What Is Customer Effort Score (CES)? Definition & How to Measure


Editor’s Note: This article has been updated on July 7, 2023, to include new data and information.

The Gist: 

  • A critical metric. The customer effort score (CES) is essential for quantifying and improving customer experience. 
  • Several survey types. Brands can measure CES through several types of surveys, including the Likert scale, numbered scale and emoticon scale.
  • Limited in scope. The CES metric has limitations that require it to be used as part of a broader suite of customer experience metrics. 

In today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, a superior customer experience (CX) is more than just a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity. But how do we quantify and improve this elusive concept? Enter the customer effort score (CES), a powerful tool to gauge customer satisfaction and tailor unforgettable experiences.

Far from being just another buzzword, CES can act as your compass, guiding you toward more meaningful customer interactions and service excellence with the power of customer feedback.

In this article, we decode the customer effort score, revealing its value and practicality in crafting superior CX strategies.

What Is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer effort score (CES) is a metric used to determine the amount of effort it takes customers to accomplish a specific task with a brand. It’s one of several metrics that places hard values on a brand’s CX and often works in conjunction with metrics like the net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and customer churn rate (CCR).

“Customers get frustrated when something they want to do with your brand requires a lot of effort, or unexpected effort for them,” said Jeannie Walters, CEO and chief experience investigator at Experience Investigators. “The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a way to monitor how much effort customers feel is required of them to accomplish something with a brand.”

When to Use Customer Effort Score vs. Other Metrics

Most people use a combination of metrics to get a robust picture of their CX performance. However, there is a time and a place for everything. Let’s look at the distinct use cases for CES, NPS, CSAT and CCR.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES is useful for following a specific touchpoint or transaction. It’s also a useful tool for prioritizing customer journey improvements, said Walters.

“For example, you might have a CES survey at key points along the journey… If payment process is showing a low CES, that is an important thing to know. It’s also good for self-service options like finding answers in a knowledge base or solving an issue.”

When you have a high-effort service interaction, customer loyalty can take a hit. If you’re looking to streamline specific customer interactions and make a product or service more user-friendly, CES should be your go-to metric. 

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Unlike capturing data on one specific moment or interaction, net promoter score (NPS) is a good metric for those long-term customer loyalty questions and relationships. It’s measured by the customer’s experience as a whole, including the product attributes, price, brand and customer service altogether, according to Daniel Rodriguez, chief marketing officer at CX platform Simplr.

When combined, he said, “Customer Effort Score and NPS can build a more complete view of customer sentiment.”

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

The customer satisfaction score (CSAT) measures the degree to which a customer is happy with your product, service or a specific interaction they’ve had with your company. Like CES, CSAT is measured using a simple survey where customers rate their satisfaction on a scale, such as 1 to 5 or “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied.” 

It’s essential to remember that CSAT is a broad measure of customer satisfaction. It may not provide detailed insights into specific aspects of the customer experience, which is where CES can come in handy. 

Customer Churn Rate (CCR)

Your customer churn rate (CCR) is a key metric that reveals the percentage of customers who stop using your product or service over a given period of time. It’s an important indicator of customer satisfaction, product-market fit and customer loyalty.

While churn tells you customers are leaving, it doesn’t tell you why. That’s where CES becomes invaluable. By using CES alongside CCR, you can start to understand if customer effort impacts your churn rate. 

Related Article: 20 Customer Experience Metrics Critical for Your Business

How to Measure Customer Effort

The purpose of any customer effort score survey is to determine how much effort it takes for a customer to complete an interaction with your brand. These surveys tend to all look very similar but have some slight differences.

Types of Customer Effort Score Surveys

There are three commonly used types of customer effort score surveys:

Likert Scale

The Likert scale is a psychometric scale that uses a non-question statement to assess the level of user agreement.

For example, you might make the statement: “It was very simple to pause my subscription.”

And users could choose between a 5-point scale, where 1 represents “Strongly Disagree” and 5 represents “Stongly Agree.”

The Likert scale, which measures agreeability.

Today, many that employ a Likert scape for their customer effort score surveys also colorize the buttons from red to green.

Numbered Scale

The numbered scale is similar to the Likert Scale, but instead uses a question to assess the level of user agreement.

For example, you might ask: How easy was it to pause your subscription?

Users can select from a numbered scale poll, such as 1 through 10, with 1 being the most amount of effort and 10 being the least.

A numerical scale for measuring customer effort.

Emoticon Scale

Emoticons have a time and place, and this is one of them. From frowning to straight-lipped to smiling, they make it easy (and a little more fun) for customers to indicate how much effort it took them to complete an interaction.

An emoticon scale for measuring customer effort.

Customer Effort Score Questions

CES surveys can start with one of two things: a question or a statement. The customer effort score question you use might be:

  • On a scale from 1-7, how easy was it to interact with our product/service?
  • On a scale of “Very Difficult” to “Very Easy,” how would you rate your recent interaction with our customer service team?
  • How would you rate the ease of use of our product/service on a scale from 1-5?
  • Was it easy to find the information you were looking for on our website/app?
  • Did you find it easy to make a purchase/complete the transaction on our platform?
  • How much effort did you personally have to put forth to resolve your issue with our product/service?

An alternative to the customer effort score question is a CES survey statement, such as:

  • How much do you agree with the following statement: The company’s website makes buying items easy for me.
  • On a scale from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree,” please respond to this statement: The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.

According to Walters, brands can also include an open-ended follow-up question at the end of a customer effort score survey to ask for feedback on the response.

Customer Effort Score Calculation

To determine your company’s customer effort score, add up the total sum of responses, then divide that number by the total number of survey respondents.

Customer Effort Score Calculation: Total Sum of Responses / Number of Responses

For example, say you use a CES survey that asks for a rating of 1 through 10. In this scenario, 1 is most amount of effort and 10 is least amount of effort. Your total number of ratings adds up to 400 and 50 people responded to the survey.

400/50 = 8 out of 10

Interpreting CES Survey Results

Now you have your customer effort score calculation. But is it a good number?


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