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 The Ultimate Guide to Customer Effort Score

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Effort Score

There are several options for understanding customer satisfaction, experience, and how customers feel about your brand. Customer effort surveys are one of the most insightful customer satisfaction surveys businesses use. 


We have created this ultimate guide to Customer Effort Score to help you understand everything you need to know before starting a CES survey for your brand.


There are various surveys businesses can deploy, but each survey focuses on a different aspect of their experience. 


The most effective way to improve customer satisfaction and retention is by reducing the effort they have to invest in communicating with your business.


No one likes to repeat themselves or put in extra effort to get a problem solved when it should be easier. Every additional task a customer has to complete significantly impacts their experience. 


94% percent of customers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase compared with 4% of those experiencing high effort.


As a customer, wouldn’t you be more likely to do business with a brand where the processes are convenient and don’t require a lot of effort to complete a request?

What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience metric that measures the amount of effort customers put in to communicate with your business


For example, how much effort it takes to contact and have your customer service agents solve a problem.

The primary purpose of developing a customer’s effort score is to understand precisely how much effort a customer has to put in to solve a complaint and analyze how to reduce it to increase loyalty.


A recent study by Gartner found that 96% of survey respondents who had high-effort experiences reported being disloyal, compared to only 9% of customers with a low-effort experience.

Customer effort score came to the limelight in 2010 when Harvard Business Review published an article called “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers“. The article explains the importance of evaluating the experience your customers get from using your product and the effort they have to go through to use it. This will help you to remove any challenges customers might face during their journey and improve their experience.

Why is Customer Effort Score Important?

1. It increases returning customers

The best way to boost customer retention is by making it convenient for customers to complete their goal. 94% of customers who have low-effort experiences are more likely to repurchase products or services.  


2. It improves customer experience 

When you look at the underlying reasons for a poor customer experience, the CES helps you to acquire a better understanding than CSAT scores alone. 


This is because customer satisfaction surveys typically target customers’ happiness with a particular product or experience. While CES on the other hand aims to understand if a particular experience was easy or difficult which would then influence their satisfaction. 


3. It helps lowers costs

By understanding how much effort customers exerted you can accordingly make changes to improve customer experience. This will help you retain customers and reduce customer churn – retaining customers is five times cheaper than attracting a new customer. 


Also, it helps lower customer service costs by reducing the number of repeat calls, case escalations and channel switching. 

When Do You Use Customer Effort Score (CES)?

After a purchase 

Successful businesses collect information about their customers’ experiences after they make a purchase.


Following up with customers after purchase by sending out a customer effort survey is a great way to immediately collect information about the level of effort they put in. 


Since the customer will have just completed their transaction, the information you collect about their experience would be fresh in their minds. 


For example, you can set up a short survey on the final page with their order confirmation. 


The survey should be specific to their experience with a defined response scale; you could ask about particular moments in their journey, like the payment experience or how easy it was to find the product they were looking for.


After interactions with customer service 

Unlike other customer surveys, CES surveys can actually help businesses gather information about a customer’s level of effort to solve a pain point – you don’t need to send surveys at frequent intervals. 


Rather businesses send CES surveys to customers immediately after a customer service interaction. Typically they are sent after a message or email support ticket is resolved or after a specific service-related experience, such as reading a self-service article, to evaluate how effective it was in resolving the issue.


For example, you can send customers a short survey after they have interacted with a customer service agent. If they called or emailed, you can send them a short survey right after, and if they message you on social media or other channels you can send a single-question survey in the chat. 


While trying to understand the UX of the product

Your product plays a significant role in your customers’ experience with your brand. 


Product development teams can send customers a CES survey after a short period after their purchase. 


They can gain feedback on how well the product supports any new features, identify any pain points, understand how easy it is for the customer to adapt to the new features added to your product, and much more. 


For example, you can send customers a survey 7 days after they have received their product. 


This will give them enough time to experience the product completely – the feedback you’re going to get will be accurate and enough to make decisions.

How to Calculate Customer Effort Score?

The formula below can be used to calculate customer effort score:

Formula to calculate Customer Effort Score

How to Create Customer Service Surveys?

Let’s look at 3 easy steps to follow while creating a CES survey.


1. Set a purpose or goal

Before creating a survey, you need to identify the specific problem you want to address in the questions. It could be understanding the overall convenience of doing business with your company or a particular area like customer support. 


2. Identify when to send the survey

You first need to understand when to send the CES survey to your customers – would it be after they make a purchase or a short period after they make the purchase? If your goal is to identify their experience with customer support or the purchase process, the sooner you send the survey, the better. 


3. Communicate the importance of feedback 

When sending customers the survey, inform them of how much you value their feedback and the importance of their contribution to your business. If customers have given negative feedback, follow up with them to understand why and find a better solution. 


👉 Simplify360 has created a list of 25 Best Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions and Examples

Customer Effort Score Question Examples

The type of question you ask dictates what your response scale should look like, but now businesses have found a way to make surveys just a tad more engaging by implementing emojis as responses. 


Likert scale: is a 5-7 point scale associated with phrases like “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly Agree”. Typically in CES surveys, the lower numbers denote easy/low effort, and the higher numbers represent complex/high effort.

Example: How easy was it for you to contact a customer service agent? The response scale answers can be; 1 (extremely easy), 2 (easy), 3 (somewhat easy), 4 (neutral), 5 (somewhat difficult), 6 (difficult), 7 (extremely difficult). 


If you are concerned that customers might get confused and give an incorrect rating, you can add a small instruction under the question explaining how the rating scale works. 


Emoticon scale: is not as common as the Likert scale, but emojis can help clarify your point because they give customers instant association to a word/concept. Emojis provide a more generic and straightforward answer to your question. 


Example: How easy was it for you to contact a customer service agent? Response scale: easy, neutral, difficult


Irrespective of the response scale you’ve selected, it is essential to ensure that the questions you ask are specific to a problem or an area of your business you are looking to test. 


For example, if you hope to understand the amount of effort involved in contacting your customer service representative, the question could be centered around that. 


To further understand customers’ ratings, you can ask them a follow-up question after their initial response – this question can be open-ended. Let’s take a look at a few examples of customer effort score questions.


1. On a scale of (insert your chosen scale), How easy was it to find the product you were looking for?


2. How easy was it for you to contact a customer service representative?

Response scale: 1 (extremely easy) – 5 (extremely difficult)


3. How fast were you able to resolve the problem you faced? 

Response scale: 1 (extremely easy) – 7 (extremely difficult)


4. How easy was the payment process?


Response scale: 1 (extremely easy) – 5 (extremely difficult)


5. How helpful was the customer service representative?

Response scale: (helpful), (neutral), (not helpful)


6. (Name of your business) made it easy for me to solve my problem.


Response scale: 1 (strongly agree) – 7 (strongly disagree)

Pros and Cons of Customer Effort Score

Here are some things to consider before using customer effort score surveys.


  • 81% of customers who experience a high-effort interaction say they would speak negatively about the company to others. Businesses that run customer effort score surveys can keep track of customers’ experiences to innovate methods that can lower the amount of effort involved to boost loyalty. 

  • You can identify specific pain points like how easy it is for customers to access support, or how easy it is for them to use your website.

  • It is effortless to implement.

  • It highlights the areas of your business that need improvement. If a customer has to put in a lot of effort to contact a customer service representative, the CES survey will make it clear that you need to improve that area of your business.



  • It doesn’t provide a holistic view of your customer’s overall satisfaction with your business. 

  • It is challenging to segment information, like by type of customer or more.

  • Timing is of utmost importance – you need to send this survey out immediately after their experience, or they might not have the clearest memory of their experience. 

  • The questions primarily target what was difficult and not why specific questions might need a follow-up if you are looking to get deeper insights into their experience. 

  • As the questions tend to be specific, it might be challenging to understand how much effort it took to interact with your business as a whole. 


Like most things, CES also has its limits. But as it requires the bare minimum effort to implement and gives detailed insights. It is always better to be prepared and monitor customers’ journey than to remain unaware. 


It ultimately is a high-powered metric; as a business, it would be your goal to provide your product or service in the most convenient way possible to make your customers’ lives easier. 


Since there is no ultimate survey that gives you all the information you need, figure out what kind of information is key and the best way to retrieve it. 


A study by Gartner indicates that reducing your customer effort can increase repurchase rates, lower customer service costs, and increase employee retention.

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