Proven Ways To Improve Customer Effort Score (CES)

Written by Toonimo


Customers are first and foremost the lifeblood of any business operation. Without them, there is no business. Gauging the customer experience is a window into the effectiveness of a company’s marketing strategy. It is well known that loyal customers bring repeat business to companies, and word-of-mouth is a powerful advertising medium. Therefore, it makes sense to keep customers happy. Organizational objectives must be geared towards maximizing the customer experience, while hitting growth targets.

The big question is how to gauge the effectiveness of these customer experience programs vis-a-vis organizational objectives?

Fortunately, efforts geared towards enhancing the customer experience are easily measurable. These measurements are both quantitative and qualitative in nature. To date, the following methods are used to track the effectiveness of customer experience initiatives:

  • CES (Customer Effort Score) - How Much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request? range from 1 (very low) to 7 (very high)
  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) - CSAT intends to mea­sure a customer's sat­is­fac­tion with the ser­vice received. range from 0 (very low) to 100 (very high)
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score) - measures customer experience and predicts business growth. Calculate your NPS using the answer to a key question: How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague, range from 0 (very low) to 10 (very high)

Various figures are bandied about by leading research and statistics organizations, and even Forrester suggests that an additional $1 billion in revenues can be generated by increasing the customer experience score by 10%. This shifts the focus straight back to enhancing the customer experience. It is clear that improvements need to be adopted, and programs need to be implemented to help achieve endogenous and exogenous satisfaction.

"Forrester suggests that an additional $1 billion in revenues can be generated by increasing the customer experience score by 10%."

Of the 3 methods listed above, the first one – CES – has gained tremendous traction of late. It is worth highlighting that this metric first surfaced in a Harvard Business Review piece inked by Matthew Dixon, et al. The focal point of the Customer Effort Score is worlds apart from other important metrics.

For starters, it is predicated on making the problem resolution issue as simple as possible for customers. In other words, if a customer can resolve questions, queries or complaints with a company easily, they are more likely to drive up that company’s profits. If it is easy to navigate through a company’s website to find relevant information, that customer is a happy customer. The question that the CES metric poses to customers is the following:

How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?

The answer is graded on a scale from 1 through 7. 1 requires minimal effort and 7 intense effort.

Why Is the CES so Important Today?

It is important to be able to quantify and qualify ‘satisfaction’ in a metric. Unfortunately, NPS and CSAT don’t do that. CES offers a unique approach in the form of directly involving customers by way of specific interactions in the process of ‘continuous improvement’. Some marketing departments prefer to combine all 3 metrics in a multi-pronged approach. However, the downside of this is that customer satisfaction is adversely affected.

The beauty of the CES score is that it explains everything that a company needs to know from the perspective of the customer. A high score bodes well, and correlates perfectly with the organization’s objectives. If a customer is satisfied through ease-of-use, that more often than not translates into an actionable response. If too much effort is required on the part of the customer, the deal is lost.

Oracle conducted a study which indicated that over 80% of people believed that their purchasing experience required too much effort. With CES, it is entirely possible to streamline the process, pinpoint the problems and rectify them. But this begs the question: what is the downside of using CES? For starters, CES simply answered the question of how easy it was for the customer to complete the transaction. It says nothing about quality of the product, the price of the product or the impact of competing products on your bottom line.

"Oracle conducted a study which indicated that over 80% of people believed that their purchasing experience required too much effort. With CES, it is entirely possible to streamline the process, pinpoint the problems and rectify them."

On the plus side, there are many benefits. Some of them include pinpointing areas where improvements are possible, increasing the likelihood of ‘repeat business’, and generating a satisfied pool of buyers. In terms of customer loyalty, CES trumps the other metrics.

Effective Ways to Enhance CES Practices

  • Understand Your Current Processes - this requires pattern analysis, customer interaction, and a strategic roadmap for problem resolution.
  • Strategy Should be Executed Effectively - the focal point of CES is to improve the customer experience. Everyone in the organization is responsible for helping to reach that objective. KPIs are not the focus, the customer is. In this vein, negative customer feedback is important. Fix the problems, reduce the effort customers have to put in and watch the bottom-line grow.
  • Utilize Technology to Plot Your Path Forward - this is an important step in the process and incorporates multiple elements. For example, the IVR menu should direct queries and comments to the respective personnel. Chat functionality is terrific for speedy problem resolution. A regularly updated database with self-learning AI is equally useful. Omni-channel solutions are effective if all customer service agents can access all the data on the channel. This streamlines the customer experience and reduces duplicate work.
  • Digital Walkthroughs Provide Effortless Navigation for Users - customer satisfaction can easily be enhanced by interactive, step-by-step digital walk-throughs. These step-by-step walk-throughs are highly advanced, yet user-friendly. They are didactic and expressly tailored towards problem resolution. The walk-through can be launched with a timer, and if the user is trying to leave the page, the walk-through can be launched. Full customization options are available in this regard.
  • Forward Thinking - CES is future oriented and is geared towards resolving current issues as much as it is ensuring that new issues don’t crop up.

Call Back is a Big Problem

It makes sense that if a customer has to repeatedly call back for the same or similar issues, there is a problem. Companies with strong FCR scores typically perform better with customer satisfaction. First Contact Resolution (FCR) is not a good metric since 22% of repeat calls are oftentimes related to the original call that took place. It doesn’t much matter if the problem was resolved.

Call time is an issue, but customer satisfaction is a more important issue. Customers can be prompted to related topics by companies. Various companies such as Bell Canada and Fidelity Inc., do this by proposing related topics that customers may be interested in while they are researching a specific topic. This also helps to reduce the number of calls per household. In the case of Bell Canada, customer service agents now offer tutorials to clients about how to use various features. This is what is known as forward resolution – heading problems off at the pass.

Another important issue to address is the emotional component of business interactions with customers. Clients and customer service professionals may rub one another the wrong way. This can result in friction, and decreased customer satisfaction. Fortunately, with the correct training, these interpersonal issues can be reduced and eventually eliminated. Various behavioral science studies have been conducted into the emotional component of the customer/customer service experience.

By correctly ascertaining the ‘personality’ of the client, repeat calls can be dramatically reduced. The CES (Customer Effort Score) can be sharply reduced by rewording negative phraseology into positive statements. For example, ‘We are out of stock’ could be rephrased, ‘We are currently awaiting delivery of that stock’. One such company, Osram Sylvania

managed to reduce its CES score by 0.6 points – well below the average of business to business companies.

Priming Users to Adopt Self-Service Options

It may not be common knowledge, but customers actually prefer self-service options to dealing with customer service representatives. Therefore, it is imperative that companies boost their websites with the requisite technology to make it easy for customers to access information. But, customers should not be overwhelmed with too much self-service channels of information. Info should be disseminated easily and effectively.

Great example for a step-by-step telco bill explanation and e-commerce website "pain point" walkthrough explained in both visual and audio


The last thing you want is a massive investment in self-service options, only to have customers forming a bottleneck with the customer support telephone line. Cisco Consumer Product is yet another example of a company which guided users towards the most appropriate channel. For example, technically-minded people are guided to the online support community while others are guided towards the knowledge-based articles. Emails have proven to be a less effective medium of reducing customer effort, but interactive self-service is far more effective.

What about Dealing with Difficult Customers?

Customers who are struggling with the options available to them, or customers who are inherently difficult to deal with, are an important segment. More companies around the world are focusing their efforts on contacting these disgruntled customers. One such organization is National Australia Group. Since it implemented its reforms, its conflict resolution rate has increased by 31%.

In all conflict resolution cases, it is imperative that quality is trumped over speed. Customer service departments may pride themselves in reducing the handle time taken by agents, but the true litmus test is in customer satisfaction. A South African banking giant – Nedbank -  has an AskOnce promise. The customer service rep who responds to a customer query will own that problem from beginning to end.

All of the aforementioned measures are designed to improve the customer experience. Self-service is the foundation upon which an organization’s strategic objectives can be met. The metric which is rapidly gaining traction with companies around the world is CES, and this is how it works.