What is Customer Effort Score and How to Calculate CES

Although a difficult challenge is always welcome for the brave-hearted, most of us want to live our day-to-day as smooth as possible.

So it would make sense to buy a lighter instead of lighting a fire with a flint…

For software products, the same applies. Sometimes I find myself trying to create a spreadsheet from the data provided by product A, while with product B I can both get the data and create the spreadsheet with the click of a button; so switching to B seems like a great choice.

And most businesses try to be product B over product A, to be more preferable and have lasting relationships with their customers. Customer Effort Score is a great metric to materialize this concept into a number.

Let’s dig into what CES is, how it’s calculated, and its importance:

What is Customer Effort Score?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience survey metric used to measure how much effort a customer has to make to resolve requests and goals with a product or service. A CES survey asks customers to rank the product’s or service’s ease of use ranging from “Very Difficult” to “Very Easy.” CES surveys help businesses evaluate the level of effort customers need to put into a certain interaction, such as making a purchase, resolving a support issue, or completing a transaction.

The primary objective of measuring CES is to track customer satisfaction and experience. Measuring the ease of an experience is closely related to customer loyalty. Companies can gather insights from customer effort scores, resolve issues, and so boost loyalty rates.

Customer effort score indicates customers’ likelihood of shopping from you, using your product, or recommending your brand to others.

The Origin of Customer Effort Score

Customer Effort Score was developed in 2010 by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB, currently Gartner) as a result of research that showed reducing the amount of effort a customer goes through to get their problem solved indicates higher customer loyalty.

“96% of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience. Disloyal customers are likely to cost the company more — they spread negative word of mouth and cease future purchases.”

According to CEB’s research, published in The Effortless Experience

What is a CES Survey?

CES survey is a feedback form that asks customers to rate how easy it was to interact with a product, service, or company. Companies conduct CES surveys to track which service or product is easier to use. The more difficult it is to accomplish an interaction, the more likely the customers are to show disloyalty to your brand.

While positive experiences can impact customer loyalty, satisfying customer needs is not the only aspect that matters for higher loyalty rates. The ease of an experience is just as impactful as the satisfaction rate.

By calculating and reducing your effort score through a CES survey and program, you can improve customer lifetime value and leverage positive word of mouth. That’s why CES is a popular methodology used by many customer success teams everywhere.

Learn How to Calculate and Increase Customer Lifetime Value.

what is customer effort score

How is CES Score Calculated?

Customer effort score is measured by conducting a survey and asking customers to gauge the ease of their experience. There are different methods you can use to measure CES. To evaluate your CES, ask a variation of the following questions in the survey.

  • “How easy was it to get your issue resolved today?”
  • “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.”

Ask similar questions to customers and provide a scale to receive the rating. The scales for the CES survey can be:

On a scale of 1-5

  • 1 = Very high effort
  • 2 = high effort
  • 3 = Neutral
  • 4 = Low effort
  • 5 = Very low effort

On a scale of 1-7

  • 1 = Extremely difficult
  • 2 = Very difficult
  • 3 = Fairly difficult
  • 4 = Neither
  • 5 = Fairly easy
  • 6 = Very easy
  • 7 = Extremely easy

Text-based scale

  • Difficult
  • Easy
  • Neither

Using the numeric scales:

Calculate the customer effort score by dividing the sum of all individual customer effort scores by the number of customers who ranked the experience. A lower score indicates better results.

Using the text-based scale:

To measure CES using the text-based scale, subtract the percentage of customers who responded “easy” from the percentage of customers who replied “difficult.” The result will be between -100 and 100, and a higher score is better.

Customer Effort Score Formula:

% customers who replied “easy” –  % customers who replied “difficult”

customer effort score formula

Advantages and Disadvantages of Customer Effort Score (CES)

Although customer effort score is an effective metric to predict customer loyalty and increase business growth if correctly acted upon, it also has its pros and cons.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of CES:

Advantages of Customer Effort Score

  • It is a strong indicator of the level of customer satisfaction.
  • This metric is less volatile than any other metrics, and it helps to make better predictions about brand loyalty.
  • CES is a highly actionable metric. It enables taking corrective actions quickly and preventing further customer churn.
  • CES makes it easy to detect weaknesses at each customer touchpoint.

Disadvantages of Customer Effort Score

  • This scoring model does not apply to your overall business. CES is limited to service.
  • CES only demonstrates whether customers find it difficult to use a service or not. It doesn’t pinpoint what exactly was difficult or why it was so.
  • It lacks segmentation by type of user.

Why is Customer Effort Score Important?

CES is gaining popularity among businesses as the need for understanding customers better grows to get a step ahead of competitors. Customer effort is the strongest driver of brand loyalty or disloyalty. Disloyal customers are more likely to negatively impact a company as they will probably contribute to negative word of mouth.

That is speaking badly of your company or brand to others and prevent possible future purchases. Some of the indicators of high-effort experiences include generic service, transfers, repeat interaction, and channel switching and repetition of information.

A study by CEB showed that shifting from a relatively high-effort service experience to a low-effort, costs can be reduced by 37%.

CES helps to reduce customer effort, reduce costs, deliver better experiences, increase satisfaction rates and grow businesses. To put it simply, customers want their problems solved, and they wouldn’t blink to choose another service that solves their issues with less effort.

why calculate customer effort score

By measuring CES, you can:

Reduce Customer Service Costs

CES helps to reveal difficult experiences that could lead to a support ticket, which is a burden on your customer service and support team. A CES survey can give you a hint of where you can optimize the process through better customer training and provide faster resolutions to problems with improvements.

Also, you can use UserGuiding, the easiest to use user onboarding software, to onboard users through interactive guides and increase customer adoption and loyalty.

Increase Repurchase Rates

According to research by Gartner, 94% of consumers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase compared to the 4% of customers experiencing high-effort. So, you can effectively increase repurchase rates by finding out the high-effort experiences and taking action to solve them.

Rise Employee Retention

Providing better and streamlined experiences to customers is likely to make customer service reps feel better about their jobs and contribute to a rise in employee retention.

Limit Negative Word of Mouth

Negative customer experiences result in frustrated customers. Frustrated customers cost too much to your customer service, and they can spread negative reviews about your service all over the web. CES surveys identify these issues earlier, giving you a chance to resolve them and manage your brand reputation.

Deliver a Better User Experience

If customers find it hard to accomplish even the most straightforward task, such as completing a purchase, they won’t wait for another second to search for one of your competitors. To avoid such a situation, identify the effort-related problems by measuring CES and take proactive solutions accordingly. It will ensure a better user experience and increase retention.

Self-Service Optimization

67% of customers prefer using self-service over speaking to a company representative to solve their problems. Conduct a customer effort score survey to evaluate your self-service features and ease-of-use during troubleshooting, purchase, or onboarding.

How & When to Use Customer Effort Score

Customer Effort Score (CES) metric provides actionable and meaningful insights into customer effort at any stage of the customer journey.

There are various touchpoints in the customer journey where you can use the Customer Effort Score and the most common use cases of CES include:

1. Service Interaction

A popular use case of CES surveys is after a service interaction.

For example, following a complaint ticket that has been issued by a customer and resolved by your customer service team, you can send a CES survey to that customer and ask for feedback about the ease of getting the problem resolved. The survey can be both a close-ended CES survey or an open-ended one that asks for a follow-up question to know the feedback in customers’ own words.

2. Post Transaction or Interaction

Using CES surveys post transaction or interaction is the most common use case and ideal for e-commerce- retail, healthcare, and online bookings.

Conduct a CES survey when customers purchase your product or subscribe to your service.

This way, you can measure the purchase experience from the customers’ point of view and improve your interaction or transaction processes. The Customer Effort Score surveys can be:

  • Following a sign-up (a free trial or paid subscription)
  • After booking an appointment
  • After an online purchase
  • Following a demo

3. Measuring Overall Effort and Customer Experience

In addition to using CES surveys in particular levels of user experience or customer journeys, you can also measure the overall customer experience and gauge overall royalty.

In other words, CES can be used among both product teams and customer success teams to find out the issues in customer experience.

4. Implementing CES into SaaS Onboarding

User onboarding is quite effective in training newly acquired users, reducing customer service costs, and delivering value from your product, particularly for SaaS companies.

It is closely related to assessing the customer effort score as well.

CES helps customer success teams evaluate each new customer’s onboarding experience and ensure an optimal onboarding experience.

5. Send CES Surveys via Emails or SMSes

Another method to calculate your customer effort score is to send them CES surveys via emails or SMSes. It works best if you already have a list of customers you’d like to survey.

Customer Effort Score vs. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Yes, CES is a great metric to measure overall customer satisfaction.

But, is CES a better customer satisfaction metric than NPS?

Besides CSAT, should you use Net Promoter Score or CES? This is quite an arguable topic.

To understand which customer satisfaction metric is better for you, first, you need to know what they are used for. Both CES and NPS are survey metrics designed to help you evaluate customer satisfaction and the loyalty or disloyalty levels of customers.

However, the two differ in deployment as per situations. NPS works better than CES in some cases or vice versa. The survey questions of each aim to improve the customer satisfaction level. While Net Promoter Score does that through customer loyalty, Customer Effort Score gauges customer effort level.

Curious about other important Customer Success Metrics? Here are 10 👆


Frequently Asked Questions


What is a good Customer Effort Score?

On a scale of 1-5, responses 4 and 5 could be considered good; while on a scale of 1-7, responses 5 and above could.


How often should I survey my customers on Customer Effort Score?

Instead of triggering the Customer Effort Score surveys with passed time, businesses should focus on pushing such surveys after their interactions with the customers. These touchpoints can include post-purchase, post-upgrade, and right after they’ve contacted the customer support.


How can I improve the Customer Effort Score of my business?

Improving customer experience in general and your relationship with your customers can directly increase your Customer Effort Score; you can also make sure you’re offering top-of-the-line customer service with quick response time and high caring.

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Suzan Çalcalı

Suzan is a former Customer Success Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.