3. A comment box for free-text

After a customer interaction, a CES survey can be shown on the website page, app, or sent as an email, SMS, or Whatsapp. 

Once you have implemented a CES survey, the next logical question is, 

What’s a good customer effort score?

The answer (forgive the cliche) is- it depends. There is no universal benchmark for CES. Different companies measure customer effort in different terms. Some use a 1 to 7 or 1 to 5 scale, while others disregard numbers and use smiley faces. 

As a general principle, 

The higher the customer effort score, the better. 

A high score means that your customers find it easy to interact with you. A low score means that your processes are exhausting and you need to simplify them. 

Remember- you are your own competition. A good practice is to keep on trying to improve your CES constantly. 

Why is a good CES important?

Let’s turn the clock back to 2010. Harvard Business Review publishes a study with an incendiary title- ‘Stop trying to delight your customers’. People are puzzled. Isn’t delighting your customers the fastest way into their hearts (and their wallets) by extension? Customer delight fosters loyalty which in turns boost Growth. Turns out, it’s not as straightforward. The study found that, 

The lesser the effort it took for a customer to get a problem solved, the more likely they were to be loyal.  

As per the study, “94% of customers who reported low effort said they would repurchase, while 88% said they would increase their spending.”

In other words, 

If you want your customers to be loyal, make doing business with you easy and effortless

Here are 3 reasons why having a good CES is important for your business.

  1. A high customer effort score boosts Loyalty and Retention

As covered above, the lower the effort, the higher the loyalty. 

  1. A good CES lowers churn 

How many times have you started signing up for a service and given up midway because the process was too cumbersome? 

Every business struggles with churn. You can reduce customer churn by making it easier for your customers to interact with you. 

In fact, our insurance client lowered churn by 28% by simplifying their renewal process. You can read the full case study here

  1. Customer effort score boosts customer service ROI 

We perform Drivers Analysis on your CES score to find high impact factors. You can focus your resources on these high-impact areas to get the max bang for your buck. 

Now that we’ve talked about the why, the next step is when

When should you send a customer effort score survey?

As they say,

“it’s all about the timing.” 

By its very nature, CES is a transactional metric. This means that the best time to send a CES survey is AFTER an important transaction along the customer journey. 

Some common touchpoints for a CES survey are- 

  1. After a new user finishes signing up or onboarding

First impressions last. Finding out problem areas in your onboarding process and resolving them will start customer relationships on a fantastic note. 

  1. After a customer completes a purchase

For product-based business, sending a CES survey to a customer after they complete purchase is a great way to learn how complicated the purchase journey (from browsing to adding to cart to checkout)

  1. After renewal 

For SaaS, insurance, and finance companies sending CES surveys post renewal can help streamline the entire process. 

  1. After a service touchpoint

Customers usually only reach out to service agents when they have a problem. Send CES surveys after a customer has talked or messaged with a customer service agent to discover how easy and satisfactory the resolution process was. 

In the end, when you send your CES surveys will depend on your business and your goals. All companies are different and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to improving customer experience. 

So we would recommend sitting down with your CX vendor and identifying touchpoints that are important to your business.

Getting started with your CES surveys

As we always say, collecting data is only half of the equation. You need to know how to use that data to improve your bottom-line. 

The end-goal of all CX initiatives must be to improve revenue

While we don’t recommend measuring CES in-house (yes, we might be biased but here’s why), here’s a simplified process of setting up your CES survey- 

1. Identify important touchpoint along different stages of the customer journey

2. Create a survey for each of these touchpoints

3. Decide when to trigger the surveys (such as, immediately after the transaction, one day later, etc)

4. Automate and start measuring

5. Set triggers when a high-value customers gives a low CES score for an high-impact touchpoint

6. Analyze free text/ comments to identify emerging topics aren’t covered by options provided in the survey

7. Use statistical analysis to identify high-impact problems and allocate resources for max returns.  

If it sounds complicated to you, that’s because it is. But research by both HBR and Gartner has shown that, 

To sum up,

Our attention span is becoming short and our patience level even shorter. If your customers have to walk on tightrope, jump through hoops, and battle wild lions to complete a transaction- they will never be coming back. Measuring and actively reducing customer effort is how you can make sure they come back to you again and again and again. Hope this clear what does ces stand for to measurement process.

Want to make your customers obsessed with you? Get in touch with us and we’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

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