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Topic(s): Metrics & Methodology Customer Experience

Customer Effort Score (CES): everything you need to know

Customers nowadays want everything quick and easy and we can't really blame them for that. Offering the ultimate customer convenience has become a crucial focus for organizations to attract and retain your customers.

Long queues, complex registrations, having to wait forever to talk to customer support or browsing a legacy website with excessive loading times. It can be the last straw that will make your customers leave you for someone else. 

That's why it's up to those organizations to provide their customers with a seamless experience throughout their customer journey. CES, or Customer Effort Score, is the perfect metric to measure convenience at certain transactional customer touchpoints in the customer journey.


Table of content

What is CES (Customer Effort Score)?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a survey key metric that shows companies how simple or difficult it is for customers to do business with them. It measures how much effort a customer has to put in to use a product or service, acquire information about its usage, or address a problem. In other words: how convenient is it for your customer to do business with your company? We consider it to be an essential part of any voice of the customer program. 

Customers usually complete a brief survey after a particular interaction (or a customer touchpoint) along the customer journey with a company in which they indicate how their experience was. They are usually asked to rank the effort required on a scale of "extremely difficult" to "very easy".

CES surveys can be embedded immediately on a website page, in an app, or sent through email after a certain trigger or event. More on that later! 

CES surveys are quantitative, so it is recommended to add qualitative or open-ended questions where clients can talk about their experiences. Asking them "why?" allows them to express precisely what they liked or didn't like. These responses contain the most useful and practical information that will help you make the experience more seamless in the future, so you can retain your customers better. After all, a score remains just a score if you don't know what drives it.

Customer effort score survey


Customer Effort Score Calculation formula

The formula for measuring CES is the total of all customer effort scores divided by the total number of survey responses. The end result will tell you how much work your customers put in when dealing with your company on average.

The average of all your customers' scores determines your overall customer effort score: a high average implies that your firm makes things simple for its clients. Customers who put too much effort into dealing with your business will likely go to another brand.

It's important to know that no matter how much effort you put in, your CES survey does not tell you how satisfied your consumers are with your brand. It only helps you to better understand how your clients see your product or service in terms of usability and experience at a certain point in the customer journey.

visual CES-01

A bit of history about CES

With the publishing of an HBR article titled Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers in 2010, the Customer Effort Score gained traction. It states that the best approach to improve customer loyalty is to make the interactions with your company easier and more effortless.

Another major contribution to the popularity of this type of survey came from "The Effortless Experience", a book written by the Corporate Executive Board. It indicates that the amount of effort a consumer has to put in when interacting with a company is the most important element in determining whether or not they would continue doing business with a company or recommend it again in the future.

According to the findings, a high level of customer effort decreases brand loyalty. However, a low level of effort doesn't quite lead to customer loyalty either.

Meaning, if a customer has to do a lot of effort to solve a problem, they probably won’t shop at your store or refer it to their entourage. In the meantime, it is not guaranteed that customers will continue to shop at your store if their needs are met with no effort. It is basically something that you need to do in order to dodge bad word of mouth and to make your customers come back for more in the future.

Why should you measure CES?

Customer Effort Score helps you measure customer convenience and determine future behavior. Making customers' lives easier is a faster and more effective way to win their loyalty and retain them. This is especially true when you learn that one of the biggest factors of customer dissatisfaction is having to wait forever for a response when a problem arises.

  • CES shows you purchasing patterns.

When you make every touchpoint in your buyer’s journey easier, it is very likely that they will come back again. Customers dread talking on the phone for hours to customer service or having to refresh every time when they order something online. So if they can avoid this, they sure will. According to the Harvard Business Review, a high Customer Effort Score is one of the best indications for future purchase behavior, with 94% of consumers who reported little effort saying they would likely buy a product again.

  • CES shows you the possibility of a customer referral

A customer will probably recommend your product or service if they had a good experience with your company. But they will definitely criticize your business if they have to deal with long interactions and hard transactions. You see, customers feel a certain social responsibility to inform others if they had a terrible experience with a certain company so that people won’t experience what they have gone through.

According to the same HBR study, 81% of customers who reported a lot of effort stated they would tell people bad things about the organization.

  • Customer loyalty can be predicted by CES.

Customer effort, rather than customer satisfaction, can sometimes be a greater predictor of customer loyalty. Clients want a reliable, low-effort service more than they want special incentives from a company. Don’t get us wrong, everyone loves a good discount, but if that discount comes at the price of having to wait 3 months for the shipping then maybe the perks will be overlooked for the sake of the service. According to a Gartner survey, 96% of consumers who had high-effort experiences were disloyal, whereas only 9% of those who had low-effort experiences were.

  • CES identifies specific pain points along the journey

The survey is simple, short, and right to the point. It provides you with information on one touchpoint of the customer experience. You don’t have to do a lot of guesswork to know where there is friction in your process. You can simply ask your clients and they will help you improve whatever it is that’s making them dissatisfied.


When should you measure CES?

You can send out your CES survey after any interaction that could potentially cause friction - especially those key touchpoints that are crucial for your customers' journey. 

Here's a few concrete examples:

  • Following a purchase (or abandoning a cart)

Sending out a CES survey to clients that have purchased something from your business is a wonderful method to get real-time feedback on which improvements you need to implement in order to make the buying process easier.

  • Following an interaction with customer service

You can send out a CES survey after a customer’s interaction with your customer support team. This allows you to rapidly determine how structured your support team is and if there are any required changes to improve overall efficiency. You could also send this survey once a client finishes reading a knowledgebase article, as it will allow you to determine the value of your material and whether it is helpful or not.

  • After a subscription sign up

You can send out a survey to your clients when they complete their onboarding process with your business. This way your product team can benefit from it as well. By identifying the pain points in every step of the customer journey, the product team can make alterations and improvements that will make the product or service more user-friendly.

How to improve your Customer Effort Score?

In short: the best way to improve your CES score is to ask for open feedback so you can identify the reason behind the score and fix what's going wrong.

Whatever KPI you use, adding at least one open-ended question in your survey is an absolute must. The best part? It will not ruin your response rate, on the contrary. Because if a customer can't even give the reason why he is satisfied or dissatisfied with a certain interaction, why even bother giving your opinion? 

Our go-to question is: "why did you give us this score"? This type of question leaves an opportunity for your customers to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings regarding their experience - without influencing the answer with question bias. 

As a result, you will be able to look beyond the score with reliable and objective customer insights. By fixing the pain points in the experience you’re offering to your customers and making things easier for them, they will understand that you care about them and will eventually come back for more.

And, thanks to Hello Customer's artificial intelligence ISAAC, you won't have to analyze your open feedback manually. Thanks to detailed feedback topic categorization and sentiment analysis, you will discover in no time what still needs improvement - and how crucial it is that you fix it. 

CES compared to NPS and CSAT

CES, unlike NPS, does not give a full and overall picture of the company, but it does provide insights into key process improvements. You can do this by linking the CES survey questions to specific processes and including the output in continuous improvement programs.

Here are some great examples of Customer Effort Score Question Wording you can use:

    • How much do you agree with the following statement:

      • The company’s service made it easy for me to make the purchase.

      • The company’s website makes shopping easy for me.

      • This service chat helped me resolve my issue easily. 

      • The company’s website made it easy for me to file a complaint.

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score approach relies on a single question to measure a customer's loyalty to a brand or company. This makes it a suitable metric for relational surveys. Instead of asking how pleased consumers are with their connection with your company, NPS asks, "How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague on a scale of 0 to 10?”

The idea is that a pleased client who is eager to suggest your business, product, or service is more likely to be(come) a loyal customer.

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Another very well-known customer satisfaction metrics is the Customer Satisfaction Score. It allows your clients to rate their satisfaction with your company, product, or service. After being asked "How would you rank your overall happiness with us?", respondents score their satisfaction on a 5-point scale ranging from highly unsatisfied (1) to very satisfied (5). It's a great way to gauge customer happiness at key touchpoints. CSAT ratings demonstrate the impact of a team's efforts on consumers. It's a consumer-oriented metric that's easy to use. It may be used to improve customer relations, improve training methods, and create new goods and services.

Still hesitating if CES is the right metric for you? Discover our e-book NPS, CSAT or CES?


The customer effort score is a simple and effective method for determining how much work your clients put into their interactions with you. It can help you measure whether they will continue dealing with your business and how pleased they are with your company, product, or service at a certain touchpoint.

In order to get the best out of CES, you need to add open-ended questions so that people can explain the reasons behind the score they gave. This allows you to get tangible and useful information out of it.

Getting feedback from your CES surveys can definitely help you enhance your customer experience strategy. And thus, it will help you keep your customers and optimize your revenues.