The central aim of the CES (Customer Effort Score) metric is to reduce customer effort in solving product or service problems. Simply put, it is used to evaluate each interaction between the customer and the support they receive.
The CES asks customers to respond to one basic yet effective survey question, “how much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” Customers respond using a simple, elegant 5-point scale where 1 represents very low effort and 5 represents very high effort. They are then typically asked one follow-up question - “why?”- to identify concrete reasons for their response.
The CES has caught on with many businesses to become one of the most popular customer experience metrics. It is widely considered to be among the best measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty since, as Harvard Business Review reports:
- 94% of customers who have used a little effort to solve their problems show an intention to repurchase.
- 81% of customers who have used high effort intend to share their negative experiences with peers.
- Regular collection of CES surveys can improve issue-resolution rates by about 30%.
Here’s why CES works.
More Effort = Less Loyalty and Fewer Recommendations
Customers expect a seamless experience with little to no friction. Yet, according to a 2015 study of 330 participants, many customers say they have recently experienced inconsistent service (71%), unclear information (47%), communication problems across channels (35%), and/or delays in problem resolution (24%), all of which are identified as top reasons for customer dissatisfaction and, for 67% of customers, reason enough to abandon one brand for another.
Moreover, there is no question that greater levels of effort impact word-of-mouth. A customer is far less likely to recommend a business that is difficult to work with. In fact, businesses which are identified as low-effort experience 40% less churn than those which are considered high-effort.
For these reasons, reducing friction is imperative. Businesses will lose customers who must jump through hoops, repeat questions, or wait to solve whatever problems they might be experiencing. Therefore, soliciting their feedback via a CES survey is the only way to know if you are providing an effortless experience and, if not, how to improve. The time and effort you put into gathering this feedback will undoubtedly pay off.
More Effort = An Inferior Customer Experience
Customer retention is essential for your business’s survival and growth. And identifying where and how your customer experience is failing your customers must be your first step towards maintaining this loyalty.
Research shows that customers simply want to find what they need in a simple, fast, and effective way. In a massive study of 97,000 customers, a “low-effort” experience was defined in variety of ways with the top three definitions being:
- Not having to re-explain an issue during the course of a service interaction.
- Not being transferred during a service interaction.
- Not needing more than one contact to resolve an issue.
Matt Dixon, the author of The Effortless Experience, reports that businesses which are equipped to meet these demands come out on top. According to Dixon’s research, 88% of customers with low-effort experiences report an intent to increase spending with a company, compared to just 4% who report having had a high-effort experience.
Remember, to gain accurate insight into your overall customer experience, and how you can create an experience which requires the least amount of effort, you must gather feedback on all aspects of the customer’s journey from beginning to end. Each touch point, every interaction, is significant to the customer. To see only some touch points or transactions as indicative of your overall experience and performance can lead to inaccurate reasoning not to mention expensive wrong decisions which still don’t make your customers’ lives any easier.
CES Plays Well with Other Metrics
While CES provides a useful and easy-to-understand framework for measuring and understanding customer effort, it is but a single lens focused on one aspect of the customer experience – the amount of effort required during a specific interaction. To get a complete understanding of your customer experience, pair CES with other metrics. In doing so, you’ll be able to study your customers’ overall feeling towards you and your service.
On average, companies use a combination of 11 different metrics to measure customer experience. While 11 different metrics may be too many for some businesses, combining CES with, for example, with NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) could certainly yield a fairly complete and accurate snapshot of your overall customer experience.
Are you easy to work with?
Your business cannot afford the negative consequences of providing high effort experiences. If a customer is finding your business “difficult”, he or she probably won’t be your customer for long. However, as the research demonstrates, the easier you are to work with, the happier your customers will be. And happy customers mean increased loyalty, increased spending, and a greater competitive advantage.