customer effort score

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Most of my clients use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric to track customer loyalty. I recommend they also measure the Customer Effort Score (CES) to get a true picture of customer satisfaction. Customers can prefer your brand over competitors, but still be frustrated by aspects of doing business with you.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a useful measure of the customer’s relationship with your company as a whole, and in many industries, you can obtain data to benchmark your NPS against competitors.

The Net Promoter Score identifies your “Promoters”, “Passives”, and “Detractors” with a simple survey that includes one important question: “On a scale of zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend (your company name) to someone else?” (See this article on Net Promoter Score for a detailed explanation of how to calculate and use this metric)

NPS seems to be most useful for B2C brands with a large volume of customers and transactions. It can be less useful for B2B brands with a lower volume of customers and transactions. And in my experience, NPS is not the best metric for tracking the customer experience at a day-to-day interaction level.

For example, customers might prefer your brand, but perhaps your customer service experience is subpar. Perhaps it is hard for customers to find answers to their questions on your website. Perhaps you make them jump through hoops when they want to make changes. It’s these little niggles that erode your brand experience over time.

While most business leaders believe that exceeding customer expectations builds customer loyalty, customer research tells a different story. The surprising fact is that there is no difference at all between the loyalty of customers whose expectations are exceeded vs. those whose expectations are simply met.

Effort reduction is the secret to customer loyalty. Customers want their problems solved quickly and easily, and the best way of describing what customers really want is “an effortless experience”.

It’s a surprising finding and one that stands in stark contrast to what is commonly published in the business media or presented by self-proclaimed customer experience gurus. Instead of getting your customers to say, “You exceeded my expectations,” you should strive to get your customers to say, “You made it easy for me.”

That’s where the Customer Effort Score (CES) comes in. It is typically structured using a Likert Scale as follows:

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “(Your company name) made it easy for me to … (insert relevant action here e.g. solve my issue, place my order, etc)”

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Somewhat Disagree
  4. Neither Agree nor Disagree
  5. Somewhat Agree
  6. Agree
  7. Strongly Agree

Send this survey after every customer transaction or customer service interaction. It is quick and simple for the customer to give you a score. From there you take an average of the CES scores obtained over the period (e.g. per week or month) and discuss the trends at your monthly metrics review meeting.

Realistically, the NPS survey question is something you can only ask each customer occasionally, whereas you can ask the CES survey question after every customer interaction to identify their pain points.

Effort reduction is the key. Customers just want to solve their problems and get on with their lives, so your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to do just that.

How can you make things easier for your customers?

  • Can you reduce the number of steps customers need to take?
  • Can you make it easier for customers to get answers to their questions?
  • Can you identify and solve the most common frustrations experienced by your customers?

Get your team together and make a prioritized list of the top 10 areas where you can make things easier for your customers. Fix the top item and track the improvements in your Customer Effort Score (CES) metric over time. Rinse and repeat.

Until next time…