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

How to measure your Customer Effort Score (CES) and ask the right survey questions

What is Customer Effort Score (CES)

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a high-powered customer experience metric that reflects how easy your customers find it to interact with your product, to find the information they need to answer their questions or to get a customer support issue resolved.It has been gaining popularity over the years and is now, oftentimes, used alongside other well-known customer satisfaction metrics like NPS and CSAT. And it makes sense, your customers just want to use your product to do what they need as effortlessly and conveniently as possible.

CES not only allows you to better understand how easy or difficult your customers find your customer experience. Studies have also shown it is an important business metric to track as it:

  • More reliably predicts your customer loyalty and, ultimately, your customer churn;
  • Helps predict the likelihood of your customers making future purchases; and
  • Is a strong indicator of customer sentiment.

How to frame your CES question

So we know CES is an important metric that provides valuable insight into your customer experience. However, in order to calculate your CES and get useful customer insights, you need to design a survey that asks the right question to elicit this information. CES is measured from a single survey question asking your customers how easy they found your customer experience and it is important to keep these best practices in mind when designing your CES survey question.

Keep it simple

The more simple you keep your CES survey, the more likely it is that your customers will complete the survey. Which sounds straightforward, and it is, but is also very important. When measuring customer effort it makes sense to design a survey that requires as little effort as possible for your customers to provide that feedback.

Be clear and direct

Make the wording of your CES questions as unambiguous as possible and keep the question strictly focused on customer effort. You should also keep the tone of your question neutral to ensure you don’t lead your customers towards a particular answer. Keeping your CES questions clear and direct will help you get a higher response rate to your surveys simply by making them easy to follow.

Avoid using the word “effort”

It sounds counterintuitive. But it is important to avoid making your question too obvious and risk leading your customers towards a particular answer. In addition, the meaning of the word effort differs across different languages so using the word effort in your survey question may elicit irrelevant responses due to misinterpretation.

Make it targeted

Keep your CES questions targeted. Your questions should be specific to the particular area of your customer experience you are looking to learn more about. Strategically sending out a CES survey after a specific interaction or at a specific point in the customer journey, with a targeted question, will help ensure you drive more meaningful feedback on the specific customer experience you are testing.

Decide the structure

Finally, there are two distinct ways you can structure your CES question:

  1. As a direct question; or
  2. By framing the question as a statement.

And the way you decide to structure your question could have an impact on the type of survey you use to measure your CES (more on that later).

Examples of CES questions

Below are some examples of different CES survey questions companies often ask:

  • How easy was it to interact with our team?
  • How easy was it to solve your problem with [Specific Customer Issue] today?
  • How easy was using [Product or Company] so far?
  • How easy was it for you to [Action: e.g. Sign Up or Complete Purchase]?
  • To what extent do you agree with the following statement: [Company] made it easy to handle my issue.
  • On a scale of [Numerical Scale], how easy was it for you to solve your issue today?

The different types of CES surveys

Now we know the best practices for writing your CES survey questions, it’s time to decide on the right type of survey to present that question to your customers. And, although it is only a single survey question, there are several options for designing your survey based on your overall approach to collecting customer feedback and the type of feedback you are looking for.

Numbered scales

A numbered scale, as the name suggests, asks your customer to respond to your survey question by rating their interaction on a numbered scale with the lower numbers indicating a more difficult interaction and the higher numbers a more effortless interaction. These numbered scales provide a range of responses on either a 5-point or 7-point scale depending on your preference or the level of nuance you want to analyze the results.

Likert scales

Likert scales are a popular scale for measuring the opinions or perceptions people have on a single topic, like how a customer feels about your product or a specific interaction they had. The CES survey, when using a Likert scale, is often framed as a statement, rather than a question, and allows your customers to rank their levels of agreement with the statement ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. And, as with a numbered scale, either a 5-point or 7-point scale is provided for the range of responses, with a neutral option in the mid-point.

Visual emoticon scales

Another option for your CES surveys, which might be consistent with the the scales used in other surveys across your site (e.g. on a help article or after a customer support ticket), might be to use a visual emoticon scale. In a visual emoticon scale your customer will be provided with a range of visual face emojis and asked to rank how they feel about your product or a particular interaction based on the face emoji that best reflects their experience.

Binary scales

Binary scales are a very simple scaling method that offer your customers a simple Yes or No option in response to your CES survey. By design, a binary scale is very simple but it allows very little nuance in its responses and is therefore not recommended for use in your CES survey.

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.