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What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

customer effort score

Customer Effort Score (CES) is an important metric for a business owner to understand how difficult it is for customers to work with your company or department’s customer service team. It’s a critical part of customer service. Measuring customer effort metrics could include the onboarding process, after resolving issues, when password resets are needed, when enrolling in trials, during software training, or any other type of interaction with your team.

The idea of customer effort was introduced by the Harvard Business Review in their article, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”: “Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.” In other words, stop with the silly slogans, stop with inane scripts, and just make it easy for people to do business with you.

How does the Customer Effort Score Work?

The customer effort score measures customer feedback on how easy or difficult it is for customers to work with you and your organization.

Why Measure Customer Effort Score? 

As a CIO, IT manager, or MSP owner your objective should be to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. The idea is to make your business frictionless for your customers. Satisfied customers become loyal customers. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to improve the percentage of customers with frictionless interactions and increase customer satisfaction.

Customer Effort Score Questions

To measure customer effort, all you have to do is ask one question: “How easy was it for you to do business with us?” Have them rank it on some scale, say 1 to 7, with 1 being very easy and 7 being very difficult. Customer Effort Score calculation is done by totaling your scores and dividing the result by the number of survey responses. The result is your Customer Effort Score. What is a good score? The lower your score, the better. The lower the score, the easier it is for people to do business with you, and the more likely it is for them to continue doing business with you. You may also want to include an optional field for comments. 

When to Use Customer Effort Score

Send a CES evaluation after every interaction with customers or end-users. That includes something as simple as a password reset or as complex as troubleshooting a security issue. To increase your response rate, make it an effortless experience to answer the CES question. Consider including survey questions at the end of the chat session or within an email. Avoid making the customer go to a different web page to answer the CES question. You can also use CES to supplement product teams’ UI and UX testing.

How to Improve Your Customer Effort Score

Eliminate or Reduce the Need for Callbacks

From the Harvard Business Review article, “The number one cause of undue effort for customers interacting with contact centers is the need to call back.” Measure your levels of first-call resolution to get a handle on this. Anticipate related issues in addition to the current one.

Teach Your Team People Skills

Emphasize to your teams that language matters. Your IT customer service reps’ word choices need to reflect possibilities instead of roadblocks. Instead of saying, “We can’t do that.”, teach them to talk about what they can do. Teach the 5 Principles of IT Customer Service, including compassion, empathy, good listening skills, and how to treat people with dignity and respect.

Teach Your Team to Be Easy to Work With

Emphasize to your team the importance of being easy to work with. Ask them to recall their own customer service interactions, both good and bad. Invite them to think about ways to make it easier for customers to work with your company or department. Encourage them to look for customer barriers and find ways to remove them.

Model ease-of-use yourself. Is it easy for your team members to do their jobs or are there unnecessary barriers that get in their way? If you want your teams to be easy to work with, show them how to do it by your style of leadership. Remember, people don’t do what you say, they do what you do.

Test Your Customer Service Systems

Another important tool you can use to improve your customer effort score is to act like a customer. Use your website or customer portal the same way a customer would. Test your customer journey from start to finish. 

Try making purchases, opening tickets, and finding documentation. Test the documentation for missing steps. Try multiple payment types, test your captcha, test chatbots, and fill out forms. Test it on multiple platforms including different types of phones, tablets, and laptops. Imagine what it’s like for someone who’s totally unfamiliar with your company or department and who has never visited your site or portal. 

Consider every touchpoint of the customer experience including self-service options. Test your phone system’s interactive voice response system. Do you force your customers to listen to long, irrelevant menus or announcements before hearing the options they need? Record your phone calls to hear how your company or department sounds to customers. (Please, please check your on-hold music to make sure it sounds pleasant and professional, not scratchy and annoying!)

Make testing your systems an ongoing process. It’s not enough to do it every now and then. Consider assigning this to different team members on a monthly basis. Any negative experience a team member has is an opportunity to improve a potentially frustrating experience for future customers.

Customer Effort Score Pros and Cons

The pros of CES are its simplicity and the value of the metric. It’s very easy to use and the metric is arguably the most important aspect of customer service. The cons of CES are that the score itself doesn’t provide context about the customer’s overall experience, nor does it provide reasons for scores, either high or low (which is why I recommend including an optional comment field). Still, as you review the feedback from customers, if you start seeing high Customer Effort Scores, that’s a warning that you need to test your systems.

CES and Customer Loyalty

It stands to reason that the easier you make it for customers to do business with you, the more likely they are to continue doing business with you. Improve your customer effort score and you’ll improve customer retention. Improve customer retention and you’ll improve profitability.

Next Level Customer Service Training

Enroll your team now in Compassionate Geek IT customer service training so they can work together, get things done, and take care of customers.

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