What Is Customer Effort Score? [Free CES Survey Template Included]

Improving your company’s customer experience score by just 10% can boost revenue by more than $1 billion.1 In fact, simply improving your Customer Effort Score, also known as CES, can have a long-lasting impact on customer loyalty. 

A study by Gartner found that notably, 96% who had high-effort experiences reported being disloyal, compared to only 9% of customers with a low-effort experience2

The CES measures how much effort is required from a customer to complete a specific interaction with a business. As consumers ourselves, we can easily understand how every additional task that we need to take to receive a result, hampers our experience. 

By measuring your CES, you can uncover interactions that require too much work from customers. You can then decrease the amount of effort needed to give customers an ideal experience.

In this blog, we answer essential questions — the what, why, and how — about customer effort score. You can use the links below to jump to the section that interests you the most.


What is customer effort score (CES)?

Customer effort score or CES is an important customer service metric that lets you measure the effort your customers put into performing an activity that involves interacting with your business. It is most commonly monitored through CES surveys that customers fill once an action, such as a purchase, is completed. 

Here’s what a CES survey typically looks like –

Screenshot of a CES survey

Note: A high-effort customer experience involves:
– Having to contact a company multiple times to get in touch with them
– Being pushed around from one team to another
– Having to repeat information
– Experiencing delays between responses

The CES allows you to reflect on the customer experience you deliver – a low CES tells you that your team is providing a good experience, and a high CES indicates that something is wrong. 

Why is CES important?

The CES rose to fame in 2010 when the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published the article “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.” The article discussed how the benefits of measuring CES and lowering the metric far outweighed the benefits of momentary customer ‘delight’. 

Given below are the benefits of measuring CES:

1. Boosts customer loyalty

The most effective way to boost customer loyalty is to make it easier for customers to accomplish their goals. Research from the article showed that 94% of customers who had low effort experiences said they would purchase from a company again, while 88% claimed they would increase spending amounts. When you solve customer issues quickly and easily, they are more likely to stick with your brand.

2. Improves customer experience  

Compared to the standard CSAT score, the CES gives you a better understanding of the underlying reasons behind a poor customer experience. This is because customer satisfaction scores usually focus on single interactions instead of looking at the big picture. 

The CSAT surveys ask customers about phone calls, tickets, or live chats, seeking information about whether the agent the customer spoke with was helpful or not. These are important factors that you should measure on each channel. However, these surveys don’t usually take other aspects of the customer experience into account.

For example, the Harvard Business Review article said that customers were more likely to become dissatisfied and leave a brand if they are expected to re-explain themselves or be switched to another channel. This rings true for customers that got transferred to another representative during the customer support process or those who had to contact a company about the same problem multiple times.

The CES highlights customer challenges at every touchpoint that you can remedy, thereby improving the customer experience you deliver.

3. Improves brand image

When a brand delivers low-effort experiences, it automatically gives customers little to no room to complain about it on social media or other mediums. A brand that creates seamless customer experiences might actually benefit from the positive word of mouth that it receives. Using your CES, you can draw inferences about NPS and customer loyalty. 

4. Lower business costs

Gartner research3 shows that brands can increase repurchase rates, decrease service costs, and reduce employee attrition by reducing customer effort.

Image with the benefits of measuring CES by Gartner Research

To further enunciate the importance of CES, let’s take a look at how this metric impacts the following three key customer service metrics.

The net promoter score (NPS) is a measure of your customer’s willingness to recommend your brand to others. This metric is also an indicator of a customer’s loyalty – if your customer is happy doing business with you, they’re more likely to send some referrals your way. As we’ve discussed earlier in this blog, high-effort experiences can impact customer loyalty and leave a significant dent in your NPS.  So, a good CES increases the chance of improving your NPS.

The customer satisfaction score (CSAT) tells you how satisfied your customers are with your service or product. Delivering high-effort experiences is equivalent to providing unsatisfactory experiences that risk putting your customers’ satisfaction in jeopardy. Thus, a healthy CES can lead to a higher CSAT score.

Agent productivity
Agent productivity helps you monitor the efficiency of a particular agent. Although the CES does not directly impact agent productivity, it highlights the reasons that cause high ticket volumes. The Gartner study also indicates that agents feel better about their jobs when they deliver better experiences, and their intent to stay increases up to 17%. This means that by improving your CES, you can indirectly boost agent productivity. Additionally, using the CES surveys, you can identify aspects of your training and support processes that need improvements.

How to create a CES survey

Measuring your CES is as simple as asking customers questions such as: “How easy was it to get your issue resolved?” or “ how easy did <brand name> make it for you to <activity>?”

You can measure each question on a scale of one to seven, with one representing a response like “strongly disagree” or “very difficult” and seven representing “strongly agree” or “very easy.”

Here are three simple steps which you can follow to build your CES survey:

Step 1: Set your goal and then progress to build an action plan
Do you want to assess the overall ease of doing business with your brand? Or do you want to focus on a particular aspect, such as customer support? Leading with a clear goal in mind will help in building a survey that is short and to the point.

Step 2: Frame guidelines for sending the survey
Identify the best time for your agents to share the survey. You can gather accurate feedback while the customer service experience is still fresh in your customers’ minds. So, agents can send a feedback form soon after they resolve a customer’s issue.

Step 3: Be proactive with your communication
While sharing the survey, spell out the importance of your customer’s feedback and help them understand that their contribution is valuable to your business. 

Likewise, when customers have given negative feedback, then follow up with them to find out more and offer a different solution.

Here’s a sample survey question to model yours after:

Screenshot of a sample CES survey

You can also integrate your customer service software with a customer feedback tool. 

For instance, the Nicereply-Freshdesk integration works by sending CES surveys after every closed ticket. Your customers can answer questions and provide suggestions about how they think you could improve. The feedback is saved in Nicereply, and all of your CES statistics are automatically tracked and updated. Your live rating is then pushed directly to each ticket, along with information about customers’ suggestions.

Screenshot of the CES survey section in Nicereply

How to measure CES? 

Here’s the rule of thumb when measuring your CES – for a scale that ranges from 1-7 with one denoting the most negative response (very difficult to solve the issue) and seven denoting the most positive response (very easy to solve the issue), then the higher your score, the better. 

Think of each score as a weight. As you go up the scale toward seven, the weight gets lighter, requiring less effort from customers to lift. As you go down toward one, the load gets heavier, meaning more effort.

To calculate your company’s CES, find the average score of all survey answers. A CES score of more than five is considered “good”.

Asking CES questions to customers can theoretically help you gain insights at just about any stage in the customer journey.

It’s vital to measure CES after interactions such as:
– Website visits
– Any purchase or sales interactions
– Customer service encounters across all channels
– Checkouts
– Consultations

You can combine responses from each interaction to find your overall CES, and identify potential issues with customer effort by keeping an eye out for scores that are lower after certain interactions in comparison to others.

For example, if your scores are lower for questions asked after checkouts than any other interaction, you may need to redesign the checkout process on your site.

If your 7-point scale has one denoting the most positive response and seven denoting the most negative response, then the lower your score, the better. Everything we’ve discussed so far in this section will apply the other way around.

How to improve your CES?

Here are five easy ways to bring down the effort your customers need to take in every customer interaction

1. Be accessible on every touchpoint 

Customers today expect brands to deliver seamless experiences that do not require them to hop from one channel of communication to another. By being present on the right channels and offering a unified experience, you can reduce the effort customers put into getting in touch with you.  

To make sure you’re easily accessible to your customers, start mapping out the entire customer journey and noting various touchpoints. Once you have all the touchpoints recorded, you can then choose the support channels convenient for your customers to reach out to you. 

Screenshot of a customer journey map

The channels that customers expect you to be present on will vary based on the nature of your business. For instance, the food delivery app Swiggy, realized that most of its customers’ activities occur inside the app. So, they moved their customer support inside the app too. This way, customers don’t have to leave the app to receive help. 

On the other hand, if you’re an e-commerce brand, different customer touchpoints occur in different channels. Customers look for your product on your website and need assistance with details about a product and its availability. Once the customer has made a purchase, you can use the phone or chat channel to communicate shipping details. Providing support on chat, call, and email will make it easy for your customers to reach out to you.

2. Improve the self-service you offer 

Over 60% of US consumers prefer an automated self-service, such as a website or mobile app, for simple customer service tasks.4  So, it’s critical for you to improve the self-service that you offer. Here are a few ways in which you can do that: 

Periodically update your knowledge base: Providing a good self-service experience doesn’t end with setting up a full-fledged knowledge base. You need to continuously enhance and update your knowledge base to provide a satisfactory self-service experience. When you don’t do that, a customer looking for a question might have to read through different articles that contain similar content before finding the most accurate one. 

You can do this by combing through your knowledge base periodically to identify articles or FAQs that haven’t been categorized, deleting duplicates, and updating the ones that contain outdated information. 

At Freshdesk, we refreshed our knowledge base a few years after it was set up. Here’s an image that compares the details of the knowledge base before and after the cleanup.  

Screenshot comparing data before and after cleaning the Freshdesk knowledge base
Offer instant help with a chatbot: Including a chatbot in your customer service portal creates a first-line of support that’s available around the clock. 

A chatbot can provide low effort experiences by surfacing relevant articles from your knowledge base instead of the customer going through multiple pieces before finding the right one.

AI-enabled chatbots can even follow up with relevant suggestions based on the customer conversation to offer a complete one-touch experience. For instance, if a customer asks whether tickets for a movie are available or not, chatbots can answer that question and also follow up with an option to book tickets right away. 

Screenshot of a chatbot conversation

3. Offer support in multiple languages

When you’re supporting a global customer base, language can pose a barrier in delivering a good experience. A customer who doesn’t speak the same language will have a hard time trying to converse with you and might leave feeling frustrated. 

Expecting your customers to manually translate every message received takes you further away from maintaining a good customer effort score. To prevent this, you can hire agents proficient in speaking/writing your customers’ language or set up teams dedicated to providing support in various languages.  

If hiring a team of linguists who can provide customer support in different languages is not a feasible option, you can integrate your ticketing software with translation tools like Google Translator or Awaken Translator. These tools offer real-time translation and typically work in the following way: 

– A customer starts a conversation in their native language.
– The tool then translates the customer’s message in the language that your agent is comfortable with.
– Once the agent responds, the tool automatically translates the agent’s response to the customer’s language. 

Screenshot of the Awaken Translate and Freshdesk integration

By doing this, you can make sure that your customers aren’t going through an experience that requires a high effort from their end. This can also help in improving your CSAT customer satisfaction ratings.  

4. Reduce your average response time

To minimize your customer effort score, you need to ensure that your customers’ wait time is always low. 

While it’s important to give each customer issue an equal priority, some customer issues are more pressing than others and need to be given a higher priority. More often than not, when a customer bombards you with messages, they are facing a huge roadblock and need immediate assistance. For instance, a customer whose software has crashed or payment has failed will take the effort to reach out to you repeatedly. Responding to these burning issues on time is extremely important. 

Whereas, common questions that deal with how-tos can have an extended window within which the agent has to respond to the customer. 

To ensure that your team prioritizes burning issues and that no customer is left hanging, you can set up different SLA and escalation management policies for different products, channels, and types of issues. Along with this, you can also set up automation rules that sort and prioritize issues based on certain keywords. This way, you can ensure that customers can get in touch with an agent quickly without having to flag the issue repeatedly.

Screenshot of SLA management on Freshdesk

Pro tip – Record important customer details: Store important details of your customers that you might require to assist them such as their account ID, website URL, etc. By doing this, your customers need not repeat these details each time and can get faster resolutions.

5. Invest in training and onboarding new agents

Most customers try to find a solution on their own and contact support as a last resort. A customer who gets in touch with you has already put in some effort to find a solution. So, your team needs to be well equipped to provide the right solution instantly. Here are a few ways in which you can help your team provide solutions swiftly:  

Create internal help-guides: Setting up an internal knowledge base of sorts will make it easy for your agents, especially the new recruits to look and find relevant information. You can use this to publish recent product updates, the product roadmap, etc. 

Find new ways to onboard your team: Innovating your method of training can help your agents learn faster. You can experiment with interactive videos and tutorials. At Freshworks, we use the Freshworks Academy, a portal that contains self-paced courses. 

You can make learning fun by gamifying the entire process for your agents with periodic quizzes and contests. You can set up incentives to learn by giving the top performers rewards.

Invest in agent-facing bots: By deploying a chatbot with interactive self-serve modules for complex or repetitive customer issues, you can help your team offer accurate responses and solutions faster. 

6. Innovate and find new ways to delight customers

Technology is evolving every day, and brands are looking at innovative ways of delivering low-effort experiences. You can integrate different apps with your customer support software to reduce your customer effort score. So you need to keep an eye out for tools that can help reduce the customer’s effort. 

For instance, Freshdesk has a proactive customer service module that can help you improve your customer effort score. By identifying issues and offering a solution in advance, you’re eliminating the customer’s effort to contact your team and find out for themselves. Freshdesk also offers a proactive help widget that identifies when a customer is frustrated and immediately jumps to their assistance. 


Screenshot of proactive customer service by Freshdesk

You also leverage the Freshmarketer-Freshdesk integration to be more proactive. This integration lets you view the activities a customer performed on your website or app before reaching out to you. Instead of asking a customer to spell out their issue, you can use a session replay to see what went wrong where. This way, you can offer faster resolutions and improve your customer effort score. With this integration, you can automatically trigger a popup each time a customer displays frustration signals like dead clicks and rage clicks.

To sum up –

Today, brands often focus only on making sure that they aren’t delivering a poor or unsatisfactory experience and ignore the finer details. In the course of this, the effort that customers put into getting their issues resolved is often overlooked. Since products and services that offer effortless experiences are more sought after, you need to focus on improving your customer effort score. This way, you can deliver better experiences, improve customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and reduce churn. 

1 – https://www.zonkafeedback.com/blog/measure-customer-satisfaction-one-simple-metric/
2 – https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/effortless-experience-explained/
3 – https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/unveiling-the-new-and-improvedc-customer-effort-score/
4 – https://www.customerthermometer.com/customer-service/customer-service-and-satisfaction-statistics-for-2020/

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