By Josh Peacock In Best Practices, KPIs, Metrics | April 2023

How to get more from your Customer Effort Score (CES)

What is your Customer Effort Score (CES)

Customer Effort Score (CES) is an important metric that provides valuable insight on the performance of your customer experience. It is measured by asking your customers a single survey question on how easy they find it to interact with your product, find the information they need or to get a customer support issue resolved.

Why your CES matters

Measuring CES allows you to understand how effortless your customers find your customer experience. It is a straightforward, and easy to implement, metric that studies have shown is strongly correlated with important business outcomes. For example:

  • Customer effort more reliably predicts your customer loyalty and, ultimately, your customer churn
  • CES helps predict the likelihood of future purchases
  • Customer effort is a strong indicator of customer sentiment

It makes sense. Your customers just want to use your product to do what they need as effortlessly and conveniently as possible. And providing an effortless experience for your customers will lead to greater customer loyalty and retention.

Why is customer loyalty so important? Customer loyalty positively impacts most of your most important metrics for growing a successful business. Loyal customers, those who enjoy an easy and convenient experience, are less likely to churn. They make repeat purchases from your business and are more likely to become an advocate for your product and your company. They have a high lifetime value, deliver strong unit economics and, ultimately, help drive you towards building a sustainable business. Simply, they are better for business.

Get more from your CES

So we know CES is a high-powered metric that provides valuable insight into your overall customer experience, and is a strong leading indicator on some of your most important business metrics. And we know it is a simple and easy way for your customers to evaluate your company. However, as with most of your key metrics, CES does not provide the entire picture on your overall customer experience and there are some limitations it is important to understand. Some of these limitations include:

  • Depending on when the survey is implemented, CES can be measured on a specific interaction and therefore does not provide information on the overall experience your customer has with your business
  • It only measures whether your customers found a specific interaction difficult and therefore does not provide information on what made the interaction difficult
  • There is no segmentation across your customer base and no segmentation based on where in the customer journey they experienced difficulty

So measuring your CES is only one part of the story. It is important that you collect your customer feedback in a way that allows you to uncover meaningful insight and use that insight to drive overall improvement in your customer experience.

Analysis and segmentation of your results

One way to get more out of your CES metric is by analyzing and segmenting your survey results to identify common patterns, or themes, in the types of difficulties your customers are having and track how these issues trend over time. You can segment your survey results based on the common patterns you identify, implement initiatives aimed at improving each specific customer issue, and track the results of each segment to see if the initiatives you implemented are positively having an impact on addressing your customers' issues.

Below are some common approaches to segmenting and analyzing your CES results to better understand customer effort and areas for improvement.

New vs. returning customers

A good option for understanding your CES results more deeply is to segment your customers based on whether they are new customers or returning customers. For example, you may identify that it is your newer customers that are finding it more difficult to use your product, or interact with your business, and therefore you need to focus more attention on the earlier part of your customers journey with you.

Additionally, to get a more direct indication of your onboarding experience for new customers, you could also implement your CES surveys directly after customer onboarding is completed. You will then be able to segment these results specifically, and collect data on how easy your customers find your onboarding experience. This will provide useful insights into the performance of your customer onboarding and whether it needs to be a focus area for improvement.

After a customer support interaction

Analyzing the results from your CES surveys captured directly after a customer support interaction will give you a strong indication of how your customers find interacting with your support organization. Further, you can also drill down on the specific type of customer support interaction your customer experienced to analyze and benchmark the different types of support you offer.

For example, you can break these results down by the support channel where the interaction occurred. You can do this by segmenting your results after a self-service support interaction where your customer reads an article on your help center, segmenting the results across chat, email and in-person interactions, or even by the customer support agents your customers interact with. This will help you pinpoint the specific areas in your support organization where you can improve your customer experience.

Additionally, you can also couple the results from your CES surveys with your customer support data to identify specific product features or customer interactions with your product which are triggering the friction in your customer experience.

After a customer purchase or subscription sign up

Whenever your customer has an interaction with your company that leads to them making a purchase or signing up for a subscription is a key point in the customer journey. Therefore it is important to analyze the CES survey results that were collected immediately after the interaction that led your customer purchase or sign up. This will provide valuable insight into the level of effort that led to the purchase and can provide useful information on areas for improvement that may increase your conversion.

Ask open-ended questions

Closed questions, such as those asked in your CES survey, are easy to collect and provide you with hard numbers that are easy to measure, analyze and track. However, an important way to get more out of your CES results is to include open-ended questions following the initial CES survey response to gain deeper context, and additional insight, on the initial score your customer provided. Asking these types of follow up questions allows you to gather more qualitative information on what led them to select a particular score, and allows for more in-depth analysis and segmentation of your CES results. They allow you to hear directly from your customers, in their own words, which often adds a level of nuance to how you view your quantitative CES trends. You may also learn a customer issue or customer perspective you had not considered previously.

What are open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are a free-form survey question that provide your customers with an open-text format to respond to the question in their own words. They are broad questions and allow your customers to provide detailed answers. Unlike your CES survey question, the response is not limited to a preset list of answers.

How to ask good open-ended questions

Understanding how to ask a good open-ended question is important because the way you ask the question, more often than not, will influence the type of answer your customers provide in response.

Below are some best practices to keep in mind when designing your CES follow up questions:

Keep in mind the reason for your follow up question. The goal of asking your customers a follow up question to the CES survey is to gain a deeper understanding of why your customers selected a particular score and the reasons behind their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It is therefore important that you design a follow up question that elicits this type of response from your customers.

Avoid questions where it is easy to respond with a one-word answer. It is obvious but also very important to keep in mind as the very reason for your question is to get a more detailed and nuanced response from your customers. So a “yes” or “no” answer is not helpful. Rather than asking questions like, “Was your experience with [Company] easy?”, you could instead ask, “What would make your experience with [Company] easier?”

Keep your question short and limit the number of questions

Your CES is all about customer effort so you want to keep the CES survey question, and any follow up questions, as simple as possible. Be sure to keep your follow up as concise as possible and keep it to one sentence. And be sure to limit the number of follow up questions you ask your customers, limiting it only those that will provide the most meaningful insight.

Examples of open-ended questions

Below are some examples of good open-ended follow up questions to ask with your CES survey:

  • What can we do to make [Company] easier to use?
  • What would make your experience with [Company Name] easier?
  • What did you enjoy about your experience with [Company]?
  • What do we need to improve?
  • What was the main reason for this score?
  • Do you want to add anything else?

Tip: Reduce customer effort with self-service support

Self-service support is the key to reducing friction in your customer experience and improving your CES. Customers are increasingly using self-service as the first point of contact with your support organization and, oftentimes, your company. It is your customers preferred self-service option, and your help center is the cornerstone of your self-service support offering.

Here are 2 tips for ensuring your help center reduces customer effort by empowering them to successfully resolve their own issues without contacting customer support:

  1. Ensure the documentation in your help center is easily accessible and you use product screenshots to maximize SEO performance by including image titles and alt text on all your product screenshots.
  2. Including product screenshots in your help center articles is crucial for making your documentation easily digestible and immediately conveying what an article is trying to help them solve. Always up-to-date product screenshots will build your customers' trust and let them know they are in the right place to resolve their issue, improving your CES and, ultimately, your overall customer loyalty.