What Is Customer Effort Score (CES)? Your Guide for 2023

Uncover a definition and four benefits of measuring customer effort

What Is Customer Effort Score (CES)? Your Guide for 2022
Contact CentreInsights

Published: February 1, 2023

Charlie Mitchell

Customer effort score is often a powerful predictor of engagement, loyalty, and recurring purchases. It means that customers find it easy to engage with the brand and can get their issues resolved without too much hassle.

Organizations can collect customer effort insights and calculate a CES rating at many points across the purchase journey, from the transaction itself to post-purchase support.

Indeed, the metric is commonly used to measure contact center efficiency and ensure that support operations are running smoothly. Yet, if measured at other touchpoints, it may garner additional insights into the browsing experience, buying journey, delivery process, and more.

What Is Customer Effort Score? Definition and Origin

The customer effort score is a key performance indicator (KPI) that measures how easy it is to do business with a company.

Organizations can measure CES on a numbered scale, typically from one to three, one to seven, or one to ten.

First proposed in 2010 – within a popular Harvard Business Review article entitled: “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” – the measure has gained much traction within the CX space.

The article highlights research from The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which found that customers prioritize getting their problems solved quickly and efficiently.

Currently, Gartner owns CEB, and a more recent study from the analyst firm finds that 94 percent of customers with low effort interactions will make another purchase, compared to just four percent of those who encounter high efforts.

Again, this underlines the significance of measuring and improving CES if organizations are to accrue maximum value from every customer.

Why Do You Need to Measure CES?

Here are four reasons benefits to measuring a customer effort score.

1. Gauge the Pain Points Within the Customer Journey

Pain points within the customer journey add effort. By measuring customer effort across various customer journeys, companies can get to grips with where their biggest frictions lie. They may then isolate these journeys and prioritize them when engaging in CX transformation initiatives.

Also, companies can take this down to a more granular level and identify which touchpoints disrupt the flow of seamless experiences. Customer journey analytics is an excellent enabler for such a strategy, providing insights that enhance the value of CES.

2. Estimate the Likelihood of Repeat Purchases and Referrals

A fast and straightforward experience is more likely to translate into lasting loyalty, and often, it can even trump product delight and other types of value addition.

By measuring CES, organizations can invest in and address efficiency and speed – the top two factors customers will prioritize. Those who find a speedy resolution to their query are also more likely to refer others and return for a repeat purchase, increasing the lifetime value of each customer.

3. Aggregate Feedback at Low Costs

CES surveys are simple and affordable, making the KPI a viable option for organizations of every size. Of course, companies can leverage a purpose-built customer experience management (CXM) solution to automate the survey process, which will cost more. Yet, generic or free survey tools available online are perhaps just the ticket.

Also, the formula and calculation process is simple, so organizations can measure average CES using a spreadsheet, even if they do not have advanced analytical tools. However, this may add effort to the reporting process, with CXM tools can reduce.

4. Obtain Actionable Insights

CES insights are inherently actionable as they inform organizations of a simple, straightforward fact: it was more difficult than expected for the customer to complete this task.

As such, the customer may initiate measures that simplify the customer journey, remove friction, and speed up the transaction, decision, or resolution.

Calculating Customer Effort Score

CES measurement typically leverages a seven-point scale, where the customer answers the following question:

How easy was it for you to solve your query today? Answer on a scale of one to seven, with seven being extremely easy and one being extremely difficult

However, contact centers typically ask the question after a customer service interaction. Companies can adapt the question to the specific touchpoint to measure customer effort. For example:

  • After a checkout – How easy was it for you to complete your transaction today?
  • After a browsing experience – How easy was it to find what you were looking for?

However the question is phrased, the use of a scale is a permanent fixture within the questions, as it paves the way for companies to use the following CES formula:

The formula gives a score between one and seven, which is the mean average across the customer base.

There are also software solutions that will perform the calculation for you. For example, Delighted by Qualtrics helps automate the survey creation, distribution, and analysis process, while InMoment offers detailed CES analytics, dashboards, and filters.

Quick Tips to Improve CES in 2023

The first step to reducing customer effort is isolating where frictions lie. CES helps here, especially if companies can split it across various call reasons. Doing so will enable them to spot which experiences contain the most irritating friction points, which they may then address.

Other quick ideas to reduce customer effort include:

  • Reducing repeat contacts to limit how often customers get in touch.
  • Walking the troublesome customer journeys to experience the frustrations first-hand. Such an approach adds color to the pain points.
  • Shifting certain contacts across channels, so that the agent can handle the issue as swiftly as possible.

CES is fast becoming a stalwart contact center KPI. Discover more in our article: 40 Contact Center KPIs to Start Tracking Now



Customer Engagement CenterKnowledge ManagementUser ExperienceWorkforce Optimization

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