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Customer Effort Score: How Hard is it to be Your Customer?

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 06/17/2013

Are you familiar with the Customer Effort Score (CES)?  It is rapidly gaining converts as a way to measure the transactions that make up your customer experience.

(Editor’s note: More details on the CES 2.0 can be found here.)

The Net Promoter Score, or NPS, measures your overall customer experience.  But it doesn’t show where to focus to improve your results.  Imagine telling your store manager, B2B sales team, or director of your call center only that “Your NPS scores are low. Fix them!”  Where do they begin?

Transactional measurements show what segments of your experience impact your customer loyalty. Some companies have tried to use NPS to measure transactions, but it was never designed for this.  Asking “Would you recommend your call center rep?” doesn’t work, as most customers have no desire to call your call center in the first place.  Similarly, “Would you recommend [Company] website”  causes confusion – are your customers recommending the company behind the website, the design, the functionality, or all three?  This is where the Customer Effort Score shines.

When customers have to expend more effort than they expect, they leave.  High effort equals low customer loyalty.  The CES helps you monitor this.

The CES was not around when I managed the customer experience for a Health Savings Account (HSA) provider, but we did know that the leading driver of our customer experience was the high difficulty of logging into our website.  When people had trouble logging into our website, they deposited less money and renewed less often.  The CES would have been a leading indicator of financial success.

You can find more details on the Customer Effort Score here.  It is typically just one question, ““How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” For example, ““How much effort did you personally have to put forth to login to your HSA website?” While the article calls for a 5-point scale, you could certainly use the same scale as is used for the rest of your survey.

I have found that a second question, “How did this effort compare to your expectations?” provides much-needed context.  Expectations frame the effort. If your customer expects a transaction to take little effort, and it takes a lot, you are at risk, as in our HSA website.  Customers do not expect to spend much energy logging in, so that effort reduces loyalty. Alternately, if customers expect high effort, then meeting this reality has far less impact on that loyalty.  At least, until a competitor makes it easy for them….

I really enjoy my Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) membership.  Among other benefits, we have regular calls where members of an industry segment discuss their challenges as customer experience leaders and ask for advice from their peers.  I attended a financial services call last month where we discussed the Customer Effort Score.  Members did not give permission for me to share their names, so I cannot disclose their companies.  But these were very large national firms whose names you would instantly recognize.

Multiple attendees shared their positive experience using the Customer Effort Score as a complement to NPS.  One even went so far as to say that the CES was a better predictor of loyalty than NPS. All who used the CES agreed that it helped them understand where they needed to focus improvements better than their previous methods.

I also use the Customer Effort Score in customer journey mapping. Journey mapping helps you understand how your customer navigates your customer experience.  Effort plays a large role, so it is important to include this in your map.  You can see an example of our maps incorporating the CES in this white paper.

Your customers are busy.  You are very fortunate that they spend the time to be your customer. Finding ways to minimize that effort is your most efficient way to make sure they remain a loyal customer.  Consider adding the Customer Effort Score to your transactional surveys.  Your customers will thank you for your consideration.


Are you using the Customer Effort Score today?  Share your experience in the comments, or send me an email at



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