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What’s Your Customer Effort Score? Here’s How To Measure It — and Why

Female customer uses her mobile device on a subway.
Customer effort score measures how easy it is for customers to use your company's products or services. [Zamrznuti tonovi / Adobe Stock]

It’s the gold standard for many organizations. Find out why a growing number of service leaders are tracking this customer service metric.

Are you tracking your customer effort score? If not, maybe you should. Many service leaders prefer this key performance indicator (KPI) over tried-and-true metrics like customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, and customer retention. 

That should come as no surprise. Our research shows that customers place a premium on ease and convenience: 61% would rather use self-service to resolve simple issues, while 74% expect to be able to do anything online that they can do in-person or by phone. 

With expectations like that, it’s no wonder so many companies keep an eye on customer effort. But how do you measure that — and more importantly, how do you improve it? Let’s take a few minutes to review what customer effort score really means, why it’s important, and what you can do to make yours even better. (If you’d like to skip ahead, just use the table of contents to jump to whichever section interests you the most.)

Table of contents

Put AI, automation, and data to work

The right mix of customer service channels and AI tools can help you become more efficient and keep customer effort to a minimum. Our guide reveals how high-performing service leaders make it happen.

What is a customer effort score?

A customer effort score (CES) is a scale that measures how easy it is for customers to use your company’s products or services. Companies can determine their scores through customer surveys, asking customers to rate their experience on a scale of “very easy” to “very difficult.” 

Consider some of the most frustrating customer service experiences you’ve had — they probably involved more steps and callbacks than expected. If a customer is transferred to multiple departments and has to repeat themselves several times, or they search your help center only to have to reach out by chat or phone anyway, that’s too much effort. The goal is to do the opposite: Make it as easy and straightforward as you can.

Why should you measure customer effort? 

In today’s competitive landscape, customer satisfaction is no longer enough to ensure success. It’s equally important for you to focus on making the customer experience as easy as possible. This is where measuring customer effort score comes into play.

By measuring CES, you can pinpoint areas where your customers are experiencing the most effort or frustration. Armed with this knowledge, you can take targeted actions to streamline these areas and make them more user-friendly.

High-effort experiences can lead to customer dissatisfaction and churn. On the other hand, low-effort experiences have been proven to drive customer loyalty. When customers find it easy to interact with a business, they’re more likely to remain loyal, make repeat purchases, and even become advocates for the brand. Our research shows that 88% of customers say good service makes them more likely to purchase again.

How do you measure customer effort?

Most organizations measure their customer effort score with follow-up surveys after a service interaction. These surveys might include questions like, “How easy did we make it to resolve your issue?” Response options are on a multi-point scale (strongly agree, agree, neither, disagree, strongly disagree). To calculate your customer effort score, find the percentage of those who selected the “agree” options. 

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to customer effort beyond a survey. Average handle time (AHT), the amount of repeat calls, and the number of transfers can add to the hurdles that customers have to jump over to get their issue resolved. One way to gain insight into these areas is to review contact center analytics to spot gaps and opportunities for improvement. 

Using a heat map to see where users navigate on your website is another good way to understand effort. Do patterns indicate that they easily find what they need on your help center or self-service portal? Review search terms to signal any gaps as well.

6 ways to improve your customer effort score

You can create a frictionless customer service experience — and improve your customer effort score — by giving customers what they need during their very first interaction. Here’s how:

1. Make it easy with self-service options

Reduce or eliminate the need for customers to contact a customer service representative with helpful, informative customer self-service, including your help center, customer portal, and customer service chatbots. Review search trends and have agents track requests to identify new patterns. Write knowledge base articles to answer recurring customer questions. Update your help center and chatbot messaging. And be sure to revisit search engine optimization (SEO) terms to ensure customers find your content first.

2. Have the right channels

Survey customers to understand their channel preferences. Keep an ear to the ground: Are customers asking for service on another channel that you haven’t considered yet? Stay up-to-date on emerging trends and technology as well, including new social media platforms and messenger apps. The more relevant channels you have, the less customer effort is required.

3. Speed up resolutions with workflows

Preconfigured workflows guide agents through processes to reach resolutions faster. For example, they can help agents report an error on a customer’s billing statement. Intelligent workflows also work on self-service channels to walk customers through simple processes on their own, such as how to initiate a return.

4. Connect your data

Seventy-nine percent of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, but 55% say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information. Create a single source of truth for data that connects teams and technology for a holistic view that goes well beyond service interactions. This way, if a high-value customer reaches out with a problem, the agent has access to details on the relationship and may choose to loop in a sales rep.

5. Assign the right agent

When customers connect with someone with the best skill set to solve their specific problem, whether that be institutional knowledge or a deep understanding of a process, the likelihood of a resolution increases. Try an omnichannel routing solution, which can be integrated across your service channels to automatically analyze case data and assign the right agent. These solutions can also predict demand based on volume across channels, geographies, and expertise. 

6. Stay proactive

Generative AI helps cut down on customer effort. AI analyzes data and offers recommended next steps for agents, such as follow-up questions, opportunities to up-sell, and ways to continue the engagement (for example, attaching a special offer to a customer’s profile). AI-powered chatbots deliver personalized responses to common questions. Plus, you can use AI on your website to recommend other relevant knowledge articles and content based on what a customer has already viewed on your help center.

Here’s the bottom line: creating seamless experiences will lead to a better customer effort score — not to mention greater customer loyalty, more repeat business, and stronger word-of-mouth. All it takes is a little extra effort on your part to ensure a little less effort for the people you serve. 

Maximize contact center ROI

Your contact center should be a modern, omnichannel engagement center that both agents and customers love. Learn how to maximize ROI with contact center software built into your CRM, powered by AI and automation.

Rebecca Mackenzie Director, Product Marketing

Rebecca is a seasoned marketing professional with over a decade of experience. Based out of Madrid, Rebecca is passionate about creating messaging and content that resonates with a global audience.

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